Finals Week 1 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: Dog Day Evening

Deep into the last quarter on Saturday night Luke Beveridge calls out,

“Composure. Composure. My sanity for some composure!”

He scratches his head and does his best James Dean.

Bontempelli has just missed another shot at goal from 30 metres out. He plays football like the half-brother of Dyson Heppell and Scott Pendlebury; all are blessed with the ability to make time and space move to their rhythms. Mohammed Ali may have floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, but Bontempelli runs like a ghost and kicks like a mule. His effortless torps regularly cover 50 metres of airspace without causing a zephyr of disturbance in the atmosphere. And yet these wayward shots at goal are a glimpse into his soul; the tentative toe pokes of a young man who can’t quite believe. The confidence receptors are not quite matured in the collective brain of the young Bulldogs brigade, despite the best efforts of the ageless Bob Murphy whose poise is like a beacon to his adolescent brothers in arms.

But the Dogs persist. In fact they do more than persist, they attack. Relentlessly. Swarms of them gallop up the ground in formation before unleashing a runner to penetrate the forward 50 and attack the goals. I’m reminded of David Campese’s greatest moments, dancing up the wing for the Wallabies. No one is the designated target; all are expected to go when the time is theirs. This is balletic and majestic football; almost reckless in its boldness yet incisive in its execution.

I find myself blurting out spontaneous and involuntary yelps of exultation that could reasonably be described as sporting climaxes. It’s exhilarating to watch. Speed, daring, skill, and scoring. The way football should be played. Nothing is quite so sweet, though the aged Port I’m sipping on isn’t bad either.

The Crows are bewildered but courageous. I can’t recall a team being so comprehensively plundered as they were in the third quarter, and yet prevail. It was like watching a cow in a fly swarm; they twitched and flicked and recoiled and somehow remained sane. The old guard was magnificent. Thompson and Sloane were swatting the Bulldog flies, whilst Dangerfield was lurking like the great Dave Sands, summing up an opponent with his lethal left hand cocked. He landed a few quality blows in the last quarter.

Then there is Eddie Betts. What a marvel. He’s kicked more goals in 2015 than Carlton. Eddie could find open space in a crowded lift. Try as they might the Doggie defenders just couldn’t keep goal side of him. Tagging him is like trying to grasp a wet leaf in a swimming pool. I think Eddie may have discovered the secret to teleportation. There he is on the wing, no that’s him at centre half forward, now he’s darting around the goal square. Are there two Eddie Betts? Perhaps Eddie is actually the mythical Keyser Söze. I’d love to watch him work a crowded room.

The Crows only know one way to stay in the game: counterattack. Dirk Diggler at full forward can run like few full forwards can. And kick. Two of his shots at goal sail over the umpire’s head on their way to covering 65 plus metres of territory. Incredible. Lose the moustache Tex!

The game is in the balance. The Dogs are barking. They’re playing skittish, unpredictable football which is impossible to manage. They’ve lost the lead, after being 9 points in front early in the last quarter, and their reaction is to turn manic. Its danger time for the Crows. Tex receives a pass on the wing after deftly nudging an opponent under the ball. He sets sail for home, bounding down the flank. Adelaide forwards and Doggie defenders run into space. Where’s Eddie? But Tex’s response is counter intuitive. Rather than focusing on the goals and looking for options in the square, his eyes glance inward. There is Charlie Cameron scampering out of the centre, some 45 metres away from Tex and his pursuer. If his kick hits Cameron they win. If it misses, the Dogs may well score on the rebound. Here is the game, here is the season, presented on a platter. The safe option, the expected course of action, or the coach killer? What does Tex do? Of course he casually pulls his kick across his body and lands an impossibly difficult pass on Cameron’s chest, 30 metres out from goal, straight in front. Audacious football from a precocious talent. And dare I say it, Premiership football. Game over.

Someone had to lose. The end was always going to be a celebration of football at its best and sport at its cruellest. I’m bemused that a game with such adventure and verve and alacrity is played on the same weekend as Ross Lyon and his crew of dowdy cohorts smothered the Sydney Swans in a dreary slugfest. Remarkably both games were played under the same rules.

 

 

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About Damian O'Donnell

OK - which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Get meaning from catching a beautiful curling wave. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought 'The Sopranos' was the best TV show ever made - by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne's suburbs.

Comments

  1. Once again a superb performance by Australia’s answer to Red Smith. Dips this was perhaps the greatest non-Grand Final game I have ever watched. Neither side took a backward step through the whole game, let alone a backward kick.
    Football and sportsmanship at its best and even better for your writings – congratulations.

  2. Brilliant piece Dips

  3. Neil Anderson says:

    While I could only write about wallowing in defeat after the match you took us onto the ground to see how the match looked through the players’ eyes and compared their performances to other sport’s stars.
    Not sure whether Tex would like being called Dirk Diggler. I think the moustache gives him that determined, don’t mess with me look and is more river-boat-gambler than porn-star.
    Tex is so relaxed he must have a really low pulse-rate and yet he can still turn on such a dynamic performance on the field.

  4. Ben Footner says:

    Loving the ‘neutral’ accounts of this game! Nice work Dips. Again, that match winning play by Tex was incredible and will no doubt be replayed for years to come.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Fantastic Dips ypu captured the emotion perfectly and could not agree more re Freo v Sydney as you said this game was ad how footy should be played.Sunday was also a victory for attacking footy

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    Citrus,

    You were spotted on Ch7, Offsiders, ABC News etc etc.

    It gave me a hankering for 11 different herbs and spices!

    Dips,

    The bits I saw it was a rollicking affair from the 80’s.

    Well captured.

  7. Love it Dips.
    Outrageous creativity evidently begets outrageous creativity.

  8. Appreciate the comments.
    Citrus – it was a hell of a game, but the 2007 and 1994 Prelims are hard to topple.

  9. mickey randall says:

    Sparkling imagery Dips which does great service to a magnificent game. I especially like the “cow in a fly swarm” line.

    It reminded me of Rex Hunt calling a game years ago on channel 7 when Rocca was paddling the ball on the boundary and just couldn’t pick it up. Rex yelled, “Sav! He’s like a cow with a cup of tea!”

    Should be more cattle metaphors in commentary.

  10. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Great stuff Dips. Definitely footy at its finest. Tex was like Dirk Diggler on Viagra in the last quarter. When you gotta stand up…

  11. Eddie Betts & Tex Walker are to Football what Miles Davis & Art Blakey are to Jazz. And what Eric Blair & Hector Hugh Munro are to English Literature. You’re right Dips, it’ was Football as it should be played.

    A friend had some people over from the US and asked me if I could get some tix for the Tiger match. Their US friends had shouted them to the baseball when they were over there last and they wanted to return the favour with an introduction to Our Great Game. As it turned out we missed the boat and i suggested they go on Saturday night. I think they got the better deal. And they wouldn’t have been in the nose bleed seats.

  12. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    ‘Tis true. Swans v Freo was like inhaling all the time, gasping almost, especially without any allegiance I imagine. The night affair was like one long fine exhalation. Satisfaction. It’s a soul release watching that kind of free flowing, creative, forward looking footy. Perhaps us Swans should be helping Buddy to play with that kind of unpredictable freedom once again …
    Great piece Dips. You captured it to a T.

  13. Ben Footner says:

    ‘soul release’

    What a great way to describe it Mathilde.

  14. A joy to read Dips.

    Watched he final quarter with E. Regnans. Just loved how so many players had parts in the denouement.

    Funny how one catches the eye. Mine was Dale Morris who a various times in that last half hour was asked to play on Jenkins, Betts and Dangerfield. And did some brave and skilful things.

    Eye was also drawn to Marcus Picken.

    Talk about effort and skill from both teams.

  15. PJF

    Does this mean we’ve moved to calling CBU Colonel Citrus Bob Utber?

  16. Paul Spinks says:

    Spot on, Dips – not only played how it should be, but how it was not too long ago before possession footy etc. Shows what happens when both teams take the game on. Phil Walsh would be wearing a smile.

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