Almanac (Footy) Reminiscence: Planting a blue and white garden



(Massive) Geelong fan Gary Newton recently asked me whether The Harms Family will be planting a blue and white garden this Spring. Good question. We’re actually gardening today (Saturday September 5). We’ll report on Monday.


He also asked me to post the piece I wrote for The Age for the first week of the finals in 2007. Great days Gary.


Here it is Gary…



IT’S Friday afternoon and finals excitement has descended on Melbourne. On Australia. People are organising tickets, and pre-match lunches, and post-match catch-ups. Some are already at airports, on trains, and in cars driving down from the country.


The September mood is even affecting The Handicapper. I am quietly pleased that she is coming to see the Cats on Sunday. She likes a good final. But there’s plenty of footy to be played before then.


As the setting sun illuminates the city buildings, I catch the tram down Brunswick Street to the opening of the Footy Art Show at the Artists Garden in Fitzroy. Yet again, the exhibition is a beauty (and open throughout September). The Handicapper is stuck at work. I am granted an unqualified leave pass, which in our household is actually qualified, especially when we’ve decided to garden on Saturday.


After the opening, I spend the evening at the North Fitzroy Arms yelling, “Motlop”, like he’s the greatest thing to happen to footy. He gets Port home in time for Choco Williams to race off to the hospital because his wife is about to have their fifth kid.


I am immediately reminded of The Handicapper. She is now seven months pregnant and keeps saying innocently (I think): “Wouldn’t it be funny if this baby came on the day of the Grand Final and you missed Geelong winning the premiership.”


Which is not keeping a lid on it, really – in more ways than one. The Cats have to make the Grand Final first. It’s my cue to walk home (I don’t stop at Danny’s).


Saturday morning. Superb spring weather. Sunshine. The waft of jasmine in the back yard. Peach blossom on the ground. Coffee and Flanagan. The lemon tree shooting. The soil turned and ready for planting. Geelong the premiership favourite. We discuss the garden. Where the tomatoes and beans will eventually go in; where to put the annuals, and which colours to buy.


“What do you reckon?” I ask.


“A few pansies for around the fountain,” she says. “Some marigolds. Some alyssum for the edges. Maybe some salvia.” The fountain is a sculpture of a woman; a classical Greek figure bought from a Preston concreter I’d say, in about 1982. One arm is missing, but she’s not Venus.


“What colours?” I ask.


There is a pause. It is one of those moments when, for an instant, you know why you are husband and wife. “Should we just do it?” I ask nervously. “Should we just plant a blue and white garden? You know, just in case.”


The Handicapper is magnificently circumspect. She pauses – thinking. She doesn’t give much away. She understands hubris.


She ventures out to do the shopping. I fire up the mower. I’ll think while I mow. I’ve done that forever. We have a patch of lawn five metres by three metres. I’m thinking for two minutes. “Of course we should plant a blue and white garden. The Cats have been magnificent this year. We can win this.”


When The Handicapper returns, I am listening to the ABC’s pre-match. And I am enjoying that great Australian Saturday aroma: petrol and grass clippings (half-a-catcher of them). I know The Handicapper is in good form. Not only has she purchased punnets of seedlings and stuff for a Greek dinner, she has bought me a White Knight.


“What colour are the pansies?” I ask.


“All blue,” she says.


“The alyssum?”


“All white.” She smiles. I punch the air.


We garden all afternoon. In the glorious sunshine. The Crows are strong early and the game looks to be theirs. Hodge limps off. Bateman does his hammy. We discuss the possibility of a wattle tree in front of the old palm.


The Hawks fight back. I shape the hebe, and admonish the possum for the damage he’s done to the passionfruitvine. Franklin goes crazy and Drew Morphett is excited. The Handicapper’s big belly makes it hard for her to plant. But she loves it.


The backyard is full of footy. The sounds I have known forever. Since my Dad carried around his trannie. It turns into a cracking game.


I tidy up the wood heap while The Handicapper waters the new plants with the can. End to end. The evening shade is cool and I get my sweat shirt. What a game the boys are calling.


Roughead has his chances. The Hawks sound like they’ll win. Then the footy comes to Torney and I imagine his running shot from fifty. Goal. The Crows will win. No, now Franklin’s got it. And, as I cut up the palm fronds to go into the green bin, he can win the game. He slots it. Delirium through the Panasonic. Hawthorn.


I cook the souvlakis (chicken-on-sticks we call it) on the barbecue. Beautiful. Greek salad. Tzatziki. White bread. Red wine. The fire is lit. Go the Swans. The Pies spoil it.


On Sunday, we admire the new garden. I feel a sense of Geelong foreboding. But The Handicapper is strong.


We get the train to Jolimont. At the MCG, she has her footy face on: just a hint that she likes it, but not too much. The Cats start well. This is no different.


‘Bomber’ Thompson has given them licence to enjoy their footy, and to play on at every opportunity, just as they have all year. Otto is fantastic. Chappy kicks the first goal. The Handicapper grips my arm. “Chappieee,” she says.


Joel Selwood is everywhere. He turns out of trouble. Loops a handball to Gary Ablett. To Ling. Back to Ablett. To Stokes. To Mooney. Goal. And many more.


The players are amazing. They are leading this. Making us believe.


Making us plant gardens.



Geelong  3.5  10.10  16.16  23.18 (156)

Kangaroos  3.0  4.1  6.1  8.2 (50)



Geelong: Mooney, Chapman 5, N. Ablett 3, Enright, G. Ablett, Ottens 2, Bartel, S. Johnson, Stokes, Mackie.

Kangaroos: McIntosh, Grant, Brown, Petrie, Firrito, Edwards, Harvey, Wells.



Geelong: G. Ablett, Chapman, Bartel, Ottens, Scarlett, Selwood, Mackie.

Kangaroos: Firrito, Simpson, Harris, Rawlings.



Wells (Kangaroos) 100 games.



Margetts, McLaren, Jeffery.



Ablett (G) 3, Chapman (G) 2, Bartel (G) 1






Read John Harms’s full match report HERE


For more Round by Round and finals reports of the 2007 season click HERE


Printed copies of The Footy Almanac 2007 can be purchased HERE.



The Footy Almanac 2007

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Those Cats grew into something pretty special JTH. I hope your garden fared similarly!

  2. Gary Newton says

    Instantly I am transported back to 2007. It’s amazing how I don’t remember the words but I do remember the passion and the fervor that I first got from this magnificent piece JH. All those feelings from that exquisite time come flooding back and I’m pleased I’m alone when reading this again because suddenly my eyes start leaking. Now I’m starting to panic. What if they do it again? What if our mighty GFC are back in the GF this year in Brisbane and I’m stuck here in Victoria? Curse you Covid on so many levels. I need a plan.

  3. Brilliant. Irises are purchased before Eagles game. Eagle Flowers as they are known in Perth. Dark Blue (NOT purple – note to Les) and gold. They last a week. The compressed fixture has thrown me into a panic. They are good for one game a week – not two. Fading ones (they start to turn mauve – NOT purple) could get over the Bombers, but new ones were needed for tomorrow’s big clash with the in-form Dogs. I planted some in the pots by the back deck a few years ago and they suddenly reappeared a fortnight ago. Omen? Sadly irises just don’t perform in Queensland’s humidity.

  4. I love this John. Just what we need now in Lockdown Melbourne. Just in time for Spring thank you.

  5. JTH this is a bit spooky. I mean really spooky. About two nights ago I dreamt that I planted an entirely blue garden. Blues and peripheral whites. I raised it with my handicapper whilst walking yesterday. It’s still on the table.

  6. Dips, all blue pansies are out of stock.Interpret that? Trying online again today.

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