AFL Round 13 – Brisbane v Geelong: Unchosen. How the footy gods tired of a bunch of half forward flankers

Score a footy and Cats gear

Score a footy and Cats gear

I used to like Brisbane. Loved it. Loved trying to explain its appeal to people. How it’s not really a city you can appreciate in a weekend visit. You have to live there. Experience its languid rhythms, its summer humidity, its winter sunshine. Kick back in its pubs where there is not a care. Laugh at the pollies. Laugh at those who work too hard. Laugh at those who believe in themselves. Sit at Lefkas, the best taverna outside of Olympia.

I used to love the Gabba as well. I loved the huge shady ficas at the East State School end. Loved the balcony of the Cricketers’ Club. Loved the hill and the old scoreboard. Loved the dog track (which we ran a lap of on the last night of the ‘hounds before they went to Albion Park). I loved taking visitors from the south to the Lord Stanley Hotel for a rump and a few ales before getting the pub bus down to the Gabba. Loved the ridiculous asymmetrical pear-shape of the ground, so that it was two kicks along the Stanley Street side (where the good sides attacked) but there was a big bulge in the Hutcheon Stand (it had ceiling fans) flank and bad sides (like the Bears) could get lost in there for minutes.

I remember when Billy Brownless kicked eleven. What a day! Halfway through the last quarter one innocent at his first game turned to his novice mate and said, “I think it helps if you get it out the middle.”

Or the day Mark Bairstow kicked a 70-metre point that bounced its way home to provide the winning margin.

Those were the days. Back when the footy gods toyed with Geelong and we lived in a state of battered uncertainty. How we loved the certainty of that.

Long before the footy gods chose the Lions. Long before they chose Geelong.

Sunday evening and I have the tribe. I engineer a quarter and a half of live watching and make a few notes. I write ‘Johnno. Why?’ I write ‘entertaining’. I write “Selwood – frees. 4 in Q1?’

It looks pretty easy. I let the TV coverage run in the background while I bath the kids and do the spag bog.

Doh. Wrong order. They should have eaten and then had their bath. What will their mother say?

The kids get Sunday night treats: a choice of Freddo or mini-Kit Kat which they eat as Geelong go eight goals up. It’s a smashing. I write another note: “Harlem Globetrotters.”

It’s fun. But I don’t like it. It’s pretty disrespectful, adding the extra over-the-shoulder handball to someone running past when you’ve taken the grab 25 out. Trying to make every goal a dribble-through from a metre out.

I hit the pause button and start with the school-night mantra (“Have you done your reader Theo?”)

I’m now about half an hour behind real time. I hear the first beep of the phone just as we are finishing teeth. Then another. And another. Jeepers?

My first thought is that Selwood has done a knee. Then another beep. And the phone is actually ringing now.

I am reminded of my days in Brisbane when Friday night footy was first broadcast up there in the mid-90s. It started after midnight, so it was media blackout. You’d stagger in just in time for the bounce. You’d see the answering machine flashing (remember answering machines?) and you couldn’t resist. The voice would say in that electronic American drawl: “You have nine messages”. You’d hang up quickly. You then had to interpret the events. Geelong had gone down by 80 or won by 3? That one night I remember in particular Geelong beat North when D. Mensch had a blinder. Yes, the gods are an interesting bunch.

The kids settle down quickly, the potential gravity of the situation generating a considerably sterner approach to discipline than is the Sunday-night custom. (“No, Theo, I am not reading about the ice particles of Saturn’s rings – again.”)

When I return to the lounge-room I do not read the text messages. I pour a red and sit down. With notepad.

As I watch the start of the last quarter I try to predict the root of all this telephonic communication.

Bartel takes a screamer, but it’s not that.

The Cats are still on top. Still flicking it around flamboyantly. Still kicking shamelessly to contests in that our-bloke-will-beat-your-bloke way. We’re 40 points up and killing them. Must be something else.

The Cats break clear off half-back yet again and the end-on shot shows hooped men streaming forward. One of six players is going to kick this goal. Johnno shanks one off his instep which is still going to reach the target. But it hits Umpire Wenn, falls to Zorko, and the little nugget sends one through. At that point, there was nothing much to it.

Then Josh Hunt tries to pick out Joel Selwood, but he too shanks the kick which is to Moloney’s advantage. Moloney’s roost sails home.

The Lions are having a fair crack, but the Cats are about. Redden could have made it interesting but his dribbler is touched. Jimmy Bartel whips around and unleashes a barrel on-the-run which tumbles into the pocket. That would have been a classic. (It will be interpreted differently later on.)

The ever-reliable Corey Enright has his arm pinned in a tackle and is penalised and Adcock goals on the run from centre half-forward. Now that is not a good sign.

Johnno steadies the ship with a goal.

But the waters are naufragous.

Hanley flashes through a hole and snaps. Twenty points. Then Moloney sharks the tap in the centre, gets around an opponent and bombs a massive goal to get the Lions to 14 points. It’s one of the goals of the season.

The crowd is boiling. Like a chemistry experiment. I have been in these Gabba crowds. Willing the young Lions to come back against dastardly foes from far-off Victoria. Imagining that every Lion in a maroon jumper is a product of Kilcoy and Broadbeach and Moorooka. I used to think they were great.

But this is getting pretty concerning (as another message arrives on the phone, well after the game has finished in real time).

They go straight back down and Moloney hits the post. This is nuts. The Cats are static. Except for the coach who has wandered down from the box to stand on the boundary. He’s looking a little like his brother (oddly enough) in that his face asks, “What are these blokes doing to me?”

They’re not doing anything. Brisbane are the actors, the life-force. They are the ones who have taken over. It’s their world, their universe, their cosmos. And they are, for these fleeting moments, at one with it. It is magnificent to watch, but in that way where deep-down you know the Cats are fine.

Zorko (Who is this bloke? Every time I see Brisbane he plays well) goes long when he had a man 20 metres clear. And Golby (Who is this bloke? He’s got some skills, and some go in him) snaps off his left, thereby making himself the best Mitch in Australian sport by the length of the Terang straight. Mitch Golby, the boy from Kilcunda.

Then Jono Brown marks and misses and there’s another contest where the ball falls to Rich who wheels and pulls the trigger from 55 and: scores are level.

This is when you want to be in the crowd.

Instead you’re pouring more red and identifying the champion to get us out of this crazy mess. Jimmy? Joel Selwood? Hawk?

The Cats win the clearance and go to a contest in the pocket. It’s mayhem but Hawkins sets himself and his fingers are sticky. Thank goodness, Hawk. He’s in the pocket. A minute to go. The worst is a draw, but those of us who know the Gabba, know this is the funnel pocket. It all drains towards the goals and he must score. We’re home. Phew.

He sneaks the shot in for a point.

I am thinking that we’ve been lucky to get out of this.

I’m thinking that there will be a fair bit of re-consideration come out of this. But thankfully we got the points.

Blow the siren.

The Lions go straight down the guts, but they blaze and the Cats have set up the wall. They mark and the ball is squared to Selwood. Seconds left. He sees Dawson Simpson who marks.

And plays on.

Dawson Simpson play on, to Joel Corey who could have a bounce and a shot, or go to the pocket, but he squares to full-forward and Merrett marks.

And what was dead is now alive again.

And now they’re away and the 200-gamer is on the lead. And he’s got it. A la Tom Hawkins v Hawthorn 2012. Ash McGrath. He’ll kick from outside 50. And he does. And it’s sailing. Sailing. Through.

You’re kidding.

The Lions: home in a miracle. One of the great wins. A superb quarter from all of them – especially big Leuenberger and the bloke who couldn’t get a game at Melbourne.

How the mind changes?

We try to interpret events. We’d go mad if we just let things wash over us. Or, then again, we might be foolishly happy.

I have a very simple interpretation of this Brisbane moment, this Geelong moment, one that considers how, in a game of chaos, so many things had to happen with a precision which seemed to defy chance.

That simple interpretation is this: the footy gods have had enough of Geelong. They are sick of us. Bored with us. Let down by us. Fed up with our decadence.

The message is loud and clear from them: if you fail to respect the ability of your opponent while being so confident in your own, if you fail to respect the game, if you go nailing fair opponents for the Clockwork Orange hell of it, then we are going to put Umpire Stuart Wenn, a known shit hurdler, in the vicinity of Johnno and get him to grubber some scrubby kick (which, when still in the world of the chosen, would have had us fawning over his creative genius) in his general direction.

So how do the Cats win back favour?

Well the footy gods have given the Cats another chance. There is no way they have chosen Ross Lyon. There is no indication of even the slightest hint of the Divine in Fremantle. So this Saturday night is the Battle of the Unchosen. We will learn something of the gods’ intentions from the game.

Then the Cats have Hawthorn. Which is a whole new level of interpreting the auguries.

By mid-July, maybe Brisbane won’t be so bad after all.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – I don’t think there is a Geelong supporter out there who hasn’t pondered whether or not the loss to the Lions is a sign that the gods have left us. I have always been of the view that when the empire collapses it will happen quickly (footy goes past old blokes a lot faster than it used to).

    But a solid win against Freo, then the usual appetite filler against the Hawks, and the Selwood era will be back on track.

  2. Fantastic read, Harmsy.

    You should have been there…:-)

  3. By chance I decided to sit down Sunday afternoon (Singapore) and watch the end of Fremantle’s suffocation of North. Hardly leaving me inspired for more I checked the scores and almost shut down my laptop, but then decided I would watch the Lions and Cats anyway. The footy Gods were smiling on me for sure. What a last quarter to witness. I had forgotten about the ball being deflected off the umpire, it seemed quite inconsequential at the time. Who is more at fault – Dawson Simpson for playing on or Joel Corey for running past and offering the opportunity to play on?

  4. Neil Belford says

    You know what John, I think you have nailed it. That is beautifully put in many respects. Freo are ‘The Unchosen’, there have been lots of crap, not quite correctly fitting sobriquets attached by unimaginative journo’s to Freo over the years but ‘The Unchosen’ we are.
    Lose on Saturday and you lose second but that in itself would only prove the gods have no interest in this game. Where you sit with the gods will be determined by your Hawthorn game. If that spell is broken you are truly doomed.

    I have been keenly awaiting the Battle of the Unchosen since I first looked at the fixture. Geelong is Fremantle’s Hawthorn.

  5. “Those who the Gods would destroy they first make proud.” Sophocles – played in the blue & white hoops – 496 to 406 BC (Before Cats).
    You are a bit stiff publishing this on the same day as Litza’s Bad Men piece. Now you know how the Saints felt in 2010.
    The Almanac – beautiful one day, perfect the next.

  6. Joanne Daniher says

    Such a pleasure to read on such a politically disturbing night but ….naufragous??? Please explain!

  7. Neil Belford says

    Beautifully put Peter. My story for this Saturday night is being written for me. Should I quote Sophocles or you when I steal that line.

  8. Joanne

    I’m tipping Harmsy had a bet with someone he could get “naufragous” into an article first.

    Great piece befitting easily the best TV game I’ve seen this year.

  9. Neil,
    The Oxford Concise Dictionary principle is to cite first printed use of the term. As I am older than Sophocles please attribute me and pay the standard rights agreement terms.
    I agreed with you on Crowley this week. That makes it 1-1 for the season. Like those RoadRunner and Coyote truces I will be much more comfortable resuming normal hostilities.
    This ain’t natural, Varmint.

  10. Andrew Starkie says

    The Geelong Catsbys

  11. Neil, you blokes were certainties on Saturday night…until…thanks very much for your comment.

    Whatever the gods are up to, it’s making for a fascinating fortnight – and no doubt a fascinating season.

    I’m thinking that those who write about the drabness (my yawn was for the three bye rounds) of the year are not seeing it for the magnificent combination of characters it is.

    They are forgetting Freo for starters. Consider Saturday night: it is Freo v Geel but it is also R. Lyon v Geel (think 2009) and R. Lyon v The Universe (think 2010). R. Lyon is a massive part of this season’s story.

  12. G’day Jo, Congrats to your young bloke and to the whole family. A delight to watch. (Please send him to Geelong). We just got Theo’s first prep report and the household is glowing; I can only imagine how it is over there in Daniher-land.

    Naufragous? One of my favourites. I discovered it in a favourite books of mine: Mrs Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words. It means ‘causing shipwrecks’. (If you see that book just buy it)

    MOC, the bet was won years ago. But it is topical given GCJD Haigh and I will share the stage with Jim Young tonight at University House. Many years ago Gideon and I did have a bet to see who could get ‘naufragous’ into the national press first. I actually got the chocolates when writing an Observer column in the Oz about Brisbane’s famous Lifeline Bookfest (literally millions of secondhand books for sale – many, mnay treasures and worth going to Brisbane to attend) suggesting there were books on everything including naufragous seas.

    Whatever gets you through the day I suppose.

  13. Neil Anderson says

    Footy- Gods. We know them well hovering over Barkly Street Footscray as they decide their mischief for the weekend. Often they don’t wait for the finish of a tight match, but strike early.
    One of their favorite tricks is to let the Bulldogs defend their goal for most of the quarter and when there’s a chance to kick a goal before the siren…zap! The player hits the post. Hitting the post several times with the opposition rebounding for goals must get the most chuckles when the footy- gods sit around on Mount Olympus planning their devilment.
    I could never understand why they picked on a nice guy like Chris Grant.

  14. John, I reckon naufragous now has a new meaning. A naufragous outcome occurs when an individual or team squanders a massive lead to lose the seemingly unloseable. Arguably the Cats managed to outnauf Nauf in this regard on the weekend.

    Wonder if any politicians are familiar with the term?

  15. You appear to have lost your Geelongese sense of inevitable superiority. Relax, Chris Scott will use this as the defining point of the season, allowing the team to pull it’s collective head in, together and come out righteous in the pointy end.

    Brisbane were showing signs of the previous seasons to the 3 in a row glut. Where, while the younger pups as Aker, Voss, Black and the Scotts matured, the Lions developed the belief that they could compete with the better teams. Mainly through ‘honourable’ losses. One game against Adelaide, (the one where Modra took that screamer), Brisbane found themselves in a winnable position. Chris Scott was had a running shot from 20m out and missed. They lost, but began to play like winners more often thereafter.

    Freo are playing like the unloveable. Especially Ryan Crowley.

  16. aussie80s says

    “But the waters are naufragous. ” Just like a stab kick or flick pass you just don’t see comments like that in footy anymore. Come to think of it you never did. How would Jack Dyer have coped with that when he was still amazed how everyone died in alphabetical order when seeing the death notices.

    The great Hawthorn empire was slowly built up by Kenndey and cohorts in the 1950’s to dominate for a couple of decades but collapsed on just one sunny Sunday afternoon at the Gabba in 1995. Round 16 and just outside the 8 on 7-8 they were leading Brisbane by 45 points at three-quarter time. In the last term the Bears came charging home to snatch an unlikely win in a 9 goal to one quarter. Hawthorn didn’t win another game, Brisbane made the finals.

    Can the curse of the Gabba be rising again? Or perhaps it’s karma. Maybe it just depends on the view from the hill.

  17. Cheryl Critchley says

    Hi John, That game must have been torture for Geelong fans but look on the bright side. It’s been a while since you’ve had to face something character building like this. Hopefully Geelong will learn from it and be even better for the rest of the season. Rare lapses such as these can be the spur you need.

  18. Lets hope the westfragous are less fragous than the naufragous were to the cats last week

  19. Andrew Stafford says


    I was there, of course.

    It was a rotten game to have to file 800 words a few minutes after the siren for.

    One special moment: Black’s kick to Patfull from the back pocket, which started the chain that ended with McGrath. He is still an unbelievable player. Will miss watching him, next year and beyond. The Lions will miss him even more.

  20. Beachcrave says

    Thanks Mr H,

    The Gods may have abandoned those of us aboard the Good Ship Geelong but your words bring balm to a smarting soul settling back into the once customary roller-coaster of ‘urk, okay, that’s what we’re doing this week’.
    Can a loss be portentous?
    Poor Jimmy – he plays cricket in the off-season, breaks a little bone and now no AFL-ers can wield the willow – he flies to the States during the break, the Cats lose and now no AFL-ers will be permitted beyond State borders.

    And in emoticons of a younger generation: LOL Mike.

  21. Cracking read, Harmsy. I’d been trying not to think about the game, but if I had, I would have thought like that.

  22. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    From the French (of course) ‘naufrage’, noun, masculine. Meaning shipwreck.
    Wonderful piece, JTH. I was there on the edge of the couch, trying not to spill the red.

  23. Adam Muyt says

    Ripper read, John. Thanks!
    And now I head up the Midland Hwy to Launceston, feeling slightly better about the Lions chances against the Hawks on Sunday than when I went online at 3/4 time last Sunday eve and got my ticket for this game. Go Lions!

  24. Stainless says

    Mathilde – strictly speaking, it’s originally from the Latin (from which about 98% of French is derived) “naufragium”.

    But in any language, it sure was a shipwreck for the Cats!

  25. I knew the word from Soren Kierkegaard (RHB, LOS) who used the term ‘commune naufragium’ to describe the ‘communal shipwreck’ that human beings face. Interesting writer/thinker. What is the individual’s response to the condition we share?

  26. Stainless says

    Interesting question John. I think the accounts of the Titanic sum it up pretty well. Some shamelessly step into a half-empty lifeboat, others retire below decks for a last whisky and round of cards. And the band, like Fitzroy in the last quarter of Round 22 1996, keeps playing to the end.

  27. JTH – see you at the All Nations!

  28. Haje Halabi says

    Great read- cant wait to get home and truly absorb some of these situations- it maketh the men! When is the next all nations??

  29. Rick Kane says

    I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way, said John Paul Jones in 1778, one of history’s most notable sailors and sea warriors.

    While he was daring I don’t think he was responsible for naufragous events. In a latter life, however, he was responsible for great bass lines in songs like Ramble On and Black Dog.


  30. mickey randall says

    “I let the TV coverage run in the background while I bath the kids and do the spag bog.

    Doh. Wrong order. They should have eaten and then had their bath. What will their mother say?”

    Great recount John, but as someone who has made this error and will make it again soon, this detail truly speaks to the common man. Watching football and parenting simultaneously is a tough gig!

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