Cats Dressed to Kill

By Dips O’Donnell

I could do no more. I’d planned it for weeks. The rest was up to the boys.

First the socks. Not so much lucky socks, but unassuming socks; socks that have a hint of navy blue around the heel and toe. Yes, they would do just fine. I buried them deep down in the sock drawer last Sunday. I didn’t want to accidently grab them on a hazy Monday or Tuesday morning in the lead up to the grand final and waste their freshly washed crispness. But on Saturday morning I dug down through inconsequential undergarments and found them sitting snuggly next to a T-shirt that read “Cats. Premiers 2009”. A sign? I lifted them out of the drawer and placed them on the shelf.

Next the shirt. It’s a strange choice this shirt but one I was very comfortable with; a blue polo with white trimming, a tennis shirt made and emblazoned with “Diadora” across the chest. And I don’t even play tennis. I think it was given to me sometime in the 1980s as a birthday present. It’s made with a thick feeling of quality. Its outings these days are brief but significant. I had it in my team for grand final day (should we make it) back in late August. The shirt was placed gently next to the socks.

After the shirt came the jeans. Little explanation required here; blue jeans, comfortable and functional, well lived in, not overly washed, regular football going jeans; the sort of jeans that will handle post victory beer spills or post loss tears. They know their role well and they’ll play it well.

Lastly the jocks. The lucky jocks. They are so threadbare these days that I’ve had them stored in a small glass box with the words “Break in an emergency” across the front. I had no hesitation in breaking the glass. This is a grand final. This is a grand final against Collingwood.

The jocks were worn in 2007 and not in 2008 (true story). In 2008 perhaps I had an arrogant swagger up. Perhaps I hadn’t recognised their powers. Perhaps I underestimated Hawthorn. Suffice to say they were worn again in 2009. I think they made the difference.

In 2010 they were worn as well; the Preliminary Final against Collingwood. Of course I wore them. And we lost. I was devastated. The jocks were devastated. We couldn’t explain it. It was then that I realized I was asking too much of them. It was then they I resolved to reserve them for special occasions only. No more insignificant midweek office wears. I would nurse them through. Chris Scott started doing the same thing withGeelong’s older players.

So on Saturday I broke the glass and took them out. The navy blue colour has faded to white in many places, but strangely this blue and white contrast makes them even more attractive. Not quite hoops but close. If you hold them up to the light they are as transparent as curtains in an old Greek café. I placed them next to the lucky socks, shirt and jeans and commenced the ceremonial dressing. I could do no more.

We stood at thePunt Roadend, my brother and I. We stood amongst the Cat faithful. Conversations were had, nerves exchanged. Cat Man, with his exuberant costume, was wondering up and down the terraces. The Cat’s cheer squad was stationed in front of us.

I don’t remember much of the game. I only remember moments; moments that came and went in a nerve jangling explosion I have never experienced before. My gut was churning with every tackle, every kick, and every opportunity won or lost. I thought my appendix would explode, then I remembered they’d already done that not long afterGeelong’s one point, last gasp win over the Saints in round one.

The siren sounded. I saw Travis Varcoe running straight at me. “Kick it to me Travis!” I yelled. He did, straight through the middle. The game was only eleven seconds old. He kicked it to me again a few moments later after Johno brilliantly passed it to him. Trav and I were having a lovely time.

Then I saw Travis Cloke kick one down the other end from 620 metres out. I was sure his run up started in the beer garden of the Cricketers Arms Hotel acrossPunt Road. As it sailed through the goals it still had 20 metres to travel. He followed up with a second and it was official that Travises were in charge of the game.

I saw Krakouer float across the front of a pack in the second quarter like a seagull swooping on a stray chip. Pity his name isn’t Travis. It was the quintessential beautiful mark.

I saw Podsiadly turn his shoulder into an Irish stew so bent out of shape it was. Then I saw Jimmy Bartel and Joel Selwood force themselves onto the game. These men have resolve. Selwood’s resolve comes from an almost insane compulsion to get the footy. He runs at it from any direction and with enormous power; power of the body and mind. Bartel’s resolve is more natural and instinctive. He simply goes where the footy goes. He’s uncomplicated. I saw Jimmy playing on the wing, in the middle and at centre half forward. At one point Otto couldn’t make it to a ruck contest so Jimmy did that too. Next season I might back him for the Coleman.

I saw Tom Hawkins grab the game and the footy. He grabbed the game around the goal mouth with opportunist soccer goals in the third quarter, and in the last he grabbed the footy out of the air like the Greek god Ares vanquishing the wild hordes. His poor kicking may have kept the Pies in it mathematically but the symbolism of his victories over Reid was conclusive. The Cats would win.

But one thing I didn’t see was equally magnificent. I didn’t see Ton Lonergan’s job on Cloke. It went under the radar. It only emerged after the game as we stood in the pub encircled by victory lagers.

“What about Tommy Lonergan’s job on Cloke?” someone asked. Yes indeed, what about it. I didn’t see it because I didn’t see Cloke after half time. He disappeared like champagne from the premiership cup. I apologise to Tommy Lonergan for not immediately recognizing his hour of greatness. What a story.

I got home and danced a jig with my wife and kids. They were all dressed in theirGeelongjumpers. They were all smiles. We laughed and ate fish and chips and watched the game all over again. This time with the knowledge that it would all end well.

So today (Sunday) is reflection day. I’m not thinking of anything but the game. The moments and even the details are flashing back, working their way out of the intolerable noise and mist of yesterday’s tensions and into the daylight.

I will wash the jocks gently and put them back into the glass case. I hope to break the glass again one day.


3 – Bartel

2 – Selwood

1 – Johnson.


Alternate votes

3 – Bartel

2 – Hawkins

1 – Lonergan



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. Ahhhhh please change the author to me – otherwise my wife will kill me.


  2. John Butler says

    Too early in the morning Dips.

    You need to make these things clear. :)

  3. Dips, good to know clothes are making it all the way to drawers in Kew. I have that to look forward to. That is not a KPI when we’re in survival mode. Remembering to breathe, however, is.

    Lovely yarn and what a ripper match.

  4. Andrew Else says

    Had a lucky pair of jocks and wore them when I played my first senior game. Unfortunately, all the work that had got me to that point took a toll on them and the final thread at the base of them went during the warm up. I had to play the first half with the feeling that I was swinging in the breeze. Needless to say the ball kept following me around, when really I didn’t want to go anywhere near it.

    Great tale Dips.

  5. Dips

    I too watched the magnificent Cats soar to victory on Sat. behind the Richmond goals. The atmosphere in that Cat infested area was absolutely unbelieveable. I have never experienced anything like it (and I’ve been to a lot of Cats games). I will never forget … Too Old, Too Slow, TOO GOOD!!

  6. Congratulations Dips, brilliant effort by a wonderful team. The lucky jocks symbolise the durability and resilience of these Cats. It was more than just the stubborn understains holding them together.

  7. Alternate Alternate Votes
    3 – J Bartel
    2 – T Hawkins
    1- L Jox

  8. Awesome stuff.

    I missed Tommy’s kob also until after the event. Makes me ponder: Cloke was on his way to the Norm Smith before Tommy hijacked him. Maybe Tommy should have won the Norm Smith by default!!

  9. Andrew Else says

    Good Young Ones reference Phil

  10. Peter Flynn says

    Beautifully written Dips.

    How did your jocks exhibit devastation in 2010?

    Did they crack the brace & bits?

  11. PF – we’re pretty close now, the jocks and I. More mates than companions. I knew they were hurting in 2010. They looked forlorn. On Saturday they got some of that old elastic back.

  12. Dips,

    had my handbag worked it’s way down from level 4 at the Punt Road end by Saturday? Nice blue leather one. The sort that Grannie used to carry.

    It was given to me by a Carlton supporter after ’95 GF.

    I carried it to Melb in 2007 complete with blue and white streamers and a box of tissues.

    I waved above my head for the last three quarters and left it on my seat at the end of the game.

    The last thing I did was scratch the little tail off the G. So it read CFC as we parted.

    You didn’t see it by any chance?

  13. Phanto – yes I did see it – Alan Didak had it.

  14. Dips,

    Enjoy the victory but don’t lower your standards and start bellittling the players, particularly from the stands. Nobody tries to play poorly yet every club can point to such games in their history.

    Just enjoy the spoils. The alternative is not much fun…..

  15. Dips,

    I had the lucky Fletcher Jones suit on (of all things). I had to meet the beloved in the MCC Dining Room bar after the game, so I frocked up, as I had in the same suit in 2007 and 2009 (BUT NOT IN 2008!). The suit’s now much in need of a dryclean, as you’d understand.

    I was sitting with a pretty large and noisy bunch of Cats supporters in the Meatloaf pocket. Hope you could hear our chanting down your end. Like the boys we gave it everything we had.

    Glad to hear your jocks survived. If they were like mine they would have been under severe pressure a couple of times during the match – when Pods went down and we were three goals behind (bad pressure), and when Linga kicked that last goal (good pressure).

    Long live lucky GFC Premiership garb!

  16. Nice one Burkie. Are Fletcher Jones suits still made down in Warrnambool? A great Cat recruiting area.

  17. I find wearing a ‘Pin and win’ produces results; 6-0 during 2007 & 2011. 08 09 I wasn’t here and in my only final of 2009 I was skint & didn’t buy one, and we got pumped.

    So did you mark Varcoe’s kick?

  18. Congrats to you, Dips.

    Great stuff.

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