Crows needed Cuba for extra bite

"C’mon Ump he's been doin' it all day!"

Content following a Tommy Walsh goal ...and a Schmackos.

Cuba runs the gamut of emotions at Trevor Barker Oval.

How’s that old showbiz chestnut go? …“never work with children or animals?”

Trevor Barker Beach Road Oval on Saturday proved an unlikely venue for such a cliche’. Yes indeed, standby for another patented VFL introduction “tangent” …the first leg of another footballing daily double – two matches in one day, and ain’t life grand.

Zebras v North Ballarat by day, Saints v Crows by night.

For me the curtain raiser was potentially something of a “heartstring grudge” match.  More recent family links, via the good wife, belong with Sandringham – not to mention the small matter of Saints affiliation of course.  Yet my maternal family origins are North Ballarat – that great (and not-so-great) St.Kilda breeding ground of years past, spawning names such as Burns, Dunne, Perovic …and of course, Lockett.  Family functions up Lake(less) Wendouree way are even held at the impressive Roosters Sports Club.  My folks are members too – but admittedly moreso to guarantee 10% off bistro meals – awesome.

I thought this “Zebrooster” conflict might provide moments of confused passion during the contest – but when calmly considering that North Ballarat wear black and white, and another club alumnus is Mick Malthouse – I was back on the Hampton Street express fairly quickly.

Also returning for a “footy fix” was Cuba, our long-haired german shepherd, currently reveling in bouffant early Winter coat – following a daring Ben Cousins type “shave down” over Summer. It would be reasonable to say the “big man” attracts a bit of attention at the football.  In days of yore some “pat-ees” in the outer have included Fev and Superboot Bernie Quinlan.

Today being the designated televised ABC game, it was no surprise the boundary roving “Joe the cameraman” spotted the Cubie-dog for a requisite “atmospheric crowd” shot …or perhaps my dramatic “over here mate” S.O.S. wave-downs annoyed him sufficiently enough.  Whilst ABCTV football at 1pm on Saturdays is hardly pulling Masterchef ratings (but would doubtless prove more entertaining than the Lost finale), I’m determined to have Cuba play small screen cameos when opportunities present.  Hell I’ve seen Phil Cleary and my former first year Economics tutor “Rossco” Booth handle “inferior” dogs on air before.

Yet by the last quarter, phone calls from home had confirmed the broadcast was sans-Cuba to date.  This rankled me.  It called for more direct action.

With the game poised in the balance late in the day, when all concentration should be on the park, ‘Joe’ locked onto Cuba, like an over-zealous Constable staring you down on Beaconsfield Parade with a speed gun.  But Cuba refused to play ball in the “hamming it up for the camera” stakes.  However Joe sensed our thirst for stardom and motioned for us to spark him into “lights, camera, action”.

After some swift fur-tugging, the next move was a casual stroll to the fence – in reality it was more crazed “tennis dad” dragging his hapless kid around for extra volley practice.  I thought this would be “the shot” – man and “man’s best friend” gliding along, catwalk style, his mini Saints scarf flapping debonairly in the bayside breeze – maybe the addition of poignant backing music via the cutting room floor later (but that’s a fair stretch for a live game on a publicly funded media budget I assume).  Alas, no dice.

“Can you get him to jump on the fence?’ inquired Joe.

I didn’t respond.  I didn’t really know.  Wherever this was heading, I knew it would require some effort, and potential dog-related crowd humiliation …again.

Joe’s desired shot was “dog pops from nowhere to straddle fence and stare down lens at point blank range”.  A classic.  I assume.

After an embarrassingly forced first attempt, with choker chain receiving a solid “choker” like work-out, we did have Cuba obliging and up on two legs for a few fleeting seconds.  This looked more akin to a meerkat at the Zoo poking his nose over the guard-rail.

Whilst struggling to hold 55kg of combined muscle and fluff , in the best of “Hollywood” traditions I posed:

“Is that a wrap?”

Joe didn’t respond.

So that would make it “Take Two?”.

Yes.  Fail.  Now Three.  Fail.  Four.  Jezuzz.  Every attempt requiring a not-so-elegant pirouette from both man and dog to start again.

At the very least, supporters of both sides on the clubhouse flank were being amused. Terrific. By this point I suspect Joe realised he wasn’t exactly dealing with Inspector Rex.  But that’s hardly fair on Cuba – Cesar Millan, I ain’t.  The “calm assertive balance” techniques preached by the latino “dog whispering” guru were being horribly desecrated – but the pressure was on, there was little time to channel my “inner dog”.  Admittedly the technique I doled out was more a “frenzied doubtful instability”.  Sorry Cesar.  Sorry Cuba.

We then called in reinforcements.  Schmackos.  “The nectar of the Dogs”.  A canine equivalent of Krispy Kreme doughnuts – or whatever food vice you’re into.  Joe, inside the fence with camera in one hand, bendy treat the other, cajoled the big man upward again.  “Manual assistance” still being provided on the outside. Our luck was beginning to turn.

Take Five. Almost.  Take Six. Hold it, shit.  What the hell are we doing this for again?

Take Seven.  Hold it.  Hold it.  Hold it.

“Got it”.  Thank Christ.

“That’s a wrap”

“Good boy”

We trotted back to our “spot” triumphant – though what we had achieved, I’m not too sure.  My wife “pretended” to not know me.  Cuba then sunk low to the ground with a grizzled look of: “I feel so cheap”.

Back inside the fence, Sandringham had been pressing the reigning dual premiers all day but could never quite nose in front.  Our wee paddy Tommy Walsh spent his first full game playing forward and kicked his maiden goal in Australian Rules football.  Hopefully many more to come.  It wasn’t quite enough today though, and the speaker was soon belting out the Roosters song – featuring the bizarre sound of a cackling Cock (yes a “Cock” is a Rooster) at the end of each line, the cackle enhanced by the scratchy shortcomings of the PA down our end.

Trudging away I then remembered I’d forgot to set the IQ to record the game.  To record Cuba.  And quickly enough, the thrill of my “Best In Show” efforts had vanished.  I’m reliably told however that it wasn’t all in vain – he did make it to the closing credits “montage” – whether I starred in my own cameo as the bumbling idiot holding his belly up, I’m not sure.

It was then off to the Dome and a meeting with the surprisingly struggling Adelaide.  Not that any Sainter would ever feel sorry for a Crow.  In the years since the ’97 Grand Final I’m yet to shake from my consciousness that monotonous droning “Adeloyd” theme song.  Belted out in army drill repetition it’s ingrained in my “fragile” psyche. Hmmm, is there any other kind of St.Kilda psyche?  Andrew Macleod is still a regular nightmare contributor too.  When it comes to “foetal position rocking in the shower” episodes, visions of him effortlessly gliding down the wing on that day still compete with Scarlett’s last quarter toe-poking earth-shattering misery from last year.

In recent years the Saints had been providing a bit of Crow “pay-back hurt” of their own however.  The first final in 2005, the night grand final in 2008, their misfortune of playing Harvey in his 350th, and then ousting them from the top four a week later with the required 108pt Rd.22 win.

So how about another one tonight …”kick ’em while they’re down” style.

The opening was all Saints.  5 goals in the first 15 minutes, a treble from Montagna.  Perhaps this was “Saints footy?”  Even the Saints member wing was feeling the love for Raph Clarke as our new “key decision maker” and  “go to man” in defence.  Ask Raph if a “week is a long time in footy?”  Zac Dawson now seemed one-out in the whipping boy stakes.  Although a big bloke wearing #23 down the other end seems to be doing his best to join in.   C’mon Kos, lift!

Up forward, Rhys Stanley kicked his first St.Kilda major – following a handball feed from Milne, no one was going to catch him bursting to the goal line in the fashion of a “Grand Final sprint winner”.  His second should have followed soon thereafter, his attempt bouncing off the goal umpire back into the field – play on. Play On?  Crows score down the other end.  Umpires, you had your week, and now I’m finding it hard to “appreciate you”.

Just when it looked to be a case of “how far the Saints”, some of the meandering Crows reminded themselves they could actually play – or at least accumulate decent dreamteam points.  I have admitted to trouble identifying interstate blokes in the past (I guess I don’t care), but the likes of Dangerfield, Porplyzia, Tippett, Walker were all taking grabs forward and edging the Crows back into the game.  The “agon was on”.

The third quarter again presented those archetypal “oh god is this really all over?” feelings of Saints dread.  It was goal for goal. And when Adelaide edged in front the muted cry I’m sure was “Nick, Nick, where for art thou Nick”.  Ye of little faith.  Little being the operative word.  Milne and Schnedier, both back in touch, combined for some late goals to nudge the Saints in front entering the last.

Neil Craig, acknowledged Sports Science and conditioning “guru” would surely have the Crows at peak physical fitness to run out the last quarter – right?  I’m sure many Crows fans are asking this too …but it be “wrong”.

The upset stomach uneasiness in the Saints members wing was eradicated in rapid fashion.  An early St.Kilda blitzkrieg ensured that.  Goddard, McQualter, Montagna again – a star, the fro’ Gwilt gets in on the action.  Game over.

“Percentage, percentage”

McQualter again, Gardi.  Saints running them off their feet.  If this is “Saints footy”, I likes it.  Chains of handballs finishing with goals are all the rage tonight.

The crowd then screams a united momentous roar at an  innocuous ball-up. Many look perplexed, the players perhaps also.  Scoreboard flashes up final score from the Gabba – Magpies beaten.  The perfect night.

Montagna bombs through his fifth to close it out, a running long goal from 50, a fitting end.

Saints back in the top four, hanging about, lurking, poised to pounce. I hope.

And the clock is winding down my friends …Tick Tick Nick.


  1. I must congratulate the author for making it all the way through his piece without the usual “Bromance” for Lenny Hayes appearing. It seems that there is only room for one big man in his heart at any one time.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    Some years ago, Williamstown FC President Trevor Monti was denied admission to the Port Melbourne ground with his dog. Somewhat peaved, and no doubt having dropped the odd f-bomb in his retort, Mr Monti sought revenge. When Williamstown next hosted Port Melbourne, the game was advertised as a “bring your pet dog to the football day”. And they were everywhere (except on the ground). Another minor skirmish in the ongoing war between the Gulls and the Borough.

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