Almanac Flashback – AFL Grand Final 2009: A surreal premiership


By Don Walters


Now that the Dali exhibition is safely packed into crates and the crowds have ceased surging to the National Gallery of Victoria to see his paintings and sculpture, the truth can be revealed about the Cats blockbuster display at this year’s Premiership.


Training, fitness, exquisite skills, hard ball gets, centre clearances, coaching, diet and an abundance of man love all played their part but it was obvious to me, a few weeks out from the finals charge, that a profound and undeniable force was propelling the boys toward the highest achievement –




Art lovers recognize Salvador Dali as the face of Surrealism. The man with the crazy moustache and the wild eyes was a gifted painter and insightful thinker, an artist who re-shaped our visual world through his uninhibited exploration of the subconscious and the often confronting world of the Surreal which he helped invent. My suspicions were confirmed about the Cats understanding of this profound art movement when Gary Ablett was asked the most in depth of footy questions during the post match media frenzy.


“How does it feel to win a second Premiership Gazza”? Without hesitation he answered,


“Mate, it’s surreal”.


Bomber Thompson and the coaching staff had magically added a deep understanding of art history into the already hectic training schedules of the entire squad. Perhaps the boys were all taken on the bus for a private viewing of the Dali show, with informed insights given by the NGV Curatorial staff.


We’ll never know that for sure but looking back at the game it’s easy to see how it manifested itself. For example, at no stage did the players run the clock down. Instead they’d simply let it melt away. Max Rooke grew a ferocious beard, using facial hair as a symbol, just like Dali, to proclaim that here was a man from another world, a place where strange thoughts and even braver physical feats could be performed.


Mathew Scarlett said that in the dying moments he simply saw the ball and thought he’d better go and get it. Such profound simplicity of thought, quite befitting the great surrealist poets and philosophers of the early twentieth century.


And what about Cameron Ling? To watch him play is the football equivalent of the best that James Gleeson’s paintings can offer, where biomorphic ooze blankets the landscape, smothering all in its path. Opposition players are left insignificant and exposed to an undeniable force.


And as I watched the game from behind the opposition kick outs all I could see was an exact zone setup based on the famous Magritte painting of floating men with bowler hats. Magritte’s men wore suits; our boys were in blue and white, perhaps a subtle reference to the clouds in the sky of that same painting. Inspirational.


More post match interviews were to come. Travis Varcoe, a young man whose indigenous heritage is deep with wisdom and visual language also described the winning experience as “Surreal”.


Then there was Ottens and Enright and Blake; all had shared a profound insight into the Surreal world – the secret to the Cat’s success was well and truly out of the bag.


It’s obvious that other teams had begun to copy and implement their own versions of art history. Collingwood seemed to have based their game plan on a Jackson Pollock painting, all splashed lines in every direction, a bit erratic at times but if you looked closely there was a lot to like amid the confusion.


Adelaide sought solace in impressionism, always a bit out of focus, giving us the impression of a good side but sadly, not a lot of narrative.


And the poor old Saints, just out of art school and finding their feet, you have to feel for them. They can only blame their loss on an unwavering belief in Cubism, where all aspects of the game are shown simultaneously from different angles. It almost worked on the day but unfortunately their version of Picasso was left with brushes in hand and no paint on the palette.


Ultimately it was Geelong’s supreme master craftsman, our own classicist, coach Mark Thompson who gave a seal of approval to what will surely become part of team strategy throughout the AFL. When asked how it felt about winning another premiership, Thompson replied, “Surreal mate, surreal.”


With those words we all look forward to the next season of football in the Post Modern era, a season starting with the NAB Cup, which is not unlike quality performance art really, where players show how clever they are but no one cares too much, unless there’s an injury.


Because it’s the big screen audio visuals we all want to see, art imitating footy and game plans which would make any self respecting Surrealist proud.


Geelong: 3.0, 7.1, 9.4, 12. 8 (80)
St Kilda: 3.2, 7.7, 9.11, 9. 14(68)


Goals: Chapman 3, Mooney 2, Rooke 2, Hawkins 2, G Ablett, Selwood, Byrnes.
Best: Chapman, Bartel, Taylor, Selwood, Corey, Ablett, Enright, Ling, Scarlett, Rooke, Kelly


Norm Smith medal: Paul Chapman


Line up
B: Darren Milburn – Matthew Scarlett – Corey Enright
HB: Tom Harley – Harry Taylor – Andrew Mackie
C: Joel Corey – Cameron Ling – James Kelly
HF: Jimmy Bartel – Cameron Mooney – Steve Johnson
F: Travis Varcoe – Tom Hawkins – Paul Chapman
Foll: Brad Ottens – Joel Selwood – Gary Ablett
Int: Mark Blake, Shannon Byrnes, Max Rooke, David Wojcinski
Coach: Mark Thompson


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.


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  1. Sir, real good interepretation of an unreal day for Cat addicts.

  2. Earl O'Neill says


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