AFL Round 18 – Giants v Cats: A Step Back in Time

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As Albany grows it more and more reminds me of Geelong in a strange way. The long streets with rows of shops leading down to the waterfront, the industry to the left of a picturesque bay, retirees wanting to settle in the region, high school students looking for the first way out and a proud history in the wool industry. Even one of Albany’s local footy sides, the Royals, is in rebuild mode since their last Premiership triumph in 2011 with some supporters grumbling after being spoilt for so long despite the fact the side was second on the ladder. Sound familiar?


After a day of barely making it to the top of Bluff Knoll and taking in the always wonderful bays surrounding the original WA deep water port the ladyfriend and I drove back to Albany to the soundtrack of Drew Morphett and Matthew White calling the butchering of Freo at the Docklands on ABC Grandstand with a mix of bewilderment and glee that ‘Ross-ball’ might not kill the game after all in their voices. With shore leave given it was time to sniff out a pub and watch the Cats. The Premier Hotel on one of the main drags was looking like it was trying to be more of a wine bar or restaurant than a pub or venue to watch the game. Further up the road though was the Albany Hotel that looked worn, rough and had a TAB sign out the front. This was the pony to bet on.


Inside on one side of the hotel was a narrow bar filled with the TAB and locals that gave you a cursory glare I hadn’t got since going in to the Bassendean Hotel for the first time. The game was on but it was crowded, loud and unwelcoming for the bog standard tourist. In the other bar there were tables set out for dinner and a near empty area with the game on. There was no sound for the telecast but instead captioning was on the screen mainly for the benefit of a couple of old boys on the table next to me who were hard of hearing and mobility after a lifetime spent shearing in the area in between stints in the army.


They soon deducted I wasn’t a local and were soon filling me with information about the hotel without a pause that would’ve been an oral historian’s wet dream. It was the oldest pub in WA, a place I was informed where you could still leave your rollie papers and change on the bar and have it still sitting there when you came back from the outside for a smoke. The only beer was mid and super too, something I was well used to up in Northampton with the old man. Above all else they still saw Albany as a Claremont town when it came to footy with Albany being a recruitment zone that had given the Tigers a heap of talent up in the city with everyone from Darryl Panizza through to Michael Gardiner and Jeremy McGovern hailing from the area.


The Cats get the early goal but it’s a game that doesn’t get out of neutral let alone first gear in the opening quarter. Reading the captioning on the TV the white text could only be the insufferable BT. It was like having to read an article from People magazine such was the blokey semi-literate opinion being put up on screen by some unfortunate transcriber not being paid nearly enough to have to listen to the Saturday Night Channel 7 team let alone type our their pearls of wisdom. The Cats lead at Quarter time thanks to Hawkins and his gigantism resulting in a goal but the game has gone nowhere.


In the second quarter the growing talls for the Giants who all look like they’re still growing in to their faces start to throw their weight around and Selwood misses again from a set shot. The Giants kick a couple with the odd hoot and holler coming from those in the other bar obviously going for the underdog and/or Freo fans hoping to stay in the Top 2. The Ex-shearers give their opinions on the game through a 1960s prism. Anyone with their head over the ball or going for a mark was fair game to be hit. Hit anyone and ask questions later is how the game should be played apparently. The captioning continues on the screen, it’s like BT is trying to talk to me through soundproof glass.


Ward is leading by example for the Giants and Palmer is half the player but isn’t far behind when he also goals and the lead is now 11 points to the home side. The upsets of the past 24 hours are in the back of the mind as Cameron misses from the pocket. The white text on the television is full of mistakes and corrections as BT’s attention seeking ‘mum look at me dive’ like commentary is too much for the transcriber to keep up with. “Ward kicks it!” comes up on the screen when the umpire is about to bounce up the ball for the restart. No ‘Wowee’ has appeared on the screen yet. Disappointing.


Geelong get back in to the game with big Dawson Simpson slotting from 20 or so and the Cats lock it down in their forward 50 for a number of minutes but only 2 points are scored. “They should kick straight” is one comment from the Shearers that is more than a little obvious. The thing is that makes more sense then what you normally hear from the Channel 7 commentary team on a Saturday night. With half time imminent and the Giants hanging on Johnson again pops up with the ball thrown on to his boot and through for a goal to give the Cats a four point lead at half time.


The lack of sound from the television is bliss as is the counter meal with scallops caught just down the road in the Southern Ocean. I can see from the captioning that someone loves the way Geelong ‘go about things’, the lazy catchcry of modern football commentary if ever there was one. The bar next door is getting boisterous. The dining area where I am is now full of families out for Saturday night tea, the mainstay weekend treat of any country town in Australia.


Caddy has Geelong off to a flyer early in the third quarter with the quickly taken goal as sharp as his new buzzcut that is followed up by a standard mark and finish from Bartel that hasn’t been seen nearly enough this season. The lead is out to 21 points halfway through the quarter when Caddy has his second with the possibility of another upset is washed down with another beer as Duncan also converts to make it 6 unanswered goals for the Cats. Has that mythical switch been flicked? It looked like there wouldn’t be an upset in this game with the Cats having a rare (for this season anyway) big third quarter.


Two minutes in to final quarter and not only have the shearers given up and called it a night along with the most the pub patrons but it seems the have Giants too. Johnson gathers a bouncing ball to finish and from the restart after a flurry of handballs Selwood finds Hawkins after bursting from the centre which is a welcome surprise in itself. 30 points and the cats seemingly home. The captioning on the television now is now about how Geelong get the job done and through the spelling mistakes I see that the Giants will be a force ‘wun day’.


The Giants aren’t done though and anyone who is a Hawk, Docker, Swan or Powerite(?) have some hope when Boyd converts following a one handed mark. After the Cats stuff around with the ball up their end a quick transition again and the Giants have another after 8 minutes and it’s 24 points the difference with Shiel finishing from distance. This is the Giants, not Gold Coast. Surely we won’t be ran off our feet like that dark afternoon at Metricon that had seemingly put a fork in our Top 4 aspirations.


It’s 24 points the difference but the Cats need one more to knock the stuffing out of the Giants. I say this to myself and even I disagree with what I’m saying. The Giants have to shots go wide to bring it down to 22. It’s more keystone cops defending from the Cats when Kelly drops in and takes a grab before converting to make it 16 points the difference. The kids are lifting. Geelong look gutted of any drive or confidence. Surely not another upset.


Just the one goal to the Cats and we’ve got them I still try to tell myself before Selwood marks on 50 and finally slots one from a set shot to seemingly kill the game off with a captain’s goal. Time for another super, time to relax and wonder how the hell we’re in second on the ladder. The Giants still come though and it’s back to under 3 goals when Cameron marks from 45 and slots it. The Cats chip it around hoping to find that moment to put it forward and get another but the Giants runners are like Energizer bunnies. “The Cats look tire – – tired. Hear — here come the Giants again!” Screams the captioning.


Ex Cat Josh Hunt was accused after the game by the mouth breathers on bigfooty of not trying against his old club but his much missed raking left foot sends the ball to Davis. Unfortunately Davis’ pass off to Hoskin-Elliot results in another point as the latter misses. 13 points to the Cats. Then some 27 minutes in Palmer marks an errant kick in but can’t convert to lift his young teammates over the line in a remarkable come back. The Cats are still holding on as the text on the bottom of the screen moving so fast from the high octane self indulgent Channel 7 commentary that it even feels like it’s even giving me RSI. Geelong can’t get the ball up to their forward 50. The ball rebounds back the Giants way again and again one of their young talls takes a mark over one of Longergan and Taylor. This time it’s Boyd and he kicks his second for the term. 7 points the difference.


I’m silently urging the Cats the hold on. For one of the old heads to save us again or even a younger player like Murdoch to seal the win with youthful exuberance. Again the Giants get the ball and again it’s put in to their forward 50 where Geelong look so fragile. A free kick is given for a push and Boyd will have a chance to put the margin to within 1 point. It’s too much for me and I return my empty glass to the bar and the oblivious French barmaid before going to the bog even though I don’t need to. We really can’t travel this well this season.


I man up and come back. Boyd had seemingly missed. There’s still time though before Geelong finally clear the Giants well drilled lines and get the ball to Johnson who runs to 50 and kicks a valuable point. 7 points and it seems safe. The captioning is now a minute behind following the flurry of action. Geelong holds on to the ball and run the clock out to take a scarcely deserved win. Another win that’s ugly. Somehow we’re second in what can only be described on current form as ‘The Great Top 4 Swindle.’


In a pessimistic sense I believe we’ll be the most unlikely Top 4 side since North in 2007. On the other side we keep winning and find ourselves in a strong position leading in to the finals with not many injuries. The Giants deserve all the plaudits. Will Geelong get found out? That will be answered in the next month or so. At least I didn’t have to listen to Channel 7. Having to read their coverage was taxing enough.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.

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