Barbarians at the door

There is nothing surer than the fall of empires, but what is never clear within the historical moment is how near the end is.  What is certain though is that once an impervious border is repeatedly breached, the day of reckoning cannot be far away.  The demise of empire shifts from a question of ‘how’ to a question of ‘when’.

Welcome to the Collingwood versus Geelong preliminary final and a world of historical similes: the Barbarian versus the late Roman Empire, Napoleon versus the ancien regime, Ali versus Holmes – or if you’re a Geelong fan, the Roman Empire versus the Gauls, Napoleon versus the Russians or Ali versus Foreman.

I’ll leave it to Cat fans to articulate their own historical parameters of this duel, but most sensible Cat fans will surely agree the end of their dominance is not far away.

Olde Lessons of history

The barbarians, banging on the Roman borders of northern Europe in the 6th century, were no fly-by-nighters.

After a long period of subjugation, the Barbarians had not only learnt strategic and tactical war lessons from their oppressor, they inevitably refined and improved them, in fact invented their own tactics which superceded the Romans’.

As the Roman Empire weakened and the barbarians became stronger, resolve became the central factor between victory and defeat.  It was no longer a matter of strategy, strength and skill which would tip the scales, but a sense of entitlement and inevitability.

This might explain Mark Thompson’s recent efforts to galvanise his troops against Collingwood, even to the point of confected emotion, before the Cat Empire fractures, secedes and its war veterans retire.  It’s hard to imagine that when Bomber scratches out his memoirs that he would not retire a slaked and satisfied man.  All that remains before him and his team in 2010 is vanity…and hubris.

Having gorged on success for years, can the thirst still be there, when evidently some have already had their fill?  Can feigned hunger substitute for real hunger, contrived emotion for real desperation and a sense of mission?  When the two armies meet each other as equals this week, is desperation the differential?

If only it were that easy for Bomber.  What gives the Magpie barbarians another fillip in this war is that many of the Magpie troops are in personal hock to Mick Malthouse, who has shown enormous latitude and faith in players when others gave up the ghost.

Didak, Swan, Shaw, Johnson, Maxwell, O’Brien, Toovey, Blair, Macaffer, Cloke, Wellingham, L Brown, Reid, N Brown, Thomas, Davis, and Ball have all been smugly assailed at various times or their on-field or off-field short-comings.  Mick has never demurred or taken a backward step in his outward support or inward belief.  The question will be if Mick’s chargers are willing to storm the ramparts and begin a new tyranny, err, I mean benevolent dynasty.  Ah f*ck it, I mean tyranny.

The women and children will be saved, the rest will be sent to the lions…unless they’re already contracted to the Gold Coast.

About Dave Latham

Dave Latham has recently finished a history thesis on class and Australian Rules football in Melbourne between the years 1870 and 1920.


  1. After the “Empire” is overthrown will you be leading the victorious Vandals home on the Epping line, Gunderic?

    Good to see you are up and about and confident. I wouldn’t let you down, I was always going to rise to the bait.

    I was never known for silky skills on the footy field; just a persistent nagging old fashioned half back flanker who played in an epoch of three (that’s three) premierships. Nice roundness of the number three.

    I love the spirit of the contest. All the best.

  2. I was wondering what took you so long Phantom? :)

  3. Lovely words Sir. May the prophecy come true.

  4. David – did the barbarians go around the outside to breach the Roman borders, or did they go straight up the guts?

  5. I think Phantom has the oil on the stove as we speak ready to douse the mob knocking on the palace gates,
    Danni, It isnt just us. Even your own supporters think their
    Geelong by 15 for mine

  6. Dips – the similarities b/w the Pies & the Barbarians are indisputable (beyond looks & behaviour). The Barbarians went inside the enemy 50 at least 60+ times a battle, they laid 80+ fatal tackles, they interchanged weary Barbarians 120+ times per battle and they fired 35+ arrows…..for a poor return of 13 hits and 22 misses. They too prevailed in the end so here’s hoping!

    Cheers & Go Pies!


  7. Is it just me? Or are the Geelong contingent a little subdued this week?

  8. Around the perimeter, through the main gates, anything to please, but we will be coming in.

    The barbarians don’t worry too much about what debauched slave-owners have to say.

    We’ll be dividing up your latifundia estates, drinking your plonk, eating all your truffles and laughing at your jodhpurs. We’ll keep the aqueducts, they’re okay.

  9. JB #7 – not as subdued as the 12 other clubs which are no longer in the race!

  10. Gunderic, new lesson on olde history.

    When did the Roman empire get conquered?

    Forgetting the Vatican perhaps.

    Go Cats.

  11. JB# 7,

    we possess and protect the Holy Grail.

    We wait for the Vandals to attack and as you have seen we repel with quick, brutal efficieny.

    It’s up to them to make the play.

    Come and get it.

  12. “This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”

  13. Dave,

    I must be buckling under the pressure. I have to agree with you. Please don’t let the secret out.

  14. Sorry Dave, In all the excitment I either mis-read your epistle or over looked the ‘in hock’ bit.

    One should be very wary of being in hock in these uncertain times.

    Apparently there is a very dangerous phenomenon terrorising all those with ill advised unmanageable debt.

    I believe it is known as the GFC and apparently a few experts have not yet discounted a ‘double’ dip.

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