Round 2 – Geelong v North Melbourne: Caps, Cats and Kangaroos in Krungthep

Left my Geelong 2009 Grand Final cap on the number 15 ordinary bus from Siam Square yesterday, so this morning I’m minus sun-protection catching the number 2 ordinary bus from the Old City, where I usually stay in Bangers, though over the canal from the busyness of Crazy San Road; not that I mind mayhem, but it’s a far cry from the quiet thoroughfare I used to kip in many years ago.

 

I’m keeping eyes open for a Thai person with a white Geelong cap a few sizes too big for them. Stature stereotypes aside, if seen (unlikely) I’ll let them keep it – spread the gospel like a true Cat missionary.

 

The number 2 is ordinary because it isn’t air-conditioned. It’s part of the government fleet of rustic buses navigating Bangkok. They used to cost seven baht then the fare was lowered to six baht ninety-nine satang. There’s not much you can do with a satang, in fact there’s nothing you can do with one – they’re a tiny copper coin that linger in the corners of your pocket along with the tear of ticket. Occasionally the ordinary buses are free for reasons unknown. But they’ve been on-the-house for months on the trot now, and I think it has something to do with the king dying.

 

The number 511 plies a similar route. It’s an air-conditioned, private bus and costs about seventeen baht to the same destination. They’re never free. I usually take whatever comes first.

 

It’s a Sunday morning, though already getting busy with traffic, but the number 2 makes plodding progress, in between bouts of sudden acceleration, to the expat sports bars around Sukhumvit Road where I’m heading to watch the Cats play North (it’s bar-to-bar soccer in Khao San Road and Old City surrounds, though occasionally NRL gets a gig, along with downhill skiing).

 

I wouldn’t make such an effort if daylight saving hadn’t ended overnight in Australia meaning what was a 9am ball-up becomes a (bit) more agreeable 10am. I can tie it in with brekkie.

 

Googling told me that Bradmans Bar is a good viewing spot, but it’s small, dark and empty so I continue down Soi 23 to the Sportsclub Bar where I’ve been once before. It’s a large place with seating inside and out. The meal that time wasn’t much chop and the coffee I have now doesn’t promise a lot better. The telly outside has the footy on, accompanied by music instead of broadcast sound. A fan whirls overhead stirring humidity. Motorbikes and cars pass close by. It’s not particularly ambient, but beggars can’t be choosy and I have more choice than the beggars of Bangers.

 

The Cats looked good in round one against Freo last week – the handball game I’ve been critical of was present, but so was faster ball movement, and the defensive pressure meant turnovers were less costly – it also made for an attractive display – more like 2007 than 2016. The question about Geelong, if recent years are anything to go by, is whether we can maintain hunger.

 

The Sportsclub Bar WiFi signal is weaker than the coffee. The AFL app radio broadcast, when receivable, is about five minutes ahead of TV time in any case. Between the two mediums, the Cats lethargy is obvious in today’s first quarter. Is it a matter of same-same but different, or just the trip back from Perth, a Sunday 1pm time-slot and the dreariness of playing under an Ethiad stadium closed roof? North look sharp, as they often can do, if patchily. They’re being physical, probably recalling suggestions the Cats of last year were susceptible to that pressure.

 

A telly inside screens the footy now, but hunger pangs have me crossing over to a Thai bakery masquerading as a Japanese one replicating a European one. The food fills a void, the coffee’s good and so is the WiFi.

 

The Cats come back, though each tune-in to the AFL app radio corresponds with the Roos kicking goals and extending their lead. I pull the earplugs. But just before three quarter time Geelong kicks a six-pointer through Hawkins and presents a dilemma. Head back to the Old City or watch the last stanza? I take a punt that goal gave us momentum.

 

Bradmans is an entirely different place with a few customers and tellies on full bore. Four of us Farang sit along a narrow bar with a screen at either end – one showing Cats and Roos, the other screening Blues and Dees. There’s also a small lounge at the rear and a larger one upstairs. The manager, an affable Carlton fan, turns the volume for Cats/Roos up even louder when discovering that’s what I want to watch.

 

One of the customers taps at the keys of a laptop so proficiently it suggests he might be a journo. His shouts of excitement about events in one game coincide with action in the other. Grins are exchanged. Synchronicity.

 

The Cats draw level then get cold feet. North surge ahead. Taylor H. goes back, where he’s needed – inevitable. We lack a ruckman to match Preuss and stop contesting hit-outs. The free-kick gap narrows and our last shot at goal bookends theirs at the start – Horlin-Smith for head-high winning a contested ground-ball. The effort breaks his thumb but he doesn’t know it yet and kicks the sealer. Lucky? Or a defining victory? Either way it was an entertaining last quarter.

 

The manager turns down the volume and settles in to watch his Blues in what looks to be an equally exciting, fast-paced game. I’d recommend Bradmans if you’re in Bangers and wanting an Antipodean sports fix. Apparently the food is good too.

 

I catch the number 2 back as far as the traffic jams of Central World shopping complex where I hop off and swap for a khlong ferry. It’s supposed to be ‘summer’ in Thailand now, but the weather is cooler than normal and rain causes a lowering of the plastic blinds as we get a different perspective motoring past the rear of residences and assorted buildings overhanging with banana palms, frangipani and figs on this waterway to the Old City where some lucky citizen owns a Geelong cap.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

I’ve since returned to southern skies and meat pies, and the Cats’ winning ways, though question marks will hover till season’s pointy end. After the victory over Melbourne many commentators said we’d been lucky, but our last quarter efforts were suggesting gears to me – haven’t had them for a few years.

 

I never buy the theory if a team had been accurate they would’ve been such and such in front. A team kicking a goal can have the opposition deflated or more motivated to even the ledger.

 

There was a lot more pressure in the Hawks game than the final score implied.

 

Attended Etihad last week with a gaggle of Sainters. The game was in the balance for long periods. It was our improved decision-making in the last quarter as much as gears.

 

Coming up is a Danger game against the Woods for the Dangerwoods. The Pies like to do a number on us (and vice versa).

 

The handball game may still be vulnerable to a handy team on its mettle, but so far so good. We can’t always rely on last quarter surges, but they’ll be a useful reference for season’s end should we get to salute.

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