Round 20 – Western Bulldogs v Melbourne: Keg’s birthday

It’s Keg’s birthday, and he’s had too many of them to be expecting much in the way of presents. We’re at his Mornington house to have lunch and watch the footy. It might stretch things to be ordering a Demon victory in Keg’s honour, but in terms of helping my stalwart mate round off a happy day, an honest, hearty effort by his beloved boys would be a nice gesture. It depends, I guess, on how festive the Dees are feeling. They’re playing the rampant Bullies. Now they are kids who like to party.

As we watch the women’s curtain-raiser, Keg hands around his collection of old Melbourne guernseys. The jumpers date through the decades, various hues of blue and sponsorship. It IS his day, so we squeeze into the things and sit like straight-jacketed inmates wondering how we are going to fit in the next sip of ale, let alone the Indonesian banquet being whipped up in the kitchen. The girls at Etihad are putting on a show, playing fast and skilful footy and diminishing the gap between their brand and that of the boys. The lasses in red and blue are following Keg’s script as they hold firm despite a spirited Bulldog comeback.

Sadly, the gap in years between those out there on the expansive Dockland green and us here on Keg’s expansive couch is an ever-expanding ogre. And while that expanding gap is what we are here today to celebrate, the commensurate growth in skill and fitness discrepancy is something we prefer to stay dumb to. Keg’s son Jack is the same age as many of those playing the big time, but it doesn’t stop us old farts talking up how we might still match it with that “bunch of sheilas”. It’s one of many bad (sad, dad) jokes to fly round the afternoon.

We are called to the table just as the main game takes bounce. It is a bagus spread of chicken curry, beef rendang and gado gado on beds of Basmati. White wines and Stella Artois are raised to toast the birthday boy and we have barely savored the first forkload when someone glances up at the flat-screen. It is four goals to nothing. A knowing groan disturbs the cheer. With each delicious mouthful, the Bulldogs add another and we are soon banned by birthday boy from looking at the box. This, he says, is why we did not go to the bloody game.

It had been first suggested that we rendezvous on the Dockland terraces, that a Sunday afternoon cheering his Dees in could be a nice way to pass a milestone. It wasn’t just the weighing up of Indonesian versus Four’n Twenty that put the kibosh on it. There was the form factor; there was the warmth factor; and there was the fact that Melbourne simply refuse to ever bring a winning game to the Docklands. It is as though the players share every member’s disgruntle at having to venture anywhere outside Jolimont. Twenty minutes into the second quarter it is 78 points to two (points!!), confirming every misgiving held and provoking calls for the girls to be brought back out.

By the long break we have pushed into us every morsel of gado gado we can, the old Demon guernseys now compression bandages, and we roll over onto Keg’s long lounge. If Melbourne could not care less about it being one of their long-suffering’s birthday, then at least the Bullies show some respect. Kindly they sit back in the third, just like we are doing, pretend for a bit they have forgotten how the game goes. Let the other blokes have some of the action. They deign to not kick a goal for the quarter and let Melbourne have five. They really are nice people at Footscray.

So Keg is not entirely crushed, his big day not total disaster. While he is too old to be fussing about presents, he really wouldn’t knock it back should someone gift him a Stringer or a Bontempelli to throw into his Demon mix. The last quarter is an obliteration of courtesy and contest as the young Bulldogs remind us that they are not threatening top four through sentiment alone. They win by a street, by the distance between Mornington and Melbourne, by the gap that exists between our ages and that of the terriers out there on the park. It is a gap ever-widening.

Western Bulldogs 8.3   14.5   14.7      24.9.153
Melbourne             0.2      2.4     7.7      8.7.55

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