Gabba lights stay on for Lions mirth hour

By Geoff Woolcock

Hailed as the Lions favourite son’s coaching debut, up against the club for whom he’d already purchased guernseys for his kids before Lethal’s resignation saw him turn the removalist trucks around just before leaving for Perth. We were at the Gabbatoir for this blustery dusk opening siren primarily because my oldest son had come to be an Eagles supporter via his first virtual attendance at an AFL match, when the Judd-Cuz Eagles stormed home over a fading Carlton in early 2006, brought to life by some enthusiastic blogging at the time on AFL gameday live. The almost instant reward of a flag later that year no doubt vindicated his choice in the face of a miserable Demon loyalist clan going back several generations.

Along with his pal watching his first footy match in Brisbane, we took our chances with a tight car park on the boundary of the seemingly ever-expanding 2hrLions gameday zone and sauntered to the ground, immersed in chatter whether the floodlights would be turned off at the scheduled 8:30pm Earth Hour (only if Brisbane were behind was the sage conclusion). We took our seats in a prime upper tier centre-wing position courtesy of some generosity from a mate of a mate which not unexpectedly had us in deep Lion territory but the opening salvos only brought hushed grumbles from the faithful. Instead, we were subject to a loudmouth father-son combination, more anti-Lions than pro-Weagles, who nonetheless managed to bring some passion to what was fast becoming a passionless on-field effort from the hesitant hosts. Just when I was prepared to give them some credit in amongst their cursing and hollering following a reasonable Talking Footy on the couch-like explanation of the new rushed behind interpretation, the increasingly intoxicated offspring enquired of no-one in particular whether boom pick-up Bam-Bam Rich had been recruited off the Gold Coast beaches.

My footy snobbery triggered by the blithe ignorance of the great socialist leveler that is the draft, I turned instead to become absorbed in an entertaining contest coming to life on the back of the sublime giant Cox and the fearless Kerr, topped off by efficient pinch-hitting from Le Cras. Vossy strutted out at ¼ time surrounded by a phalanx of assistants and perhaps he was thrown by the absence of technological gadgetry that his tv commentary afforded him, but he spent that long rearranging positions on the whiteboard there was barely a moment to rouse his listless troops. Apparently that spray came later in the main break (is it only AFL where a spray is delivered? Never heard it used in the other codes, or cricket for that matter) but there were already signs that the Coasters would do well to keep their opposition as stifled as they had, esp when Cox & Kerr took spells out of the middle.

After the Auskickers swamped the arena, the clash resumed with the opportunistic Rhan Hooper, shorned and scorned, atoning for another nomadic summer with a trio of electric majors. Most of the golden touches were coming from the twinkle toes of one Travis Johnstone, as mellow as he’s ever looked at a season’s opening and all the more so for his lush Iron&Wine meets Bon Iver beard. Forever laid back to the point of bedridden, TJ or vacuum cleaner as we fondly dubbed him in his Dees heyday (2002, 2004) always had a silky touch on the dry autumn grounds and certainly appeared keen to put the soft tag that Lethal would imply (and once, famously, ex-ply) behind him, helped by the Westies refusal to give him a run-wither. By game’s end, he’d racked up 37 imperious possessions and who’s to say he’s not got another few BoGs to come. Maybe he has grown up after all but I couldn’t be moved by the raptures he was earning by those around us while the stark memory of seeing him first hand only in board shorts and bedraggled at SeaWorld a couple of years back on the 10th anniversary of his #1 draft pick (and the day Rudd became PM) loomed large. If he stays gliding on the outside, it doesn’t rain, and the ball-magnet Black and pinball Power can feed him to spear it on to Bradshaw and Brown’s sizeable chests, this could be the Year of the Vacuum.

As for the Weagles, the bottom out seems over. You can’t have such a hard-nosed mongrel like Worsfold at the helm and tolerate mediocrity. Clone Kerr & Cox and the Hawks-Cats stranglehold might be at risk. And they’ve got moolah, loads of it, even with the crash. Salary caps and drafts, yes of course, but the cash still counts a lot for maintaining hope. Just ask the Dees. Turn the lights out, the Lions won and all’s well in Vossy’s Vegas.

About Geoffrey Woolcock

Geoff Woolcock's parents were newcomers to Melbourne when the Dees won the flag in 64. Alas a curse was put on their offspring. When not defending tanking, Geoff ekes out a living at Griffith University.


  1. Nice story but you cannot be serious about the Eagles having bottomed out. I would say Melbourne’s stranglehold on the bottom is more threatened by the Eagles than Cats Hawthorn, (and I dont know why you left the Dogs out) lock on the top.

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