Round 23 – Geelong v Adelaide: Show Time at the ‘K

 

Some say emotion has to be removed from the equation when making decisions about player futures. That might resonate with the cold mathematics of economic rationalism, but football is mostly about emotion, about loyalties, quests and communities – enjoyment.

 

On Saturday arvo I was on my way from feisty blue oceans to calm country pastures when attending the farewell party at Kardinia Park. I was running late and arrived during the main interval. Though, the result was immaterial for us against the Crows. Today was about paying respect, giving thanks …to be there when entertainers left the field.

 

I made a beeline for the bar to grab some cheer and check out the first half highlights on the wall TV. Steve Johnson’s name had featured regularly on the car radio, including a one-two-three involving Kelly and Stokes. Johnson was seemingly trying every party trick at his disposal – a commentator wondered if he took a one-hander before attempting a goal while flat on the ground. That Ablettine mark was confirmed along with its subsequent poster.

 

Next stop: standing room where most revelry is usually had. One could get emotional about that stadium feature and where it stands, or sits, in bean-counting futures. Have yet to pin-point where Almanackers plonk, but any spot in the terrace is convivial. The unadorned supporters who I initially thought were Cats fans, then plain-clothed Crows, emerged as Richmond barrackers licking lips at the prospect of recruiting SJ next year.

 

The venue was ablaze with blue and white bunting, interspersed with red, gold and blue. On field, the boys were playing like it was 2007 – being daring and instinctive, enjoying each others’ presence.

 

Tom Hawkins displayed a turn of pace that from now on should be his yardstick, burning off an opponent and hitting Vardy on the chest with a long left-foot pass.

 

For Steve Johnson meanwhile, it was party time with emotion and a dash of ‘stuff you’. He was a man rising above a heavy heart for a last hurrah. He happily sprayed shots right, left and short in the absence of a tomorrow. Chris Scott smiled on the screen, and I don’t think it was forced.

 

Josh Cowan, with his long dark hair was Mathew Scarlett reborn.

 

The Richmond barrackers lamented temperamental internet connections and a parochial scoreboard – they wanted to know how the Dogs were going. I relayed what I’d seen at the bar – Doggies up by about seven goals. Apparently, if they won by 108 points they’d overtake the Tiges.

 

We had staked out a five goal lead, but the Crows pegged to within a point before we regained urgency and pizzazz. Adelaide have played a good part of the season with heavy hearts, but finals spot secured their desire couldn’t match ours today. They were polite guests not wanting to ruin the hosts’ celebration. Tellingly it was three goals in a row from our younger players that reignited the shindig. Eddie Betts brilliance book-ended the third quarter.

 

The Richmond supporters were confident the Tigers would make the prelim if they won the first final. “We’ve got the Swans covered, we’ve got Freo covered…” But I was distracted by Mathew Stokes kicking a farewell goal as we whooped it up.

 

Memories emerged of Stokesy in another game against Adelaide in 2007 when we were still proving doubters wrong. I saw that in the Torquay pub. ‘Moving to the left, moving to the right – Stokin’!’ What stood out from the start was his overhead marking against taller opponents.

 

Not done with here, he passed to Johnson, who took a contested chest mark in the goal square Ablett Snr would’ve been proud of. Steve gestured to the crowd that was already behind him to get behind him a little more. Six points were a certainty even for this vaudevillian day. Cheers and applause were sustained from mark to gaol and more. Mercurial, magical, magnificent!

 

It was Kardinia carnival time as we tried to gift James Kelly a goal, but couldn’t get him possession with enough space to manoeuvre in. Kel has never been a big goal kicker, but we’ll miss his body size, inside grunt, tackling and balance – and humour.

 

As if scripted, the man being sought and suited, Paddy Dangerfield, took a mark on the fifty in the Crows forward line. The crowd cheered him and the quirky fate that had the ball in his hands now. His shot at goal was applicably wide.

 

The final siren was unheard. Did it really sound its death knell? All that remained were ovations and encores. The Cat trio were chaired off, cheered and returned for more goodbyes than a long ago opera singer.

 

The crowd was on a high; but with conflicting happy, sad emotions.

 

They played “We are the Champions’. It was like old times. It was like a grand final.

 

Steve Johnson exited his arena for the final time holding the hand of number-twenty Jnr.

 

No one wanted to go, but there was kick-to-kick to be had and kids ready to stampede the ground.

 

This Cats carnival was over.

 

Time for the next generation to get us in party mood.

 

MATCH DETAILS

 

GEELONG:   5.6  8.9  11.11  17.17 (119)

ADELAIDE:   1.3  3.6  9.12  11.14 (80)

 

GOALS:

Geelong: Vardy 3, Walker 3, Hawkins 3, Johnson 2, Cowan, Selwood, Horlin-Smith, Guthrie, Mackie, Stokes

Adelaide: Betts 4, Lynch 2, Smith, Sloane, Walker, Thompson, Jenkins

 

Umpires: Rosebury, Findlay, McInerney

 

Crowd: 26,128 at Kardinia Park

 

 

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    I couldn’t begrudge your Cats their enjoyment Paul. First time out of the finals for yonks, but still cause for celebration and optimism.

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