The afternoon football nearly forgot

By Simon Dalton

Perhaps the apparent predictability of this game’s outcome was already sensed by the footballing public and the respective teams well before the first bounce. That could account for a build up lacking in passion or interest.  As such it was played as if a gentleman’s agreement had been reached.

With forewarning of arctic conditions and its entire leadership group out with injury, the Port Power brain’s trust considered making a phone call to their adversaries. Knowing that in its present form the Cats were unlikely to crush the Power, irrespective of its personnel, the Cat’s hierarchy also contemplated a deal.

Matt Primus asked his people to contact Chris Scott’s people.  Chris instructed his group to listen. Together they planned out the game. At its core neither team, coming as it did from either lofty heights or embarrassing depths of 2011, would use this game to enhance or diminish its current lacklustre standing after Round 14.

The discussions may have gone something like this:

Port: We know we can’t win, but know you can’t belt us.

Geelong: We know we will win, but are aware we will not do so emphatically.

Port: We would prefer you not to kick more than 3 goals in each of the first 3 quarters and will help you with that by bottling the game up.

Geelong: Fair enough but we need our last quarter to be a fairly big one, as is our want.

Port: Agreed. If we could thrash you at the stoppages we will allow you to dominate the inside 50’s.

Geelong: Ok. If we start the last quarter well but allow you to pressure us for a sustained fifteen minute period without doing much scoreboard damage, what will you give us?

Port: The last few goals of the quarter.

Geelong: Done deal!

And so it transpired.

The Geelong supporters voted to remain at home beside their heaters and stayed away in droves, delivering the lowest home attendance for over twenty years and a nomination for how little noise 13,736 people can make while sitting in a confined space at a sporting event. The vast hole at the southern end sucked out any of the ‘heat’ that swung the mercury between 8 and 11.2 degrees throughout the afternoon. R. Ain put in four patchy quarters for both teams. It was darker at the beginning of the game than it was at the end.

It is quite an odd spectacle when an AFL game suddenly moves into a part of the ground where there are no spectators and less noise than at a local suburban match.

This fixture promised little and delivered marginally less. Tommy Hawkins almost took ten big grabs but the only one he held was as the final siren sounded. Harry Taylor kicked the first goal of the game as a defender and two in succession in the last quarter as a forward, bending the ball back in opposite ways; with first the outside and then the inside of his trusted left peg.

Port got men around the ball, Geelong had a loose man or two behind it. Billie Smedts showed quick hands early and stayed lively. He was also the recipient of the ‘softest goal possible’ award, when his opponent tried to punch the ball over the goal line, managing instead to drop it at Billie’s bootlaces for him to dribble it through.

For the visitors the hairy Neanderthal looking ‘twins’ of Westhoff and Butcher had their moments and their defenders were honest and hard at it. Danyle Pearce was polished and assured.

As for the hosts Allan Christensen was in, under and clever; James Kelly clean and clear headed while Corey Enright was the man on the ground who knew better than anyone else where the ball was going. Joel Selwood just got better and better. Cat debutant Jordan Murdoch showed glimpses of the toe he is noted for having, especially in the last quarter where he ran through half back and delivered a few left foot bombs a la Peter Riccardi. Stevie J’ showed his distaste for set shots again but glimpses of his footy nouse; seeing set ups ahead that only he can but in the greasy conditions his delivery was often astray.

Geelong was the beneficiary of another absurd 50 metre penalty ruling on a player edging over the mark when the aforementioned Stevie J’ clearly shaped to play on. Midway through the last quarter when Port was having a period of sustained possession (as agreed), Matthew Scarlett was dudded out of a genuine body on body defensive mark and Port gifted the resultant goal. For the remainder of the game Matthew was more than happy to let the umpire know how unhappy he was about that. The ‘holding the ball at the bottom of the pack rule’ was consistently absurd in its inconsistent interpretation and the rolling scrum seems to be gaining momentum in our game.

Mercifully the match finally ended and (also as agreed) we were none the wiser. Due to the wet conditions any young supporters still left in the crowd were not permitted to jump the fence at the second siren so we were unable to witness which of them would be first to reach the centre circle to annoy the security guards posted there. That denied, we left without an enduring memory of the afternoon the game nearly forgot – or perhaps the game the afternoon and the handful who attended will quickly forget.

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