Cats take a step

It’s a beautiful winter’s evening in Brisbane. Gorgeous sunset and the remnant of light in the west that makes a silhouette of everything. A photographer’s dream.

I walk through West End towards the city. Near the Victoria Bridge a busker squeezes the weirdest song from his bag-pipes. For some reason he’s playing God Save The Queen.

I cross the Brisbane River and wander past the casino (Does anyone go in there anymore?) and along George Street. The old Grosvenor, a once classic pub of barflies and broken dreams, is rocking. It is full of neon which announces COLD BEER HOT GIRLS. By the number of bouncers out the front and the blackened windows it would appear some of these girls are not concerned by the winter chill.

I make it to the Roma Street precinct. This is the place of travel. It houses the major railway station and, in recent decades, the bus terminal. It is archetypally Queensland: a place where people turned up from Faraway with their ports held together by  old belts, in town for medical appointments on The Terrace, or the Ekka.

At MJ’s Bar the Friday work crowd is heading off leaving the footyheads in charge. Some turn east towards the rugby league TV, while we turn west to the AFL. Geelong need to bounce back against Essendon, a side which has troubled them in recent times. They are quick, and when their decision-making is on they are doubly quick. The Cats will have to work hard to contain them in the way they didn’t contain the Pies.

Hawky who has settled in already usually wants to have a bet with me. He’s a Hawks man so recent history has not served him well. He’s not offering tonight because he’s keen on the Cats. I am too. He hands me a menu which is delightfully Queensland and includes barramundi and banana crème brulee. The wine list includes rum, bourbon and a selection of gin, vodka, tequila and ouzo.

One bloke, almost certainly a railways office man (like Hawky was until he took the offer), is watching both screens.

“Who do you follow?” I ask.

“Any Queensland team.”

He’ll be happy in the NRL: the Broncos are playing the Titans.

Sasha Lennon joins us.

As the players drift into their positions Melbourne seems a long way away. Johnno starts in the middle which suggests to me that either Chris Scott is a little concerned or Johnno has just taken himself there.

Johnno has an influence immediately. He kicks the first goal, from a set shot. He finds young Josh Walker who is playing the second key forward role. The Cats are flat-out; their intensity is obvious, even on a TV screen. Jobe Watson is caught red hot. No talk. A Swans supporter behind us says, “It’s all over.”

He might be right. The Dons don’t look like scoring. They are rattled and the Cats are going forward often. Hawkins looks determined. He takes a strong mark. His shot hits the post. There are a few groans.

“He must be the best kick in the league,” someone yells.

There is a pause for part two of the observation, which comes, “Them posts aren’t very big.”

Someone says that Hawkins should be made to nominate which post he’s aiming at.

I am just concerned it’s going to be another 1.5 night.

The Cats continue to pressure the Bombers. They seem to be conceding the kick in and stopping the play on from there. Whatever it is it is really working. Except for the finishing. Kelly snaps: out on the full. Josh Kennedy marks just metres out – and misses.

The Cats lead 4.5 to nix and look in control but they will surely wilt if they try to keep this pressure up, and they just haven’t put the Bombers away. Poor kicking may cost them.

Just as we’re thinking that, Essendon steady with a couple of goals and it’s a contest. The Swans bloke doesn’t think so.

Fletcher is outstanding and much-appreciated by the crew in the bar. An ongoing gag has begun. When he first came into shot someone said, “He’s just turned 53 you know.” By half-way through the second quarter he’s 128. (At one point in the final quarter as he mops up he’s 612 – I don’t think he got older than that).

Those with no emotional investment say it is a scrappy game and that neither side will worry the competition in September. Chestnuts appear: Geelong too old and making a good decision to develop younger players. Yes, Sam Duncan is having a better game than last week, but so are Joel Corey and Andrew Mackie.

In the second term the intensity remains. Jobe Watson is caught again and he’s turned the ball over a couple of times as well. Hawkins is threatening up forward. But the Dons are now finding the space they crave. Courtenay Dempsey, a truly beautiful player, makes a number of telling runs, and becomes an influence. Crameri provides a target (his battle with Harry Taylor is a beauty all night).

Hawkins goes off injured and the Cats disposal is ragged. The Dons get within two goals.

“I cannot believe we’re watching last year’s premiers,” someone says. “This game is a mess.”

It may well be, but Geelong hangs onto their lead and then, in the dying stages of the half boots a series of goals to Hawkins, Johnno and Duncan, and all the good Essendon work is nullified.

James Hird does not look happy. “Look at the wompy-stomp surfer boy,” yells a bloke in the bar. (Must be a Queensland description).

The banana crème brulee is served at half-time and leads to a discussion of the Red Rooster pack which includes the crumbed banana and the crumbed pineapple. “It’s a Hawaiin Pack,” someone says. “No, it’s a Paradise Pack.” And the bar gets into one of those bar discussions which went on forever before I-phones and Google. Although no-one in this crowd can be bothered looking it up.

The bigger question is whether the Geelong goal spree is an aberration, or the Dons fightback is. It could be neither and we’re in for a cracking second half.

Sasha and Hawky pore over the AFL teams in the newspaper in the way that blokes used to look at newspapers in pubs. It’s more of a salivation than a look. They are predicting big things tomorrow and in September. They are full of Hawthorn entitlement and, while polite about it, don’t really think that Geelong will be an impediment to their aspirations.

I wonder whether they notice the opening minutes of the second half. Geelong take control. They pump the footy forward where Hawkins kicks accurately and Chappy gets on the end of a break. Taylor gets on top at full back – and then bobs up in the forward line to take a couple of marks and kick a couple of goals. “This is like taking corn from a blind chook,” someone yells.

Suddenly the Cats are eight goals up and James Hird has come to the sideline to sort things out.

He sends Bellchambers forward and the talented ruckman snaffles three quick ones to keep Bomber hopes alive. “Is that Paul Salmon?” Hawky asks.

Geelong reply. Duncan is having a ripper game, both in and under, and on the run. Billy Smedts does his bit. Even young Rupe Murdoch who kicks his second.

Finally the anti-Bomber sentiment bubbles to the surface of the Hawks among us. AS Murdoch’s shot puts the cats nearly 10 goals up again Hawky says that Essendon being flogged is “Good for football.”

“It’s good for humanity,” Sasha says.

All this while they’re trying to work out who’s best on ground. They finally award three votes to Chelsea the goal umpire. (“Because she’s from Brisbane)

Geelong certainly have the better players out there. Most come in and out. Corey is consistently good. Duncan’s game is worthy of mention. Harry Taylor is in the better players. Old Man Fletcher is terrific.

Tom Hawkins must be mentioned here. If Geelong do go on to have an impact late in the season then these Pod-less weeks have to be assessed appropriately. Tom Hawkins is doing this on his own at the moment. He is not only carrying the responsibility, he is handling it.

In addition Trent West is just easing his way into things. I reckon he took a couple more steps on Friday night.

The young’uns are a week older.

The Bombers face rampant Hawthorn on Friday night. On the disclosed form of both sides they will be trounced.


Geelong, flogged by the Crows earlier in the year have an opportunity to even the ledger in another cracking contest at Kardinia.

As the final quarter meanders along at MJ’s, I am led to an observation and conclusion. The Sydney bloke thinks the Swans can win the flag, but isn’t confident, his 1960s childhood still the most significant period in the formation of his nature. The Fitzroy man doesn’t care anymore. Hawky and Sasha are convinced Hawthorn can win it. I, of course, know that Geelong can win it.

This is the beauty of footy.

And Jimmy Bartel is back this week.


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. We can win this.

  2. Mark Doyle says

    I agree Phantom, especially if the Cats can start as well for the rest of the year. Hopefully, the Cats can finish 5th or 6th and get a home state final in week one. The Essendon game was an excellent team performance with the better players being Corey, Duncan, Mackie, Kelly, Taylor and Johnson in the first half. Joel Corey is one of the Cat’s most valuable players and his four quarter game was excellent; he should get the three brownlow votes. When he plays well and wins clearances, the Cats rarely lose. All Cats fans should get to Kardinia Park this weekend to acknowledge Corey’s 250th game; he has been a great player with three premiership medals, two B & F’s and two All-Australian awards. He has also been a great team leader and role model for other players; he is the only bloke that has been continuously in the leadership group since 2007.

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    You Catpeople (one of my favourite movies BTW – David Bowie music and Nastassja Kinski!!! – sorry… where was I… oh that’s right) are in fairy land. Pies are gorn having been beaten by Hawks but Cats are right in it despite having been well beaten by the Pies?

    And yes – all Cats fans who do actually believe they are still in the hunt will be at Kardinia Park this weekend. I think that with the stand re-build happening at the moment, the current capacity is about 141. And the Crows will win.

    Meanwhile, we have to deal with GWS on the rebound…

  4. AF – the Pies can’t win this year – too much Cloke and dagger.

    But I think the Cats can – no question.

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Yes you are right Dips – The Cats can – no question. I note the semantics. It is not “The Cats will – no question”. It is “can”. Which is correct of about ten teams at the moment.

    You are also correct about “too much Cloke”. I think if we could rid of the David version, we would be much better off.

  6. Sorry AF, it was just a play on words. It is the only fun I have left now that the Cats are apparently gorn.

    Those, (Catpeople) who did not succumb to the bite of the Tullamore Dew and stayed up after the bewitching hour on the night of the rabid thylacines were treated to a sustained Harms (and Ninth Island Pinot) rendition of “We can win this” while he taunted the bet providers at the Newcastle on Tyne racetrack.

    Some, unfortunately, slipped on their neatly folded’ jimmy jams’ and slipped off to the land of nod missing the final slurred stanza.

  7. Phanto – somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I have a vague recollection of such an evening. It comes back to me in flashes. Words and short senteces like

    “There’s a thylacine!” and,
    “There’s another one!!” and,
    “Put on the 2007 Preliminary Final………….again.” and,
    “Here comes the Varcoe goal!”

    Maybe I dreamt it.

  8. Richard Naco says

    I agree with those who have said that – in this brilliant, ever changing and tightly contested season – anybody can win it.

    JIMMEH!, Sell’, TommoHawk, Scarlo, Smithy, Boris, CHAPPY!, Bundy – hell, even Travvie – yep, any of them could win it.

    GO CATS!

  9. Siamese Cat says

    Cats looked good yesterday. Good skills and some of the old aura is starting to waft back in. Hawkins is a power forward now, no doubt about it. We can win this.

  10. Geez, I just returned from a few weeks overseas and it seems the Cats have taken a few more steps. This is getting interesting.

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