AFL Footy Darwin style: unhyped, uncomplicated, and unlikely to push the crocs off the front page

Visiting Darwin is like returning to 1985.

This view isn’t shaped by the locals’ preference for iced coffees over flat whites; nor their steaks served with a thick ridge of fat; nor the lack of pretentious fashion chosen by those having a beer in Mitchell St on any given night.

It was because of the lack of scrutiny and analysis of every facet of every AFL game.

As a country kid in the 80s, I would watch the Cats on Southern Cross TV or listen to them on our local ABC radio station. There was no guarantee you’d get more than updates on the radio, particularly as the Cats did little of note for most of the 80s.

Highlights on the evening news could not be guaranteed either. I was left speechless with adolescent rage when the result of a rare Geelong victory (yes, over the Tigers) was not matched with vision.

“No cameras there on the day,” my older brother explained. It’s hard to imagine now.

Waking on a Monday morning in time to pluck the Herald from the front lawn before dad grabbed it first was crucial to get the lay of the land from the weekend’s games.

You didn’t need Champion Data rankings to assess who was the best player in each game – you just looked at who had the most possessions (unless Dunstall kicked 10).

It was important to do your own analysis as it was all you had. The paper would give you a game report and some ripping photos you could cut out and blu-tak to your wall but if you wanted analysis ad nauseum, well, you were on your own.

Want to know how the game was won? Well, Platten had 35 touches for the Hawks, Bradley had 40 for the Blues and Lockett kicked 9. It’s there in black and white.

Darwin gave me an unexpected and thoroughly welcome reminder of this.

Losing myself in the 32 degree heat and lack of structure a holiday provides, I clicked on the TV on my first Saturday in Darwin to see live games on both channels 10 and 7. I don’t know how they did it, or whether anyone at AFL House knows, but it’s a better deal than you get in Melbourne.

I hadn’t caught the results of the Pies-Saints game the night before as previews and reviews of the week’s AFL games aren’t high priority in the NT News.

The Pies-Saints game and previews of the remaining matches didn’t make the first three pages of the sports section. They were reserved for yarns on the NT Thunder playing for the minor premiership on the same night one of their charges was lining up for his 50th match.

(Players behaving badly also have no chance of knocking off the Killer Croc yarns from the front page.)

Not wanting to buck the trend and make too much of an effort in Darwin, I chose to forgo the NT News, avoid the 24-hour news cycle on the internet, refrain from accessing Melbourne radio through my iPhone and refused to watch any talking heads on TV giving expert opinion.

I simply flicked on the TV the following Saturday afternoon and watched two teams cross the white line and have a crack.

And it was brilliant.


About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety

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