Round 10 – West Coast v Gold Coast: Second Acts

Not much worth saying about the Eagles and Gold Coast game on Sunday.  At half time I commented to the Avenging Eagle that the only thing you learn in a game like this is bad habits.

Analysed the remaining fixture and concluded that we had 6 “should win” and 6 “could win” games.  Allowing that we win 50% of the maybes, it takes us from the current 7/3 to 16/6 at the end of the minor round.  Should be enough for a Top 4 finish with the resulting double chance and at least one home final.

Amused myself doodling next week’s headlines into my Footy Record:

“Mick claims creation of mini dynasty at Carlton – we’d be Top 4 by now if I’d stayed.”

“Chris Scott defends live baiting – only way I could get Motlop and Hawkins to chase.”

“Rulebook’s spelling a disgrace – Richmond key defender alleges.”

At ¾ time we left to watch the last 15 minutes of the game in the warmth and comfort of the Oxford Hotel front bar.  Shorten and Turnbull on the screen in the lounge bar were only moderately less entertaining than the Eagles in a canter over the undermanned and underage Schoolies.

Through the game I spent a lot of time watching Gary Ablett Jnr to see if the fire and skill still burned.  He was a delight with 31 disposals; 8 tackles and 8 clearances.  We played Hutchings on him early as a tagger, but once the result was not in doubt Adam Simpson had 19yo Liam Duggan run with him for long stretches.  “Get up close son and watch how a master does it.”

Ablett’s frustration was obvious as the Suns’ structure fell apart when the Eagles moved the ball quickly, but I rejoiced in his exasperation because it showed that the contest still mattered to him.  Ablett may not have been the best choice to lead young men because of his intense, introverted personality, but that fault lies with the club management and not with him.

He gave everything on Sunday and any observer, on or off the field, could only marvel at his work rate and ‘smarts” as he lost opponents in traffic and then bolted for space.

I had been musing on “second acts in life” since JTH’s column of regret for his Cats loss of Steve Johnson.  Loyalty is all very well, but most of us grow stale without fresh surroundings and new challenges.

I can remember an obviously burnt-out Brendan Goddard wandering aimlessly around the Saints backline a few years ago collecting cheap kicks.  An overdose of disappointments or years of stifling Rossball?  The move to Essendon has made a passionate leader of him again.  Same with Nick Dal Santo and Jarrod Waite at the Kangaroos.

Saints and Carlton fans might feel cheated, but for some home is a reminder of past disappointments more than future promise.   As with eggs and bacon, the fans are involved but the players are committed.

The Hawks specialise in creating this Rejuvenation Spa for the perpetually disappointed (and disappointing) – Stuart Dew; Brian Lake; James Frawley; David Hale.  All players who rose to a higher level once they were in an environment that recognised and nurtured their talent.

While I don’t begrudge younger players and stars maximising the financial return for their skills I tend to see Buddy, Daisy, Danger, Scully and their ilk as more mercenary than redemptive.  Shaun Burgoyne is an interesting case because his career had floundered at Port Adelaide since their 2004 flag.  Some wilt in the harsh glare and need a protective shadow to flower.

Shane Mumford, Heath Shaw, Bernie Vince, Steve Johnson, Eddie Betts, Travis Varcoe, Ted Richards, Brad Ebert (ouch), and Sharrod Wellingham (that’s better) are current examples of jaded or rejected “second acts” thriving in a different football environment.

I often think that we have an unconscious destiny that we live out despite the more obvious and attractive paths that life presents.  One of my early heroes was Leonard Cheshire VC who I came across at a young age in Paul Brickhill’s boy’s own history of the “Dam Busters” 617 RAF Squadron in WW2.  Cheshire was an extraordinarily brave and skilful pilot who made a lot of technical improvements to the aircraft he flew (Halifax bombers had a defective tail rudder that made them uncontrollable in a tailspin but the company did not want to slow down production with a redesign).  Cheshire retired from the RAF and public life at the end of the war after flying more than a hundred missions over occupied Europe and witnessing the atomic bomb drop on Nagasaki, saying that he “held little brief for the future of civilization”.

Cheshire devoted the rest of his life to spirituality and housing for the disabled, with his Cheshire Homes (now Cheshire Disability) becoming a world-wide charity and “the UK’s leading voluntary sector provider of support for the disabled”.

Others’ ‘second acts’ who intrigued me down the years were John Profumo, the UK Cabinet Minister who resigned in the wake of a call girl scandal in the early 60’s (she also slept with a Russian diplomat).  Profumo spent the next 40 years of his life working tirelessly for Toynbee Hall a charity for the homeless in the East End of London.

Al Gore rose without trace from a powerful political family to long term Tennessee congressman and then 8 years as Vice President to Bill Clinton.  His lasting monument is not political office but the subsequent awareness raising about climate change through his “Inconvenient Truth” lectures and movie.  Without the “hanging chad” narrow loss to George W Bush in the 2000 Presidential Election would he have found the courage to speak truth to power?

Closer to home I had a powerful contempt for Ian Sinclair the long term Country Party headkicker who was instrumental in the sacking of my hero Gough Whitlam.  Arrogant, powerful and ‘born to rule,’ I can only remember a strong urge to piss on his shoes when we stood together at a Parliament House urinal in the early 80’s.  Caught up in some shady dealings with the estate from his family’s funeral business, John Clarke/Fred Dagg ridiculed his protestations of innocence with “Dad’s signature altered noticeably in the months after his death”.

But later in his career after the ambition had receded I saw him voluntarily visiting many small rural towns convincing the local populations that their cherished hospitals had little future for surgery and childbirth, but could be a valuable resource for aged and community care.  I always felt that his patient listening and community advocacy was partly amends for the causes ignored while he was “big noting”.

My work colleague Thelma grew up in impoverished rural Zimbabwe and has shared her amazing stories of supporting refugees at Darwin Detention Centre, despite obstruction from authorities and her employers.  I told her that I thought her courage and inspiration came from having already experienced some of the worst that life can offer.  What could Serco do to her that was worse than Mugabe?

To my mind all of these footballers and public figures experienced “ego deaths” that enabled the burst of creativity in their second acts.  Not so much “last chance saloon” as discovering real purpose after years of chasing mirages.

It’s a timeless story of rebirth and redemption lived out in the Jesus and Buddha narratives.  Spielberg used it as the basic structure for Star Wars after reading Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Gary Ablett Jnr showed skill and resilience on Sunday and I hope his younger team mates took heart from his example.  My Eagles play the Bulldogs and Crows in the next fortnight which will be telling for the second act of their season.  Rebirth or retreat?


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    Even your match report took on a second life. Good work.

    My Bulldogs companions on Sunday lamented the loss of C Ward to GWS. They would love for him to be still in the tri-colour. I am not sure of D Thomas’s motivations. My son Bill worked with the wife of G Swan for a period before the Swans moved to Brisbane, When getting a lift home from work one day, Bill voiced his dissatisfaction with the Thomas move to Carlton when Swan was CEO followed by the Beams move to Brisbane in similar circumstances. Whatever their reasons, I would prefer that they had remained with the Pies. But I am pleased for Thomas that this year Carlton are seeing his potential. Not so pleased that it is Carlton.


  2. Nice report PB. Its great to see someone get a second chance and make a go at it in the footy, mores o in life.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Thoughtful and thought-provoking PB. The redemption theme in footy is one of my faves, especially after witnessing the re-birth of Andrew Krakouer in 2011.

    Joseph Campbell deserves to be read and re-read widely and closely:
    “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

  4. Neil Anderson says

    I never thought I’d admit to this second actor after he ran a knife through the Education Department staff where I worked in 1992. Not so much a problem for me who could take a package and had a working wife, but it was the cutting back on the support staff of psychologists and others who worked with students and allowed teachers to get on with teaching. I’m talking about Jeff Kennett of course who started the Beyond Blue organization bringing depression awareness to the forefront after he retired from politics.
    The other person I can’t believe I’m praising for his second act was Malcolm Fraser with his work on International Human Rights and more importantly became friends with Gough in later life.
    And as for the second act in the Bulldogs versus Eagles drama at Etihad, I hope the Dogs win the second act after being triumphant Act 1, Scene 1 last year and they receive a standing ovation from the Bulldog faithful.

  5. Paul Spinks says

    Enjoyable read, PB – and well written.
    The political observations are interesting – political leaders often wait till election defeat before revealing a human side that might have made more people vote for them had they revealed it earlier.
    Though, would put Mummy in the mercenary category. Cats, who gave him his chance, didn’t want him to leave. Not so sure about his Swans departure – I think it was his decision because he saw less opportunity with their tall stocks.

  6. Rulebook says

    Very enjoyable read,PB I had more than a giggle at my mention not even harsh and definitely fair.
    ( thank goodness you didn’t include who shall not be named as a success re 2nd coming)
    Bernie Vince is a classic he was in cruse mode and needed the wake up call it has done his footy the world of good

  7. PB- Thoughtful as always. I like the redemption implied in the notion of the second act. Agree with Neil that M. Fraser reinvented himself in appealing ways. So much so that I followed him on Twitter! I guess P. Keating is not on social media. Shame, he could be dynamite.

    Excellent thread too.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Great work Peter. From following your fantastic work on the Almanac, I think your own 2nd act is going pretty well too.

  9. John Butler says

    Well played PB.

    The possibility of second chances. I’m feeling a bit that way about the Blues at the moment.


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