Almanac Footy: AFL Practice Match – Cats v Pies


The sun has been tame across the Melbourne summer. El Nino, El Nyonya, El Bow? One of those. It’s a weather event (everything is an event these days) that brings the moisture down from the north. The rain arrives and dampens Melbourne’s normally dry heat. For a month or so we’ve had a taste of a Brisbane existence but without the tropical sounds and mildew. The humidity has hung low and heavy and the local bats are confused. They silently flap away above my head as dusk settles on the day, but their normally uniform flying patterns look a little disheveled. Their radars are playing up.


I’m standing at the BBQ absently turning the snags that don’t need turning. On the shelf next to me I’m streaming the Cats v Pies practice match replay, trying to find the next gun kid. Think I might have found him. Francis Evans has a bit of Chappy about him. Brick shit-house build, the turning circle of a unicycle, grunt in his attack on the ball, and a steady, measured kick. I think his hair is thinning a bit too. The whole package. But ‘Evansssssss!’ doesn’t have the same ring as ‘Chappyyyyyyyy!’. We might need to do something about that. However, if Evans kicks a goal over his shoulder to win us a grand final in future I probably won’t care.


There are a few blokes I’m looking forward to watching this year: Constable (he looks fit and big), Stephens of the Cooper variety (bit of Cripps about him), and Jordan Clark (looks like a Stawell Gift winner from the 80s). Geelong supporters seem to like Constable, but the coaching panel went cold on him last year. Not sure why? Probably because he gets it 30 times a game and doesn’t butcher it. Can’t have that! We need role players.


In 1976 I did drama at school and we did role plays. My acting was described as “wooden”. My Drama school report read something like “Damian’s concentration in class has been appalling. He disrupts others and has no respect for the curriculum – F”. I was never going to be the next De Niro. Maybe Constable has the same issue – he’s honest. Zero acting or pretension in his play. He’s hard and tough and runs in straight lines. I’m not sure what his role needs to be. But I reckon I’d find a spot for a bloke like that in my team.


Stanley is like a young colt in a fresh paddock until he trips over a tram ticket and gets dragged. He looks trim and lean. I hope his body holds up. Cameron roams around. And around. And around. I felt like yelling out “the ball’s that way!”. At one stage he was standing at full forward practicing his golf swing. It looked superb. But the surprise packet in the big man department was Josh Jenkins. He was covering the ground well for an old bloke. He competed hard, got in good positions, and kicked a couple. He looks like a bag of walnuts but is an awkward character to match up on.


There’s a few other names I’m going to watch across the season: Shannon Neale, Nathan Krueger, and Stefan Okunbor.


There were quite a few missing. Narkle is in danger of becoming Geelong’s new Dodo bird. We had Cocky on our list for a decade but no one ever saw him. He was like the Scarlet Pimpernel. Narkle is heading the same way. Enormous talent but perpetually being described as “getting closer”, or “not far away”. I hope he gets on the park because he does have a sparkle about his game.


I reckon Clarko has taken coaching tactics to a new high. When the Cats recruited Isaac Smith it didn’t really make sense. It was like the Liberal Party recruiting Gough. I think the Cats might have walked into a sucker punch. Smith is double agent 07, successfully immersed into the enemy camp. The cuckoo bird of the Geelong Football Club. His nickname should be Blunt. It’s a stroke of genius by Clarko who demands ultimate loyalty from his players. Smith has done a great thing for the Hawthorn Football Club; he has laid down his career for the good of his brothers. They will build a statue to him in years to come and erect it outside their home ground in (fill in the name of a city here).


I can just see Clarko and Agent 07 meeting under dusty bridges in Footscray or empty carparks around Lara on cold July evenings. Dressed in raincoats they’ll approach each other in the darkness and give the secret passwords:

“The geese fly high”.

“The dew is on the grass”.

“Dangerfield has a weakness Clarko – he can’t kick”.

“I know that Smithy!! I need more!”.


But I’m generally positive about the Cats this year. The corporation steams on. The young blokes (mostly) are getting a look in. Will it be the last hurrah for Joel?



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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. John Butler says

    Enjoyed this, Dips.

    If Cameron can’t eventually find the ball, perhaps he could help round up the flock at the Wool Museum.

    I think you’re a little too Clarko-focused. Might be some history behind that.

    How did the Pies look?


  2. Double Agent Smith! It all makes perfect sense now.

  3. Thanks lads.

    JTH – watch Smith closely this year. Especially if he purchases any rain coats.

    JB – how did Pies go? Usual scragging, tagging, annoying game style. Wasn’t watching closely I must say as I concentrated on the Cats youngsters. But they’ll win their fair share of games. Few handy looking youngsters running around in the prison bars. Premiers? No.

  4. CITRUS BOB says

    Geez – you are probably right about Agent Smith! Liked the look of the big boy De Koning on Saturday night and Evans has escaped from Spain and the Bull-run (although it didn’t happen this year). He looks like he could flatten anything that gets in his way. When was the last time we had a player like that. Russell Renfrey?

    Bit worried about the forward line set-up though. Looking at the practice match we seemed to be top heavy with “Curl-a-mo”, Cameron and “Curly (Jenkins) all up there. Rohan played his best game for the year (will leave it at that!). Atkins good in the back half. Only 12 more sleeps before we play with the Cows in Adelaide. Thanks Dips will keep my glasses on 7.

  5. roger lowrey says

    Dips, surely the big winner up forward will be Rohan assuming he can play a bit more consistently (his career achilles heel) and keep himself focused.

    Think it through. He now gets the third best bigger defender while Higgins, Miers and Dalhaus etc raffle the other smaller backs.

    Didn’t see all that much of the game but no injuries and no unexpected dramas it seems.

    BTW be careful before you put the knock on Smith. We haven’t had a high quality “finisher” since Peter Riccardi so all those forwards mentioned above will be drooling when they see him making position for disposals from the half backs.

    Great to see you are still alive and well.


  6. Kevin Densley says

    Nice “thought piece”, Dips! Good detail on some new additions to the team, too.

    Funny thing is, for years now, even though I’m a Geelong supporter, I’d be lucky to name half of Geelong’s team on any given week during the season. What happened to the long gone era, when I could pretty much name all of them, and (mainly) be on the money with their height and weight, too?

    All that said, it is hard to tell much from any pre-season match, anyway. Many of the players in those games seem to disappear, some never to be heard of again.

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