AFL Preseason – North Melbourne v Hawthorn: Arden Street Cargo Cult

mickA chance vacation encounter between Melanesian spirit keepers and influential North supporters spread a message of change like butter across a hot cross bun through the club. They witness the islanders mimic the memory of long-gone second world war western armed forces manoeuvres and their ritualistic rapid deployment of fantastic military and consumer technology. Once the war is over these daily marches in formation coupled with a trance like reconstruction of military equipment through stone, wood and palm is relentlessly repeated in the hope the foreigners and their mythical equipment return to renew the island. Agog at the faith that the memory of such sacred cargo ferments, the visiting group is convinced that spiritual change was required at Arden Street to reincarnate a fifth flag.


arden_stOver time and gripped by flagless fervour, the Roos congregants desecrated the temple. They set ablaze the older grandstanded trapppings of worship. Bare hands of devoted rage tore down the matchday fence. Blessed earth movers split asunder the concrete-stepped standing terraces. Fundamentalists banished the social club and it’s pokey squalor. Benevolent shareholders were outed. They filled in the ancient races that once catapulted the mystic historical players from the darkness of that mounded bunkered shrine on the Kensington side.  Yet still their most visible and energetic acts of devotion had not resulted in the elusive flag cargo promised with the rise of Saint Brad of Sniping: He who denounced the cult of shinbonerism, only to return to it for redemption once the old saints failed in discharging the four point deity.


The King was dead.


balloonsInitially, they looked for fulfillment toward the Gold Coast before  a brash, charismatic President Brayshaw lead the flock to the barren wastelands of docklands stadium with its bays of penance offering up crimson-skinned tepid hotdogs as nourishment for a soul that knew no home. Silver spades turned sods on the hallowed turf, erecting administrative temples where once stood the members stand.


Then, in 2016, they subject disciplines to an exacting test of belief by expelling the older prophets of play and severing the living memory of plenty that stretches back to 1999. Today at Arden street, they bid to renew again in the first religious gathering at this most glorious of inner city sanctuaries for 35 years.  Gnostic-like, they embrace again from this troubled period in the wilderness the shinboner creed in search of fulfillment. That precious altar of youth now the playing field of remarkable acts by remarkable men held captive by a heady mix of atonement through myth and the suffering induced by missing the eight.


Today they come back to Arden Street in search of contact with the premiershipped ones. As sustenance for that hunger. The club of debt versus the club of plenty. Cups, members, pokies, cash….respect.  They glance through pig eyes on a summers day the game plan of the almighty reworked three times on the four visits to the holy grail. Oh to attain and touch such holy relics!


Echoing that other denomination – the Jehovah’s Witness – only a select few are admitted into paradise today. It’s a tad few less than the peer pressure-coated  and coveted 144,000.  5000 entry tickets today are available. Its a sell out this heaven in a heartland but only three-and-a-half thousand show up, perhaps a victim to the day’s heat or that other “hell is other people” cult of Messrs Jean Paul Sartre. You sniff at the free cordial if it all seems too good to be true.


They imitate the same practices they had seen the premiershipped ones use – the run and carry, the overlap off half back into a paddock up forward, offensive pressure, precision chip kicking and good old fashioned big monks who can take a grab up forward.  At half time in an act of sympathetic magic the votaries parade a  life-size replica of the elephant from the circus who ran amok here at half time back in 1978. They construct new military-style television camera platforms out of the jungle, hoping to attract more media, more fans, more buzz and more cups.


floggersAlas, even the most committed zealot is challenged by 300 metre queues for communal beer and pies at the solitary soul food outlet at the ground.


You can see why they are building a station just down the road tentatively titled “Arden”. You’ll be standing on the carriages that arrive there as well as the terraces awaiting the return of the cup. It will be a small price to pay, for what we witness today gives a jaded warrior’s heart cause for hope, not lest the rise of a young Adonis Braydon Preuss who rucks and marks everything. Like the days of Barassi and then Pagan, the current kangaroo movement begins today with a promised return to a golden age of ancestral potency.




North Melbourne 0.13.17 (95) defeated Hawthorn 0.11.8 (74).

First published at Mick’s Footy Blog


About Mick Gwyther

Greying slowing wannabe tragic player/writer/raconteur whose only claim to footy cred is a goal from the dot at the death in a final 35 years ago. Down hill from there but with passion. Hawk jester. Author of @micksfootyblog

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