Almanac (Finals) Footy: Meandering thoughts and Finals observations while camping in the bush, and beyond




I’m sitting in my car just shy of Glenisla Crossing in a disused quarry at the northern end of Victoria Valley, Grampians National Park.


The local Indigenous people call these sandstone ranges ‘Gariwerd’, but that name-change was met with resistance by many over Halls Gap way who stubbornly prefer comparisons with faraway Scottish peaks. At best, it scores a subtitle. But then, I guess I shouldn’t repeat the omission – so – I’m in Gariwerd National Park.


It’s a mild spring night. A rising full moon dims the stars but shines a light on a jagged escarpment visible beyond a gap carved by the Glenelg River. No clouds tonight, apart from Magellanic ones. The Southern Cross is ever-present. Ancient rituals echo.


The campsite is 9 k’s east in a secluded setting, not quite as idyllic as in the past due to repeated extreme-weather events limiting environmental recovery, but it’s still one of my favourite bush destinations. A loosening of Covid restrictions for regional Vics allowed my escape.


On the stony ground beside the car sits an esky with a few stubbies – light beer: not that cops are likely to make a breath-testing drive-by. The low-alcohol is more hangover defence than social responsibility. A mountain bike ride is planned for the morning.


But there’s a cask of red if a final kick is needed.


I’m parked here because there’s a mobile signal (probably coming from somewhere in the farmlands to the west) – three bars, in fact – that’s more than I score at home, and ample for watching the Cats take on Port in Adelaide via smart phone.


To add theatre, a portable, collapsible screen bought in Bangkok projects the smart phone display. While magnifying the screen, some clarity is lost, so it’s a bit six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-the-other, but what can you expect for $4? A portable speaker, connected via the phone’s bluetooth, amplifies the sound and picture impressions and adds the last touch.


All set.


This isn’t a match report as such, so I’ll just say the encounter pans out pretty much how I expect and, in some ways, how I hope. The Cats’ energy and endeavour is present, unlike in many previous finals losses, and we take a step to regaining form lost in the last few home and away rounds, is my glass half-full take.


One negative about watching on a phone, though, is that text messages keep popping up on the screen. After the final siren, I reply to friends in Melbourne and Adelaide: “it could’ve been worse”, “Port were too good”, “reckon we’ll perform better next week” etc.


Other silver linings for the Cats were not having to negotiate a week off and, from here, we’d be playing at ‘home’. Overall, I’ve observed similarities with recent years, but also differences. The team seems happier, is the vibe I’m getting, and more assured.


But any sport plays second fiddle to nature in this part of the world. The moon is higher in the sky now and is chased by Mars, which hardly pales, being at its closest point to Earth due to coinciding orbits.


Back at the campsite, kookaburras usually have the first and last laugh, but all is quiet now except for burbles from the nearby seasonal creek. There isn’t even a zephyr to rustle the trees. A thump of roos will be the night’s only disturbance.


I decamp in a couple of days when it gets too hot and blowy – such is Spring.



For the semi against the Pies, I’m back home in domestic civilisation via a tour of friends and family, household bubbles allowing. Probably preferred to meet the Eagles as it would be an away match for them but Collingwood is playing it’s usual role as spoiler, and the previous week’s victory was classical.


Applying points-to-prove theory, we owe both teams for losses earlier in the year.


Too many gums cleared around here for laughing kookaburras but maggies abound, though swooping season is drawing to a close. By half time, the same could be said about the Collingwood Magpies. While quietly confident, I didn’t anticipate this one-sided encounter.


In the second half, there’s a risk we’ll get into bad habits like against the Bombers. But we rally in the last and the Pies help by lifting too.


It’s hard to explain the Pies’ form, but it’s been evident in many teams at various times across the season. Partly due to how the modern game is played exacerbated by Covid circumstances?


However, in some ways the hub benefits teams like Geelong – on Saturday night, in normal times, the ‘home’ final would’ve been played at the ‘G’ in front of a raucous crowd dominated by Maggie fans.


And being in Queensland also has under-the-radar advantages – in Victoria, the media heat about finals losses would’ve been more pronounced after the Port match, and added to the pressure, and potentially resulted in draining more emotional energy, even when following up with a win.


Now, approaching the Prelims, and evoking PtP theory again, each of the four remaining teams has something to lose (and win), but who has more? If Brisbane lose it will be viewed as a missed opportunity more that a failure. If the Cats lose, it will be seen as both. The Lions had the week off, but that can also provide more time to dwell on outcomes. For Richmond and Port, the scenarios are similar, but the Power arguably has as much to lose because of being on top all year.


And… the Cats beat the Lions last time they met, so that gives Brisbane something to work on. But Geelong has a Preliminary Final hurdle to aim at. Then again, Brisbane are young and hungry and playing in front of a vocal crowd with a rare opportunity to reach a Grand Final at home. The crowd will likely be more lopsided than usual seeing Victorian fans can’t attend. Countering that, Geelong go in as underdogs, bigger bodied and more experienced.


How much does Gil want Brisbane to reach the GF to pump up Aussie Rules interest in Queensland? Most neutral supporters probably want a Port/Brisbane GF. It could be wishful thinking, but I’m favouring Tigers and Cats.


Either way, the bush will still beckon.



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About Paul Spinks

I have writing published and performed in various mediums, but usually not enough of it to pay the rent. Had many jobs, travelled a lot, so I think this experience allows a broad perception of society. I'm not an academic, though did complete a BA as a mature-age student. Below are links to some published written pieces.


  1. Evocative Paul. And I am somewhat envious.

    You have half your wish with the Tiges last night.

    Again, I have no idea what will happen tonight. Fascinating strategically/tactically. So many narratives.

    Enjoyed your piece. (Did the cask come out?)

  2. Nice piece Paul. and John, after 9 weeks in hospital after a very serious operation that could have gone either way, I’m back to add some of my comments in the Almanac. I really missed reading the articles wihile recovering.. I hope either Brisbane or Geelong take out the Flag.

  3. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, John:
    Likewise re your piece, and if I may cross-reference …when I first moved to Melbourne I shared a house with a Brisbane girl and Aussie Rules fan, who wised me up to the code’s status there.
    From memory, the beer went down quickly and the cask was squeezed, but didn’t overdo it.
    It’s a three-way cat play-off: hopefully it’ll be moggies up against tigers in the last stanza, but there’ll be many soft spots for lions.

    Thanks, Fisho:
    Sorry to hear about your hospital stay, and hope you’re recovering well. Your timing may have been good, with some loosening of Covid restrictions nigh.

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