AFL Round 4 – St.Kilda v Essendon: Mare-thee-well

It was to be my final dalliance with the “other woman”.

She was born and bred a country girl, but travels to town for work.

My wife suspects what’s going on. But I swear, this is the last time.

Last year I chased her to England. Today I chase her a few stops up the Frankston line.

Her skin, exotically dark, is like silk. A sheer satin robe drapes elegantly over an immaculate athletic body. Her backside is worthy of first class honours in Venezuelan beauty pageants.

My outstretched hand, trembling, finally connects with a gentle (so why the?) long face. I expel air and savour the moment.

I have just touched perfection.

For today, I patted Black Caviar.

It’s the great mare’s farewell at Caulfield. I had last been this close at Royal Ascot. Post race I waited out back for her, just moments following her audience with the Queen. She trudged past me exhausted, dragging her feet. Mission accomplished on track, but much worse for wear off of it.

Today Black Caviar stands perfectly upright. Relaxed. Still. A picture of health. This hulking mare, proudly towering over the throng.

She is of course the adoring “other woman” to an entire nation. Those of us on hand observe, and simply absorb, her presence. There’s awe in the silence she commands.

Her next chapter in life, including a lucky stallion-elect (sorry G.Whateley, not you) await.

The equine version of sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight.

With hint of a tear, I depart. Onward to the footy, Saints and Bombers by twilight*.

—- oooo —-

Essendon, and their perpetually not-so-humble supporter base, have lauded their own Black Caviar style dominance, and the odd pinch (read: generous dollops) of arrogance over St Kilda since time immemorial.

As a child of the 1980s, Watson, Salmon and Vander Haar et al cast their spell over kids of the non-Bomber heartland in the south-eastern suburbs. Supported teams of birthright were shunned, stamped never to return, for a team based many turns of a Melways page away.

The current tale of the tape reads sixteen premierships to one. Double the membership base. Triple the conceit.

Their success, to supporters of a comparative minnow club, is not admired. It is quite simply, nauseating.

Like the great mare’s unbeaten streak of twenty five, the Bombers compiled many of their own against St Kilda. They reeled off the very same number against the Saints from 1943 to 1958.

A twenty game unbeaten streak followed from 1981 to 1992.

It took seven goals from Bill Young to break the former, and seven from Tony Lockett to break the latter.

The latter was also James Hird’s first game. Their now coach integral to Essendon’s St Kilda based parodies. Irking embittered Saints fans to this day, he lined up as a fresh combatant on the Tuesday night post Waverley’s infamous 1996 lights out affair. Character evidence was also tendered for a calamitous high profile trade from Essendon to St Kilda during the Saints’ golden recruiting era of 2008 to 2010.

When St Kilda rattled off their remarkable nineteen game winning streak to begin 2009, it was a run-of-the-mill Essendon who broke it, by two points. Maybe that alone upset the Saints’ cosmic balance. A Black Caviar-esque 25-0 season, and a premiership had been within reach. They fell short, just as in 1965, Essendon victorious on Grand Final day to deny St Kilda their very first.

An “Essendon person” was appointed as St Kilda coach to “ingrain a culture of success”. As such, Tim Watson duly led St Kilda from finalist to a wooden spoon in less than two years.

And all the while, Sheedy smirked, the Essendonians swirled brandy glasses and laughed, and Darren Bewick had red hair.

The football tea leaves swiftly endorse the status quo tonight. A St Kilda life member kicks the opening goal.

Unfortunately his back now sports half the usual number. And a red sash.

I elect not to boo Goddard. But many do. Like industry super funds, it’s a personal choice.

The Bombers usually burn the Saints off with pace. Yet tonight it’s the Saints who go small, and supposedly, fleet of foot.

Essendon go big. And bulky.

It’s all too apparent. St Kilda have pulled the wrong rein.

In physical stature, the Bombers are Black Caviar to St Kilda’s Brawny Spirit.

Hurley, Bellchambers and Gumbleton. A triumvirate of names with an inner city law firm feel. The partners are hardly billing under a “No win – no fee” contract tonight. The St Kilda defence are assured a “no win”, but this towering trio are bleeding them dry.

Though he may appear the baby-faced love-child of genteel celebrity chef Bill Granger, Michael Hurley is a commanding figure. A football freight train at full pace. Naturally, as salt does rub, Hurley grew up a St Kilda supporter.

Scott Gumbleton, more infamous for his niggles than Black Caviar herself, is suddenly leaping small buildings in a single bound.

The three of them are inspired. Clunk, after clunk, after clunk. It’s a master class in clunkology.

Captain Jobe Watson leads the merry procession at ground level. The bustling, bullocking son of the aforementioned ex-St Kilda coach. Tonight he out-Lenny’s Lenny.

Dyson Heppell and Sam Gilbert, ridiculous blonde mops on display, have seemingly waltzed in from auditions for the stage production of Point Break. If it were based on football performance tonight, Heppell wins the part of Swayze, Gilbert scores a workmanlike yet uncredited “generic local surfer” role.

The Saints succumb to the Essendon pressure. They spray the ball more than aerogard in the tropics, and are clearly no match.

In the immediate post-match, Goddard sheds a tear for his former club.

Perhaps he wasn’t ready to leave his Saints behind just yet.

Maybe it was just one of those days. Horses, and footy, can do that.

I ride the train home. And think of the mare.

* Rhyming wanker alert. Apologies, no need to get all Rupert McCall on you there

ST KILDA 3.2 5.6 9.9 13.13 (91)
ESSENDON 6.2 10.7 15.8 19.14 (128)

St Kilda: Riewoldt 3, Maister 2, Saad 2, Dennis-Lane 2, Gilbert, Milne, Armitage, Steven,
Essendon: Gumbleton 4, Hurley 3, Davey 2, Stanton 2, Watson 2, Bellchambers 2, Dempsey, Goddard, Howlett, Merrett

St Kilda: Riewoldt, Armitage
Essendon: Watson, Hurley, Gumbleton, Heppell, Goddard, Stanton, Myers, Zaharakis

Umpires: Dalgleish, Chamberlain, Ryan

Official crowd: 46,965 at Etihad Stadium

Our votes: 3 Watson (Ess), 2 Hurley (Ess), 1 Gumbleton


  1. DD – lovely work. At the start I thought you were describing a date with Grace Jones, especially when you mentioned the long face..

  2. Stephen Cooke says

    Welcome back, Mr Downer. With your muse gone, will you ever again be able to write reports of such quality as this? Will the Black Caviar golden era be synonymous with the D.Downer golden era?

  3. You are like Black Caviar, you breed a brilliant story. You have covered both verses in our lives beautifully. Thanks Dave


  4. Your finest to date, DD.

    Allow me to go all Benny Hill on you before I retire:

    G.Whateley may not be the stallion-elect, but he’s only one letter away.

    And on Friday I’m off to Sydney for the Cup and BC’s brother All Too Hard in the All Aged.

    It’s all gettin’ way too steamy!

    Big day tomorrow. Guest We For Let.

  5. Lovely work Dave …. your passion for the great mare and frustration with the Essendon dominance over the Saints comes through with a very raw edge.
    PS: I was very hopeful for Serena Williams simile at one stage there.

  6. Brilliant stuff. I’m tempted to call it “50 Shades of Hay”.

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