A Thorny Saturday Contest

It’s probably not a good idea to be pruning roses when you’re listening to a close game of footy.

There I was on the front garden on Saturday afternoon cutting back a large white rose bush that clambers its way across and over our front and side fence. It’s one of those bushes that has thorns on it the size of a small house. I reckon these bushes have a sense of being. They seem to sense the destruction that you are about to unleash. The branches brace themselves and appear to cooperate in entangling themselves around each other. Then they pounce; thorns first. As I cut, they lash out. Invariably the wounds sustained are on the arms and hands. Sometimes the thorns simply latch onto your jumper. They grab it like a hook in a fish’s mouth and as one takes hold others join the fray. The more you struggle to escape their grasp the more they grip on. I understand the fly in the spider web. My 1970s Rip Curl windcheater is cut to pieces.

After a titanic struggle the footy reaches half time. The Hawks lead the Cats by 7 points, and the rose bush leads me; 12 branches cut to 110 cuts inflicted. The footy is an intriguing battle. The Cats sound like they are hanging on; perhaps missing some goal kicking power. The loss of Mooney and Johnson could be telling at the end. But Bartel has had an enormous half, Ablett is chipping in and Harry Taylor is holding his own against a rampaging Buddy. I wish that Luke Hodge was wearing a hooped jumper.

As the tempo of the game goes up so does the force with which I hack at the rose bush. I’m starting to get on top, but so are the Hawks. They seem to be winning the ball around the packs (these days referred to as “stoppages”) and getting it inside 50 with more purpose. How long can Taylor, Scarlett and Co. hold the Hawk hordes at bay?

Just as the game sits in the balance for the Cats, up pops Stokes. He kicks three in the third quarter. My excitement levels go up again, my vigour at the rose bush is almost cruel. It doesn’t stand a chance. I’ve broken through its major frontal defences and can now get at the twisted snarl of branches at its base. Game over dude, I say to the bush as I step forward into its inner sanctum.

The last quarter of the footy is brilliant. These two teams seem to play with extra bite when they encounter each other. Buddy is playing some inspired footy. He threatens to blast the Cats out of the water. But then the Cats lift, like the very good sides always do. Stokes is in the play, Varcoe is buzzing around, Bartel is hitting packs like a freight train, and Chappy wills himself to some important contests.

The Cats get in front by 10 points. They sound a bit too steady. But the Hawks and the rose bush have one final fling. For the Hawks Clinton Young is finding space and having pot shots at the big sticks, whilst the rose bush has me by the windcheater again. I hack feverishly. Hack, hack, hack. The rose won’t let go, I won’t stop. It could be a battle to the death. The Hawks surge again, the Cats defence is under siege, I’m running out of energy. Can the Hawks steal it? Will the rose bush overwhelm me? Hack, hack, hack. Branches are flying, bodies on the footy field are thrown relentlessly at the contests, and sweat overflows into my eyes. I hear Harry Taylor’s heroic goal line spoil, Young’s desperate ping at the goals for the Hawks, and Bartel’s tough work in the clinches. I’m in my own tight spot, unable to extricate myself. The world closes in; the stress is almost too much. Hawks, Cats, Hawks, Cats……Siren! Cats home by 2 points in a ripping struggle. Snap! The rose bush relents.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Clearsighted says

    Varcoe’s mowing down of Buddy was brilliant.

  2. Peter Flynn says

    Ditto Clearsighted.

    One of the most thrilling things I’ve seen.

    The crowd of two in the pub here in Cooktown went bonkers.

    Superb game.


    Each one of your rose hacks coincided with a larger-than-normal sip.

    Josh Hunt is the best-looking worst kick in AFL football.

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    Larger than normal PF? Pas possible.

  4. Danielle says

    Dips, just on the roses-
    These holidays i had a media photoshoot and i needed one single red rose to take my pictures of for my folio.
    i went to 5 different florists who only had white and even bought a plastic one, i was desperate.
    Mum had to drive around the streets near our house until i saw some in a front yard, so i knocked on the door explained my situation and the lady was nice enough to let me pick some of her roses. :)
    So keep at it, some year 12 might need you and your roses one day! lol

    This was such a good game.
    I kinda wanted the Hawks to win though but the Cats are looking very good.


  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    Pruning the roses on the day of such a big game? Why did you inflict such cruelty upon yourself Dips?

  6. Danni – nice story about you and the red rose, but how could you want the Hawks to win? If you need pink or hot pink roses let me know. Should be up and about come Melbourne Cup Day.

    Pamela – long story. I wanted to be at the ground but was restricted by “kids activities” (again). One day they might even be thankful. So I took my anxiety out on the rose bush. Funny, but when I looked at the bush once I was finished I wandered what all the fuss was about!

  7. Dips,

    Hawthorn, roses.


  8. Phantom – Yes, plenty

  9. Danielle says

    6- No offence intended, i do love Mooney! :)
    But Hawks main man Mitchell is my fav AFL Captain so i do have a big soft spot for the Hawks.
    I did however, whole heartedly cheer and side with the Cats last GF day.

    Thanks for the rosey offer :)
    Still can’t believe 5 diff florists didn’t have red roses. lol


  10. Danni,

    Wayne Newton may have been able to help.

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