Round 3 – Geelong v Gold Coast: When the supposedly crumbling Cat Empire overcame King Rodney and his Knights of the Oval Table

(Warning: this article may contain puns)

“Oh! Had enough, eh?” taunted the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, refusing to admit defeat after being rendered armless and legless by King Arthur while defending a feeble bridge.

That’s how it was like on the fair fields of Kardinia against the Suns as the Cats lost teammates instead of limbs, and defended a feeble lead (but minus the Python character’s delusional cockiness), not to mention a reputation.

The Suns are on their own quest for revered silverware, and Kardinia Park is, to them, another battlefield en route to glory at the ‘G in September when victorious crusaders are crowned.

So, Rodney and his band of sun-drenched soldiers marched into town to storm a feline fortress not as formidable as recent legend decreed. But when a cold southerly blows, Kardinia Park can still be as bleak and uninviting as any unruly outpost.

I had journeyed south from Benalla and stopped in central parts of the dominion to watch the game on telly. But it wasn’t just the weather preventing me venturing further.

In the lead-up I wasn’t optimistic or enthusiastic. Felt similar approaching the Freo game, and to a lesser extend against the Hawks; had been that way a bit last year. It sometimes appeared like we were on auto-pilot, going through the motions, risk taking by rote. Where was the spark? We weren’t as much fun to watch any more. We needed some Merlin magic.

Doubts also spread to the coach. Was he too measured? Was he a good people manager, but lacking in tactical nous? Was he in denial about the players?

Despite all that our best was often still good enough; we just had trouble sustaining the campaign for a whole game.

I’d missed the pre-season, but reports about Clark adding a dimension to our forward line, along with the kids being a year older made me hopeful we would counter the retirements and premature departures, and improve. In media interviews the players and coaching staff reassured everyone they’d addressed the fade-outs: though often ‘talk’ can be the problem.

But, the first two games suggested our trajectory was downward, our game plan lost in that Sleepy Hollow forest where headless horsemen roam (if I can mix legends) – we looked like a team that had lost interest, or spirit – tough opposition aside.

Today’s bleak forecast bode well for the Cats, but viewing it from the comfort of a lounge room in bushy Alma, conditions appeared benign – the sun was out, and so was Tom Hawkins. Countering that, Gazza, the golden child, sat in the stands to watch suitors fight it out.

The Cats advanced early. Bartel started by laying a strong tackle and we scored the first goal courtesy of a Lang and Walker combine. The Suns were prepared for battle too – Garlett kicked a goal-of-the-year contender following a long run, but Clark’s unrewarded attempt to chase impressed almost as much.

Lonergan was penalised for holding: it was there in slow-mo, and probably in normal-mo if Channel 7 had played it.

Chris Scott looked different – has he lost weight?

Steve Johnson couldn’t get into the action, though he was well checked, and the delivery to him inaccurate.

The Suns had more chances in front of goal, but we were competitive. A good first-quarter joust ended with the Suns up by seven.

Then it was like the memory of the previous two games came back to haunt. We made errors, miss-kicked, got in each other’s way, lost confidence quicker than player numbers …were crucified by the umpires (a slight exaggeration, but …Holy Grail theme. Though, my fair sister, a neutral supporter who was also paying attention at the time, and without any prompting by me because I was still in dispassionate mode, made an aside comment to similar effect).

The war of attrition was in full swing.

The Suns parried – Bartel had his knee head-butted into Moorabool Street.

They thrust – Lonergan’s head was pummelled by a knee.

Selwood used his head as a battering ram and drew blood. You could imagine him scoff, like the Black Knight, “I’ve had worse.”

The Suns stormed – Stokesy hobbled off on one leg.

We were on our knees.

“Stand aside worthy adversary,” they said.

“Get stuffed,” was the reply.

Though, we were more head-down and bum-up grit and determination than Black Knight-taunting.

Gold Coast, however, while talented, tall and agile weren’t battle-hardened enough to put us to the sword. So, Sir Selwood rose from his slumber; the crowd recovered from its lethargy; I shouted at the TV. Even King Chris came down to ground level to campaign. The sense of urgency was back like an old comrade.

Blicavs played his most important game, Stanley became motivated, Clark was eager, Gregson provided run and spark, Taylor rediscovered his marking powers, but Steven Johnson couldn’t get that bouncing ball to behave and pop up on a deader track, and seemingly couldn’t reach below his knees. He’ll be back.

When Blicavs kicked the clincher and the final siren sounded, Selwood had the ball in his hands and slammed it into the turf with annoyed satisfaction.

Channel 7 dashed off to the news and allowed time for reflection,

The victory road to shiny silverware is paved with desire. We prevailed due to that attribute.

It was a win up there with many from our golden era – not as pretty to watch, but satisfying, and one of the finest bouts of perseverance from the greatest-team-of-all mob. I would have concluded similarly were we pipped at the post.

Bloody hell, I was almost tempted to evoke the ANZAC legend.

It doesn’t mean we turned the corner, it might even be a dead cat bounce win, but it was something to build a plank on and has me accepting transition theory

I used to refer to us as the Terminator Cats because we always came back, but that was a moniker for a different team. This one will create its own – probably not the Black Knight Cats, though.

The Gold Coast might be closer to the Holy Grail than we are, but if the lads keep putting up that sort of effort, footy life in the Kingdom of Kardinia will be far from bleak.

About Paul Spinks

I have writing published and performed in various mediums, but usually not enough of it to pay the rent. Had many jobs, travelled a lot, so I think this experience allows a broad perception of society. I'm not an academic, though did complete a BA as a mature-age student. Below are links to some published written pieces. https://newmatilda.com/2017/07/30/its-time-for-our-baby-democracy-to-walk/ https://meanjin.com.au/blog/the-elephant-in-the-chamber/ https://overland.org.au/2017/11/australias-workplace-laws-a-narrative-tragedy/ https://newmatilda.com/2019/05/16/the-green-blind-spot-on-australias-expanding-population/ https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/is-ashleigh-barty-the-saviour-australian-tennis-has-been-waiting-for-20200108-p53prl.html https://spinksytravelworld.com/pirate-of-padstow/ https://overland.org.au/2020/10/the-slow-death-of-a-public-institution/ https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/false-documents/fiction-paul-spinks/

Comments

  1. Paul – nice wrap of the game.

    My reaction to this game was the same as the man who comes home and finds his wife in bed with Usain Bolt – “disturbing, but magnificent.”

  2. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Dips.
    Yes, Bolt in bed with your misses and the Cats win both equal uncertain, but interesting futures. Is he going in the draft? He’d look good sprinting past the Reg Hickey stand..

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed your article, Paul. Courageous win by the boyos.

    And, in keeping with your Monty Python analogy, it will be fascinating to watch a new “autonomous collective” develop and emerge with the seasons.

  4. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Jen:

    The Spanish Inquisition is indefinitely on hold. Long live the collective.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Paul even as a non cats man a very entertaining read . Dips line reminds me of when Grange played PAC in the ad turf gf 3 yrs ago the game was a tie and at that stage a shared premiership , when a Grange player made the comment you don’t mind sharing your wife but not a premiership . ( Grange subsequently won outright )

  6. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Malcom.
    Can’t drink out of half a cup! Glad they sorted it out.

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