Round 15 – Brisbane v Sydney: Brisbane: then and now. And: four points are four points – but we’ll go nowhere with footy like that, Bloods!

We wake to a cacophony of high-pitched squawks, intermingled with several kookaburras trying their best to rule the roost. Loud and raucous sounds, but a wonderful introduction back into the State that Shines.

 

Brisbane. The town we lived in for 22 years, arriving there in 1977. It was definitely a town then. It was January and it was stinking hot. Apart from Singapore, I’d never experienced humidity like it: you’d wake in the morning sweating, go to bed in the evening sweating, and in between wouldn’t be much different. The Queensland houses had overhead fans and no one had air conditioning, and that was just what it was. You got used to it after a while, and accepted it. Arriving in January – direct from the London winter – held us in good stead for the many scorching summers we were yet to face.

 

1977 in Queensland gave us other new experiences. Joh Bjelke-Petersen ruled the banana benders, and the politics of the time were seen as the laughing stock by the rest of Australia, especially the southern states. It was no laughing matter. Queensland’s mining industry was booming in the 70s and yellow cake was its primary earner. It was being driven from North Queensland to the Hamilton docks in Brisbane and protests were in full swing. In September that year, to silence the anti uranium movement and to supposedly enhance support in the upcoming election, street marches were banned, resulting in civil liberty campaigns across the State. Thousands were arrested and fined, and hundreds imprisoned. The financial cost to the State ran into the millions. The Nationals ruled for over twenty years and we endured ten of those. Joh and his scone-loving wife were certainly a far cry from my Melbourne upbringing and my London political persuasions.

 

1977 was a noteworthy year in Australia. The Granville train crash killed and injured nearly 200 people; Don Chipp launched the Australian Democrats; personal income tax scales decreased from seven to three; the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh saw the first 7 Eleven open; refugees from the Vietnam war start arriving; Don Dunstan was returned to power in the SA elections; the Centenary Test between Australia and the old enemy was held at the MCG; we lost the Ashes; North and Collingwood drew in the grand final and we know who won the replay; WA won the Sheffield Shield; Jason Akermanis, Darren Lockyer, Geoff Ogilvie, Michael Klim, Anthony Rocca and Brad Haddin were born (which makes me feel very old!); and of great significance, Elvis died. He was another passion of mine in the 50s. South Melbourne in 1977 finished 5th on the ladder and lost the elimination final.

 

So, our introduction to Brissie and return to Australia was an eye-opener, to say the least. Life-changing and enhancing moments occurred during our time there as well. Because of the heat we adjusted to getting up at 5am each day and going to bed at 9pm. There wasn’t much to do after 9pm anyway. Despite the heat we started to jog and run. We ran around the local Bardon oval ten times each morning at 5.30. We did yoga before brekkie and then cycled the half hour to Qld Uni for work – sometimes we’d stop off at the gym for a work-out. After work we’d cycle back home, up and up those Brissie hills, our bodies certainly ready for bed at 9pm.

 

For a while in the 80’s I became obsessed with golf, and would arrive at the course at 5am to be the first to hit off – the sun barely above the horizon. I’d get 18 holes in, then arrive at the Uni by 9am. Marshall, meanwhile, had cycled to work, not particularly liking golf and scoffing at the idea of having to wake an hour earlier.

 

Our physical activity reached its peak when we cycled to Melbourne – via the Coast road – late in 1979. We’d done weekend practice runs to the Gold Coast for several months thinking that would be enough to prepare us for the 2,000 kilometre journey. You’ve gotta be joking! Once we hit the hills (mountains when cycling) at Murwillumbah on the first day, we knew what was ahead. I was absolutely determined never to get off the bike, due to hills, and I didn’t. Marshall succumbed a few times whilst I waited at the top of the hill puffing and panting. We averaged 100k per day and stopped off at camp sites along the way, or if there wasn’t one, we’d pitch our little tent in amongst the forest and sleep soundly from 8pm in readiness for a 5am start the next day.

 

 

Jan Courtin Kew cycling

Taking a breather in Kew, NSW – 568km from Brisbane

 

 

We reached Sydney ten days after we set out. It was December and I wanted to get to Melbourne for Christmas and the Boxing Day Test. There weren’t another ten days available, so we caught the train in Sydney and arrived in time for the cricket. I will never forget cycling up the one and only hill when we arrived in Melbourne – Punt Road: a cinch – went up without changing gears! Returning home, we cycled back from Melbourne to Sydney, and caught a bus back to Brisbane, to complete the journey.

 

Our Brisbane days also brought sadness. Mum died unexpectedly whilst visiting us in Bardon in 1981. She had come up north every year, and loved the sun. Mums are always just there – you expect them to be there, and when they are no longer, it leaves a large gap – one that is never truly filled. Returning to Melbourne for the funeral and being on the same plane with your Mum in a coffin in cargo is not something you would ever imagine, but that’s what happened. Now, 30 odd years later, and having just typed that sentence, I find myself smiling. A clever comedy writer could make a good story out of it! Mum would certainly have laughed.

 

We’re now back in Brisbane for today’s game, and how things have changed since 1977. Petrol is sold after 6pm; shops are open after 5pm; gastronomic delicacies are sold in the many and varied cafes and restaurants; the Queensland accents are now indistinguishable; the National galleries are on a par with Melbourne and Sydney (the commercial galleries are not); the traffic is manageable; the parklands along the river have replaced the previous derelict warehouses; public transport is better than Sydney’s and there is a train to the airport; pockets of Brisbane are now heritage listed, ensuring that the unique beautiful Queenslander timber houses are protected from the multitude of hungry developers; the winter sunshine is the best in Australia; the Gabba ground is unrecognisable, although I liked how it was back then; and AFL has arrived, with two teams in Queensland. These are the positives.

 

The not-so-positives include cranes filling the skies creating more and more ugly apartment blocks, especially within a couple of kilometres of the City; the coffee costing up to $1 more than in the southern states – and many cafes don’t sell decaf; you can no longer pick-up mangoes and guava from the suburban streets and vacant land blocks; and the urban sprawl is inevitably spreading, creating gated-type suburbs with look-alike houses displaying no aesthetic qualities.

 

But, those banana benders have seen the light recently and voted for progressive thinking leaders, Hallelujah!

 

It is actually good to be back. This is not the first time, but it is still familiar and welcoming. I am certainly hoping we leave in a happy frame of mind, with a win and hopefully a percentage boost. After all, we’ve chosen footy over cricket this trip, and the start of the Ashes campaign for me will begin late on Monday – five days after it started.

 

We arrived in Brisbane on Thursday. Having watched State of Origin before leaving, we set up Fox to record most of the footy and the tennis over the weekend, and were forced to fork out $400 to buy a machine that records free to air channels (other than those via Fox), in order to record the cricket on Gem.

 

I really dislike knowing results before watching sporting events, so it’s been quite a feat being able to avoid any and all media coverage of the cricket, including on Footy Almanac, these past four days.

 

The sun is shining on the Gabba but the wind is biting and cold. The weather isn’t the only thing that is cold today. The Swans are indeed icy for most of the game, especially in the first quarter and for a 15 minute period in the third.

 

What is it this year with our Bloods? They just seem uninspired and complacent against teams well below them on the ladder and teams that everyone expects them to beat.

 

This is a frustrating game to watch. In the first quarter Merrett poleaxes Jake Lloyd, Buddy gets a whack in the face, and Rhys Shaw – yet again – turns the ball over coming off the backline. The Lions get a couple of goals and 23 minutes into the quarter Tippo gets our only one. We are listless and pathetic really. I imagine Horse will give them an earful.

 

Tippo marks and goals two minutes into the next quarter and now showing some intent, Jetts, Kizza and Robinson kick goals to give us some hope that the attitude and execution are changing. Buddy, in this quarter, has one of his little brain-fade episodes – ball in hand and surrounded by Lions, he just stands there frozen-in-time, and gets caught dropping the ball. Pykey marks in our backline ten minutes later and allows the Lions their only goal for the quarter. He too just stands there thinking who knows what, instead of getting on with it, and obviously can’t see Dean Towers on his own on the wing. When he does decide to get the ball out of there, he then kicks to Towers who, by this time, has two Lions on him. Obvious result follows – a goal to them. Four goals to their one for the quarter is indeed an improvement, despite our errors.

 

The third quarter starts well with a superb boundary line goal to Macca, but then the Swans decide to go to sleep again and the Lions kick the next four goals to put themselves in front. Buddy, who’s been brought back to the pack against Merrett at this stage, kicks the next two and we’re just seven points up at the last break. Not a good quarter to watch, and any previous thoughts of a percentage boost have certainly gone by the wayside!

 

Within 32 seconds of the final quarter Buddy gets his third goal for the game and another to Tippo not long later gives up hope of a victory. Our four behinds for the term are disappointing, but restricting the Lions to
a couple of behinds ensures a win by 21 points.

 

A win is a win and four points are added to our year’s tally, but that’s really all we can take away from tonight’s game. A lot of work needs to be done and a lot more commitment needs to be shown if we’re to threaten later in the year. A Big IF!

 

My highlights from the game:
Josh Kennedy’s 40 odd hard fought possessions
Dan Hannebery – as usual
Buddy and Tippett’s three goals apiece
The Brisbane midfield: Hanley, Zorko and Beams
The Brisbane scoreboard telling fans to MAKE SOME NOISE after each Brisbane goal

 

And a couple of the kids in AusKick during half time:
The little boy umpire who looked no older than the littlies playing the game. He spent the entire game pretty much telling them where which end they needed to kick the ball.

 

Then there was the very pretty little girl, with her guernsey literally down to her ankles, who seemed to think she was at her ballet class. For the entire game she pranced around, long blond ponytail swinging, practising her dance routines. With only seconds remaining the ball landed at her feet, she theatrically waved her arms in the air, looked down at the ball, wondered what to do with it, then picked it up and kicked it five metres through the goal posts. She tried a handstand, fell over, jumped up and smiled at the crowd, arms still waving.

 

It was certainly more entertaining that most of the game!

 

We’ll be on the plane in the morning, back home to Sydney, happy that we’ve had a win despite our overall performance; spent time with friends in Brisbane; watched three other games on tele; enjoyed warmer days here in the north; and also happy in the knowledge that in the next three or four days I’ve got two tennis finals, five footy games and five days of cricket to watch. What a week to look forward to! And, then those predatory Hawks…

 

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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

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