Round 5 – Richmond v Geelong: A Ball at the Ball with Balls

(Meant to post this last week, but better belated than never.)

Going to the footy with your sister isn’t the same as dancing with her. Even the analogy (or anti-analogy?) can’t get past first base here because she sits at the opposite end of the MCG among the Richmond members. With Laura is my nephew, Joel, who also barracks for Richmond. Without getting too catty about it the Moggies and Tigers are about to bare claws.

Laura’s attachments used to be for St Kilda – it was probably a blonde thing – but scorn for a player, or coach, coupled with others in her brood being with yellow-and-black caused a switch in loyalties.

We met for lunch at the Little Bridge Road Cafe, which is a tiny cafe in Bridge Rd; as the name suggests. The lamb with yoghurt and mint on flat bread for $5 was a good mover.

Earlier I had coffee with Lindsay, a mate who also barracks for Richmond. He tells me how unhappy I’ll be at the end of the game because the Cats will be thrashed, but Lindsay always talks up the Tiges only to be let down, caught in a Groundhog Day boast.

While I hope to dance to the Cats’ tune and have been enjoying their efforts post round 2, I’m also pronouncing that Richmond will win: their commitment is being questioned, their best form is quite good, they owe us several and we’re undermanned – If this group can’t beat us now they never will.

But a team so up-and-down can finally arrive at the time when there’s no more up; like too much rejection on the dance floor, confidence is irreparably dented. And, today, Richmond are also favourites – expectation is their least preferred partner. So, if the Cats get over the line I’ll do the two-faced side step and claim credit for the best moz this side of the millennium ball.

The dress code for today is team attire. I try to enter via gate 3 with L & J, but the doorman swings me around in the direction of AFL members, which is probably why I’m confused about dancing analogies.

The players enter the arena while their chaperones, the coaches, sit in the stands. Mark Blicavs celebrates his 50th anniversary. Corey Ellis is a debutante for the Punt Rd mob. But all Tiger fans really want to know – will Richmond be on song?

The enforced meandering, a congested text line and plenty of room in the AFL Members means I find a shady spot there with a balcony view as Messrs Selwood and Cotchin face off in the centre circle. Richmond will shimmy toward the Ponsford Stand.

The Sherrin glistens in the sun and is bounced where handbags were buried in 2007. The tempo is slow to start with, and the crowd quiet – hesitation is in the air, anticipation separated by team colours. The players swap turnovers instead of partners.

Taylor Hunt, who had already changed alliances, wraps his arms around Cory Gregson escorting him to the ground without properly introducing himself. The adjudicators show their true colours and deem Cory held the object of their desire too long.

Rumours the umps have feelings for the Tiges appears borne out by stats. Before this round-five stoush Richmond had accumulated 106 free kicks to Geelong’s 61. By quarter time that margin had increased by another five. But too much attention can be counterproductive.

Tom Hawkins appears less burdened this week and kicks truly, while the Tigers have a love affair with their goal post.

Handballs go around the outside, around the outside and end with a throw-in.

The Tigers seem to be keeping their distance – did the Cats forget to apply the ode cologne?

I send a text to sis – least worse team wins. It arrives about half an hour later, by which time Geelong has found some rhythm.

The Cats invoke the Pride of Erin and step backwards to go forward. Hawk hugs the ball to his chest and inspires a new routine.

Our veterans are generally getting their touch back, but Steve Johnson needs another week of rehearsals. He is blinded by the sun, out of sync and generally stepping on his own toes.

Handpasses go around the outside, around the outside and end with a goal to Vickery – the Tiger’s first.

Hawk shepherds for Kersten who kicks in-board to Walker proving it sometimes takes three to tango. Duncan dances around Vlastuin with fancy footwork. Jared Rivers waltzes around packs to take commanding marks.

Steve J. pirouettes when he should pivot, sambas when he should foxtrot, and when he has a chance to snap at goal he hesitates, like a teenager meandering across the room about to ask the prettiest girl for a dance and having second thoughts. He’s playing like Fred Astaire with a dose of Charlie Chaplin. He hasn’t lost much more than a little confidence: he just needs to look in the mirror ball and be reminded who is the fairest forward of them all.

Bews steps around too many as if he learned his manoeuvres from the aforementioned Messr Johnno, but when he gets it right it’ll be a spectacle. Mostly the kids are creating their own choreography. Steven M., meanwhile, glides across the surface; twinkle toes with a square dance mo. He is seen on the big screen glance up at it for a replay of his deed, but is only confronted by an image of himself – narcissus with infinity?

At the main break, with the Cats 28 points up, I skirt around the arena to parley with the sis, but by the time I get there intermission is over. Do I want to sneak in to sit with the Richmond members? She asks. Dunno, I say – it could get ugly. Besides, bouncers – my Geelong scarf etc. And do I want to witness their disappointment or have to hold back if Geelong wins, especially in light of my confident prediction? There are spare seats in the clouds, but I won’t make them trek up there.

Sirens simultaneously sound to restart the game and exit the stadium, which has everyone unsure of their next move. It was electric, so frantically hectic, and fans started leaving…. Well, actually, in typical Aussie fashion, nobody reacts much at all – some stand to peer like meerkats, but otherwise remain stationary. All is sweet (ha!), though slightly tweaked.

After the false-alarm alarm, teams trade goals in the third quarter. Then: Are you ready, Steve? Harry? Mitch? All right fellas, let’s go! And the man at the back said everyone attack and it turned into a goal by Blitz.

Talk about balls. Kelly is carted to hospital following an injury threatening his romantic future, after an unintentional mid-air nudge sees him belly-whack the deck.

B. Houli, who wouldn’t look out of place at the Bushrangers Ball, gets one for the Tigers. Cotchin crumbs off Lonergan’s head for another.

Once expectation has been extinguished by the Cats sizeable lead, Richmond find motivation, but it’s like finally deciding to dance when the venue’s about to close.

At this point in proceedings, neither side looks likely to qualify for the big ball in September, but the Cats are tuning up nicely. And I’m preparing for the two-faced side step.

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.


  1. Cat from the Country says

    Love the dance analogy.
    I know how you feel about hoping the Cats will win but not being too sure.
    I tend to remain positive as it is easier than being negative!

  2. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Cat:
    I’ve been enjoying watching the Cats a lot since round 2 – even the loss against North.

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