Round 21 – Carlton v Melbourne: Sill awaiting the purple patch

Still Awaiting the Purple Patch

by Geoff Woolcock


I’m of the fan ilk that likes to hang on to likely omens, preferably of the optimistic variety.

It’s a cultivated mindset that I openly concede is borne of the quiet desperation that saddles the lifelong Dee follower. Early this Sunday morning, with my eleven year old nervously googling the playing arena of today’s Super Youth League soccer opponents to find it was a different venue than his father was heading to, on an almost empty Centenary Highway in Brisbane’s south-western suburbs, we trusted the change would have no effect on his recent purple patch of scoring that has earned him the moniker ‘Patch’. And so it proved to be, as he laid on the first goal and then crashed home a second in the opening 10 minutes before I needed to zip to the airport to make a dash for the Dees virtual certain four-pointer up against the hitherto hapless Blues, my first AFL live match for a few years waylaid by junior coaching. I’d booked the flight a fortnight previously, confident that my arrival time scheduled around the same time as first bounce wouldn’t matter much if my cabbie could swish me to the Docklands. This he did but I smelt a rat in transit texting my old mate AB when he let me know he’d already bought me a ticket in the Olympic Stand, Gate 3. Thus another 20 minutess hooking around the back of the city and listening to a string of goals on the Triple M radio call, had me almost reluctant to enter the G early in the second quarter. A measly five tackles in the opening half hour was a pretty fair indication of another off day for the Demonics, coming off their pantsing by the red hot Bulldogs where it must be said that the MFC have played much more poorly before and lost by less.

Nonetheless, it would only mean anything if they came out and stamped their authority on a match where they were unbackable favourites. But 2015 has seen such tags become a burden for Paul Roos’ men and the tell-tale signs were immediately evident upon seeing the game in the flesh as half-hearted chases, skillless turnovers and those feeble smothering attempts where the arms flail high in the air rather than down on the boot’s shoelaces saw the Navies eight goals up at the main break. A decent and unwelcoming late afternoon wind was biting in the upper echelons as the second half resumed, and with Carlton’s 11th soon after, it was tempting to seek cosier environs until the red guernseys found some fluency, starting with Gawn in the middle and a lively Garlett up front against his former teammates. A four majors deficit at the final break soon became three, as the Dees monopolised the ball in their forward half, but rising star Jesse Hogan wasn’t clutching his grabs and other serial culprits ala Watts refused to take the game by the throat when it was there for the taking. More butchered opportunities ensued and then counterpunched by Hogan’s rival for the award, the silky Cripps popped up 20 out directly in front to kill the game off.

With little other than pride to redeem this bottom 8 contest, it was no surprise to have multiple examples of blights in the modern game for us two old grizzlies in the stands to grumble over, not least the game’s propensity to criss-cross back and forth through each of the spares (or ‘plus ones’, as the David Kings would have it) before anything progressive might be contemplated, reminiscent of so much non-competitive, utterly predictable approach play that dulls much of basketball and soccer’s playing time. We warmed to Lethal Leigh’s idea of stationing at least one player from each team in the 50m arcs but then speculated how coaches might try to manipulate such a ruling, the game’s aesthetic seemingly very low on their priority list.

A dodgy 50m penalty against Garlett triggered a motion for a more discernible 50m and 25m penalty options which in turn had us gaining some nearby agreement on lengthening a legit kick to 25m. We closed out our ruminations close to the final siren by acknowledging that it was only a few years ago no rule changes were on anyone’s lips when scoring was higher and there was genuine unpredictability in many if not all games. So the underdog Blues closed this one out under full floodlights and the kids free entry Sunday instantly brought all sorts of skewiff kicks on to the arena, as the AFL suits, their pockets jangling with their new $2b+ broadcast deal, watched on approvingly, figuring they were due a purple patch of their own after the drugs scandals.

A purple patch of any durability still awaits the oldest football club in the world but in this ugly football 2015 season squashing individual creativity, perhaps we ought to look forward to a manifestation of its original meaning, that is to be “florid in prose”.

Malarkey votes:  3. Patrick Cripps (Carl), 2. Matthew Kreuzer (Carl), 1. Tom McDonald (Melb)


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