Twenty Twelve: A Tale Of Two Games

I attended two big time footy games in person during Twenty Twelve. One in the architectural heart of the game, one in the heartland of the non-believers. The first featured the team I barrack for in an irrational sense, the second featured the team that lives closest to my current address. Similar margins at the end of the game, yet utterly different feelings.

CARLTON VS ESSENDON

MCG, April 21

This was going to be my birthday treat. The always terrific lady had arranged a birthday weekend away in Melbourne to see good friends and my Old Navy Blues in action (the opposition and the opposition’s coach, of both she is an admirer, was a happy coincidence). A rather fancy hotel room (in the sky above Collins Street) and a smashing birthday dinner on the Friday night had put me in the best mood possible.

Truth be told, I had been in an absolutely terrific mood since the Friday night before that. While I was standing amongst a good natured crowd of fourty-something English ex-pat gentlemen in Sydney’s Annandale Hotel, the iPhone was out and the Twitter feed was being refreshed at a great pace of knots. The Carlton FC Twitter account was working overtime, delivering a blow by blow account of the demolition of the hated enemy. A ten goal win, thank you. Judd and Murphy all over it, The Man With The Big Shorts getting five between the sticks. Three wins in a row! Carlton razzle dazzle was here to stay and we were going to relive 1995 all over again…

…and the seats were quite good. We were in one of those interesting couple seats overlooking the pocket at the end of the Ponsford Stand. A lovely sunny Autumn day. Perfect for Blue Baggers’ fancy footwork. 70,000+ people in blue, black and red adding to the big game atmosphere.

By half time, my sunny disposition had totally evaporated and I was despairing in my seat at seemingly endless inaccuracies on the field, combined with what seems to be a distinct lack of effort. We…really weren’t contesting the ball. And oh my bloody god, we didn’t score a goal in that second quarter.

To be fair, Essendon were playing quite well. From my vantage point, the afternoon turned into a blur of the men in red sashes outrunning and outgunning the apparent premiership favourites. I think I yelled a bit and probably rather too loudly. The young brother and sister in the seats in front of me were probably amused or worried. Had to try and calm down a bit…even through I’m sure I heard much worse when growing up.

This game was already dead when six goals were kicked by the blue boys in the final quarter. At least we weren’t humiliated. Ended up losing by only thirty points. It felt like more. It really should have been more. Essendon were better. Carlton didn’t even bother trying until after it was too late. And that last bit of razzle dazzle made me realise The Ratten Game Plan was never going to work – grit was desperately needed.

The lovely lady already had enough material to make fun of your author for weeks to come. Despite the many weeks of gloating to come, we walked out of the MCG holding hands. One lady commented that it was amazingly sweet that we were doing that even after the game.

Of course, that was the point in the time that the Blues’ season started its slow decline which resulted up in missing the finals, semi-humiliation in *that* game against The GC and the long-awaited end of The Ratten Era at Princes Park. Before I knew it, one M. Malthouse was our new leader. Surely he’ll understand what I mean by needing grit.

Well, despite all that, at least we beat Essendon in the return fixture. By sixteen goals. Too bad we weren’t in attendance for that one.

 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY VS NORTH MELBOURNE

Skoda Stadium, 1 September

I’m somewhat confident that if Kevin Sheedy was aware of my existence, he’d be on the phone to me every night before a game at ‘Skoda’, making sure that I’m rocking up in the traditional orange. In a sense, I could be the perfect type of person to support GWS through its first painful years – in that I love the footy and live slightly west of the Sydney CBD. Bit of a mongrel too, a Carlton man that mostly grew up in the south of Adelaide. Even better, I find Sydney Olympic Park a rather convenient place to watch sport.

It would make total sense for me to get on board. Surely the dice are loaded enough for a premiership heading to the well-planned oasis of Homebush Bay in the coming decade. But…one can’t feel anything for the GWS boys, even with the AFL’s greatest ever huckster at the helm. I can see myself taking them on as second team and hoping they do quite well. But devotion is never going to happen. Right?

Still, I was hoping we’d watch a game at the newest of AFL venues and unsurprisingly, we scored a couple of free tickets to the last game of a long season for the Big Orange G’s. Lucky they gave away tickets – I’m sure I had seen bigger crowds at South Adelaide vs Sturt match ups. However, the crowd that were there was a grand reflection of the cultural diversity of this particular part of the Australia. It’s not like they paid either but it was still great to see. And it’s quite a nice little oval they have there.

We collected our drinks and sat in on what promised to be a long twilight. The boys from Arden Street already had plans for September but a win and extra percentage could push them further up the ladder. The young boys and old veterans in orange were at the end of weary season.

Yet it was the Pride of GWS that come out firing. Sheeds’ Army kicked the first two and away we go! The Kangaroos came back but a late goal ensured a one-point lead for the home team. Could this be…a competitive game?

The start of the second quarter promised the same. Brent Harvey kicked it through the sticks, only for a responding goal from…Israel Folau. More than a few people, including myself, wondered if there had been a mix up on The Largest Scoreboard In The Southern Hemisphere (™). But no, Izzy had kicked a goal! Fantastic!

Alas, from that point onwards, the sky turned from sunset orange to blue-ish black and the Kangas started to run away with the game. It wasn’t like that GWS gave up but you could see the tired bodies being outrun by a slicker, more experience unit that was ready to take September on – even if they knew in their hearts that a first week exit at the hands of one of the league’s monuments was the most likely scenario.

The Giants kept getting possession and scores on the boards, it’s just that North Melbourne did more of it. A 28-point loss, hardly humiliating stuff. A good effort from the team and club; it’s not like I’ll be wearing an orange wig in this lifetime but I came away with an appreciation for what has been built so far. And a warning for the coming years.

Oh, turns out that I saw Izzy’s last goal and game in footy. I’ll have to remember this date, could be a question at sports trivia sometime.

About The Philby

Inconsistent contrarian. Barracker of Carlton FC and South Adelaide FC. Resident of Sydney. Holder of the record of shortest umpiring career with the South Australian Cricket Association.

Comments

  1. PC,
    I’ve always known the AFL was on trouble when they started courting “theatre goers” when Wayne Jackson was in charge. They seemed to forget the success of the game is built on clubs and their fans. These same fans get forgotten, now more than ever. Aussie rules is a great game but I follow Geelong, not the AFL. A game without Geelong means far less to me, as you’ve described here.

  2. PC Paterson says:

    Hi Cookie,

    I can understand what you mean about the lack of feeling when watching as a ‘neutral’. Indeed, I can recall many an occasion where the nominated commentators bellow “what a great contest” and all I can think is, “yeah, but I don’t really care about these two clubs!” Well, apart from the ramifications for my tips that week, of course.

    I’m a Gen Y bloke so I’ve only ever known an AFL that’s always had one eye on the ‘theatre goers’. Have a business degree in recreation so I can understand the rationale. Yes, it can be frustrating when you see that type of crowd being pandered to instead of the true believers.

    That said, I didn’t see any of those types at either match. The first one was an old school match up where everyone was wearing blue or black-and-red. I did notice walking past a swanky pre-game Carlton function in the Ponsford Stand — and did notice while everyone was nicely suited up for the opera, they came suited it up with Blues ties, tie clips and cufflinks. I’d much rather be out in the stands in my Blues polo with an overpriced mid-strength beer but I wouldn’t begrudge the chaps at the function either – especially since I expect they’d be paying the club a motza to hear a few words from President Sticks and so forth.

    The second game was for the GWS diehards – and yes, the free tickets crew. Despite the frustration one can feel about this (considering that not too far away there’s all those Swannies barrackers paying for their memberships and everything), I have no big issue with this or with GWS in general. I’m no AFL evangelist but footy is a great game and I’m more than happy to see people, who may not have had the chance or thought about it, fall in love with the game. It’d be great if they came back in 2013 and become fans – and then understand the meaning of barracking for your footy team, like we both understand and appreciate.

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