Cats keep out the Cold

It was a cold old day in Canberra last Sunday. Freezing in fact. With the kids bored out of their brain. And you kicking yourself for not having backed Serena to win Wimbledon. And sad with what the Uruguayans, and Fate, did to Ghana.

Miserable outside and in. Although the fire and the Rice Bubbles are starting to crackle and pop and the loungeroom is warming up. Worried, though, that the talk is all North Melbourne and that, after the Cats had lost to St Kilda in a match where they failed to kick a goal after half time, things were looking ordinary.

If ever there was a day that Geelong fan and punter J. Dunne was going to back the opponent this was it.

“It’s a living certainty you’ve backed `em,” I asserted.

“What?” he said, trying to sound innocent, and loyal.

This is a man who, during the annus horribilis that was 2006, would turn to you on the Gary Ablett Terrace as some poxy team like Richmond would hit the front and say brazenly, “I’ve backed `em. You had to take $4.75 the Tiges. Would have been irresponsible not to.”

“You’ve backed North,” I said.

“You know Lingy’s out,” he said. The plot thickened.

No Ling. No Johnson. No Mooney. Who was going to post the score? No Taylor. What about all their big blokes?

This was turning in to a worse day.

“I haven’t backed North,” he assured (and surprised) me. This was clearly a new man living in a new Geelong following a team with a ramrod-straight spine. “They won’t get near us.”

I mope around the house. The kids have runny noses and the bub is squeaking. I look in cupboards but The Handicapper has shopped poorly. No chocolate. Milk Arrowroot biscuits is the best option.

I find little consolation in a baked bean toasted sandwich – we only have wholemeal bread. Baked beans were made for white bread.

I am reminded of the time in that horrible year when Geelong played North at Manuka in Canberra. We needed to win. We were awful. Chipping sideways, arguing with each other. The tactics were disastrous. We flooded. We didn’t take the game on. We were fearful. At one point during the last quarter, five goals down and looking shocking, we’d flooded again. Corey Jones picked up the footy on the half back flank and just stood there. No-one came at him. He put it on the ground. He put it on the ground again. He just stood still. But no-one came at him. He had the ball for a full seven seconds. Life is too short for that. That was the low-point of that low season: The Seven Seconds of Corey Jones.

We got flogged. This was before Joel Selwood.

The bub goes to sleep. Theo plays happily. The Handicapper hangs dank washing in front of the fire, and folds socks. I read the paper. The footy comes on. Things are looking up – a bit.

But what if this is the start of Geelong’s injury-and-suspension-ridden slide?

We need Selwood and the returning Chappy to lead the way.

The teams come up on the screen. Trent West at full forward. I sort of love it: love how it reminds me of big Johnny Mossop in the early `80s when the handy ruckman from Lucindale would start in the square and lead and mark and dominate, and the Cats would find a way to lose tragically (and amusingly in some cases). We knew the world better then.

At Kardinia Park the weather is overcast but fine, and the track good. I spot Joel Corey who pleases the eye. He’s a bit scratchy, but not 2006-scratchy.

The Cats look keen. Kel tackles: a pleasant reminder he is back as well. Ablett is in  a bad mood – again. I think it’s because he’s being sent forward, and because he keeps getting bopped on the nose on a cold day when he has no hair. (Where is Max Rooke now?)

I am watching footy. And the Cats are into it. Selwood is everywhere. At one point Blake finesses in a way that would upset Tommy Hafey but no-one on the Terrace cares because Tommy didn’t do much for the Cats anyway. Blakey does. He beats about four opponents like he’s Robert Harvey (I yell “Blakey” and I’m in strife for disturbing the bub) and pinpoints the leading West who marks. And misses.

But the Cats are sharp. They play scintillating football. Ablett gives a short handball to Monica Wojcinski on the burst, like he’s Darren Lockyer finding Billy Slater. Brilliant bouncing run which opens up the entire paddock and he finds Podsiadly who has returned to form.

The Cats attack. Varcoe. Chapman. Stokes. Byrnes. The swift movement of the footy creates so much space. Selwood is superb. They win the game early and although North have moments when they challenge the Cats are a class above.

Theo continues to play. I have made him a robot costume (out of a beer carton) and he wears it proudly, watching the footy occasionally through the eye-holes. At one point when Ablett has the footy and is taking a shot I say, “Who’s that Theo?”

“Blakey,” he yells. And then he’s in strife for disturbing the baby.

I find a packet of Picnics and Theo and I coalesce in a blokey conspiracy to attack them on the sly.

The loungeroom is cosy.

J. Dunne rings from Kardinia Park. He is chirpy.

It’s still bitterly cold outside. But it doesn’t matter.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Andrew Starkie says


    You shouldn’t complain, you only had 7 seconds of Corey Jones, I had seven years of him. I watched him at Vic Park on Saty; I’m much happier to see him there.

    The Cats had a third of their premiership team out and still smacked us. We’re a long way off, but the gap will close in time. Ziebell’s broken leg is a big setback.

  2. Andrew Totally agree about Cory Jones.Should be charged with fraud for impersonating an AFL player ! As long as he stays in the VFL we are some chance of winning games .

  3. JTH – I heard nothing of this game as I was wandering around Ashcombe Maze all afternoon. I was very nervous. Were we about to witness the beginning of the end? I must say I no longer have memories of 2006; last year’s flag blew all those thoughts out, but we look vulnerable. To win so handsomely was great, but the Pies have got their chirp back (again) the Hawks look Buddy good, and the Saints are hard as nails. We’ll need real resolve to pull a flag off this year. If we were to do it, it would surely be one for the true believers.

  4. Peter Flynn says

    Looking forward to this arvo’s battle b/n Cats and Hawks.

    Looks like the West Coast Hotel in Cooktown.

    I’m at the mercy of the trade winds and the accompanying drizzly showers.

    I see the Pies won’t go away. AGAIN!

  5. Flynny – don’t worry about the Pies. They’ve got a few who will be found out in September (again). Wellingham doesn’t always keep his head over the ball, Ball doesn’t always get his kicks higher then a Wellingham, and then there’s Leigh Brown – ughhh.

  6. Indiana jones says

    Just finished listening to the cats v Hawks. Too much pressure .! What is it with these damn hawks.

  7. Harmsy
    Come home! All is forgiven! Can’t image you and the Handicapper spending another icy winter in Canberra. The Cats, JD & the rest of us miss you…come home mate!

  8. Those ‘picnics’ you found John. Have you trained Theo to sniff them out like a truffle hound or does he just tell you where mummy hid them after a little coercing regarding reward?

Leave a Comment