Caging Perfection

Any cartoon that can be liked by a committee is really not worth drawing; in fact, must not be drawn at all! – Michael Leunig.


The season is racing past.


I saw a young bloke play early in the season. He looked OK; tough, youthful, keener than a wasabi sandwich. Now he doesn’t get a game. He‘s not even knocking on the door of senior selection. Maybe the season’s already gone past him. Cruel really.


Or maybe the season has thrown him out of whack like it has me. I can’t find any rhythm. Thursday games, Monday night, Sunday twilight. What’s that? Saturday afternoon! I’m almost afraid to turn the TV off in case I miss a game that’s been scheduled to catch the post-midnight audience. This season is like mashed potatoes. It not a footy season anymore, it’s a never ending Boxing Day sale.


The AFL seems to be petrified at the concept of standing still. Every round must have a label attached to it. Do we do Rivalry Round anymore? And whatever happened to Heritage Round? Or is the heritage we thought we had, no longer this game’s heritage? Does it belong to an extinct beast? And why is a round of footy tagged at all? It’s only a game of footy. Can’t we just call it round 3, or round 7, or whatever number is applicable, as each week passes?


Blokes on the TV, whose faces look familiar, talk to me about fantasy points for their Dream Team. Is that an SBS show? What are they on about? I just want to watch the footy. We don’t do “ball-ups” anymore, we have stoppages. And what does it mean when a player goes “down back”? Should I block my children’s ears? And other players are called “sweepers”. The last sweeper I saw was in 1974 when the old fella who used to sweep the gutters of Montmorency, alongside his loyal Clydesdale, hung up his broom stick. These days he’d get a game across half back for Collingwood.


It’s Tuesday. Do I have to submit my footy tips tonight? Is there a game in Shanghai between Melbourne and Port on the box? I thought Downton Abbey was on every Tuesday but apparently that season is over. What round is it anyway? I suppose that depends on when you have the bye. It’s either half way through round ten, or a third of the way through round eleven, after factoring in the other bye later in the season. That means Port isn’t really on top of the ladder just as Michael Jackson isn’t really dead. There is no context to the season’s narrative. Perhaps I’ll hire an actuary to figure it out for me.


A new bloke is in charge of the AFL. More or less. He has a name that sounds like a ship in the First Fleet. He talks about giving the game back to the people, like he’s being magnanimous. That’s like stealing a kid’s Choo Choo bar, then patting yourself on the back when you return it to him 15 years later all rotten and misshapen; barely recognisable  anymore. It’s like plundering the ancient tombs in the Valley of the Kings then returning an empty box 200 years later. It’s like poking a bloke’s eyes out then giving him a new pair of shoes.


You can’t give a game back. Footy can’t be gift wrapped and returned. You can’t capture 150 years of football in a Tesltra commercial. You can’t put a soul on a piece of paper and colour it in. What deluded character would think otherwise?


I heard something wonderful the other day. It was a line delivered at the end of the TV show “Call the Midwife”. “Call the Midwife” is a story about delivering life to a community.


“Perfection is not a polished thing. It is often simply something that is sincerely meant. Perfection is a job complete, praise given, a prayer heard, it can be kindness shown, thanks offered up….”


I would also add that perfection is a fifty metre kick off the wrong foot that hits a target, its running into open space, it’s a big pack grab in the goal square. None of these are patented. None of these things can be returned, sponsored, or advertised. Perfection could also be human endeavour that is left to flourish, like a game on the last Saturday in September. No one should own it. No one should cage it. It can’t be contrived or manufactured. It is un-designable.


The AFL can’t give footy back to me. They’ve taken it away to the slaughter house. It’s being mangled and tortured, bent and twisted, pounded and pureed. They came for it in the dead of night whilst we weren’t looking. Why would we be looking? It wasn’t broken!


But thankfully I still have some pieces of the old stuff; the real stuff. I have Stevie J’s 2007 Grand Final tucked away. I can see Max Rooke tackling Raphael Clarke at the start of the 2009 Grand Final. And I can relive the Varcoe goal of 2011 and his anguish as the ball swayed off course and sank the Cats in the 2013 Preliminary Final.


Unpolished moments; perfection.

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. Keiran Croker says

    Good one Dips. I’ve flown up to Sydney for tonight’s game, requiring 2 days off work! Friday night would have been better, Sat even better still. What is it with wanting to spread the games out endlessly? A bit like the Big Bash in summer, it’s on so often you stop noticing it or paying attention. Give me Saturday arvos please!

  2. Well done – you’ve nailed it Dips! There is no context to the season’s narrative – I think you are right, and yet from where I am I don’t notice it as much as in Singapore, without seasons, there is also nothing to judge the passing of the year. What has thrown me though is the number of Thursday and Monday games. I can only hope that this is something that ceases to be in seasons to come. Imagine if the bye was just one week in the middle of the season with no football at all. And imagine one round where 5 games were played on a Saturday afternoon.

  3. Dips- Well said sir. Well said.

  4. Dips, You’re spot on with this. The scheduling of games this year has been all over the place. An interminable Round 1, starting before the middle of March, has morphed into a hodgepodge of Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night and twilight fixtures that nobody I’ve spoken to likes.

    I know there are still some good games on at ‘traditional’ times – Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons – but they seem to be becoming fewer and fewer.

    The team you and I follow – Geelong – has ONE Saturday afternoon game for the entire season. The Cats may get another in the last round, which is TBA at this stage, but I wouldn’t count on it.

    Is it any wonder we supporters are getting fed up. The AFL, Channel 7 and Fox Footy should take note. Treat us like mugs at your peril. We can find other things to do with our time, especially when our own teams aren’t playing. As you say Dips, revisiting the Cats’ Premiership DVD’s has a lot of appeal.

    Cheers, Burkie

  5. Absolutely spot on.

    Please apply for a job at the AFL.



  6. Cheers boys. Fixturing is one issue, but the main issue in this messy diatribe, is that the AFLdoesnt seem to understand what it has.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Spot on Dips and totally agree with , Kieran’s comment it has become exactly like the big bash seemingly every night , Friday night and then the weekend is enough

  8. Skip of Skipton says

    Your last pargraph is the real shit. I knew we would win after I saw Rooke’s tackle on R.Clarke. I knew we would win after Varcoe’s goal in the opening moments of the 2011 GF. I knew. Call me a mystic if you wish.

    My missus loves this TV show “Call the midwife”! So I went over to the footy club to watch the Cats get pumped. (Here’s a heritage round idea! Play every game on Saturday arvo.)

    I could really rant on about the sinful ignorance these ’80s and ’90s born folk have about our great sport. Mobile phone super-glued to the palm of their hand

  9. Skip of Skipton says

    Channel 7 has to televise four live games a round. FOX the other five.

    Saturday Arvo doesn’t rate for TV. That’s why we have all these God-awful Thursday night games this year.

    The tail is wagging the dog. Time to fight back. There is a push to boycott Round 12. Fantastic. Do it.

  10. Jesus Christ. Can anyone tell me what the hell happened last night? Just when you think you have some sort of feel for footy…

  11. Neil Anderson says

    They’ve stuffed our game with the scheduling, trying to squeeze the nine matches sort of into a weekend which can cover about five days.
    It might be hard after last night, but give thanks to whoever that you have those Geelong premiership and finals memories before the competition turned to shit.
    The expanded competition has created a system of haves and have -nots similar to the old VFL days when there were rich and successful clubs dominated the poorer clubs.
    The best way to to describe the bottom four clubs at the moment is ‘cannon-fodder’. No hope for success for years and when they play no one turns up to see them anyway, creating the viscous-cycle of poor revenue and lack of membership.

  12. Andrew Starkie says

    Dips, I had been wondering for some time why the ‘Midwife’ producers hadn’t introduced a love interest for the blond nurse. Trixie? My concerns have been allayed with the introduction of the nice, handsome rector. i hope they hit it off. Good show.

    Oh yes, superb piece. Spot on. My own rants in recent times have quite therapeutic I’ve found. A few months ago I was at the point of despair. Now i can at least stomach footy again.

    The Big Boss said a few years ago while negotiating a mobile phone deal, ‘We own the game’. I felt sick. He has given up, hung up the boots and is counting the minutes down. The polo player scares me even more.

    Fixturing, among other problems, is killing the soul of the game at the top level. Those in charge don’t understand the game. Or us. Simple.

    has ‘The Gods of Wheat Street’ finished?

    Well done.

  13. Pamela Sherpa says

    Excellent rant Dips. Kurt Tippett is a star!

  14. Two things that need to be done.
    No more Thursday night and Monday night games.
    Aside from Friday, there is no reason football needs to be played on weekdays that don’t lead into a day off, like a public holiday.
    I didn’t watch a minute of last night’s game. I listened to it.

  15. E.regnans says

    Good on you Dips. I wonder how wide spread this feeling is. We could be in a bubble here, of “people like us.”
    Bean counters work in beans, so until there’s a noticeable drop off in beans, I expect we’ll see much more Thursday night footy. Big crowds in Adelaide (v Collingwood) and now Sydney (v Geelong), with TV ratings in Melbourne, yield many beans. probably encourages the AFL to schedule more Thursday nights, albeit outside Melbourne.
    But in all of this, we recognise that the tail is wagging the dog. The question rapidly becomes “should bean counters run a national sporting body; for what is its purpose?”
    Well played.

  16. John Butler says

    E Reg, I think that’s the crucial but seldom answered question here – what is its purpose?

    Some really good points well made Dips.

  17. Tony Robb. says

    Good points Dips but was this designed to deflect a Cats performance that displayed a brittleness not believed to exist in a club that owned the term up until six years ago. The scheduling is ab obvious bow to tht TV gods. The white noise of football bullshit is now deafening. I hate it. I hate the Taylors and Kings of the footy world. I want ny footy back in silence

  18. MGLFerguson says

    “The white noise of football bullshit is now deafening. I hate it. I hate the Taylors …of the footy world….”

    BT n. (b?’ t?’) 1. A common shorthand for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium used commonly as a natural pesticide, naturally found in the gut of certain caterpillars, but also more generally in animal feces. 2. Aus. Shorthand for Taylor, Brian a bloviating, bombastic blowhard who thinks that the quality of play-by-play calls is commensurate with their decibel level.

    An appropriate pair of homonyms, though if I never hear sense 2. again, it will be far, far too soon. While I would never wish death on a man, I would wish a crippling case of laryngitis.

  19. Thank you Dips. Talking sense in a world of spin.

    The AFL create their own version of Man United to suit their marketing aims and their media/betting lords.

    They talk of “equalisation” yet spin the spin and hope the left hand doesn’t notice what the right hand is doing.

    Of course, none of this will bother those whom it benefits.

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