AFL Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Fremantle: Walk On

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear


On Sunday mornings I walk up to the paper shop to buy my morning reading. I’ve walked through luscious Springs and into the long dry summers. I’ve walked through cricket seasons where the leaves fall off the trees in protest against thirst. They crunch under your thongs like a baked beetle’s carcass; the remains of an insect that fell onto its back on a hot footpath and wriggled until the boiling sun sucked the life out of it. I’ve walked past the old man who dawdles his dog at the same time every Sunday morning.



They both shuffle along, eyes down, each step a concentrated, deliberate effort. Neither knows how many Sundays the other has left. The dog glances up at me with big, droopy eyes that are dimming. His fur is faded and shaggy like a weathered door mat. The old bloke lifts a tired arm as a greeting. One Sunday I won’t see them; their quota of Sunday mornings will be exhausted.

I’ve walked out of the Summer and into the Autumn of the footy pre-season. Tis the season of hope. New recruits thrill us with exuberance and skill whilst a few older players watch the game go past them. Some of the trees go bald after a dazzling display of colour and these unadorned trees relent before the approaching Winter as the light gets a grey tinge to it and fades to a muted, dank yellow. Footy sustains us through these mellow days.

I’ve walked through the Autumn and into Winter. When I walk in Winter the chill of the morning makes my eyes water. White blankets of frost sit on top of fence posts. The old man and his dog seem to shuffle closer together, seeking warmth from each other’s breath. Hellebores poke out of the ground.



The dog is staggering sideways this Winter, its back legs seem to have a mind of their own. The whiskers around his snout no longer bristle with the energy of inquisition.

I’ve walked through these Winters and footy seasons that seem to pass with a swiftness that ever increases.

We stood on the terraces at Geelong, named after the most freakish player to ever play the game. The silence was absurd. And that was before the final siren sounded. Sport is beautiful and cruel. When it is beautiful it lifts the heart, the apples look succulent and the wine tastes sumptuous. But it can never remain so. Every magnificent moment brings us closer to a new disaster and every disaster closer to jubilance.

I get the paper and I walk home again. But this is a different walk. Observation is minimal. Instead I have my nose down in the print, glancing through the pages of the paper whilst striding with intent, trying to glean the stories of the day. I walked absently into shrubs on the nature strip one morning whilst devouring one of Geelong’s great victories. On another occasion I was so engrossed that I lost all sense of direction and shirt fronted a rusty tin letterbox that was perched precariously on a rotting stump. It clattered to the footpath like a giant oak felled in a forest. There is nothing quite as noisy as a tin letterbox hitting a concrete footpath from a great height on a still Sunday morning. They may have heard it in space.

On this Sunday morning I pick up my paper and scan the front cover. Winter has ceased. I’ve walked into another Spring. We have a new government. The people have spoken. Spring is still new and fresh. Renewal is everywhere.

With head down and no regard for personal safety I flick to the sports pages. The depression of yesterday’s defeat needs to be fed; it needs to be sated. I don’t run from a defeat. I prefer to run at it because if I don’t it will consume me. I look at the pages that show Freo players frozen in the posture of the victorious; captured by the photographer just moments after Hill had run the length of the ground and driven a dagger through the Geelong heart. In the background of the photo is a Geelong player with his hands on his head. It’s come to this. Humble pie for dinner tonight.

They were too good; too accomplished. They split Geelong open with brutal precision. The Cats fumbled, kicked poorly, bombed the ball. Varcoe might have won the game for us with a dash through the middle, but the ball ended up in the arms of a bloke with a purple guernsey. We scratched our heads. Walker might have taken a grab in the goal square and rammed home the advantage but the ball slipped through his grasp, hit the grass and bobbled nonchalantly through for a point. The home crowd let out a collective groan that told cafe proprietors and wine bar owners that business would be slow tonight.

Sandilands got revenge on David. His is a Goliath of such proportion that his 198 cm opponents looked like twigs on a giant red gum. Fyfe and Barlow and Spurr played a monumental part in Freo’s greatest moment. Anytime, anywhere they said. And they did.

I’ll walk on into next week. I presume I’ll see the old man and his dog. It will be sad if I don’t.

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. Takes a big man with a big tight sphincter to write something like this. Nice job.

  2. Sean – I’ve always felt that one of the few benefits of a loss is that there is a general loosening of the sphincter. In mathematical terms we could say that hope + expectation = tight sphincter. Whereas hope – expectation = loose sphincter.

  3. I’m reserving my comment for later in the week. But are you familiar, S Gorman, with the notion of KAOS and Control?

  4. Essendon expelled, Collingwood out, Richmond dumped on it’s arse and Geelong humbled.

    Best. Finals. Week. Ever.

    Dips, talk me through that guff around ‘Carlton’ and ‘hope’ you were banging on about last year…?

  5. Wisdom and perspective undeserving of finals mania. Well said you old Feinian.
    It was a great game to watch as a neutral. The thought I kept having about Geelong was “the young players are not yet old enough; and the old players are no longer young enough.”
    Still I reckon the MCG is the ground where Motlop and Varcoe will get the space they need. KP only suits you because you generally play duds there. The prelim final on the MCG will be the game of the finals.

  6. Litza – I refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Carlton, like the Jews don’t recognise Palestine, and Rudd doesn’t recognise his own backside.

  7. Cheers PB. I think you might be right about the Cats on the G. And you are definitely right about the “too young” and “too old” thing. Can you imagine how jittery the Hawks will be if we knock off Port? It would be worth the ticket just to watch that.

  8. Bugger me. If I’d known there was a Hayden Ballantyne Terrace at Kardinia Park I woulda gone to the game.

  9. Ahh, yes. Sunday morning coming down… I couldn’t find a way to hold my head that didn’t hurt. I would have dragged Walker when it became apparent he couldn’t play football. Earlyish.
    Sandilands is like that Thunderbird (#2, I think) that transported other Thunderbirds. He goes up for a tapout and Ballantyne pops out of his arse like a refusenik suppository and runs off with the footy.
    I understand the rule about not torching dwarfs. But what rule says we have to be kind to giants? And why was that plonker wearing a helmet? Was the Channel 7 chopper in his airspace?
    Anyway, football is stupid. Close the site and do something real with your life JTH.

  10. Working on purple livery for the site right now. Just can’t get the ghouls for the banner and borders to look right. Announcing ‘Mother’ drink as the sponsor soon.

  11. Bill Martino says

    Hope + expectation = tight sphincter = anal retentive.
    Hope – expectation = loose sphincter = anal expulsive.
    So, Dips, if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re likely to be suffering from the latter this coming Friday. If so, it might be a good idea to watch the game on your own, or at least wear a nappy.

  12. Peter Flynn says


    You captured Sunday morning and the match superbly.

    They say big blokes in finals.

    I’m still kicking plastic cups!

  13. Of course the old man and his dog may outlive all of us.
    Rgds etc, from the (football) Other Side

  14. Neil Belford says

    I’m still holding my breath. Has the siren gone. I’ve seen myself on TV jumping up and down in the crowd in that handsome Ryan Crowley stand on Moorabool St in the highlights but I’m not convinced the game is over.

  15. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Eloquent Peice Dips you capture the moments of Reflection Perfectly after a defeat we have all felt at whatever level we follow and will feel again Well Done

  16. Neil – Its over. You’re like one of those mythical Japanese soldiers who were still running around in the jungles of New Guinea in 1973, fighting WW11!!

    Thanks Malcolm. I wish I wasn’t feeling that way.

  17. Very nice piece Dips but all the melancholy coming out of Geelong rings a little hollow when you blokes ‘have had more football joy in the past 6-7 years than the vast majority of footy fans will feel in a lifetime. If Freo win just one flag then I’ll probably gather the Sunday papers with a carefree lightness of foot for the rest of my life.

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