Round 4 – Brisbane v Adelaide: Line up, step right this way for the AFL’s ‘Salvation Show’


Love, Brother Love say
Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show
Pack up the babies
And grab the old ladies
And everyone goes


The AFL has always seemed like a visiting carnival in Queensland. The hot-gospelling, snake-oil salesmen from the southern states, rolling into town and setting up a ragged old tent, spruiking the salvific wonder of the national game to southern state expats and bemused locals. It’s actually the perfect place for a footy hub. Remember, this was the home of a World Expo in ’88. Life hasn’t quite gone back to normal yet for Victorians, but the crowds are back at the Gabba. There is a limit of ten thousand – there have been times over the journey where our fickle Queensland fans wouldn’t have needed to pre-register for that sort of limit. When the Lions had their lean years, the Broncos were a safer salvation bet. Maybe it’s fitting that it is in the ‘still yet to be won’ frontier land of Queensland that crowds are allowed to start returning to AFL games. Maybe hearts and minds can be won, even though the cynics may rightly suggest that this somewhat forced season is more to do with AFL politicking and economics. There is a lot that ails the world today, but the footy is the only game in town.


Honestly, what if the Lions win the whole damn thing this year? What then? If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make sound? If, during the game today, Cam Rayner shoves off his opponent, breaks another tackle and then kicks a goal around his body on his non preferred side, but only Queensland based members and Foxtel commentators are there to see it live – will it still make our hearts gallop?


This Queensland hub is a little bit like the ‘Big Brother’ house. Players from all over the land are compounded in at the moment, unable to leave apart from their weekly challenge. And even though it’s more reality TV than it is footy, it is still the Lions, and we will watch and hope. It’s an hour until game time and something familiar is gnawing inside of me. It’s an important game to win before the Lions have to round up their wagons and leave Queensland. With the West and South Australian teams huddled in the hub, the Lions will only have to travel up and down the Eastern seaboard on ‘fly-in, fly-out’ missions for the rest of this year. That’s assuming the AFL’s travelling salvation show isn’t interrupted again. But as things stand, the cards have fallen our way as much as they could have.


I’m clearly finding it a little hard to connect with the rebooted season. Don’t get me wrong, I do want the Lions to win this one. I do want them to go on and win the whole thing this year. But if we don’t get to go inside the tent, even just once, will we really feel a part of it? That’s what the Lions (like all clubs) have always sold so well. Inclusiveness and hope. Even though we did only see him passing by, the fact that he was there, and he was real, made me and my daughters feel a part of “Brother Fagan’s Travelling Salvation Show.” But it’s very unlikely we will see a game live this year and the kids have just never taken to watching footy on television. I’ve been musing on David Wilson’s shrewd observation in his Almanac piece this week that ‘footy is not back, the commerce of the AFL is back.’ It stings how much he is right. It remains to be seen how many hearts and minds will be lost – maybe it would have been wiser to suspend the season.


It was the only show in town today, but there isn’t much on display that will convert anyone who is not already a true believer. It is an ugly contested mess for the first half. Alastair Lynch makes a wistful comment about the Lions being at their most dangerous not when they take a mark in the forward line but when the ball comes down to ground level. There was a time, in that same forward line, where if he didn’t mark it – Brown or Bradshaw would. What Brisbane would barter for even just one of those three now. He’s right though, when the ball invariably does spill, Zorko, Rayner and the talismanic Charlie Cameron are all capable of hoodwinking we fans into a belief that this team could rival those great Lions of yesteryear – just in a different way. And it’s been such a long time since success that we are more than ready to blindly believe again.


There are times where things look good. But are there are too many in the Brisbane team whose belief sits just beyond their grasp. The danger for those who have performed miracles in the past is that they keep looking for opportunities to do them again. Charlie lines up a goal from outside fifty and duly misses. Brereton in the commentary box suggests that his game needs to be tweaked to consider his teammates more – “passing to any one of them would have been a much better option than that,” he says. My wife is a Prep teacher; she would have said that “Charlie needs to work harder on his sharing”. It is the unfashionable toilers like Jarrod Lyons, Lincoln McCarthy and Mitch Robinson who give us our lead today. Lachie Neale struggles with the hard tag of former Lion Ben Keays and Zorko spends the majority of his comeback game on the bench with a re-injured calf.


In the third quarter, the wasteful Lions open the tent just enough for the Crows to start playing like zealots. Adelaide close to within three goals, thanks largely to a reborn Tex Walker, who suddenly looks more like the champion he was rather than the down on his luck battler of recent times. In the commentary box, Dwayne Russell starts talking about the Crows not just stealing this one, but having a real chance to give new coach Matthew Nicks two wins in a row next week against the Dockers.


The crowds are back, but there is little worth watching. Brisbane keep missing goal after goal. The normally redoubtable Lachie Neale misses six and the reliably elegant Hugh McCluggage is wasteful. “At least they keep on getting multiple opportunities to miss goals” intones the ever so wise Dermott Brereton unhelpfully from the commentary box. It’s the sort of game you feel like watching through your fingers. A brutal exercise in AFL flim-flam chicanery, keeping the competition afloat with smoke, mirrors and invisible wires when Covid-19 has brought the rest of the country to its knees.


Then Charlie Cameron soars to the sky for one of the marks of the season and I’m a believer again.


In the end, it is the sheer volume of numbers that give Brisbane an ugly win. They kick half of Adelaide’s entire score just with their behind tally. This hub footy is not the same as the real thing, but I’m surprised at the power of my sense of relief.


Pretty soon the AFL will pack up this Queensland hub and, having ‘saved’ the season, move on to the next town. They’re talking about unrestricted crowds in Western Australia in the same newspapers that list suburbs to avoid in Melbourne. The Lions play Port Adelaide next Saturday night. Brisbane are winning but I’m not sure if this is the season I want – but it’s still the only show in town. I’ll be watching and finding a way to believe.




BRISBANE      3.3     7.10    7.15  10.23 (83)
ADELAIDE      1.0      2.0     6.3      7.4 (46)


Brisbane: McCarthy 2, Cameron 2, McCluggage, McStay, Hipwood, Bailey, Rich, Ellis-Yolmen
Adelaide: Walker 2, Frampton 2, Jones, Crocker, Poholke


Brisbane: McCluggage, Neale, Berry, Lyons, Robinson, Lester
Adelaide: Walker, Crouch, Smith, Lynch, Poholke



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Shane Reid

Loving life as a husband, dad and teacher. I'm trying to develop enough skill as a writer so that one day Doc Wheildon's Newborough, Bernie Quinlan's Traralgon and Mick Conlon's 86 Eliminatiuon final goal will be considered contemporaneous with Twain's Mississippi, Hemingway's Cuba, Beethoven's 9th and Coltrane's Love Supreme.

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