Killing the Mockingbird: Recollections of the 1997 Bulldogs and Crows Preliminary Final

 

Saturday, 20th September 1997. Half-time in the preliminary final. The Crows are getting paddled by seven goals.

I take a nap.

*

A soap opera fledgling, Greg Fleet swiftly enraged the nation. His Ramsey Street character had dispatched Daphne, like a Cairns cane toad, by expertly running her over with his car.

Later, he was strolling along a Melbourne street when a Truth headline screamed, NEIGHBOURS STAR TELLS: ‘MY HEROIN ORDEAL.’ Shocked at his public shaming, Fleety’s initial thought was, Oh my God! I can’t believe it. I was on Neighbours.

TOURIST DIES OF THIRST is a memorable newspaper poster too. It’s on the yellowing wall of Adelaide’s Exeter Hotel. I smile every time.

It’s an ageless boozer. Resistant to infantile trends, (Irish pub folks?) it’s a rollicking temple for cups and conversation. There’s nothing to distract your entourage from its tasty project. No TV, no TAB, no pokies. But there’s music. Thoughtful, eclectic music, with entire albums pumped into the front bar.

If I could design a pub, it’d be the Exeter.

*

The night before the Crows and Bulldogs clash. Our mate Chris is emigrating to Queensland to work for a software company. So, to mark this, we dine on curry and Kingfisher lager, and then gallop across to the Exeter.

Dawn’s closer than dusk. Only Nick and I remain, our Doc Martins moored to the floorboards. He’s from a farm in Shea-Oak Log. We met in school. Years ago, we saw the Rolling Stones at Footy Park.

As always, we talk cricket and travel and bands and film, and our discussion arrives at Harper Lee’s autobiographical masterpiece, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Lizard was a heavy-metal mad, Axel Rose-haired kid. I taught him in Kimba and he read the book, reckoned it was about the only one he’d ever finished. In his Cannibal Corpse way Lizard often mislabeled it, “Killing the Mockingbird.”

Atticus Finch. Is there a more inspirational dad in literature? He’s metonymous for courage. I wish the Australian cricketer Aaron Finch was nicknamed “Atticus.” But, of course not. Can you imagine Tubbs and Slats explaining this? He’ll always be “Finchy.”

Over and through our Coopers, we ponder the novel’s last lines, admire their uncomplicated elegance. They’re among the finest words printed. After the rush of the climax, and Bob Ewell’s demise, we’re left with a painterly scene of love, a world profoundly restored

He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

Radiohead’s then recent release OK Computer played in the Exeter that evening. I love the cinematic melancholy, and the immaculate alienation. I’m a fan of lengthy, multi-sectioned songs, and “Paranoid Android” is superb. There’s venom in Thom Yorke’s

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly
Kicking and squealing gucci little piggy

The album is additionally embedded with references to the cult novel “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!” How excellent is this? Satire, existentialism and guitars!

Despite its anguished doom, OK Computer becomes a happy soundtrack for me. Living in Hertfordshire, we listened to it once before enjoying Terry Wogan’s wine-soaked Eurovision commentary. In his brogue he noted

They’ve got four languages in Belgium and they’re singing in an imaginary one. The essence of Eurovision.

We laugh at the songs, and are bewitched by the geopolitics. It was 2003, defined by the charming nadir of England’s nul points.

I remember Triple J first featuring OK Computer. On breakfast, Mikey Robins and the Sandman considered life’s unknowns

Sandman: I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to be a woman.

Mikey: Come here.

Like gates clanging in a prison movie, the Exeter finally shuts. Nick drifts to his Hutt Street townhouse and I taxi home to Glenelg.

*

Rampaging Roy Slaven famously spoke of playing golf with Seve Ballesteros. As an ornament to rugby league, fishing, cricket, horse racing (he piloted Rooting King), and pig shooting, he is peerless. Roy’s vanquished are “hopeless pillows” or “mooks.”

Obviously, the big man from Lithgow was towelling the Spaniard. Without warning, Seve walked quietly over to his opponent’s bag and went the bushman’s hanky all over Roy’s clubs. Standing “ashen-faced and tight-lipped,” Roy then turned to his caddy and said, “You know, there’s something I just don’t like about this bloke.”

*

I wake during the last quarter, wander out to the lounge, flick on the TV, and see Liberatore’s snap on goal. He jumps haughtily onto his team mates, fists a-pumping. The result’s a formality, the remaining time, an irritant. His Dogs are home.

But I know what Atticus Finch would think. I remember what Roy Slaven said.

And the goal umpire signals a behind. Premature exaltation. The braggadocio is scorched.

The quarter’s been goalless, and we’re down by four straight kicks with ten minutes to go. As the bride’s still asleep I choose to endure the ending. It’ll be a Saints and Bulldogs decider.

On the siren, car horns hop in our windows, zigzag over Jetty Road, and vault about the esplanade like acoustic exclamation marks! The wife stirs.

Having spent the match in a torpor, Darren Jarman contributed three majors. He was learning to love final quarters.

With its lengthening afternoons, pledge of an enriching, outdoorsy lifestyle, and barbecue bouquets freewheeling about like sociable phantasms, late September’s always been good.

Just then, it got much, much better.

 

 

About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello

Comments

  1. Numerous Triple J references (have forgotten Sandman, great character), Radiohead’s awesome album and Atticus Finch

    There’s a trifecta you’d only see in a (good) dream

    nice one Mickey

  2. Mickey, i was whiling away the hours in that pub, until the thud of that inevitable outcome hit me.
    The only honking of horns heard out my way was to deter the ‘Footscray synchronised jumping team’ from meeting a messy end at the foot of the Westgate.
    It’s a shame someone at the Dogs didn’t go all ‘Boo Radley’ on Jarman in the last quarter.
    Nice work though Mickey, loved it

  3. Neil Anderson says

    What a cruel, cruel reminder relayed in such a subtle almost soporific way. While you were dozing that day, I was at the G seated behind a nest of Crow supporters using my last minute- purchased ticket.
    There was no dozing off for me on that fateful day. No feeling of ‘we’re into the Grand Final’ at three quarter time because we were twenty points up. The Dogs had come from second last in 1996 to being a whisker away from a Grand Final in one year so there was no complacency from us supporters and only heartbreak at the end of the match.
    Many of us have gone into therapy after that day while for some of us like Almanacker Kerrie Soraghan, it has formed the basis of a blog called the Bulldog Tragican.
    There will be some irony and hopefully some closure for us tormented souls if Brent Montgomery is appointed as the new coach and is successful. He was the player who caught Libba as he jumped into his arms celebrating, thinking it was a goal instead of a point.

  4. 20th of September 1997. My 17th birthday, and still the best birthday I’ve ever had.

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Ripper once again Mickey.

    *
    I returned home from a user group conference the USA that day, my jocks still damp, courtesy of Disneyworld’s Splash Mountain some 24 hours before.

    I reacquainted myself with Mrs Swish and my (then) two Swishters, then hit the hay as jetlag kicked in.

    I had the radio on, but like you, fell asleep around half-time.

    The raised volumes (was Tim Lane still on 3LO in 1997?) roused me in the last quarter – I remember charging out to the back of the house in my (clean) jocks, yelling the good news to the family.

    This now presented me with a new challenge – how to get a ticket for the following week. So I set the alarm, went back to sleep, and woke early the next day to get in the queue at the Arts Centre. I snagged a seat behind the goals at ground level, but under the overhanging upper tiers of the Ponsford.

    *
    We had our wedding reception at the Exeter Hotel. The Exeter Hotel on Semaphore Road that is. The MC was a butcher from Arndale, with a firm grip on the classics such as Ave Maria. I think he’d had the same schtick since about 1958.

    *
    To Kill A Mockingbird was the only book that engaged me at High School

    *
    I never warmed to Radiohead

    *
    I think Rulebook was the goal umpire that day

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Mickey even a non music person such as myself remembers sandman fondly . Very subtle as we’ll . Leaving the g after the crows had gone top walking over the footbridge we ran in to , Libba he was copping hit re his premature celebration
    ( mind you every 1 says it was a goal ) to his credit he walked on and did not reply
    Thanks Mickey

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Also, saw The Sandman at the Comedy Festival a couple of years back, he retired at the right time.

  8. Neil Anderson says

    What is it about South Australians hitting the sack just as a vital match is about to start? Is it a case of if you dream about your team winning it will surely happen? A bit like a golfer imagining himself sinking a long putt or a Travis Cloke imagining the ball being kicked through the goals. Well, maybe the theory breaks down a bit with Travis.

  9. Nice one Mickey. I reckon you and I shared a pub that evening. A mate and I popped into the Excreter (as we lovingly know it) before going to the Nova to see, of all things, the Adelaide premiere of Year of the Dog with a director Q&A. He predicted a Bulldog victory to the playful heckle of the audience.

    On the day itself I was working my shift (DJs at Marion) and making frequent trips over to the electrical department. Remember clear as day the cheer from the assembled customers and staff as Mark West missed running towards goal late in the last.

    Ok Computer very much the soundtrack of 1997 for me

  10. Mickey was it realy seven goals at half time ? I ‘d be suprised if it was that much.

    Glen!

  11. Thanks everybody.

    Sean- Loved Triple J in the 90’s. Helen Razor and Mikey Robins is still the best radio I’ve heard- fast, witty, dangerous. Loved Helen’s laugh.

    cowshedend- Surely the Dogs will rise again. Just heard you’ve a new coach- hope he works out!

    Neil- I know it’s no real comparison, but the Crows have lost their last four preliminary finals. We must be due to win one soon. As are the Dogs!

    Ben- That’s a mighty good birthday gift they sent your way!

    Swish- Mockingbird is often reported as being the only book that grabbed kids at school. Semaphore Road is a vibrant, fun place these days; it’s probably the best “village” strip in Adelaide. I think we’ve all been to a wedding with that MC.

    Malcolm- I reckon Libba’s son might be better than he was. Gee, that dates things a bit! Did you see Swish’s comment on you?

    Dave- Year of the Dogs is a great documentary. The mother and daughter were excellent characters. Must watch it again. Lots of revisionists now claim that Radiohead have better albums (The Bends, Kid A), but I still come back to OK Computer.

    Glen- Correct! More like five goals, which in 1997 was a metaphorical seven. Well spotted.

    Thanks again.

  12. Brilliant writing Mickey. You capture the non-linear nature of life and dreams beautifully. Both say a lot; most of it of little consequence.
    The Prelim Final confluence at the end has little meaning to me. Back then I was a Saints supporter eagerly awaiting our inevitable triumph the next week.
    Agree 100% re Atticus. Read it at school and have seen the movie a half dozen times. I always aspired to be Gregory Peck.
    As for Radiohead – bleh! I wasted 20 years trying to understand cool prog music. Burned all my King Crimson etc in 1990 and have only listened to blues, roots and country since then.
    Emmylou, Bruce, Bob and the Band on high rotation – nothing else matters.

  13. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Waddya got against larks tongues PB?

  14. Love it Mickey.
    The floating ethereal.
    The drift.
    So much cultural flotsam & jetsam.
    so Much to cling to.
    (I’m aboard Rampaging Roy Slaven).
    Love it.

  15. Thanks Peter. We might disagree on Radiohead, but we connect On Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Although I do hear you a bit on prog rock. As a teenager I thought- and here’s a confession- that the Alan Parsons Project was amazing; mesmerising, intelligent music. However, I now think it’s turgid, soulless nonsense.

    Cheers, David. Roy and HG were probably done, but, gee, I miss them. Tremendous fun.

  16. Swish – reminds me of the classic Peter Cook line about one-legged Tarzans. “I’ve got nothing against your right leg. Its a beautiful leg. The problem is neither have you.”
    Haven’t listened to Pink Floyd for 25 years, and don’t plan to in the next 25.

  17. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Mickey may be it says something about the brownlow that we all think that Libbas son is going to be better if not already and yes I did giggle re , Swish goal umpiring line

  18. Poofta Bear says

    To Kill a Mockingbird, Doughy’s house, Blackberry Nip. Yum.

  19. Malcolm- The Brownlow’s in an interesting place. Why is it now only a midfielders’ medal? Surely as, you’d hope, fans of the game, umpires aren’t solely seduced by weight of possessions. Something’s wrong when someone like Corey Enright’s got more All Australians than total Brownlow votes over his career.

    P.Bear- Bob Ewell drank Blackberry Nip.

  20. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic Mickey. Love the Greg Fleet Neighbours line. And the premature exaltation one. Took me a while to warm to Paranoid Android. First saw/heard it on Rage. Awful cartoon video that adds nothing to the song. Grew to love the song. Would be happy if I never saw the video again.

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