Round 6 – Geelong v Gold Coast: Some happy returns

Some happy returns

Roy Hay

It is a long time since I was a regular season ticket holder at Kardinia Park. My copy of League Football in Victoria 1978–79 reminds me of the Saturday afternoons when in the company of an Englishman, a South African and a Kiwi, we’d sit in the front row of the open area before the Brownlow Stand on the outer wing to watch Gary Malarkey, ‘Jumping Jack’ Hawkins and Larry Donohue strut their stuff. Next to us sat Madame Defarge knitting as the tumbrils passed before her. One day a Hawthorn thug tackled Terry Bright into her lap, whereupon she belaboured the perp with her umbrella within an inch of his life. I don’t think the fellow laid another tackle that day.

A few years later the pattern changed when I became the football (soccer) writer for the Geelong Advertiser. I’d still organise the memberships and go to the footy with my mates, but after the first quarter I would leave 23,000 screaming Cats fans and head for Myers or Hume Reserve or Stead Park to report on the round ball game attended by a much smaller, though often equally passionate, audience.

Eventually my attendance at the footy became infrequent as each week I filled a page of a broadsheet newspaper on Fridays and Mondays with the doings of the soccer community, covering everything from the National Soccer League to the local Under-9s. I reasoned that bright young offspring of migrant parents who did not have much reading matter at home, might turn to the soccer column to see if they got a mention. So I would have battles with the sub-editors as I tried to get odd words with more than two syllables into the column, hoping to stretch the young readership as they wondered what I said about them.

The chance to cover the return of my wife’s favourite player, Gary Ablett, junior, to Skilled Stadium with the Gold Coast Suns and write about that for the Almanac could not be turned down. But the websites quickly told me no tickets were available. Catastrophe was averted when I discovered the returned tickets system where some serious, possibly legitimate, scalping seemed to be going on. So we found ourselves with a couple of briefs for seats high in the Gary Ablett Terrace behind the goals at the city end and entering by the P. Farmer Gate 1.

Before doing so we booked ourselves into Clats’ Pub, the Sawyers Arms and our favourite howf when we lived in Highton, for the pre-footy special. That recalled an old story, when Gary Ablett, senior was having a meal there. The venerable Mrs Clatworthy, the former licensee, stopped to chat. Gary said, ‘Do you know in all the time I’ve been playing here I’ve never been in this hotel before?’ Quick as a flash came the reply, ‘Don’t worry, young man. I’ve never been in Kardinia Park either’.

The Cats have returned to some sort of form in 2016, beating Hawthorn in the opening match but stumbling to a narrow defeat in the next game against the GWS, while the Suns started with three wins but then copped two losses in games and a ban on defender Steven May. Losing at home to a rampant North Melbourne was perhaps disappointing, but this was a chance to atone if the Cats were just off their game a little.

This was our first chance to see another returning hero, P. Dangerfield. After the Power game last week, Richo asked Joel Selwood how two intensely competitive players were getting on in the midfield together. Were they fighting for the number one ranking? Without missing a beat the skipper deflected the question saying that they were learning to play with each other, since he had missed much of the pre-season build-up. Nice one, Joel.

An evening kick-off under lights was another footy first for us. As a result the eyesore which is the outer wing while the new stand is being built was less of ‘a gap where a tooth should have been’. My eyesight is not great these days so I had my binoculars in use every time the ball went up the other end.

It was hard to see who was doing what in the restarts in the centre too, and the crowd at our end was very subdued. Nakia Cockatoo kicked the opening goal for the Cats, but Tom Lynch replied quickly for the visitors. Jed Bews pulled off a couple of good defensive marks and the match settled into an arm wrestle for a while. It was held up twice for video reviews of shots that were touched on or near the goal-line. What the crowd saw was often pictures taken on an angle from which nothing could be determined. This exercise just shifts the locus of decision making from matters of feet (decimetres) to inches (centimetres) and leaves as much controversy as ever. It also removes discretion and undermines the on-field umpies. Both decisions went the Cats’ way. Steven Motlop kicked a couple of goals. Just before his second, Cameron kicked one for the Suns, bringing the score to 26–19, but that was the closest the away team managed for the rest of the day. By quarter time the margin was 14 points but it was beginning to look ominous.

I spent the game in the company of young Fernley from Mount Gambier who was attending her first AFL match. She slept through the whole thing, apart from a brief period in the fourth quarter when she woke for a feed. She is only nine weeks old, so this is understandable. Her elder siblings each had blown up tubes supplied by a finance company (if you can get a sponsorship from them JTH, I will give them a plug). With these they could make an interesting metallic noise, which in other circumstances might have been wearing, but here it created a little atmosphere. The younger of the two had a Suns top and a Cats cap and a Cats teddy bear. Dad is Geelong, Mum has cousin who plays for the Suns, but he was not in the line-up today. Just another footy family, I thought. Frances observed that the much touted high proportion of females watching footy, did not appear to be much different from that at A-League soccer matches.

The second quarter saw the game ended as a contest as Geelong kicked away to a 41-point lead, enlivened by two consecutive set shots by Tom Hawkins. The first a check-side effort was a goal, but the second, from a similar angle, went wide. We noticed that the Suns had had what appeared to be a prayer meeting just before kick-off and they repeated it at half-time, but it did them little good. Early in the third we had the first demonstration of the Guthrie pirouette, a manoeuvre I have not seen before. He appears to be running ahead of the ball to position but whether by telepathy, eyes-in-the-back of the head, or a shout by a team mate, just as the ball passes overhead he twists his body round reaches up and grabs the ball and lands facing the right way and accelerates into space. He did it twice in this match. The delivery in each case to a team-mate that followed was just the icing on the cake.

Eleven minutes into the third quarter the crowd woke up and produced the loudest cheer of the night as P Dangerfield finally got a goal to make the score 101 to 39. Not to be outdone Joel Selwood scored with a set shot, which received a more subdued response. Then the Hawk had two more set shots. We were directly in line behind his first which veered wide of the post then swung back for a ‘how did he do that’ goal. That took the lead to over 100 points. His second just went straight through. By now it was getting ugly. Even G Ablett was being booed as the crowd tried to find something to do. Josh Caddy popped up in the forward line and promptly scored two goals and a point, Guthrie did another pirouette and set up P Dangerfield for another goal. By now fans were drifting away, though the majority of us stayed to reflect on a percentage boost and some excellent play by the home side, but sadly not really a contest and anything but a happy return for G Ablett, junior.

Final score Geelong 25–18–168 Gold Coast 7–6–48.

Best players: Geelong. Cam Guthrie, Josh Caddy, Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins, Steven Motlop, etc

Gold Coast: Tom Lynch (early as forward, later in the centre), Gary Ablett

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