AFL Round 10 – Geelong v Gold Coast: Feel the love

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear

 

This is all about Love. The love of a football Club which has lasted 66 years and, like the new lights, does not seem to be diminishing.

I was attending the Geelong Life Members dinner on the Thursday night before the game and as I crossed the small railway bridge coming in from the Highway and up Latrobe Terrace I saw them for the first time. Four beautiful towers producing a light that flooded the twilight hour. As I write this the same lump in the throat that I had at the time has reappeared. Even though I had been a part of the process I was travelling overseas when the towers were erected and I had missed all the preliminaries. Like the curtain being lifted on a brand new performance, I was seeing the show for the first time.

In 1999 the brand new Frank Costa-led Board of the Geelong Football Club–as we were known then–met with the AFL Commission to present our plan for the future development of the Cats stadium. The Commission scoffed at the idea. Graeme Samuel in particular had been the leader of the AFL ground rationalisation push and he had a different plan – we would be playing our home games at the MCG or Docklands in the near future. Our Board were aghast. We were voted in on a ticket that had two non- negotiables. We must keep our famous hoops and we must play our home games in Geelong.

Even though our first push to the AFL might have been a little ambitious– an expensive upgrade to a 45,000 people stadium, we left that meeting even more determined to play in Geelong. We just had to scale down our vision and start the process in stages. I was seeing the result of the Third Stage 14 years later.

I have always loved  Kardinia Park. The name took in the parklands and the footy ground. As a kid I never lived far away and it was a rite of passage from a young age for my father to take me to games. I was a fairly tall kid and never missed much of the action. Our neighbour was Mr. Drew, secretary of the Club at the time, and he often brought home a real footy which my brother Kenneth and I used to kick on the asphalted Drumcondra Avenue every evening after school. I was Norm Sharp; I was George Goninon; I was Fred Flanagan. I still have the Coca-Cola Footy Cards from 1957 when we came last. I was a fanatic.

My fanaticism and love never diminished. I wanted to play for the Cats. In 1965 my dream came true when in the first round of the season I was picked as a kid to play. My hero, now dear friend Doug Wade, was out with a cartilage injury and I was Full forward. Our family dog was called Polly and here I was playing alongside the man he was named after!

Fast forward. Like many of us I lost my way and had a passionate love affair. Her name was Richmond and I was delivered to a new level. A Flag followed but even when I looked at a footy fixture during those days  the name Geelong would always jump out of page. Passion can fade but love never does. I was a Geelong boy through and through.

Saturday night was very special for me. I have been part of an amazing  journey since 1998 and I felt like the proverbial dog with the tin dick. All eyes were turned on Simonds Stadium as it is now named. The structures and the lights have  become the new beacon of the City. St Mary of the Angels Basilica which sits atop the tallest hill near the town centre has been usurped. Go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, you know that’s the 7th arrondissement. Drive into Geelong and see the Towers, you know this is the old Chilwell, now called Newtown, but better known as Kardinia Park. Football taking over from Church.

The Pre- game function was far from normal with the room packed with every politician who had played any part in the upgrades. It was a grand affair and topped off with the presence of the Prime-Minister. One of my guests was a newly discovered Cat fan Brant Webb, who is better known as one of the 2 Beaconsfield miners. Brant reckons he’s always barracked for the Cats but ” missed a few games in 2006.”!

But in essence, I still love the game itself and it was about to begin. It was cold and wet when I took my seat. The ground was bathed in light and it was weird to look to the south and see a 21st Century stadium and then look north and see a relic from the 60’s. I know how it feels! The job needs to be finished. But overall the lights gave it a feeling of surreality.

The toss was a highlight. Gary Ablett shook Joel Selwood’s hand and reached out and briefly grabbed his shoulder. There is always something bigger than the game. I hate the way modern footballers don’t shake hands ( sorry, that just slipped out!).

I had worried when the Cats ran out. I  was viewing an outside television monitor when they started running through the names of our team. Blicavs, Burbury, Vardy, M.Brown,Guthrie, Schroder, Duncan, S.Motlop. They seemed as little known as most of the Suns. This wasn’t going to be as easy as most pundits and fans had thought.

And for three quarters so it seemed. The scores at the final change were 9 goals 10 apiece and I was tempted to move straight to the final quarter in the same way that we non- basketballers view their game–go straight to the last 2 minutes when the scores are invariably level and take it from there.

But on this historic occasion that would be unbefitting. We would miss Nathan Vardy’s thrilling return to the game– his dash from the forward pocket, his turn on the right foot, his thumping goal, his pumped up run to his mates- and his new Hitler-youth blond haircut. We would miss the return of Gary Junior and the master class he puts on every week including this day. Jaeger O’ Meara, Dion Prestia, Aaron Hall, Tom Lynch and Matt Shaw, the Sun’s young maestros who will quickly become household names. Jimmy Bartel at his best in the long sleeves and the wet– a match made in heaven. The growing confidence of a group of young men from the Gold Coast who were not going to be phased by the Legends from the south.

It was left to some card alongside me to ask, “at what stage do we turn the lights off”?,that I realized it was time to sit up and take notice. The Suns led by 2 goals late in the third quarter.

Before the game I was asked for my tip. I suggested the Cats by 60 points. We had a long way to go. The final quarter turn around almost brought my prediction into the frame. It started with a snap from Jimmy and then age and youth  gathered together on the bandwagon. It was spellbinding stuff and something that is part of the privilege of being a Cat’s fan. In that final term we also witnessed something which was once part of our privilege packet. It was a goal from G. Ablett which can only be described by going onto YouTube and watching it. I guarantee you’ll never get sick of it. From seemingly in the front row of where the old Past Players Stand used to be he kicked a goal of rare vintage. It was an impossible goal only made possible by the master. It finished off a game where one side won by 52 points but a game which will be forever remembered by all those who braved the elements and turned up.

Our Board had come from a stage of running a football club to actually impacting lives. God I love footy.

 

Geelong.          3.2  6.6  9.10  18.5

 

Gold Coast.      3.2  4.8  9.10 10.11

 

GOALS

 

Geelong: Vardy 4, Bartel 3, Guthrie 2, Motlop 2, Hawkins2, Burbury, Hunt, Blicavs, Duncan, West.

Gold Coast: Brown 3, Ablett 2, Harbrow, O’Meara, Russell, Rischitelli, Lynch.

 

BEST

 

Geelong: Bartel, Corey, Duncan, Hunt, Enright, Vardy, Blicavs

Gold Coast : Ablett, Prestia, Shaw, Hall, Harbrow, O’Meara

 

UMPIRES:Fila, Ryan, McInerney.

 

Official crowd: 30082

 

Our Votes   3 Bartel(Geel.) 2 Ablett(GC.) 1 Corey(Geel.)

 

About Gareth Andrews

GA continues his life-long passion for sport and the sporting life. His head survived a football career with Geelong and Richmond and has enabled him to follow other pursuits, including his love of cricket and his regular journeys to wherever sport is played. His journeys of the mind are equally important to him and his Blogs can be read on www.lifeagain.com.au He has enjoyed the past 15 years as Vice-President of the Mighty Cats and is hungry for one more Flag.

Comments

  1. Gareth that is brilliant. Almost got me tearing up.

    I agree on the hand shaking. All players should do it before and after the game. Some things are bigger than footy.

    Really enjoyed your piece.

  2. Andrew Fithall says:

    Really enjoyed your article Gareth.

    And I really love floodlit footy grounds. We are fortunate to live across the road from our local junior football club ground. While they don’t play games under lights, five winter-nights-a-week, training takes place. When I arrive home from work, it always brings a smile to turn the corner and see the floodlit ground. After getting out of the car, I often stand at the front of our house and watch the goings-on across the road. And listen.

    Congratulations on what you and your colleagues have achieved at Geelong.

    AF

  3. Mark Doyle says:

    Last Saturday night was a great night for the Geelong Footy Club and I congratulate you, the Board members and the administration team for all your efforts over the past 14 or 15 years in improving the stadium. The most pleasing aspect is that the club has an income producing asset in Geelong for the fans to financially support the club and enjoy watching the team in comfort. The view from the Social Club was spectacular! Kardinia Park is a great sports precinct and a great asset for Geelong, but I am a bit bemused at your comment that the light towers have now usurped St. Mary’s Basilica as the beacon of the city. Notwithstanding, my support for the Footy Club and being a practising Catholic, I would have preferred a Geelong city beacon to be a Guggenheim Museum, which was proposed in the mid 1990’s. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, (Bilbao is a city which has had a similar industrial history to Geelong) has been a huge success for it’s culture and economy.
    The game itself was almost perfect for us fans; a good contest for three quarters against a very promising young team with a comfortable win at the final siren. The team was well lead by experienced blokes such as Bartel, Corey and Enright plus good performances by inexperiened blokes such as Duncan, Vardy and Blicavs. I am particularly pleased at your acknowledgement of Corey’s game because I believe that he is often is underated by media people and some fans.

  4. Gareth, what can I say. Thrilled to read a piece like this.

    You are in a rare position, one you have outlined here: native, childhood fan, aspirant, player, leader/administrator. But I reckon that breadth of involvement and depth of involvement mean you can understand so many of the people who make up the community that is the footy club.

    It was a terrific night. Congratulations to you and the Board.

    And one other thing, your love of the game shines through.

  5. Great piece Gareth. Your love for the Cats shines through. Your brief affair with Richmond is forgiven.

    Congratulations to the board and administration of the Geelong footy club for making everything possible.

    Wasn’t it appropriate that someone named Ablett kicked such a sensational goal on such a big night. What a pity he wasn’t wearing the hoops. There’s still plenty of love for him down there, especially from former team-mates. Maybe one day…..

  6. DBalassone says:

    I know he doesn’t usually feature near the top of “best player in the AFL” lists from Sheahan, Walls, etc, but it’s hard to think of a more valuable player in the comp than Jimmy Bartel.

  7. Gary Newton says:

    Gareth

    I fully agree with JH. Thank you for a brilliant & rare piece of writing that stirred my emotions to boiling point.

    As Ron Barrassi recently said “The older I get, the more emotional I seem to become”

    Like you and so many others I LOVE the Geelong Football Club and I am just so proud of what our club has produced predominantly over the last 10 or so years. I was particularly proud on Saturday night when I saw the joy on the faces of the supporters (just like I did after the Grand Final in 2007) and how much the Stage 3 opening and those wonderful lights mean.

    Congratulations to you, Frank Costa, Brian Cook and so many others for the extraordinary foresight, belief and courage to bring together an amazing group of people capable of moving this club from ‘near death’ to stunning AFL Powerhouse.

    Success is definitely very much a journey and there is still lots to do at the Cattery but from all of us on that journey and ‘living the dream’ – a great BIG thank you.

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    Superb Gareth.

    You and Burkie have produced terrific pieces.

    Jimmy always shines around the winter solstice.

    That Ablett goal was a fluke!

  9. Peter_B says:

    More Cat Porn. Hardly suitable for a family publication.
    “Cats with tin dicks.” “Football taking over from the church.” In what role? There ought to be a Royal Commission.

  10. Terrific contribution Gareth.

    I used to squeeze through legs to the front of the standing room beside the players race – hard up against the backs of the people seated on the fence (were there two rows of seats?) – to watch you, Dougie, Ken Newland et al.

    And I scoffed at the grandiose plans – I recall an “artists impression” adorning the front page of the Agoniser. Congratulating the club on its achievements since the Westpac debt forgiveness days does not do justice to those responsible.

    What should we make of JH switching allegiances from Clatworthy’s to Lord Burnett? Political? And if so, in which direction?

  11. Testing the beers all the way along the strip Stik.

  12. Al Hamblin says:

    Gareth,

    Loved the story and it’s personal poignance!

    You are indeed in a unique position to reflect on this. It’s been a pleasure to have seen your involvement up close over the past 10 years.

  13. Gareth,

    A wonderful piece! Congratulation to the Geelong FC and all those who are aligned with the club. The game itself was a fitting way to start night footy at Kardinia Park.

    Almanac disciples understand that footy is more than the two hour game (alas my wife does not get this important fact…….). This piece, interweaving historical references with current day observations, is just further evidence of that fact.

    Well done.

  14. Chris Bracher says:

    Mr.Andrews, that is a great piece.
    I dont normally “do” Geelong well, after years of torment as the only South Melbourne fan at our alma mater. However, the sense of community connection that you outline speaks to me.
    Dont know too much about further stages of the redevelopment plan but should the Gary Ablett Terrace ever cease to be, that raw community connectedness (in all of its squashed discomfort) that standing room represents wil be lost to the AFL. Just a thought from a 50-something living a tad in the past!
    Loved the love/passion reflection on the Richmond times.

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