Geoff Sinclair’s “Home and Away Games”: Round 1

by Geoff Sinclair

I’m out of here.

I slide across the seat, side-step the kid asleep in the pusher and skip down the steps a split second before the doors jam me rigid.  I stand on the footpath and consider the situation.  I don’t know what piece of Melbourne I am standing in, but I’m glad to be off that bus.  I need a bit of time to get my bearings, then I might be able to make my decision.

I cop a blast of diesel fumes as the bus growls away.

Across the road are restaurants – a cutsey little French place with floral curtains, a noodle takeaway, and a pizza parlour.  Further down is a pub that won pub-of-the-year last century, a formal wear hire place with a couple of dinner suits in the window, and a kitchen appliance store which does cooking demonstrations, daily.  On my side there are mainly houses, little single-fronted joints not big enough to swing a cat.   Except the one I’m standing in front of, which is low-slung and red-brick-solid and looks as though it was somebody’s home years ago.  It is now a medical centre, because a sign planted across one window says so, giving the building a one-eyed look.

Two women are heading my way, their faces so shiny-black they gleam, the rest of them wrapped in brightly-coloured robes.  They push past me, go through the gate and up to the front door of the clinic.

I back off to the official bus shelter and plonk myself down on the metal grill that serves as a seat, next to another colourful woman, this one with a shiny pink face.  The rest of her colours are more familiar to me – red, white and blue.  Little bits of white hair curl from beneath a beanie, complete with a bobble on top.  Her tracksuit sags with the weight of rows of football badges, and the hand-knitted scarf that coils across her shoulders and hangs down to her waist, looks like a dead python.  She is a genuine, ridgy-didge Western Bulldogs supporter.  I reckon she was born around the time her team won their first and only premiership.

She smiles at me, more gum than teeth.  I turn my attention to the intersection: some cars stop, others go straight on, some turn corners.  It’s a great way to kill time, staring at an intersection.  I can recommend it.  It helps my mind float back to Tommy Hubble’s phone call, four-and-a-bit days ago, and the reason I’m here.

It’s only the second phone call I’ve had with Tommy in twenty years.  (The other was when his missus died, nineteen years ago.)  He told me he’d decided to get some of the old Beaumont team together, the team that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the 1990 grand final.  He said his plan was to have a chat over a few beers at his place, then everyone would walk to the “G” to watch the first game of the new season, the Bombers against last season’s premiers, the Geelong Cats.  Get here on time, he said.  Wear the colours.  Fly the flag.

“I take it you still follow the Bombers, Peter.”

“No way.  I swapped to Carlton after the 1999 preliminary final.”

He laughed, and I remember the way he gives a little twist of his head when he is amused.  “No seriously, I’m organizing a reunion, getting the mob together.”

The mob.  I found that interesting, because if there was ever a mob, it had passed me by.

“What mob would that be coach?” I asked.

“You don’t know?”

“Nothing comes to mind.  I’ve rounded up a few mobs in my time, but I don’t ever remember being part of one.”

“No?  Can’t guess.”

“Spill the beans, Tommy.”

He paused.  “You, me, Bulldog and Jonesy.”

“Je-sus,” I said, completely taken aback.  “Not a very big mob as mobs go.  Where’s the rest?”

“Us four seem the only ones available from the 1990 team.  Doesn’t matter, it’s a start.”


So, that was four-and-a-half days ago, and here I am, snorting carbon monoxide in a bus shelter not knowing exactly where I am or whether I should join the rest of the mini-mob.  My companion on the torture seat, the Bulldog supporter, is looking so pleased with herself she’s fit to burst.  I have to say something.  It’s the only decent thing.

I smile at her.  “Go Doggies.”


“You won the pre-season trophy.  Well done.”

She nods, deeply, causing her whole frame to rock.  “We did.  We’re looking okay.  Barry Hall was terrific.”

“Yep.  Just what you needed, a tall forward.”

Another bus pulls up.  A few people get off, but the Bulldog lady isn’t moving.  Maybe she lives here.  She squints at my jacket.  “You’re an Essendon supporter,” she says, in a tone that suggests I should be more mature at my age.  But at least she’s changed the subject.


“Who’ve youse got?”

“Geelong at the G.  Tonight.”

“You goin’?”

“Dunno.  Yeah, probably.”

“Be tough for youse, playin’ last year’s premiers.”  I notice that when she stops talking, her mouth keeps moving, as though only her larynx disengages.  It’s quite interesting.

“You’ve got a good side, and I like your coach.  Your blokes move the ball really well.”

She looks pleased with my opinion, and it causes her to get more rocking going.  Her mouth works hard too.  But I reckon I’ve been generous enough – there’s got to be a limit to how much an opposition supporter can say.  So I drag my photocopied page of the street directory out of my pocket, and start to examine it.

“Where do you want to go, luv?” she asks, voice box in gear again.

“Huntleigh Mews.  It’s a block of flats near . . . ”

“Yeah I know it.  Up the hill, it’s opposite the park.  You going to live there?”

“No, my mate is the caretaker there.”

“Oh, nice,” and then she adds, “You got off the bus too soon.”

I shrug, feeling a fool.  “No big deal.  I like walking,” and with that I get up off the seat and pat my backside.  “Thanks for the directions.”

“Pleasure luv.  Go the Doggies, eh.”

“Go Bombers.”

“We don’t play youse till later in the year.”

“That’s right.  We’ll be ready for you.”

“We’ll kill youse.”

“Doubt it.”

I set off at a brisk pace.  After weeks of warm, summery days, Melbourne has at last laid out a taste of football weather.  The sky is half blue and half broken bits of grey clouds, but there’s no rain in them.  I push into a stiff breeze that has a sharp edge to it.  I reckon I’ve got about five hundred metres in which to make my decision.

I pass more little brick houses, cottages really, pressed side by side, an estate agent’s offices, a carburetor repair place that is moving after 32 years, a car wash, more cottages and a servo.  It takes me no time to reach the crest of the long, low hill, and as soon as I make it across another minor intersection – Grafton Street according to both my photocopy and the sign on the lamp post – I’m walking beside parkland.  The apartment block on the other side of the street stands out like a dog’s balls, and I can already see the sign in gold lettering on the front fence.

Huntleigh Mews.

I sit opposite, on the bluestone curbing surrounding the park.  Tommy led me to believe that he worked in a smart, up-market apartment block, but what I am looking at is a street-stained low-rise, with rows of mouse-hole windows and little squares of garden along the front.  It has a couple of fake pillars and two sets of pencil pines at the entrance to give it a bit of class, but the general impression I get is of a bloody great sandcastle.

There’s black stains running down from the top ridge, like mascara.

I wish I hadn’t given up smoking, and look around for a shop.  Nothing doing.  I find a piece of chewing gum in my pocket.

The problem I have with this idea of Tommy’s is not that we lost the 1990 final, and not that I made a very bad move in the last few seconds that cost us the game.  No, I’m over that.  After all, it’s only a game.  It’s not as though I’ve made a mistake that’s caused loss of life, or terrible injury.  I just blew the chance of winning Beaumont’s first flag for 42 years, causing lifelong pain and misery to hundreds, maybe thousands of people.  But as I said, I’m over it.  Hell, I could walk proudly down the main street of Beaumont today if I chose, with my head held high and a clear conscience.  (I just choose not to.)

No, the problem is . . . well, I’m not entirely sure what the problem is.  I do know that Linda dying has something to do with it.  Like, it’s only last year, almost to the day, and while I’m well and truly over the football thing, Linda is another matter.  I’m not over losing her by a long shot.  They’ll want to talk about her, for sure, and I’m still worried I may not be able to cope.

If there were more people going to turn up to this reunion, that would be better.  I could put in an appearance and get lost in the crowd.  And make a quick getaway.  But Tommy obviously hasn’t been able to contact the others.  (Maybe he hasn’t tried very hard.  For all I know, he might be a sad, pathetic little bloke who smells, and this is his way of collecting a few friends.  After all, I haven’t seen him for nearly twenty years.)

Bugger me, out of all the people he could have picked, he would have to dig up Bulldog Nankervis and bloody Geoffrey Jones, the only two blokes I have issues with.

I feel a stab of annoyance at Tommy for that.  Also, what’s with this “mob” business?  He really has no idea.  He’s still a city bloke who lived in the bush for a few years.  If being part of a mob is supposed to make you feel more secure than you were before you were told you were part of a mob, well, it’s not working.  There’s no quickening of the pulse, no rush of excitement, no tingling of anticipation for this boy.

My chewing gum is stale already, and I flick it out onto the street.

I stand up and pat some life into my backside again.  (It’s taking a belting.)  Bugger it, I’ll go home.  I’ll go back to my sister-in-law’s at Bundoora.  I’ll be able to watch the game on television because the girls will be out.  Tomorrow, I’ll pack the ute and head back to the bush.

I reckon it’s time.

The decision made, I wait for a break in the traffic, and hurry across to the gate of Huntleigh Mews and press the Number 12 buzzer.  That’s me.  Once I make a decision, I ignore it.

There is a clunk and a scratching from somewhere in the wall, followed by a metallic voice.  “Ye – es.”

“Hi.  Peter Schofield here . . . ”

“Get your arse in here, Rabbit my boy.  Straight on, turn left at the fountain.”

That’s Jonesy, I recognize the smooth voice.  He’s put himself in charge of answering the door, and he’s into nicknames already.

The buildings are more impressive from the inside.  They are concrete, freshly painted by the look of it, and three and four storeys high.  There are heaps of garden, which surprises me.  Just inside the gate are two gleditzia trees under which drifts of tiny golden leaves spread across the courtyard, the thin, sharp limbs of the trees becoming exposed by autumn.  Further in I discover the fountain dribbling water into a pond where, according to instructions, I take a left turn.  Around the next corner, there at the foot of the stairs, one hand resting on the banister, is Tommy Hubble.

“Peter,” he says, beaming, and resting a palm on top of our handshake.  His ruddy face flushes deeper, his cheekbones stand out like two blood-plums, and his broad forehead creases as neatly as furrow lines on a paddock.  He had filled out – he looks like the new Michelin man.

As I look at him, another thought flashes into my mind – maybe he’s got a mob together because he’s heard I’ve been struggling a bit.  He’s still being my coach – my life-coach.  But I don’t have time to spend on this idea because he’s gripping my hand like a vice.  He looks really hard into my face and says, “Are you okay mate?  You look a bit bewildered.”

“I’m okay.  Sorry I’m late.  The others here?”

“Been here for ages.  We’d given up on you.”

Tommy leads me up a flight of open stairs onto a glassed-in landing.  I hang back, nerve ends going berserk in my belly.  We enter his apartment down a short, narrow hallway, hemmed by a floor-to-ceiling bookcase on one side and a photo gallery on the other.  Ahead of me I confront a surprisingly spacious living area; behind me is a tiny kitchen.  I peer into the deep room full of over-sized furniture – the same as was in his place in Beaumont, I’m certain – and see two figures emerge.  Their shape is imprinted on my brain from twenty years ago – the one stocky, hitching his trousers as he struts forward, the other seriously tall and loose-limbed.

The strutter gives me a hearty handshake.  “You remember our full-forward, Geoffrey Jones,” announces Tommy.

“Of course I do.  G’day Jonesy.”

“Peter Rabbit.  How are you mate?”

“And Barry Nankervis,” continues Tommy, lacing his fingers in the excitement of the moment.

“G’day, Barry.”

“Peter.  What a pleasure, after all these years.”

“Sure is.”

Tommy shepherds us deeper into the room, still doing hand movements.  “Then there were four,” he says, like he’d rehearsed it.

“What we lack in quantity we fail to make up in quality,” intones Nankervis.

We stand around in awkward silence.  I feel their eyes on me as though I am some piece of sculpture they’ve just whipped the sheet off.  Fair enough – when they last saw me I was a kid, still at school.  Now I’m thirty seven, so I suppose I’ve changed.

Jonesy gets us started.  “Your hair’s still a mess, Rabbit,” he says, and rubbing his own sparse crop adds, “but at least you’ve still got yours.”  Our talk is rushed and bounces around like a pinball from one half-finished subject to another.  Tommy still does his stuff with his hands, rubbing, patting, twisting and knitting the fingers – he’s always had a wide repertoire.  At one point, Jonesy crouches in a boxer’s stance, straining the seams of his smart leather jacket, but still looking light on his feet, and throws a combination of mock punches at me.

The bastard.  He’s reminding me that I had a short fuse.

Nankervis’ brown face stays creased in a smile.  It still looks as though it’s been carved out of soft rock.  His hair is greyer, dry-looking, but still thick, and he still moves slowly, economically, just as he did when he played football.  He’s excited by the occasion, I can tell, because be gabbles a bit and bounces around on his toes.

Jonesy, of course, oozes confidence, as if there were only a couple of life’s minor questions he has yet to find answers to.  His belly has expanded, which is not surprising seeing he owns a string of booze shops, but his features haven’t altered – smooth skin, dark, beady eyes set well back and an expanse of shiny forehead.

I’m glad I decided to come.

Everyone calms down from the initial rush, and we settle into the leather suite.  Tommy is like a fart in a bottle, passing around his trays of neatly-arranged finger-food and, while he is refilling glasses or handing out stubbies, he keeps warning us not to get too comfortable because we have a game to get to.

No-one has any great enthusiasm for talking about the last twenty years, but it wouldn’t be a reunion if we didn’t take a turn.  Tommy jokes that at one point he had been thinking of setting up a consultancy in how to cope with being made redundant, because he’d been pushed out of that many jobs since returning to the city.  He has been at Huntleigh Mews for five years, and loves it.  Bulldog Nankervis is now vice-principal at Taverner Secondary College, out in the north, and he’s been at the school that long his name appears on the furniture inventory.  As for Jonesy, well we all know about him.  He sells grog through a chain of shops called Drop o’ the Doings and is a millionaire several times over.  Yes, we all know that because he advertises on the television and in the papers.

“What about you, Rabbit?”

“Me.  I moved from Beaumont years ago, after Dad died and we sold the farm.  I did contract harvesting up and down the country.  Then me and Linda, we bought two hundred hectares up near Euroa.  Mainly rocks and trees.  Called Tallerack.”


“Linda died last year.  You know that?”

There’s a murmur of affirmation, and Tommy takes advantage of the silence that follows.  He puts a plate of sausage rolls down and props himself against the blackwood table.  “I told Barry and Geoffrey about your wife, Peter.  I hope that’s okay.”

“Of course.  Thanks,” I say.

“That makes you and me.  Bachelors.”

That doesn’t go over too well with me.  His good humour is a bit forced, but I let it slide.

“Anyway,” Tommy goes on, “it’s good to have you here.  I know four’s not a huge number.  I tried to track down others in the 1990 team, but they’ve drifted away, or the time didn’t suit them.  Maybe we’ll see something of them throughout the year, because I told those I spoke to we’d be going to all the games.  You blokes were all down in the Big Smoke, so . . . here we are.  It’s a start.”

“Good idea, Tommy,” Jonesy mutters, and Bulldog and I nod.

“Jonesy’s organized tickets for us, and we’ll start tonight at the “G”.  A toast.”

So we drink a toast to each other, to the late lamented Beaumont Football club, and to the Bombers.

“Right.  Let’s get moving.”

“I need a leak,” says Nankervis.

“Upstairs, Bulldog.  Mind your head.”

“You’re not serious about walking to the ground, are you?” asks Jonesy.

“Take us half an hour, tops.”

“It could kill me.”

“I’ll meet you guys downstairs,” I say.  “I want a quick look at the garden.”

“I’ve got a scarf for everyone,” I hear Tommy call out, as I head down the stairs.

I leave the rest of the mob to get themselves organised for the football, and I trip down the stairs of Tommy’s flat, quite light-hearted now.  The Bombers might be playing last season’s premiers, but the way I’m feeling, we’re going to give the Cats a run for their money.  But I’ve only just hit the path when I’m nearly bowled over by a young woman in a pair of silk pyjamas.  She’s in a highly agitated state, I can tell.

“Is Mr Tommy at home?” she pants, placing a hand on her heaving chest.

“Yes, he’s . . . ”

“There’s a man just climb in the window under my flat.  I hear a big noise and I look out and see him, and his bottom bit going inside.  I know the flat is no-one living there because they are my friends, and they have gone back to Singapore to see their family . . . ”

“Okay.  Okay.  Show me.”  I wave a hand towards Tommy’s flat.  “He’s busy.  I’m his friend.”

She turns and runs, her lithe body skipping urgently ahead of me.  We reach my faithful landmark, the fountain, turn down a path and pass one stairwell entrance, then another, through a garden thick with towering tree ferns.  (It’s a jungle in here.)  Suddenly the girl stops, and points to a ground-floor window, wide open, with its wire screen lying on the ground.

“This it?” I ask.

The woman nods, backing away.

“You go back and tell Tommy, while I have a look inside.”

“Be careful, mister,” she says, and hurries away.

It takes me about two seconds to climb in the window and discover the flat is deserted.  I’m not at all unhappy about that.  After all, I’m at a reunion, and I’m going to the footy with my mates.  Good, it’s over.  Whoever was in the flat is long gone.

As I head back to my old friend the fountain, a skinny bloke in a bright orange T-shirt appears from out of a clump of ferns.  He looks like a pixie.  As soon as he sees me, he bolts.

I instantly recognize a man with a guilty conscience, so I’m after him.

He has a stiff-legged kind of run, as though his knees are not very flexible, but he’s quick enough.  I yell at him to stop, but by now we are into the main courtyard and running across the carpet of gleditzia leaves towards the Brunswick-green security gates, complete with spikes along the top.

He’s cornered.  “Take it easy,” I tell him, slowing to a walk.  I feel good  – mind you, we only ran about thirty metres.

I’m trying to work out what I’ll do with him, when a most unexpected thing happens.  The bloke, who’s still got momentum, hurls himself onto the gate and starts to shimmy over.  I can’t believe what I’m seeing, because the gates are heavy-gauge fine mesh without any decent hand-holds.  He would have made it over easily except I jump up and grab one of his sneakers.

It’s instinct.  I just do it, without thinking.

There is a stalemate: he clings to the top of the gate, while I cling to his ankle, which is jerking around like I’ve got a good-sized European carp on my line.  I’m not too worried, because it is only a matter of time before he runs out of energy, and he’ll come down to earth.  His hands must be hurting like buggery.  Then I’ll still have the problem: what will I do with him?

Then another totally unexpected event occurs.  A sneaker – the other one, not the one I am hanging on to – strikes me a very nasty blow on the bridge of my nose.  A very nasty blow indeed.

“Fuck you mate!” I mutter, as my snoz explodes in pain and the force of the kick sends me over backwards, jarring my buttocks as I hit the deck.

Now I am well and truly roused.  It had been a bit of a game up to this point.  (I probably would have let him go.)  I haul myself into a kneeling position and, blinking furiously to clear my eyes, look up.  As I do, a huge orange meteorite lands directly on top of me.

The impact knocks the wind out of me.  It sends me several degrees further towards stir crazy.  I lever the bloke’s squirming weight off my back and he falls with a satisfying-sounding thump on the Huntleigh Mews asphalt.  I grab the shirt and its skinny contents, and slam him hard against the gate.  He weighs nothing.

There is the double sound of the gate going twang! and the body going ooofff!

I do it again.  Twang! goes the gate.  Ooofff! goes the shirt.

Twang! Ooofff!

“How many times are you going to do that?”

I hear a voice from above, a voice that doesn’t seem to care whether it gets an answer to its question.  But I do stop, and glance up at a pale face surrounded by mousey-coloured lank hair.

“What’s it to you?” I mutter.

“Nothing.  Belt him again for all I care.”

“I intend to.”

Actually, I don’t intend to.  The brief conversation with this person has given me enough time to put the cork back in the angry bottle.  Besides, the orange shirt isn’t looking in real good shape by now.  His eyes have a farway, filmy appearance, and there’s a trickle of dribble coming from his mouth.  Also, I am aware that the cavalry has arrived, led by Tommy and Jonesy.  Bulldog Nankervis and the pyjama girl bring up the rear.  They all look worried.

“You caught him Peter.  Well done.  I’ll call the police,” Tommy rattles off.

He is dialing, one eye on his mobile phone, the other watching me as I haul the unhealthy-looking bloke to his spindly legs.  “You haven’t damaged him have you?  He looks pretty ordinary,” says Jonesy.

“He was trying to shimmy over the gates.  Thinks he’s a monkey, and kicked me on the nose.”

“Is this the bloke, love?” asks Nankervis.

The girl nods.

We wait until Tommy completes his call.  “Okay,” he announces, “the police can’t guarantee they’ll be here in less than an hour.  There’s been an accident and they’re stretched.  So, let’s bring this gentleman over to the gazebo.”

Jonesy glances at his watch.  “Might I remind you gentlemen that if we don’t leave soon, we’re going to miss the first bounce.  Why don’t Bulldog and I drive over to the ground in my car, and leave the formalities here to the resident manager and his vigilante.”

“Did you set this up Tommy?” says Nankervis, with his wry grin.  “If this is pre-game entertainment, it’s excellent.”

At this point our captive grunts something that I don’t understand.  It sounds like a cat getting rid of a fur-ball.

“Oh dear,” says Nankervis, looking grave.  “Did he talk like that before you caught him, Rabbit?”

“Dunno.  We didn’t talk.”

“You’ve given him brain damage, Peter Rabbit,” grins Jonesy.  “You’ve turned him into a vegetable.”

“Piss off, Jonesy,” I say.  I’m feeling like shit.  It’s not polite, not good for a reunion, but I’ve always had trouble with Geoffrey Jones.

Tommy leads the burglar towards the gazebo and issues instructions.  “Jonesy, you and Bulldog go to the game.  Peter and I will wait here for the police and we’ll join you when we can.”

Jonesy of course has to have the last word.  He peers closely at the captive’s face.  “Bad choice for a home invasion pal.  You don’t mess with our Peter Rabbit.”

The police don’t come, and don’t come.  Tommy and me drag the heavy, slatted garden benches across both ends of the lower terrace gazebo so that, together with aspidistra and camellia bushes, we have a kind of remand centre.  It seems a rather pointless exercise to me, because this bloke is going nowhere.  He sits shivering and hugging himself, occasionally giving me the stare and then I hear him muttering “Go Cats.”

That’s it for me.  I convince Tommy that I’ve decided not to go to the footy because I just couldn’t face the other two after this, plus I’m thinking Geelong will flog us now.  Tommy tells me the other two will be very disappointed if we don’t show, but I couldn’t care less.  Tommy lends me his miniature radio to listen to the game on the way home, and as I leave Orange Shirt calls out “Go Cats” at me.

“Shut up, idiot,” is all I can think of, and I’m out the gate.

I am across the park and in Brunswick Street in a few minutes.  Darkness is not far away, encouraged by an overcast sky.  It is warm, and there’s light rain, just enough to encourage the asphalt to let out its pungent breath.  I wander passed cafes and bars, threading my way through the end-of-week crowds, none of whom could care less that I’ve cracked the shits.

By the time I cross the traffic monster called Princes Street, I have plugged myself into the radio.  I am onto the mean streets of Fitzroy by the time the commentary team finish their pre-match rap, the footy crowd’s roar squeezes through the tiny speakers, the siren blares and they’re into it.

It sounds like a cracker game.  Carl Hooker is dominating our backline, Mr Gadget, Dustin Fletcher – please never retire, Fletch, never – is there as always and our tackling is fantastic.  So’s theirs, as you’d expect.  I mean they are the reigning champions.  Cameron Ling is tagging Jobe Watson, which is going to make life difficult for the new captain, but there he goes, our boy’s kicked a goal.  Beauty!  Brynes replies for the Cats, then hits the post – oh, what a pity – and then misses.  Ben Howlett is getting touches in his first game.  I don’t hear a lot of Gary Ablett, which is a worry.  (He might be saving himself.)  We both get another goal and when the first quarter is over, I’ve already reached the old Fitzroy Football Ground.

Well, I’d say we’ve improved from last season.  It’s not going to be a slaughter.  The blokes on Tommy’s cute little radio tend to agree with me.  The Bombers are taking it right up to the Pussy Cats.

What am I doing here, pacing along like a wind-up toy, nearly pissing myself with excitement, when I could be doing much the same in a comfortable seat at the “G”, sipping on a cold beer?  (I’ll bet Jonesy would insist on buying.)  I nod at a bloke and his girlfriend walking by just to keep in touch with the locals.  They don’t answer, just look back at me over their shoulders.

I wonder if Tommy is at the ground yet.  Possibly not.  He may have taken the Orangeman up to his flat and put him to bed.  (Tommy was once a christian – I wonder if he still is.)

I am actually on the same thoroughfare, but it has turned into St. George’s Road.  I’m sweating like a piglet.  Here we go, the second quarter.  G. Ablett has come alive and kicks a goal.  Damn it – but well done, Gary.  (I’m being fair here.)  Now the Bombers kick one – Watson, yes, yes, yes.  I’m at Piedmonte’s Supermarket (We Serve to Serve Again) and Kyle Reimers, he of the yellow boots, marks and steady son, kick through it . . . kick it . . . kick it baby . . . yes!  Going well.  Go Bombers!  Alwyn Davey kicks one . . . here comes a pub with Parma and Pot for $10 and I’m tempted but holy shit, Davey has a goal, I’ve forgotten I’m hungry and I’m at the Merri Creek bridge.  Already.  I’m nearly home.  I stand for a few moments while the ball swings from one end of the ground to the other, the commentators reach fever pitch and a couple of litter eddies swirl in the black water and  . . . oh my giddy aunt . . . Davey – was it Davey? – has another and we’re 17 points up.  A miracle is in sight.

Phew.  I’ve arrived in the City of Darebin, according to a sign, but hey, what’s happening?  I’ve entered a new municipality and it’s sounding as though the momentum has swung back to Geelong’s.  I need a leak.  I’m now in front of Northcote High School, but I’m sure their toilets are locked.  I duck back to the Merri Creek public toilet block, do a lap of the building before I find an opening.  I nearly drop Tommy’s gadget into the urinal, so I take the earplugs out while I do my business.

God, it’s spooky in here.

Outside, I wire myself for sound again, and Selwood has just goaled for Geelong.  They’ve been others while I was indisposed because it’s half-time and we’re only four points up.  Oh dear.  I pocket the radio.  I can’t listen to the half-time chatter.

Beaconsfield Parade, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the old tram depot at Miller Street, and Sam’s Motors (RWC and mechanical repairs) come and go during the break.

I guess Jonesy and Bulldog will be crying their eyes out because I’m not with them.  Maybe they’ve left the ground, gone home to hide their disappointment.

The third quarter begins when I’m opposite the offices of the Muslim World League in Plenty Road, after I’ve negotiated a bit of Bell Street, passing Red Rooster and the Sacred Heart School.  We start this quarter like the last, with a burst of goals.  Four, in fact.  But I’m deeply worried, because I reckon Geelong will keep coming back at us.  They’re that good, that unless we get a ridiculous number of goals ahead, they’ll catch up.  But when Jay Neagle gets the pill twenty metres in front of goal, I suffer a spasm of excitement, which completely destroys my pessimism.  This goal and we’re . . . 24 points plus another 6 . . . equals we’re 30 points up.  That, as they’re saying on the radio, is unassailable.

What!!  Neagle has played on and a bloke called Harry Taylor tackles him.  Thirty thousand Geelong supporters scream Ball!, the umpire agrees, and in one second flat the pill is down the other end of the ground for a goal.

Neagle is hurt.  Faaarrrrrrkkkkk!!!!!!!!

I’m flattened, too.  I look for a distraction.  I check the variety of businesses I’m passing: migration agents, four-wheeled drive accessories, shoe repairs, bridal and formal wear – it’s three-quarter time, by the way, Geelong has the momentum and we’re only 6 points up – surveyors and planners and goodness me, just look, a denture clinic.  Here comes an antique shop which is “closed for rinnovazion”.  (That must be the old-fashioned spelling.)

The last quarter begins, and the Plenty Road landscape has turned featureless and familiar.  Geelong kick a goal.  Safeway, Target and Liquorland appear on my right.  (They kick another.)  I’m at the Reservoir and District Secondary College, and my shirt is sweat-plastered to my back.  The school looks eerie, the security lights picking out rows of windows.  (Another goal to the Cats.)  The sign says I’m four kilometres from Bundoora.  (Another goal –  that’s four without a reply.)  I’ve got a long hill in front of me, and I’m now tired and thirsty and disappointed.  (Their fifth goal for the quarter, then straight away their sixth.)  The commentators’ voices have turned to resignation.  By the time I reach the fish-and-chip shop a few streets from sister-in-law Kylie’s, they kick their seventh.  As I order the Wing Ding and Chips pack – it includes a can of Pepsi – plus four mussels in batter, they kick their eighth.

While I wait for my order, Zaharakis kicks one for the Bombers, followed by another to Gus Monfries.  The siren goes, and we lose by 5 goals.

I sit on a bench outside the shop.  A stream of cars swish by, loading the night air with their fumes.  I chew on a wing ding, and stare at the gates of the Preston District Cemetery across the road.  A breeze whips grit into my eyes, and as I try to wipe it out with a greasy finger, I feel the pain in my nose.

I feel a long way from anywhere, from my mates and from Linda.

Especially Linda.


  1. Peter Schumacher says

    I enjoyed reading this piece.

    Can’t say that I particularly like reunions either as I haven’t really succeeded in life as I might have wished. Never had a reunion spiced up with capturing a home invader. And I haven’t had the heart ache of a recent bereavement of one dear and close. As a Lions supporter try to get used to the fact that they will never again repeat their glory years, well not at least in the foreseeable future.

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