Else lifts; Spud flops.

Friday night games don’t thrill me the way they should. It’s a rush to get there, if your team loses then your weekend is doomed, the game is delayed on the box, and, as a park footballer in my twilight years, attending a match is probably not the ideal preparation. Especially a match like this


As I rushed to Clifton Hill station, I realized I needed some fuel for the next day’s game. Identifying a Hot Chicken shop as a means of getting this in 5 minutes or less, I burst in and quickly scanned the offerings. Quarter chicken with a beetroot salad. Nice. As the transaction approached, I decided on a bean salad also. From memory, the lady on the till said ‘That’ll be $13.90. Just so you know for next time, we have a chicken and two salad special for $12.50’. Not quite Michael Palin’s Cheese Shop or Ronnie Corbett’s General Store but curious all the same. In the value proposition of my time against $1.40, time won out and I was off.


Being a Bombers away game, I settled in the top deck of the Ponsford, behind the goals.I met my mate Mark, his lady Bel and our mate Spud. The boys and I are high school mates so the formalities don’t exist. Spud is also playing the next day and is predicting a 100-point win. This isn’t unusual for three reasons: His team are on top ladder, the opposition are at the other end of the ladder, and Spud is always confident. Needless to say his confidence has flowed onto his view of tonight’s encounter. In the minutes leading up to the game, his conversation topics range from how many Cyril will kick, to detailing the previous Queen’s Birthday Monday where himself and some mates from work decided on an impromptu day trip to Sydney, where he managed to return on the last flight before the ash cloud kicked in….That’s Spud.


As the game started, there were some early signs of promise. A goal within the first minute is always pleasing, but the fact it was done with a clean centre clearance was especially satisfying. Unfortunately, the rest of the first quarter was an exercise in the Bombers just hanging on. My boys were performing like the guy who knows that the girl is out of his league and no matter how many dates, dinners, flowers and gift he bestows, is all too aware that he will come up short. 5 goals to 3 was an all too flattering scoreline.


Whilst I texted my girlfriend during the first break, Spud and Mark were trying to put together the final hours of Spud’s 30th the week previous (the day before his Sydney trip….). One event that I clearly recall was a conversation around the respective footy careers of Spud and myself. I’ve played in B-grade amateurs for 5 years (plus a brief foray in A grade), whilst Spud’s side has climbed from D4 to C in that time. With his side (Werribee Districts) and mine (Uni Blacks) now a division apart, we made a ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ over our 6th or 7th pint that if we found ourselves in the same division next year, then we would play on. Ironically, soon after this decision was made the alcohol started to kick in further and we moved far away from any form of gentlemanly behaviour. Nonetheless, the agreement stands.


It was appropriate that I watched the 2nd quarter with school friends, as the match reminded me of Hawks v Bombers games from my school days: a thrashing in favour of the brown and golds. The major difference this time was that although I knew all of the Hawthorn stars back then (thank you Scanlens), I constantly had to refer to Spud for the names of these lads with lazer-like feet. Apparently their names were Savage, Smith, Puopolo and Shiels. The Hawks’ amazing kicking efficiency and the Bombers complete lack of pressure combined made this a one horse race. I found it particularly galling that by sitting in my high vantage point, I could see exactly where we were going wrong. Where was the passion? Where was the intensity?


We chatted through the whole second half, wished each other well and headed home.


Roll on the next day, and it’s 3 quarter time at The Uni. Playing the previously undefeated Caulfield, The Blacks have given up a 4 goal half time lead to be 2 goals down. On top of this, yours truly is two kicks away from being statless. It’s fair to say that footy doesn’t seem as easy as it was from the top deck of the Ponsford the night before. A friend of mine who came to watch the game later said that I was ‘spectating’, ‘floating’ and ‘looking like I wasn’t interested’. Whatever it was, I felt I was on the outside of the game and having no impact. On a positive note, I proved to be a good football judge as my coach agreed wholeheartedly…and he told me so.


Fortunately, the traditional ‘bake’ is not necessarily a pre-cursor to a quarter on the bench these days. Starting on the ground, I was able to get myself in the game and I probably quadrupled my stats for the day (yes, off a fairly low base). More importantly, the side lifted overall and put the dire 3rd stanza behind us to record a 4 goal win. Not perfect, but very satisfying.


As I dragged my sore and sorry self to the milk bar the next morning, I realised how lucky I was to be able to atone. This atonement was not just for my own performance in the first 3 quarters on Saturday but for the one on Friday too. Obviously, the latter is not a personal atonement (that’s up to Hirdy to create), but it certainly made the weekend a sweet one. Imagine if I had to rely purely on the Dons? I shouldn’t say that though, about 6 weeks ago we were flying and nothing else seemed to matter.


Oh, and Spud’s team got rolled.



About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Leave a Comment