Finals Week 1 – Cats v Pies: A Preview






The hoops. Picturesque. Dancers carrying bludgeons. As it should be played. A representation of sea and sky. A nod to tomorrow and hope. A reminder of childhood, of mud and sun and brotherhood at footy training with Mr Patto in 1972.


Collingwood. The Orcs of Mordor. Brutalisers. Vandals. Dream crushers. Swarming insects. Lethal assassins. More pluck than Ned Kelly.


Theatre. Umpire struts. Holds the ball up to the heavens. A siren. If only it could stop wars like it starts games. The beginning. Eyes up. Hearts up higher. The footy will bounce. Players wearing their fragile bravado, smash in. Endeavour. Chaos. The utterly magnificent loop of a torp. The spin of a drop punt. Run and run. Hoops and stripes. Carrying hopes. 90,000 hearts race hard enough to generate electricity. It’s a comedy, tragic and humorous. An epic, unscripted production. The coach throws a phone down.


Conveying the ball according to the rules. Men in these jumpers. Committed to the cause. I ponder the quirks of the draft. Hammies and ligaments strain. Jumping for grabs, punching the ball away. Back with the flight! Can’t look away. Searching for a mate. The tackle comes. Crash. Crowd roars ‘Ball!’. It’s a plead. A statement of fact. A question without a question mark. What could Puccini do with such drama?


The footy has a higher value than uranium. It must have magic powers. We have it, they have it, no one has it. ‘Ball!’ they bay. Umpire in bright green adjudicates. ‘Give it to me.’ The wisdom of Solomon.


Brilliant lights will come on. Brilliant enough to illuminate a paddock. Light specks glistening off shiny faces. Eyes wide open. Kick it! A man emerges. The hero. There must be one. Elevated above the others. The footy is his more than anyone’s. It loves him and so it goes to him. He can hardly help it. The pass hits a target. The snap goes through. The tackle sticks like a gall wasp. The stuff of legend. He’s kicked four! If only we could bottle this.


I love the dash. The open spaces. The sheer audacity. Up the wing. Crowd senses a moment. The kick in. Bodies clash six feet up. They land in a sprawl. Except one. The opportunist. He sees something they don’t. The big sticks. Bang! Guttural, thunderous, snarl lifts the roof. If there was one. It lifts the clouds instead. Birds scatter. A red Sherrin spins into the top deck. Punters hold up their hands to grab it. Gladiators have wrestled for it with all their might. What does it feel like?


It’s over. The earth has rotated again. The atomic clock decides the finish. The stars don’t care. We say one team is better than the other today. The score shines in the gloom. Random numbers that mean something. For all its unjustness. Sport is unjust. No reward for effort. They should rise and I should not. I should leap and they should cry. Silent rain drops fall on a dry night. The battle of the hoops and stripes is over. For now. This struggle is won or lost but the war rages.


Lights out. The good folk of Melbourne go home. The MCG exhales. And rests.





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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. Are you a tad nervous, old mucker?

  2. Yes Smoke. Every game in a finals series is nerve wracking. But I’m not sure why? I can’t do anything about it! Why does it cause a nervous reaction? What’s so important?

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    The entire Fithall family is nervous. Hopefully we will still be taking to each other next week.

  4. Daryl Schramm says

    Evocative. Many lovely and relatable lines. The game has no impact on me apart from it’s potential to be a ‘must view’ experience.

  5. roger lowrey says

    Great piece Dips.

    Very provocative especially for one like myself who tends to write more in “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” mode. And yes, my goody goody cursive script handwriting always impressed the maladroitly named Sisters of Mercy.

    As that wise man Smokie suspects though, I too am intensely nervous about all this. I have engaged a return ferry ticket for the day thinking a guaranteed seat with coffee and toilet one way and a guaranteed seat with beer and toilet the other way is a winning quinella regardless of the result..

    Go CATS!


  6. AF I’m sure you’ll all find a way. It’s only a game!
    Daryl I’m thinking it will be quite a spectacle.
    Roger – magnificent response! Great idea with the ferry!!

  7. Wonderful stuff Dips. Couldn’t help thinking “change the names and places” and a thousand footy finals across the nation in the next month will reverberate to the same hopes, fears and dreams.
    Footballers fight proxy civil wars so we don’t have to.

  8. John Harms says

    How would Wally Beaver have marked that doubles ticket RDL in the Good Old Days?

  9. John Harms says

    Prose poetry from the nervous one. Very enjoyable Dips.

  10. John Harms says

    Or poetic prose?

  11. More a ramble I think! JTH! A messy one.

  12. Peter Fuller says

    Good luck to partisans on both sides, but especially in the Fithall family. I hope that your wish for next week is that you will be “talking” rather than “taking” to one another, Andrew.

  13. Superb Dips fair bit of meaning as well if only the siren could stop wars

  14. roger lowrey says

    Yes indeed JTH.

    The corpulent Beaver from Andrew Rule’s description in “Chance” would have effortlessly scrawled the ticket in crayon with a rough cross at the bottom indicating win only of course. The Beaver always wanted to minimise his risks.


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