Almanac Lunch- 30th July

Not many people realized that a meeting of some of the nations all round great minds took place, fittingly enough, at the All Nations Hotel in Richmond last Friday. It was lost in the fantastic whirlwind that is the Federal election.

I must admit that I do marvel at the pace that these political Party leaders maintain throughout the election campaign. Queensland one day, Chadstone the next, their stamina is remarkable. Though sometimes the pace with which they move throughout the States is so impossibly relentless that I’m convinced they (Julia and Tony) have body doubles standing in for them from time to time. I know I know, they are the two least likely people this side of Jupiter to have body doubles (their ears alone would be impossible to replicate; the floppy lobes for Julia, the SIZE of Tony’s), but how else can you explain the speed with which they cover the ground?  Perhaps that’s a discussion for another day.

Back to the meeting of the minds.

The setting was the monthly luncheon gathering of the Footy Almanac community. After a fabulous talk by Tony De Bolfo on the Italian Aussie Rules team of the century, there was a general adjournment to the public bar (a well worn path).

I happened to be in the company of the much maligned Peter Flynn, the much maligned Craig Down, the much maligned David Downer, and the never maligned John Butler. The conversation was robust. JB gave us an elongated spray about the absurdity of the current crop of politicians standing to represent us at the polls. JB is like Dirty Harry; he hates everyone. They don’t speak their minds he says, they don’t articulate what they believe in he screamed, and they confront the public like they’re practicing for something far greater. We weren’t sure what that might be. It was an unapologetic verbal belting from one very annoyed voter. Beware those standing for election in and around Ballarat.

Whilst I was keen to contribute to proceedings I was encouraged by those in attendance not to egg on the enraged JB otherwise we could be there all night. The idea of being in the public bar of the All Nations Hotel all night was quite attractive to me, but nevertheless I took up the warning articulated by the much maligned Peter Flynn and others, and “moved on” or “went forward” or whatever it is that people do these days when they change the subject.

And whilst the country’s fiscal policies and immigration debate are fascinating I was most enthralled by the discussion around the topic that just won’t go away – will he or won’t he? No, not will Julia Gillard’s life partner propose or not, will Gary Ablett stay or not?

I initially thought that this topic had been done to death. I mean such intellectual giants as the elite of Melbourne’s sporting journalists have picked this discussion to pieces over the season. What was left to say? But as usual, the progressive and insightful thinking of the Almanac community shed new light (or perhaps lights) on the topic.

A few theories got a run. I apologise if I attach the wrong theory to the wrong person but I had been drinking light beer all day – it messes with my mind. Also I had neither pen nor paper to make my notes. If I do attach the wrong theory to the wrong person, get over it.

The much maligned David Downer’s view (coming as it did from the perspective of a wounded Saint) was something like the following:

“He’s staying. He was always staying. The whole thing has been contrived from the start. He’s going to keep the media guessing, knowing full well that he’s staying. It’s a tactical ploy. In the week before the finals he’ll make the announcement, “I’m staying a Cat!” The team will be lifted, the mood will be buoyant and the Cats will storm into September.” I loved that theory.

I think he also added “Bloody Geelong”, but I can’t be sure.

The never maligned JB holds a simple view – “He’ll go to Queensland, he’s got nothing else to prove at Geelong.” Full stop. This is the view of most media commentators when Gazza has a bad game, but not when he has a good one. But JB might be on to something. Usually the bleeding obvious turns out to be the bleeding obvious.

I think JB muttered “Who cares anyway” but I can’t be sure.

The much maligned Peter Flynn and Craig Downs (Cats supporters) shared a common view on the matter – if Ablett goes so be it, the Cats will get three new draft picks to replace him. They seemed to have resigned themselves to the fact that he is off and are making the best of it. Sort of like a kid who finds out Santa isn’t real, but consoles himself with the fact that at least he’ll still receive the presents. But the emptiness is evident. I could see it in their eyes. They put on a brave face, they even laughed, but they are emotionally cut. They love Gary. We (Cat’s supporters) all love Gary – in a manly kind of way of course. Not that there would be anything wrong with it if it were in an unmanly way. Perhaps that’s a discussion for another day too.

Me? I don’t for one minute pretend to share the insights and intellects of the above mentioned Knackers, but my humble thoughts are that Ablett hasn’t actually decided. I believe that he’s waiting, waiting until the decision makes itself. Waiting until the day arrives when he wakes up and just knows the right decision for himself. I believe if Geelong wins the flag this year Gary will go to Queensland, his mission complete: triple premiership player, Brownlow medalist, best and fairest player and champion of the game. He’ll wake up after the party at the end of September and know it’s time to “go forward”, time to go and sit in the sun.

However if the Cats don’t win it he’ll stay. He’ll want one more go at winning the Holy (footy) Grail. He’ll look at his mates at the club, at the youngsters coming through (Mitch Brown, Varcoe x 2, Motlop, and Menzel) and he’ll grit his teeth for one more go. It will be the right call. The sun can wait, Nathan can wait.

And so the Ablett question like the questions surrounding North Korean aggression, the Gaza Strip and the taste tests on Master Chef, remains unresolved, though not through a lack of discussion. Not even the multiple “Much Maligneds” and the one “Never Maligned” could resolve it, our theories and views as varied as Julia’s hair colours. It continues to boil. Someone will be able to say “I told you” when Gary makes his announcement. I wonder who that someone will be.

The Almanac lunch and the ensuing discussion was another celebration of Australia’s vibrant democracy. I say to Ms Gillard, should she be successful in becoming Australia’s first Prime Minister with really big, floppy ear lobes, and I say to Tony Abbott, should he be the first Prime Minister to lounge in The Lodge’s pool in Speedos (though rumour has it that Bob Hawke had a couple of huge parties there), don’t waste millions on a Citizen’s Forum, simply spend forty bucks, attend an Almanac lunch, listen and learn.

Oh, and don’t canvas JB just at the minute. Let him settle down a bit first.

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

    See what happens when I don’t have to drive home and can have a few beers.

    Apologies to all within earshot (or spittle distance).

    More of those efforts and I doubt I’ll maintain “never maligned”.

    Mind you, it always takes a Geelong supporting accountant to turn you in. :)

  2. John Butler says

    PS: Does this set a precedent for “on the record” and “off the record” pronouncements at lunches henceforth?

  3. JB – there’s “core” pissed and “non core” pissed.

    Only kidding. You handled yourself very well.

  4. Dips,

    that is a very interesting challenge you have place before all Cats faithfull.

    “I believe if Geelong wins the flag this year Gary will go to Queensland, his mission complete: triple premiership player, Brownlow medalist, best and fairest player and champion of the game. He’ll wake up after the party at the end of September and know it’s time to “go forward”, time to go and sit in the sun.

    However if the Cats don’t win it he’ll stay.”

    What a choice we have.

    But, I think I would take the first option.

    Three flags, although appearing to be a little greedy at a time of such debilitating famine for many, would be very nice thank you.

    I would then be happy to deal with the ‘que sera sera’ bit and the three draft picks. It would certainly be an interesting twist to the tanking (what tanking?) debate.

    Three flags, and three good draft picks, would appear to be a rather palatable, if not more radical, approach than that of some of the ‘good old boys’ recent strategies that may not even bare fruit.

    Strange that the great clubs didn’t think of it. I thought they were the leaders.

    I certainly am not losing any sleep young Garry at the moment.

    He looked quite comfortable with it all, and committed, on Saturday night.

  5. David Downer says

    Some gold-plated stuff in there Dips, solid, solid work.

    This would be the almanac version of the “At the Bar” column I take it …difference being, we were actually at the bar.

    I stand by the “ruse” re Ablett. When young Garry finally opened the doors to publicity following his early media protection, I remember him mentioning ambitions of following the thespian path at some stage. This will be his greatest performance yet. The Cats were always going to finish top 4 – but the pending “I’m staying” announcement will be the metaphoric equivalent – and then some, of Chapman’s goat’s blood injections (or whatever it was) last year.

    And while we’re trotting out the new di reigeur cliche at the almanac (“much maligned”), I will close on a a cliche of my own re Friday: “a good day had by all” …until I went to the footy.

    Can we get the lunch going on a fortnightly basis Daff?


  6. The All Nations! Did the heads of Visy and Amcor pop in for a cool, cleansing cartel?

  7. MMDD – sorry about my crack that the Saints would belt the Bombers! But a slump now might be just what the doctor ordered – so long as they come out of it.

    Anyway the Pies are home. Give them the flag now.

  8. You are a naughty boy Dips.

    Baiting is one thing, but not such tasty morsels cast before such famished and subsequently vulnerable.

    You might end up as the mince in that delicious sounding ‘heavy Lebanese breakfast’ that Danni was teasing me with yeaterday.

  9. Phantom – happy to end up the mince and enjoy myself on the way through.

    Don’t tell anyone but I reckon we’ll beat Collingwood this Saturday and you’ll hear the pffffffffffttttt from Tasmania as the air leaves their bubble!

    Go Cats!

  10. Stephen Cooke says

    Dips, I must christen you the Peter Temple of the Almanac website. This piece in particular is a rollicking good read with serious undertones (for Cats fans anyway) – and all particularly well crafted. Like any good piece, it’s fitting of reading a second time.

    Dips – raising the bench mark one game at a time.

  11. Dips,

    I just noticed our cat lying in the sun at the back door licking it’s paws and looking at the pair of magpies over the fence in the neighbours’ paddock.

    It looked pretty relaxed about life.

    What does this mean?

  12. Pamela Sherpa says

    While the focus all year has been on whether Ablett goes or stays I reckon the raiding parties will be plotting a few more shocks – hard to believe that Ablett would be the only Geelong player on the GC shopping list. Fans beware – the world might never be the same again ! And never underestimate what Sheedy is capable of. OOh! Hope you’re all not too worried to sleep!

  13. Was that “Sheedy” or Shadey Pamela?

    He has his eyes on Max Rooke. But who wouldn’t?

    They have to be out of contract at the end of next season, I believe.

  14. Stephen Cooke says

    I’m still hoping GC17 or GWS act like the Freo of old and take the likes of a modern day Andrew Wills (a pity we didn’t keep Kane Tenace for this reason alone), delivering us the modern day Steven King.

  15. Pamela – sleeping like a baby. 2007 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 2009 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  16. Dips,

    You sound confident that the Cats will win again on Saturday night. It is this new Geelong air of invincibility which is all-pervading. We have two Cat fans here at work & they are nauseating with their supreme confidence….

    I hope my Pies have a red hot go on Saturday night. It doesn’t mean any more than 4 points but it would be nice to obseve a faint look of alarm on my work colleagues faces if the Pies win!

    Go Pies!

  17. Bakes – great to see you in the Knackery! There are a few rabid Pie supporters amongst this little community. They’ll appreciate your black and white blood and cutting insights.

    One of the true signs of Geelong’s success over the last few years is that others are starting to hate us. I think its magnificent!

    I’m not one to really believe that this game means nothing. It always means something. If either team gets a belting there will be some faint looks of alarm from the supporters, but I reckon the Pies really need to win this one – haven’t knocked the Cats off since 2008 and gave themselves a real chance in round 9 only to fall short – well short. But things have changed………

    Unleash the Pie mania!

  18. Dips,

    there is one thing worse than ordinary Pie mania. It is Tasmania Pie mania. They are shocking over here.

    Is that the way they are on the big island?

  19. Dips,

    You have been seduced by the margin last time around! As I recall it…..the Pies were camped on your door step for the first half of the last qtr when one, just one, goal would have stirred things right up. Had 3 easy set shots too after great lead-up play. Missed them all and you kicked the last 3-4 in junk time. The scoreboard was very flattering.

    Watch out – those suspect Cat defenders will be hunted like ravenous prairie dogs on Saturday night.

    Let’s hope it’s a beauty!

  20. It is never junk time against the Pies.

    They don’t sell trash at Harrods.

  21. Dips,

    Very enjoyable read. However, I believe that there may now be a need for a “Much-maligned Non-Proliferation Treaty”.

    That is all

  22. Dips/Phantom…et al,

    The game lived up to the pre-match hype I thought. The Pies were tough, fast & committed & the Cats certainly wanted to be.

    Just one point – I watched with wonder as Cat fans vented their outrage when Byrnsey’s legitimate goal was disallowed. Funny – didn’t see those self same Cat fans show the same level of outrage when Hawkins kicked his crucial “goal” in last years G/F?

    An hour still remained in the match after that – enough time for the Pies to have another 15-16 more scoring shots in fact!

    Maybe the peaceful blue & white tranquility is about to be shattered?

    Cheers & Go Pies!


  23. Bakes – I hope that also means we’ve all heard the last of the Magpie 30 year bleating about Wayne Harms’ actions in the 1979 GF.

  24. Andrew Fithall says

    Your election discussion reasonably bi-partisan. Unlike the position of the Geelong Football club based on this report:

    GEELONG Football Club has thrown itself into the federal election fray through a ringing endorsement of the Coalition’s $36 million pledge to revamp Skilled Stadium.

    Yesterday, the Cats’ website spruiked the Liberal promise to upgrade their home ground under the Liberal-inspired headline: ”Real Action Plan is Kicking Goals in Geelong.”

    And Geelong members received a joint news release from the opposition and the Cats in which club president Frank Costa welcomed the Coalition’s multimillion-dollar commitment, and Liberal candidates for local seats Corio and the knife-edged Corangamite were quoted at length.

  25. AF – very smart move by Brian Cook, he’s a genius. By making the announcement he puts profound pressure on the ALP to come good with some money. That way the Cats have a win win.

    If the other wankers ever get off their behinds and put some money up I’m sure the Cats would be very pleased to endorse them.

  26. John Butler says

    Thus speaketh the people’s club of Geelong.


  27. Dave Latham says

    Rural pork-barrelling at it’s finest. Have a whinge you bloody millionaire farmers – maybe some drought relief from minimum page city-workers.

  28. JB – That’s vastly different from the sordid and murky financial history that surrounds the Blues! At least at Geelong they’re building something not just for the club but also for the local sporting community, not like the cartel behind the Blues major benefactor who ripped all of us off to the tune of hundreds of $millions!!!

    …………and don’t get me started on money bags Collingwood whose President (a multi-millionaire small “s” socialist) ripped the club away from its working class roots to chase the sponsorship money. The supporters protested with a whimper.

  29. Dave Latham says

    So what are Collingwood, millionaires or toothless prols?

    Cats have never changed, still packed out with moleskin wearing rural gentry and a smattering of farm-hands.

  30. pauldaffey says

    Dave D,

    No chance of fortnightly lunches.

    They take too much out of me (plus, I seem to have to eat outside the allotted area nowadays).

    Sounds like we should have a pre-election lunch, though.

  31. Andrew Fithall says

    Or we could all head along to this in the evening:

  32. pauldaffey says

    Looks like a good option, Andy. Will meet you there (fire and earthquake and kid troubles notwithstanding).

    Phantom, I reckon it’s about time you came to an Almanac lunch. The rest of us should tip in for a flight over (or to hire a tugboat to tow your island closer to ours).

  33. pauldaffey says

    Actually, might need two tugboats.

  34. Dips

    I reckon Ablett will go.

    And So You Think will win the Cox Plate.

Leave a Comment