The summertime Blues

The sun has moved. The hydrangeas are finally in full shade. They stand wilted and frazzled after coping with the worst of this summer’s blazing heat. The flowers, which should be a bright, cheerful pink, look like Weeties flakes glued to the top of the stalks. Melbourne has had no rain since late January, and before that since mid-December. It’s been as dry as a Baptist wedding. But Autumn has signalled its arrival and on the same train will be the footy season.

Last summer you might recall that I spent a few weeks in Yarrawonga surrounded by Blues supporters. At the start of 2012 they spoke of hope. It was very disconcerting. Blues supporters never speak of hope; they speak instead of destiny, of imminent delivery, and of inevitable dominance. But last year they hoped. I could see it was killing them. The steel facade of arrogance was dented and, indeed, split. As it turned out, the 2012 season saw more force fed humility. The intravenous drip has been stuck in their arms all summer.

But Mick has arrived. Now their thoughts are really confused.

Again this year I sat for a few weeks in January under the elm trees in Yarrawonga with the same Blues supporters and listened. They’re an interesting study in human psychology. They spoke (endlessly) about Mick, about how he would harness the talents, shore up the defence, get the best out of Armfield and Waite and Garlett. They even concluded late one night (admittedly it was after midnight so it was officially junk time) that the Blues are good enough (wait for it), and fit enough (here it comes), and experienced enough (this is a true story), to WIN THE FLAG! Amazing.

My beers, housed comfortably in the Cats 2009 Premiership stubby holder, were going down a treat. (Each night I alternated between stubby holders ; 2007, 2009 or 2011).

But I wasn’t convinced with this bravado. The next morning, over coffee and Beroccas, I sensed that the previous night’s banter may have been a simple case of optimism disguised as beer.

But there is no doubt that Mick still puzzles them. He’s still a bit too much Collingwood. The Carlton jumper doesn’t sit comfortably on him, just like a pot of beer in John Howard’s hands was never convincing and Blundstone boots on Julia Gillard look like they’d rather be somewhere else.

In Malthouse, the Blues believe they may have a miracle drug to cure severe premiership drought conjunctivitis, but they are very uncertain as to when they can take this cure to market. It’s still very much in its experimental stage. As with all new miracle drugs, the expectation is that it could take a number of years. As many as five! By then (2017) it would be 22 years since their last flag. I pointed this out to them one hot afternoon, leaning back in my deck chair, resplendent only in board shorts which do wonders for a middle aged torso.

Their faces went blank.

“Have we ever had a 22 year gap between flags?” was the question.

I couldn’t answer so I continued to grasp my 2011 Premiership stubby holder and marvel at my new board shorts on that particular day.

So the Blues enter 2013 in a sort of no-man’s-land. Whilst it could be that Malthouse gets them closer to the flag (so their narrative goes) they’re struggling with the notion that it is an ex-Collingwood man who is leading them out of the wilderness. Is he really Carlton or a ruthless mercenary chasing another flag? And what if he can’t deliver? Being sent down the ladder by a Collingwood imposter is too much to contemplate. That thought puts a scowl on their collective face like a drunk finding a mouldy sausage roll in his pocket.

It will be a fascinating season for them. They will see something different; something focused and dedicated. Malthouse always provides these things. But somehow it’s compromised. Malthouse, sitting in front of a poster that says “We are Carlton”, will surely give the true Blues a slight case of indigestion, especially if the wheels get a wobble up.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Okay, I’ll bit…

    Dips, save your self-satisfying smirk for flag number 16.

    We’re not in no man’s land – here’s two things we’ve got that we haven’t had since Parkin gave it away:

    1) A system
    2) A game plan

    We got this.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    Good use of the rotation policy on the stubby holders Dips.

    Litza – It’s is a shame your system is PS3 and your gameplan is Nintendo.

  3. Maybe that’s why it worked at Collingwood?… you’d need to be ripped on disco-biscuits to follow that.

    Yeah, I went there.

  4. Litza, Ratten had a system/game plan (same thing, surely): throw Jamieson forward. Why would the Malthouse system of play round the boundary line, wait 10 years and hopefully meet St Kilda in the big dance work any better?

  5. Slightly different – you need a system to be able to implement a game plan…

    Comparing Ratten’s game plan to Malthouse’s is like comparing 52 Pick-up to Bridge.

    One thing Malthouse showed is his ability to see a mismatch and make a swap straight away (swapping Watson for Jamison). Ratten would’ve waited two quarters to make such a move.

    All happy down at Royal Parade.

    Premiership favourites.

  6. Not too early to point out that AFL premierships are the only legal tender these days

  7. Its that time of year when every footy fan’s heart is writing cheques, that their team probably won’t be able to honour.
    I saw a great “Divine Miss Bette” show at the Perth Fringe Festival on the weekend. Catch it at the Adelaide Festival soon.
    She reprised one of Bette’s “Sophie Tucker” gags about the old man getting a young girlfriend. The wife’s response is to do the same with the rejoinder that “20 goes into 80 more times than 80 goes into 20”.
    Sort of like the premiership contenders arithmetic we all engage in at this time of year.

  8. AF – I need to draft a new stubby holder very shortly. The others are looking a bit shabby. Too much use.

  9. “One thing Malthouse showed is his ability to see a mismatch and make a swap straight away”

    If only that was always true… #Reid #Hawkins

  10. Spot on JD.

    Taz had destroyed Pods before he went down with his arm injury. Mick missed the obvious move and away the Cats went. Then he blamed his players…….

    Litza – Mick & everything that goes with him is all yours now so enjoy.

  11. Peter Fuller says

    That horrible prospect which you conjured up of a 22 year premiership drought for the Old Dark Navies has a couple of precedents, but none in the conscious lifetime of current supporters. 1915-38 was the worst, with 1947-68 the current runner-up. We’re a chance to rectify that situation in the next few years, but I’m a long way from convinced that Carlton is a serious contender in 2013, a chance but no better than that.
    I’m confident of improvement and hopeful that injuries can’t be as bad this year as last. However, that’s a long way from the sense of destiny which used to be our birthright, to which you hint. However, we’ve endured a very chastening decade, so there’s a secure lid on our characteristic arrogance.

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