Like a favourite toy


by Noel McPhee


I remember as a child having a toy with a long skinny ‘cord’ with frets which fitted into the cogs on the wheel of a car.  The excitement of ripping this cord out as fast as you could and then letting the car speed down the hallway or crash or bounce into the wall and sometimes come back at nearly the same speed was huge.  The unpredictability of it was all part of the enjoyment.  Four or five times in a row it would all go perfectly and belt down the long hallway nearly through the lounge room before coming to a halt just before disappearing under the couch.  The euphoria of such a good run would be followed by the disappointment of five, six even 10 failures in succession – a wheel falling off, the smash into the hallway door, a 360 degree turn around or just nothing, the cord did nothing!


I’m not a surfer (my son is) but the obsession with a good run of the car bordered on that sports’ desire for the perfect wave.  Just another five minutes; just another ‘good’ wave – that one didn’t count because it wasn’t good enough.  That one didn’t count either. Just one more Dad; actually two more.


Just another rip of the cord so that the car hurtles faster than last time and bounces off the chair leg into my sister’s foot!  That one didn’t count because it didn’t reach the lounge room; nor that one because it hit the skirting board and came to a complete standstill – still got one left!  Or maybe two more.


Earlier this year I came by some free tickets to the Hawthorn v Fremantle game at the MCG.  While waiting for my brother-in-law and nephew I twice attempted to give two of the five tickets to patrons waiting in line to purchase their entry.  Twice I was refused!  They preferred to pay!  Finally, a very appreciative man with his son gleefully accepted the offer of free entry.


I attended as neutral observer, watching the crowd, the umpires, individual players, the trainers, the runners, enjoyed the emotion and passion of both sets of supporters and the game – unfortunately for three quarters, on the whole a scrappy affair apart from a few special moments. The famed Hawthorn excellent kicking skills failed to deliver for much of the match, probably because Fremantle’s game plan was causing the turnovers. Neither was Buddy there.  Without the emotional attachment to either team the neutral game is one where you are hoping for brilliance from some individuals, a mark of the year contender, some impossible goals or a stunning best on ground performance. Without Buddy the chances of any were greatly diminished. There was a suprising number of Fremantle supporters amidst the crowd and for the most of the afternoon it appeared as though an upset was imminent and their support was increased as that likelihood continued.   Having said that, there was always a chance that the Hawks would cut loose and in the final quarter they did.


For the rest of the afternoon the scrappiness was interspersed with some Cyril Rioli brilliance.  He reminded me of the toy; let him loose and sometimes he would travel in a straight line directly to the target; other times he would bounce off three players, grab the ball do a 360 and kick a goal; occasionally he would run in the wrong direction and the ball would end up with his opponent.  The unpredictability of how he would impact the game was all part of the enjoyment.  In this game the rip cord was working beautifully: he was kicking goals; finding the only opening from a crowded pack of players; running down the opponent with the ball; handballing off to a teammate in a better position.


The crowd lifted in excitement levels every time the ball came near him.  What will happen this time?


Maybe I’ll watch one more Hawthorn game, see some more Cyril brilliance; Buddy might be there – chance for goal of the year, a brilliant mark, stunning best on ground; perhaps I’ll watch two more.


About Noel McPhee

Noel's background is in statistics including 13 years at the ABS. More recent employment has been at Deakin University and Services Australia. He has worked on every State and Commonwealth election this millennium plus a few Local Government Elections. His weekly article, 'The Stats Bench' appears weekly on the Eastern Football Netball League's website. Noel's legacy as a sportsman is that he tried hard; two cricket fielding trophies, a tennis premiership and boundary umpiring about 80 EFL senior games. He has completed over 25 parkruns in quite slow times in the last three years.


  1. Nice piece, Noel. I had one of those cars and I know exactly what you mean about Cyril!

  2. John Butler says

    Good stuff Noel

    Even though I don’t back the Hawks, Cyril is one of the players you would happily watch any day.

  3. Truly made the tears well up, reminded me of myself at the same age.

    Back then it was Ronnie Wearmouth.

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