Almanac Rugby League – Raiders take wind out of Storm and rain on party

There’s something about, and nothing like, an impromptu game of park footy, or soccer, or rugby or cricket or any sport for that matter.

You know the type I mean. You get together with a bunch of people for a BBQ or picnic and someone has brought a footy or soccer ball or cricket set.

After the eating is done and the catch ups are completed, the call goes out. Teams are determined and articles of clothing are laid on the ground or pairs of trees identified far enough apart to constitute a playing field. And then it’s on.

And though the wings are often infinitely wide and chaos usually prevails, the atmosphere is heady, the enthusiasm high, and joy comes just from the playing. The non-playing members of the social gathering look on with varying degrees of interest with the odd chuckle, taunt, warning or piece of advice.

Kardinia Park was much like that on Friday night when the Storm hosted the Raiders for a pre-season jaunt.

After a couple of pots at the Bush Inn, owned by an old neighbor of mine and SANFL goal kicking machine Adam Richardson, Wiffo and I headed up Moorabool Street with a trickle of Storm fans.

“Not much of a crowd,” Wiffo said as we entered the City end gates.

We followed the sparse line of people being guided around the back of the Gary Ablett Terrace and under the Ford Stand. The ground announcer sounded excited.

The walkway was cordoned off just before we got to Ron Hovey Room and we were pointed left into the stadium proper.

It was hard to know what to look at first. I was keen to see how the new stand looked but was distracted by the makeshift rugby pitch, the size of the crowd, and the sudden change in atmospheric density. The air was thick with anticipation and the place was a-buzz. We’d walked into a big party.

The new stand is impressive. But rather than stand out because it is imposing, it just makes more conspicuous the sections that do not have stands, which I guess means it stands out.

The rugby pitch was dwarfed by the oval proper and even with real uprights and professionally painted lines, I was reminded of those hastily created fields in those impromptu social games in some park somewhere.

And I estimate the crowd size was at least three thousand and may be as many as five. It was a great turnout and not surprisingly, they were predominantly Storm fans.

Wiffo showing off the new stadium at Kardinia Park

It wasn’t long before the two teams came on and the game started almost immediately after.

Storm had the odd-period where they threatened the try line, but the Raiders were too organised and too fast at either end.  At times, they seemed to score at will. Practice matches or not, we always want our Club to win and so spirits of the ‘home’ crowd were dampened a little but there was also the awareness that neither side was playing for sheep stations.

From what I could see, this was a classic case of one side being further advanced in its pre-season preparation, Based on history, the Storm will be up there again but the Raiders look set for a big year.

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