AFL Round 23 – Geelong v Sydney: Cats for breakfast

Fathers’ Day. Despite the kids wanting to bring me breakfast in bed, I’m not really a breakfast in bed kind of bloke. Besides, I wanted to get the paper and read about the footy; to immerse myself in the Cats’ victory over the Swans on Saturday afternoon. I was pleased to see that Greg Baum had written the piece. He understands a game of footy. His article would be a wonderful tool in the process of immersion.
Yep, give me the paper, a pot of hot, fresh tea, some crusty toast with lashings of honey, and peace and quiet. That should be Fathers’ Day. It sounds very Enid Blyton but I call it bliss.
The kids make me a card every Fathers’ Day. I don’t want a Bostik Electric Glue Gun or a blower vac or a multi-purpose beard trimmer. I just want them to make me a card. I want to see their words. It’s brilliant; one of the few times during a year when you can catch your kids off guard. They give you a card with their thoughts, albeit briefly scribbled. But it’s them; exposed and naive and beautiful.

I only managed to see the last half of the game on the TV on Saturday. When I switched it on there was a point the difference. The Swans were brawling and scrapping their way around Kardinia Park. Over the last few seasons they’ve played football like a bloke trying to kill a snake in a phone booth, but this season they’ve developed some balletic poise courtesy of dancers like Lewis Jetta and Trent Dennis-Lane. They seem to have that required balance between grunt and aplomb.

I don’t mind the Swans, probably because as a kid I saw them play more often than I did my Cats. This was because some of my uncles supported the Bloods (and have done through all the decades of disillusionment and heart ache) and we went to the footy with them. I spent quite a few Saturday afternoons with my cousins perched atop a collection of empty Courage Draught cans on the terraces at the Lakeside Oval watching players like Rantall, Bedford, Quade and Teasdale doing battle in the blood red socks.

I’ll never forget the day Garry (‘The Flea’) Wilson of Fitzroy was ironed out by (I think) Mark Browning. The terraces were alive with menace and fury. The energy in the crowd was palpable. A subdued violence and tension was lurking just beneath the surface for the whole afternoon. I reckon that was the day that I really understood that footy meant something; something more than just winning or losing.

Lakeside Oval had a distinct aroma quite unlike the other suburban grounds. Whilst the others smelt of urine (Arden Street), meat pies and freshly mowed grass (Junction Oval), Marlborough cigarettes (Princes’ Park), briquette flavoured spittle (Victoria Park), and rancid disappointment (Kardinia Park), at the Lakeside Oval the prevailing waft was a body odour; a not unpleasant odour that blended wet woollen duffle coats with expletive laden carbon dioxide.

It was meat and three veg footy, hope without aspiration. When I was at the Lakeside Oval watching the Swans I understood what I was watching. I could hear it, breathe it in and get pneumonia from it. The strong whiff of men being men was all pervasive. There was no mystery here. We played this type of footy at Montmorency where Mr Patto, our Primary School coach, brought the game back to a simple equation:

“youse-a-gotta-get-the-ball” he would plead at half time as McCleod- Rosanna kicked ten goals clear (again). “Youse-a-gotta-WANT-the-ball.”

I loved it. The Swans had similar battles to me. They fought the Goliaths and often lost too.

Greed and arrogance were nurtured by others. Teams that wore emblems or stripes or rude sashes competed for the flag. And eventually the insatiable appetite for success conquered the hope that mingled on the terraces of South Melbourne. Meat and three veg no longer made the cut. When the Bloods went to Sydney it wasn’t just South supporters who went into mourning.

I think the Swans still wear that old fashioned hope like a porkpie hat. Just a bit. They don’t look and feel like a corporate citizen. I bet Teddy Richards doesn’t wear the same suits as Chris Judd. Whilst Saturday’s game will surely put a dent in their armour, they’ll turn up again next weekend.

AT Kardinia Park on Saturday the Swans needed to keep the game confined to the phone booth, but once the Cats found a way out they were clinical. Duncan, Chapman, Selwood, Johnson and Hawkins had too much flourish. In twenty five minutes of delightful football the Cats not only booted seven goals, but put the wind up six other finals contenders. The Swans were swept aside. I don’t recall that happening on any other weekend this season.

But it is a measure of my respect for the Swans that I treated Geelong’s victory with such ceremony on Sunday morning. They are a very hard team to beat. The toughness of the Lakeside Oval traditions still seems to dwell in their DNA. They’re still a chance in 2012.

I finished consuming the papers and drinking my tea. The kids’ Fathers’ Day cards sat on the kitchen table. With glorious visions in my head of Chappy snapping goals, Harry taking last-line-of-defence grabs, and Hawkins bursting out of full forward I glanced at the cards again.

“To my favourite Dad” read one, “from your favourite son.”
“Happy Fathers’ Day” said another, “despite your evil ways.”
“I love you Dad” read the third, “and I really do.”


About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Classic Dips… love the yarn. “Despite your evils ways”… love it!

  2. Beautiful Dips. “Hope without aspiration”. Now that’s something to aspire to. Happy Fathers’ Day old boy :)

  3. Ripper piece Dips. Definitely have thrust your name before the selectors for this week. Are you going on Saturday night?

  4. Pamela Sherpa says

    ‘Peace and quiet’ Dips . It’s all I ever ask for and it’s not expensive !
    Beautiful piece.

  5. Lovely stuff.
    From a favourite reader.

  6. Fantastic! “Like a bloke trying to kill a snake in a phone booth”. Brilliant!

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Thank you Dips. A lovely slice of history for a young Swan. And very gracious too.
    Respect to the dads!

  8. Appreciate the comments.

    Lord Bogan – Hope without aspiration is a noble aim. Unfortunately, despite my efforts, I fail. What is it about the human condition?

    JTH – I’ll be there on Saturday night with 3 members of the family.

  9. “I bet Teddy Richards doesn’t wear the same suits as Chris Judd”
    Lovely piece, thank you Dips.

  10. Andrew Starkie says

    Great stuff, Dips.

    I think all real footy fans have admiration for Sydney. They play with such evenness and consistency that comes from a solid, proud culture created by Roosy, Kirk etc. The 2005 GF was one of the great ones. As was 2006. Saty’s fadeout surprised me, however. Un-sydney. That outside run and flair they’ve shown alll season through the likes of Jetta wasn’t there. Cats looking good.

    I received a copy of Mark Dolan’s bio on The Boss. Can’t wait to get into it.

  11. You’ve got to change your evil ways….. Dips…..before I start lov’n you……………………

  12. craig dodson says


    Great insight into the South Melbourne days for us too young to remember. You touch on exactly why I’m lucky to be a Swans supporter – in simple terms they just term up every week and have a real crack. Your Cats were just too good on the day

  13. Peter Flynn says


    Thanks for the enjoyable read, particularly the smells paragraph.

  14. For all those astute punters out there look at Fremantles price to win at over $3.50.
    Won 8 of last 9 including eagles by 64 and NM by 53. Won 4 from 5 in Melbourne and have conceded the second lowest points against in the comp. Beat Geelong at only go this year-GET ON

  15. David Downer says

    Magic, Dips.

    Accountants really shouldn’t be producing prose of this quality.

    Smell at Moorabbin?


  16. DD – peroxide.

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