The Big Dance

i)  The Pilgrimage

An overcrowded morning train

is nearing Richmond station,

the fabled Melbourne Cricket Ground,

the common destination,

where kids are playing kick-to-kick,

and cars are filling space,

and stalls are selling scarves and things,

they’ll even paint your face,

and little boys in lemon smocks

are dressed like feudal lords,

in harmony they shout the word:

“Rec-ords! Rec-ords! Rec-ords!”

The larrikins are barrackin’,

the nans and pops are crowing,

while barbecues are sizzling,

and cold champagne is flowing,

and then inside the famous ground,

where stands are filling up,

and everybody’s wondering

who will lift the cup.

And six gigantic towers

surround the jam-packed stands,

transmitting power from heaven’s throne

to faith-abiding fans.

The Catholic has the Vatican,

the Jew, the synagogue,

the Buddhist has his temple,

the blind man has a dog,

every culture looks towards

a supernatural force,

Australians have their footy fields…

oval shaped of course.

While conquered nations play the games

their captors make them play,

“Let us play our own game!”

the defiant Aussies say.

ii) The Bounce

The cheer squads raise the banners,

the players line the race,

the seagulls screech farewell then

disappear without a trace,

and then a mighty rushing wind

drowns out the marching choirs,

as teams emerge, supporters stand

and speak in tongues of fire.

Balloons are loosed to ocean skies,

theme songs sung aloud,

flags are waving, scarves are twirling,

fanatics standing proud.

Will stands collapse? Will earth cave in

and swallow players whole?

Such mayhem on the hallowed turf

must surely take its toll.

All is now in readiness

upon this field of green,

the ground, though minutes prior a mess,

is now entirely clean,

the umpy strides to centre square,

the players take position,

supporters roar like maniacs,

(oblivious of their condition),

and players feel surrounded by

a million hungry lions,

and in the sky the yellow sun

sizzles like an iron.

The umpy holds the ball aloft,

the siren finally sounds,

the noise achieves crescendo,

the heart of a nation pounds,

a sound reverberating like

the coliseum’s roar

when the hapless Christian chanced upon

the hungry lion’s jaw.

iii) The Battle

What an exhibition!

The crowd cannot keep still

but shift and sway with each display

of power, grace and skill,

such silky skills enthral the crowd;

they dazzle with the ball,

and like a grand Shakespearean play,

there is a part for all:

the seasoned star, the skinny kid,

the tall, the short, the dreamer,

the birdman flying through the air

to take a breathless screamer,

the loose man streaming down the wing,

the thrilling one-on-ones,

the goal sneak scouting by the packs

to gather up the crumbs.

This game embodies all the skills­––

kicking, handball, marking,

leaping like an acrobat,

tackling, swooping, sharking.

A game for all conditions,

be it quagmire, grass or sand,

from orchards of the Apple Isle

to cliffs of Arnhem Land.

iv) The Prize

The siren sounds, the ground is filled

with scenes of jubilation,

supporters, players, coaches, gods

are joined in celebration.

The skipper lifts the golden calf

to echoes of the choir,

and once again that zealot crowd

speak in tongues of fire.

September’s sun has slipped behind

a brooding mass of cloud,

but players drink the cup of joy

and dance among the crowd.

v)  Song of the Seagull

Twilight-time, the MCG,

seagulls now are flying free,

as old men clean the littered stands,

the seagulls spy the fertile land,

the hordes have left in trams and trains,

only corporate men remain,

and while they sip their cold champagne

the seagulls sing in joyful strains:

When you leave the footy ground,

we fly in from coastal towns,

what you have lost, we have found,

listen to our screeching sound!

now don’t complain, or ask us why;

this land is ours ’cos we can fly,

possessing not a shred of skill

we feast until we’ve had our fill,

then once again we’re homeward bound,

returning where the breakers pound.

About Damian Balassone

Damian Balassone is a failed half-forward flanker who writes poetry. He is the author of 'Strange Game in a Strange Land'.


  1. Yep!

  2. Barry Stergo says

    Wonderful, readable poetry, captured the day beautifully.

  3. Great poem. Truly encapsulates the joy of the last day in September we all want to be a part of

  4. tingles…

  5. Ripper stuff. Lifting the golden calf – loved it

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