Blues Overcome Sunday Twilight Zone

I’ve always struggled to get into the Sunday evening twilight fixture.

It feels too much like that final slot on a music festival bill, after the headliners have played. Most people have already moved on. The main action is past. It’s just a consolation for those who don’t want to go home yet.

I attended the mother of all twilight games – the infamous Kreuzer Cup against the Dees that concluded the 2007 home and away season. Like everyone else I met at that game, I’d scored a free ticket. The AFL obviously needed an excuse to turn the lights on.

The strangeness of that match,where no one knew what to cheer, and to lose was to actually win, has stayed with me.

It has made it hard to take the twilight game as seriously as a ‘normal’ game.

Adding to the feeling this evening was the viewing venue: the local pokies joint. Demands of the day had prevented much forward planning and this was the nearest  Foxtel screen available. In the shadows of Sovereign Hill, a place first populated by gamblers.

My family were no wowsers, but the gambling gene completely bypassed us. We never cared what anyone else did, but betting held no attraction. I retain that sentiment to this day. I can see the allure of punting for others: the challenge of calculation, the weighing of odds. But it’s not for me.

What I absolutely cannot understand is the lure of the pokies. The pervading pall of ennui. The stench of hope gone sour. There always seems to be some poor bastard, eyes downcast, expression somewhere between defeated and trancelike, feeding the week’s pay check down the slot.

Dress it up any way you like (and boy, do they dress these places up- Graceland looks understated by comparison) it’s a brutal transaction taking place. We’ll take your money just because we can tempt you. Oh, and here’s a whisper of a chance that you might actually win. Just enough to kid yourself.

Sure, nobody’s being forced at gun point. And a lot of people can just treat it as a night out and know when to stop. But we know a lot can’t.

That governments can pocket pokies revenue whilst decrying the morality of injecting rooms – facilities to cater for a different kind of junkie – is almost amusing when you think about it. As long as the joke isn’t on you.

But who am I to moralise? I barrack for Carlton. The Blues are into pokies big time. So are most clubs. When it comes to our teams, we’ll excuse most things.

Six hardy souls had gathered in the garish surrounds to watch the game. Strangers in a common pursuit. The old dear in the far corner looked like she needed a fag as she growled at Waite for giving a dumb free kick away.

The Blues looked like they could have done with a collective pick-me-up as Port started tenaciously. They scrapped, blocked avenues, harassed, and generally looked like they wanted a fight. Justin Westhoff kicked 3 in the first term for the Power. Back in 2007, when he and Robbie Gray debuted, they looked like bright shiny new talents. Now they already look like grizzled veterans. It’s not a great advertisement for a career at Port.

If Andy Walker hadn’t kicked 3 goals of his own, it would have been an ugly quarter for the Carlton. Almost as ugly as the M & M Blue jumpers we were again wearing.

Things didn’t much improve in the second term.  Thomas had a tight tag on Judd, Waite couldn’t kick straight, and we struggled to find space on the Footy Park expanses. Only a superb run from Chris Yarran, carrying the ball from half back, caressing a pass onto Waite’s chest 20 metres out, lit up proceedings. Waite, of course, missed again. The Power still had their noses in front at half time.

It became hard not to notice the screens around the main screen, all pumping out the most obscure betting options you never even thought of. Dennis Armfield is at longer odds to kick the first goal of the third term than fullback Michael Jamison? What a bargain!

The old VFL fought for decades to control the rampant influence of gambling on the game. No one really seems too fussed nowadays.

Weight of possession began to tell for Carlton in the third term, but we again struggled to convert on the scoreboard. Mitch Robinson is often as delicate as a meat cleaver but you can rarely fault his effort. He knocked the stuffing out of himself in a reckless marking attempt. Minutes later he was backing into a pack at half back, risking same again. Murphy, Robinson, Scotland and Simpson were making up for Judd’s reduced contribution. Finally we snuck a lead. Robbo found Ellard, and his goal gave us a 16 point break at ¾ time.

After Walker had kicked his sixth, Jasper Pittard botched a kick out and Jeff Garlett was almost laughing as he intercepted and slammed home the goal that finally broke Port’s back. It says a lot about where Port’s at that young Pittard was having to regularly kick out in the first place.

After that it turned into a Carlton romp. The Power undid their earlier hard work by capitulating. The rain began to lash down in Adelaide as it did in Ballarat, an appropriate end to a glum week for Port. They are yet another team facing a rebuild. In more ways than one.

I don’t really understand the politics of South Australian football, but the SANFL appear from the outside to be hell-bent on making life tough for Port. Some might think they deserve it. They certainly haven’t helped themselves in some respects. It will be a long two years until the Adelaide Oval is rebuilt.

For Carlton, this was the sort of win you need to grind out in the compiling of a successful season.

I was glad to leave. Glad of the win. Glad to get out of a place I won’t visit often. Glad that I barrack for a team that isn’t often stuck in the Foxtel ghetto. I thought of folk who support the ‘smaller’ clubs. Like Josh Barnstable up in Waaia, trying to follow his Roos. Do they even have a pokies joint in Waaia?

A lot of people are going to need a cosy pub with cable to follow their team in the future. Or the money to further deepen the pockets which own Foxtel.

I suppose its money better spent than on the pokies.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.

Comments

  1. You have lost all credibility as an influential Blue bagger JB.

    They are still wearing those horrid tops; and those shorts.

  2. John Butler says

    Can’t lose what you never had Phantom. :)

  3. John Butler says

    PS: I’m well over the ‘clash’ strip.

  4. JB,

    I note that No 5 got off the hook again. I will call him Tassie Tiger. Fully protected.

  5. John Butler says

    Geez Phantom

    When your tagger shoves you into the ump, what else are you going to do?

    You’re just making it up now.

  6. Phantoms speak only of truth and justice.

    Speaking of Phantoms your Mr Walker has gone from boiled lollies to Lindt chocolate quickly.

    And I must take every opportunity with ‘yous blews’. According to the many who are accosting me on a daily basis the Cats are gone and the Carlton will win the flag this year. Excitable lot.

  7. John Butler says

    That is a very excitable estimation, if that’s what they’re saying.

    A symptom of how long its been since we really figured in calculations.

    My call on the Blues at present is that they can play as good a burst of football as anyone, but generally don’t capitalise on it up forward. If we don’t improve in that area, it will probably hurt us come finals.

    The Cats? They know how to take their chances.

  8. johnharms says

    As I’d rather write about poker machines than Carlton I reckon you’re a bit hard on yourself JB to suggest discussion of sound social policy is necessarily moralising.

    In the days when Qld didn’t have polies we would occasionally go south of the border on a golfing or other trip and would sometimes enjoy cheap steaks and beer in flashing-light, clinking-machine palaces that were some golf clubs. The same is now the case for footy-watchers, to an extent, although you have plenty of choices.

    The sinister thing is that governments are happy to take the pokies cash to prop up budgets. And then offer small amounts back in programs to assist the addicted. A breakdown of revenue via profiles of users would be interesting, and I suspect, illuminating.

  9. John Butler says

    JTH

    The breakdowns been done many times. Mainly by the pokies business itself.

    That’s why they gravitate to the lowest socio-economic areas, where they reap the biggest harvest.

    That’s their business decision. But it’s the decision of governments to turn a blind eye and take the money.

    Like a lot of issues, you wonder in whose interests governments are working nowadays. That applies to both parties.

  10. David Downer says

    JB,

    Pokies joints make us appreciate pubs like the All Nations or the Notting Hill (still resisting the forces of change in stereotypical suburban pokies territory) even more.

    DD

  11. While we’re on an anti-gambling wave what about those utterly obnoxious ads pushing the line that to be truly ‘supporting’ your team you have to have money on them?

    Carlton’s second half was great on Sunday but overall the game was a bit like the Melbouirne effort – the other crowd were a class below but both weeks it took a hell of a long time for Carlton to make the scoreboard say so. Brisbane promises more of the same.

  12. John Butler says

    RK

    The thing I find striking is that football struggled to control the influence of gambling for decades, but all that seems forgotten.

    Apparently we all know so much better now.

    I hope they manage better than cricket.

  13. Mark Doyle says

    With respect to pokies, I get the feeling that most of these comments are made by upper middle class fabian type lefties like myself, who do not play the pokies. I believe that the advantages of pokies outway the disadvantages; they provide good social meeting places and entertainment for working class people in the outer suburbs of our state capital cities, except Perth and country areas. They are also a good means of revenue for most state governments and companies such as Woolworths. I believe the only mistake made was allowing them in privately owned pubs. There are many examples of non-profit community clubs who use the whole of their pokie machine profits to subsidise other activities such dining, film nights, dances, concerts, snooker/billiards comps., games such as bridge, bowls and squash and fitness gyms.

  14. John Butler says

    Mark, I have to say that’s an extremely idyllic picture of the pokies business you offer there.

    Yes, you can go along and have a cheap meal, pot, etc. at many of these places. But none of them are charitable institutions. They all expect to make more than they give out.

    The estimated annual loss for pokie gamblers is $380.

    For problem gamblers (of which it’s estimated there are 300,000), the average annual loss is $12,000.

    That’s an expensive form of entertainment for an awful lot of people.

    Figures are from the Productivity Commission investigation.

    The reality of the pokie business is that it redistributes income from (generally) lower economic groups to those who own the machines.

    No doubt there are a few ‘upper middle class fabians’ in that latter group.

  15. John Butler says

    PS: This isn’t intended as some anti-gambling crusade. We have a gambling sponsor on this site.

    And when it comes to activities people enjoy, I have no faith in the effectiveness of prohibition.

    But I do think people (and the governments who are supposed to represent them) shouldn’t kid themselves.

  16. Mark – having agreed with you on WAFL and national football structures, I would suggest that you are completely naive and uninformed on this issue. Having spent a lot of Tuesday nights in draughty church halls to stay away from the GG’s, I have known hundreds of slaves to the pokies. I was the only upper middle class fabian lefty in the room on most occasions.
    The misery, loss and waste to families, employers and society is monumental. The ‘side benefits’ you describe to positive local community initiatives is minimal in comparison. More goes on wages for the management and trips for the board.
    Adding a couple of percent to local council rates would be a much more efficient and socially constructive way of subsidising local employment and community infrastructure.
    Gambling, booze, sex, drugs etc have always been the easiest form of taxation for government, mafia, mobs, Coles/Woolies or whatever criminal controls the method of distribution.
    As Gideon Haigh sagely said on Offsiders a few weeks ago about gambling in cricket and sport generally – sports administrators are ‘drinking a slow acting poison’ by their alliance with gambling promoters.
    Take that for society generally and multiply by a hundred.
    I am not a prohibitionist in anything, but if government were not more addicted than operators, they would be using the anti-smoking model that has got smoking rates down amazingly over the last 40 years to attack problem gambling.
    Methinks the mob are running the place.
    Sorry Mark – more power to you JRB and JTH for your perceptive observations.

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