Knowing

by Rory Cahill


Jamie. The MCG. 1996.

Jamie just stood there and held it. Belly passed it to him, stepped away, and he grabbed it, just stood there, holding it. He didn’t really even know what it was. All he saw was the light, the green of the grass and the yawning stands that encircled him.

Eight towers shone blinding light and he shut his eyes to block the glare. When they were closed he thought of it, saw the stands filled with ghostly uniforms and scarves, old ladies with tattered little flags, the pisshead bludgers from his old man’s pub all de-wrinkled and new again, hats thrown into the air and papers with long dead names, standing room only, no electronics and most of all kids, hundreds of kids kicking footballs every which way but never hitting him.

HOLD IT UP JAMIE!

HOLD IT UP!

He did. He held it up and opened his eyes. The roar of the crowd hit him with stunning force. He closed his eyes again and soaked it up, opened them to take a deeper swig. Held it higher.

Hips pivoting he swung North Melbourne’s 1975 Premiership cup through 180 degrees, saluting the Southern Stand and then Northern Stand, slowly moving around the Member’s Wing.

YES JAMO SHOW EM JAMO JAMO SHOW THEM

Jamie swivelled in the centre square of the MCG as he had done before and would do again many times. He swivelled almost instantaneously, changed direction with a movement no-one could ever follow or decipher because nobody could swivel like Jamie Johnstone.

SHOW THEM JAMO GIVE IT TO THEM

He becomes aware of the rest of the boys now, most waiting on one side, some behind him. He’s trapped with his hands around the cup, can’t let go, knuckles white tight around the handles, locked there, growing into the metal, metastasizing, melding into it, becoming, knowing.

Denis came up and tapped him on the shoulder.

Six days time, Jamie, six days time. Be here. Take it.

Jamie met his fierce eyes and they agreed. He relinquished the cup, handed it to Denis who handed it to Ron who passed it on to Stuey who came up and did his own version of whatever had just happened.

In the cab home he knew they’d win. Just knew it.
Jamie didn’t have the greatest game in the Grand Final. It wasn’t a fairy tale, he didn’t slot the winning goal after the siren, didn’t shut out a key player, was never in Norm Smith contention. Denis used him off the bench, didn’t put him on for the first quarter, and only half an hour at most in the rest. He wasn’t even on the ground when the final siren blew. But he got nine kicks and each one hit a bloke in blue and white. He dished off three handballs. No clangers. And early in the last quarter, when Sydney were making their last dash at a hope of a chance of getting back into it, a loose one broke free on his half-back flank and he ran the bouncing ball down, eyes nowhere but straight ahead, the last second aware of a red and white presence closing in at five o clock and without thinking threw himself under the pounding legs and – nearly – imperceptibly nudged the ball so it deviated slightly and dribbled over the line.

Throw in.

At the stoppage he got bumped out, Kelly with an experienced nudge that was fair but hurt like fuck. Still, Stevo cleared, ran it up, banged it up. The runner came out ROTATE ROTATE and Jamo clicked forward and he sprinted for the bench. As he crossed the line, Rocky grabbed his hair and told him fucken well done. He sat down, spewing air, head in hands. The phone rang and was pressed against his head.

Yes, good, more Jamie.

Denis.

His breath back, he watched the play, watched his man, followed the match-ups but knew he wasn’t coming back on. He didn’t even hear the siren going, just saw the North boys on the ground leaping like people in old photos from when the war had ended.

He ran too and when he got to the centre where some sort of little stage thing had been erected with what struck him as amazing speed someone shoved a baseball cap on his head. He took it off and didn’t recognise the brand.

A man in a suit came and told him to get in line. He did. Duck was one ahead of him, The Doctor just behind. They said stuff that didn’t really make sense. Fucken shit yeah fucken yeah go North fucken great effort there mate, five stars Jamo mate five fucken stars.

The rest he only knew properly from the photos in the papers, and the replay he finally got around to watching a week after. He sort of remembered getting up onto the podium thing, being presented with his medal. Then Duck and Denis up there, just the two of them, clutching that cup far harder than he had ever dreamed of. Looking at Wayne’s pecs bursting out of his short-sleeved jumper and thinking about how many hours in the gym it would take him to get a set like those.

He remembered being pushed and shoved with the rest onto the podium thing, 22 of them and Denis and Ron and a few others all crowded, a massive insistent blur of noise coming from every corner of the stadium, enveloping him, blanketing him, drowning him. He looked for his Dad and couldn’t see him but felt happy knowing he was here somewhere, contained in the great ground around them.

Piss after that. Filling the cup with champagne that burnt his throat as they ran around the ground God knows how many times, spilling more than they got in their mouth, but drinking enough to make him retch hot bitter black stuff as they finally walked up the race and into the rooms. More piss in the rooms, joining in the chorus time and time again, beers pressed at him, one after another HEARTS TO HEARTS HANDS TO HANDS another beer, just taking a swig and dropping it OUT WE COME OUT WE COME OUT WE COME TO PLAY getting handed the cup again and sculling more NORTH MELBOURNE BOYS ARE HARD TO BEAT WHEN THEY COME OUT TO PLAY.

His Dad there. Crying into his Dad’s chest, his Dad holding his head and kissing his ear soft and wet and with more love than anyone could. Ron coming over with the cup full of champagne and pouring it over the both of them, the rest of the rooms giving up a huge cheer. His Dad shouting and him not hearing but somehow understanding that they’ll meet up at the pub when this ends and have a quiet proper pot to celebrate. His Dad grabbing his shoulders and telling him his Mum would be so proud of you Jamo, so proud of you. Kissing his Dad goodbye and saying put a few bucks behind the bar for Liam and Joe and that.

A shower, scrabbling into clothes, a bus, down to Arden Street. More piss. People seething on that scuffling old turf, recognising faces, touching hands, scrawling something that could have been an autograph on bits of paper. Faces he knew and might have known appearing everywhere. His phone ringing and dying because the local system couldn’t handle the load. A lot of drinks later, on another podium, someone shoving a microphone in his face, mumbling stuff about everyone doing their bit, of Denis being the one they had to thank, Mr Joseph, and youse the fans. The MCG lights from a week ago burning down.

A girl, a glamour; kissing him. Him grabbing her tit, her moving it down in a not now but later way, seeing kids and old grandmas and stuff watching and cheering louder. Good on him, deserves it. Stumbling, another stubby in his hand. Then Joe, Joe appearing.

FUCKEN JAMO!

FUCKEN JAMO! GO NORTH!

Joe flying, eyes bugging out of his head, black saucers with light brown rims, fireworks behind him and the smell of a sausage sizzle somewhere. Grabbing him, arm around his waist, leading him through the crowd.

LIAM’S HERE! CARN COME SEE LIAM!

Being dragged through the crowd, thick, deep crowd, people shouting in his ear, fucken madness, still smelling sausages and wanting one but Joe holding his hand now, pulling him towards the fence, the people thinning out, in the the carpark, cars, less people. Liam.

Liam’s eyes huge too, tall, taller than him, going, buzzing, flying a million a miles an hour.

FUCKEN JAMO MATE!

Liam grabbing him full chested and a great bear hug. CUNT! FUCKEN CUNT!

Come here, come here. Liam kissing him on the cheek, Joe pushing another stubby into his hand. Fruity Allison appearing in his field of vision and then departing. A car door opening, getting inside, two chicks there. Liam and Joe getting in, Liam turning round and shouting stuff at him, Joe racking up on the Melways.

Joe passing him the lines, all nice shirt and big honest speeded to fuck eyes. The note in hand. The chick next to him with eyes that looked like spread legs. Getting a little bit hard on the thought. Note up his nose and the goey smarting just a bit, wait a second, and bang, bang fucken goal, you fucken beauty. Joe grabbing the Melways and his going up, Liam next, some sort of quick dispute between the chicks and more go dropped on the book and the chicks leaning forward, snorting, winning.

Beats, the stereo cranked, fucking pounding beats, losing it in the beats as the go kicks and Liam turning around with more on the Melways, that disappering up his nose. Flying, crazy, fucking going, outside people moving, dark shapes, hand on the chick next to him’s leg, feeling its magic softness, the music being turned up again, someone bashing on the window BRENTON GET IN FUCKEN BRENTON.

Out of nowhere Brenton getting in and waving a bag of powder.

JAMO! FUCKEN DONE IT FUCKEN NORTH!

The car starting, racing out of the carpark, Brenton jabbering shit in his ear, the chick next to him saying Jamie Jamie Jamie, reaching into his shirt and flicking his nipple, fucken speed brilliant.

WHERE WE GOING?

TO A PARTY!

Music breaking bang boom through his chest, black blokes shouting over it.

Stopping under a railway bridge and the Melways passed again. Leaning down again, doing it, going for it, winning. Being pushed through a queue by Liam and Joe, the girl hanging onto his hand. Lights, people everywhere, rubbing his front on the arse of the girl and now not feeling anything, just lights and beats and sound and Liam shouting in his ear and grabbing him on his shoulder which should be sore but isn’t.

REWIND SELECTOR SOUTH LONDON DRUM N BASS CREW SHOUTING OUT TO THE NORTH MELBOURNE BOYS WEARING WHITE AND BLUE

Coming out to the car for a break from the lights in the big room, Joe and Liam talking shit a million billion dillion miles an hour. His phone ringing when the sun came up. Leaving them with the imprint of the chicks tit on his hand and having no idea where she went, meeting the boys at Don Camillos, eating nothing, everyone knowing but not caring.

Some of the boys coming up and taking the bag Brenton give him and going to the dunnies, coming back eyes wide shut, a day and a half and a Grand Final into it. Arch and Duck and older blokes keeping the journos off him. Boys asking him how many he fucken done, how many did ya root? Saying dunno, four, five, dunno mate lost count. Then laughing, everyone laughing. Drinking, drinking, pretending each and every one had won it off their own boot.

And at the end on his couch, almost insensible, just lying there as the last little dribs of the goey were fought and overwhelmed by fuck knows how much booze and the joint that Joe had stuck in his pocket, closing his eyes and remembering the feel of the cup in his hands, the lights illuminating an empty stadium in his eyes, the green green grass around him, showing it to them, lifting it up, knowing he’d won it. Fucken won it. Fucken done it.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo12, Anna11, Evie9. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

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