AFL: Curving the Curve

A Covid Sunday afternoon. Freezing outside here in Melbourne. Like the old Montmorency winters in the 1960s when all we had was a clapped-out oil heater that warmed the mantelpiece – and that was about it. The cold was bitter. Mum would drag us out of the bath, wrap us in a towel and we’d sprint down the hallway to the heater. Fights broke out among the brothers as we struggled with each other to sit our backsides on the warm façade even for a few moments. Mum let us work it out ourselves. A warm back and a cold front. Better than nothing.


The jobs are done. Few bulbs planted for the coming Spring. Hyacinths. Ranunculus. Dutch Crocus. They’ll sit in the cold dirt and find the will to live and thrive. I hope. The peony roses are there too. They need time. About three years. I have a beer in the stubby holder. The lower back aches from the day’s labours. That’s a sure sign that the beer is deserved. There’s dirt under the fingernails and a scratch on the scone where a dormant rose bush showed me that its not that dormant. The thorn stabbed me on the top of the head. I had to pull it out like John Wayne extracted the Cherokee arrows. Common occurrence sadly.


The couch. Feet up. A pathetic sun tries to warm me through the window. It’s losing. But where it fails the hydronic heating succeeds. Best thing we ever put into this house, the hydronic heating. It’s the Ferrari of home-heating just as the oil heater was the Russian Lada. How my life would be different if we had this heating in Montmorency. No need to struggle and fight for warmth. Would I be less resilient now without the tussle? Perhaps the cold brought us all together? These thoughts are too big for Sunday afternoon.


Distracted. TV remote in hand. Sip of the beer. Flick on YouTube. I feel like watching victory. Great victory. One-for-the-ages victory. I search: Preliminary Final, 2007. They want to show me highlights but I want to watch the whole last quarter. Its not there. Highlights it is. Cats great start. Pies fight back. They love being feisty these Pies. The team is rubbish except for a few gems and yet here they are. Right in the game till the end. Scratching. Unpleasant. Like a rose thorn in the scone. Respect.


I remember all this. I was there. So were 98,000 others. Never heard noise like it. The grandstands rumbled. I thought they might rumble to the ground. Heads were in hands. Hearts raced beyond healthy levels. Collingwood and Geelong fans, shoulder to shoulder, looking at the ground, sweating, praying, bouncing on the balls of their feet. Lockyer has it. Now Chappy. Now Didak is lurking. Joel Corey’s smother. It probably won the Cats the game. He took it right off the ruckman’s boot. The great Sherrin robbery.


It spills over the boundary 50 metres from the Geelong goal. Ottens wins front spot. I sip my beer and take in the moment. Ottens’ tap is directed at Ablett. It’s at his feet. He gathers, swerves, hunches and dashes for the light. As he scatters, he does the calculations: the angle of the footy on the boot, the moment of release, distance, the curve. He needs to get the curve right. A transcendental curve. The footy’s flight path requires exquisite execution. Genius even. Ninety-eight thousand people rise. One hundred and ninety-six thousand eyes watch the floating, curling, spinning ball. Unless, of course, a pirate was there. History is written. Einstein applauds.


Slow motion. My feet hit the floor. I’m off the couch even though this happened thirteen years ago. It’s the real moment when Geelong’s forty-four year premiership drought broke. Cometh the moment says Dennis Cometti. Pandemonium. How long to go? I know the rest.


A Covid Sunday afternoon. I fall back into the couch. Of course Ablett kicked it. He understands curves. The Cats won the premiership. Then they won a few more. Where did all that go? I can remember fighting for the oil heater and I can remember Ablett’s goal. Big moments for different reasons. At the oil heater I was finding my voice. At the 2007 preliminary final my voice found me.


Our next premiership is underground. Buried. Covered in cold dirt. Waiting for the sun and the warmth to return. Waiting till the time is right. The curve of history will bring us back to that point. A sip of the beer. I pick up the remote again. The couch is cosy. I feel like tension and victory. I want the victory inside the tension. I search: 2009 Grand Final.





Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE


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. Colin Ritchie says

    Yes, remember it well, the rush for the heater after the bath, tough battle between 5 kids in our family. Heating these days has certainly put an end to those battles. Ripper read as always Dips!

  2. Scott Field says

    Ahh Dips …

    You evoke memories that chill the spine (the run down the hallway after the bath) and warm the heart (Young Gary’s goal, Jimmy’s questionable dive on the ball to force the final ball up, Brad Ottens’ best game ever).

    How was the noise at the G that night?! My kids trembled with equal amounts of fear and excitement. Excitement won out and we talked about our highlights all the way home.

    The wonderful thing about being a Cats fan is you can feast on a hard fought win (’07 PF), a romp to glorious victory (’07 GF), a heart-in-the-mouth epic (’09 GF) and the fun of beating Collingwood when they expected to win (’11 GF). Glory days.

    Watch out for thorns.

    Thanks for the memories.

  3. Fantastic yarn well told, old mate.
    That match truly is a classic.

    And from a totally unbiased eye (as I have told you before) G Ablett Jnr is one of the greatest players I have had the good fortune to witness play our game.

  4. Rulebook says

    Hey Dips will the mrp find the rose thorn negligent or intentional ? Hang on the high bit is debatable as well !
    Enjoyable tale geez that was a bloody great game as a neutral ! I enjoyed the week after immensely tho !

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Great piece, Dips! I love the telling domestic details, and especially the bits where these are interleaved with the big football moments.

  6. Thanks for the comments lads. Isn’t it funny that we get used to what we have? That old oil heater was utterly useless but at the time it was great because it was warmth! Even just a little bit.

  7. Classic celebration of ordinariness – in the finest tradition of the Almanac.

    Yes, that cold! Oakey might be in Queensland but it is known for its frosts – so after a clear sunny 20 degree day you would feel the chill descend, especially at rugby league training. When you got home you could not put your hands under running water. They stung.

    To ameliorate the cold we had no heating except for a single tiny blow heater which was used to warm on room. On -5 degree morning Mum would light the gas oven and leave the oven door open.

    I recall one night, in 1972, quite a few of the family sitting around the oven listening to the cricket from England.I think that gets a run in Loose men Everywhere.

    Love the piece Dips. And I haven’t even mentioned the 2007 PF.

  8. Thea Allan says

    Hi Dips, ours was an open fire in the lounge in the 1950’s. Four of us, but fortunately two and two, so room for all. We had our other fights though.
    I thought I was OK with no footy, but at almost, I am not!
    So when I have tidied my dining table for the second time this year, I will find the DVDs of those glorious years 2007 – 2011.
    That may help.
    Thanks for your great stories and be like my hair challenged husband Terry, ALWAYS wear a hat!!!

  9. JTH – those blow heaters were magnificent if you had it burning your skin but if you moved about 33cms away they were crap. I feel your pain. Leaving a hot oven open was a good strategy.

    Thea – get the old videos out. The joy is endless! And yes I will wear a hat. One day.

  10. roger lowrey says


    There is a climbing rose bush in our back yard.

    Well, that is, it would climb if I ever let it do so. But I don’t as it was out of control when we got here and that first epic fight to bring it back to size saw me win the fight but the rose bush win many rounds on points.

    Subsequently, I implemented what I refer to as my King Herod approach to pruning it. I cut off any part of it that grows taller than me.

    And every time I prune it I sustain multiple scratches. The child bride continues to urge me to wear long sleeves. But I don’t. That’s for the fainthearted. So I continue to have what I think is a semi heroic relationship with the bloody thing with a Captain Ahab like obsession.

    And yes, Brad Ottens finest game. “That” boundary throw in was just in front of us. His use of the body leaning into his opponent was perfectly judged enabling him to palm the ball with his free hand. Ruckwork out of the coaching manual.

    And that marvellous chase down tackle the following week was, perhaps, akin to that of Mick Nolan’s from years beforehand. I’m sure Smokie can provide chapter and verse on that one.


  11. Let the rose flourish Roger! It’s worth it. Love the battle though.

  12. Mark Duffett says

    Of all the things that might uniquely define our generation, I would never have thought of the sprint from the bath to the oil heater had I not read this. I dare say we will never see its like again.

    Which may be no bad thing. I learned an unforgettable lesson in human biomechanics when, having attained the prime warm back-cold front position, I made the grave error of bending to direct the towel to my lower legs…

    For all I know I still bear the Vulcan bar brand on my left cheek. Just call me Icararse.

  13. Nice one Mark.

    To think that all over the land kids were running down the hallway to the heater. Perhaps its why we were once a great nation for track and field athletes?

Leave a Comment