AFL Round 1 – Of carts and horses

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
– A horse with no name, America

Fry’s Flat.
The Howqua runs on.
Manna gums rise scrappily.
I’ve not washed for days.
Long drop toilets.
Internet a thing of fiction.

It’s Easter weekend and the everyman of State park camping is alive.
It’s chainsaws and tents.
Caravans and open fires.
Tonight the lunar eclipse will be over.
Tonight the horses, penned just there, will be still.

And still the Howqua runs on.


Sunday morning.
It’s cold.
Last Sunday the World Cup cricket final was played.
Throw on an extra layer; take the toilet roll for a walk.
Extra layer, by accident, a Collingwood jumper.
And with that, I’m part of something bigger.

– Nice jumper.
– Ah yeah, fits alright.
Someone is talking to me in the early chill. Easter eggs hunted for; found.
– Thought we were gone.
– Huh?
– Yeah thought Brisbane were going to come over the top there at the end.
I’m doing my best nonplussed-this-is-the-foothills-of-Mt-Buller-and-the-bush-and-accessible-only-via-30-minutes-of-corrugated-winding-gravel-road-and-you’re-giving-me-footy-updates-from-last-night-and-I’ve-never-clapped-eyes-on-you-incredulousness.
– Right.
I’m simply not ready for this. This conversation. This season. This unqualified support. Despite the jumper. I’m non-committal.
– Good to get the win, though.
– Yeah.
– Shite week.
– Yeah.

And that’s that.

And there’s plenty wrong with the AFL.
The insolvency of many clubs.
And the normalisation of drugs talk (what impact does this have on impressionable minds?)
And the uneven draw, at the most fundamental level, for instance.

But still the golden goose brings people together.
It’s probably a subtle but important difference to say that the history of the golden goose brings people together.
Speaking a common language.
People on Fry’s Flat on a brisk Easter Sunday.
Off to the long-drop.
It’s a cultural kind of oneness.


Trevor cracks a whip over the head of “Chaser,” a former racehorse he picked up just now in Kununurra (– ‘cos he was always chasing ‘em).
Chaser stands and nods.
Lifts his leg.
Puts it down again.

Children splash in the river.
Pick over the body of a black snake.
Smoke lifts.
Infuses everything.

The golden goose is struggling, presently.
Power, corruption of moral standards, greed.
Whole empires have fallen on these.
And will fall again.


The moon.
I’m wary.
Wary of any organisation putting carts before horses.
Game day experience?
Integrity officers?

Two kids kick a footy.
That’s the way.

I stand and nod.
Lift my leg.
Put it down again.

Still the Howqua runs on.

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Rick Kane says

    Very noice Mr Wilson, I was with you all the way on your camping trip as I read your piece in my air conditioned office. Bit harsh on your fellow Pieguy though. Wearing the jumper is hardly subliminal advertising.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Can feel your ambivalence ER. I really wanna try and connect, but….

    Rick, it’s much easier to be fan when your team is going for a hat-trick of flags. Hard to keep both eyes open.

  3. E.regnans says

    G’day Trucker –
    you’re right. I was wearing an outer invitation to bond with an inner unpreparedness.
    Mismatch. Error.
    PD – that Howqua River country is a great leveller.. Buds happily spotted the 2014 Footy Almanac in the Mansfield bookshop.

    Worth keeping an eye on exactly what is being normalised around us.
    Change is constant.

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