The Swans nail it

I want you to stop what you’re doing and have a look at your finger nails. They’re not very substantial are they? Wafer thin, inconsequential pieces of stuff that sit at the end of the finger they have a few functions; they gather dirt and bacteria and horde it under their protective shell (for what reason no one can really tell me), they provide a canvas upon which nail technicians paint elaborate designs for (mostly) women with more money than sense, and they are an accurate measuring stick when describing what differentiates two football teams engaged in a titanic struggle. For example, a finger nail determined the result of the match between the Swans and Cats on Friday night; one tiny, pathetic, wretched, feeble finger nail.
The game had been blown open by a rampant Swans outfit. They’re a rejuvenated lot these Swans. Pacey, confident and strong in the clinches they have the ammunition to challenge the best teams this year. Early in the game they tore the Cats to pieces. Sure ball use and Shaw ball use combined with the old firm of Bolton, Mumford and McGlynn to have the Cats down for the count.
But Geelong is seldom beaten these days. How much longer they can simply will themselves over the line remains to be seen, but the evidence on Friday night suggests that the answer is not much. They need something more than just true grit. Despite signs that war weariness is taking hold, Bartel, Selwood, Chapman, Enright and Kelly refused to concede. They threw themselves into the contest and the wheel began to turn. The young blokes began to believe and the Cats gradually swung the game. It was like watching an enormous container ship complete a three point turn; it was agonising, but it was also very apparent.
They won the second quarter by a goal and the third quarter by a goal. At three quarter time the margin was 24 points. In golfing parlance the Cats needed to sink a tricky three foot, down hill, left to right sliding putt to win the game. Tough but do-able.
They charged at the tiring Swans. Chappy, Bartel and Selwood were at them like flies at an open sore. Four goals had them in front. The Swans were gone. Leg weary, Mumford-less, and without a winner through the middle of the ground it seemed that the Cats would grind them into submission.
However the Swans came again, like good sides do. The ball was mongrelled forward without system or thought. It had become a game of territory possession. A bloke called Everitt pulled in an improbable grab on the flank and his kick was followed by all eyes like the launch of a space shuttle. It started left and looked like it might end there. Then it straightened like a self correcting guided missile. Remarkably the new trajectory carried it through the middle and put the Swans back in the lead. The time clock said there was a minute and 17 seconds to go. But the Cats still had the numbers and the momentum. They would find a way. Surely.
The ball bobbled around in the middle, I was waiting for our victory-giving surge forward. And then it came. Wojo gathered in traffic. Or did he? He had the ball in both hands but it wasn’t completely under control. He was looking up, searching for the match winning lead that would come from one of the big forwards. Perhaps Johnno or Pods would find space (preferably not Hawkins who has the yips worse than Ian Baker-Finch) and Wojo would dash through the middle, find a target and the Cats would win. I could feel it in my bones.
There was one Swans player close by. I think it was Marty Mattner. But he was wrong footed. Wojo had him completely done. All Mattner could do was throw out his arm. It was a hopeless gesture but it was worth a shot. Wojo almost disregarded him. He was looking at the future, down the ground; he was looking at triumph.
And what a comeback it would have been. Six goals adrift, being smashed by a well drilled side on their home ground. They would talk about it for the rest of the season.
“Cats Find a Way” the headlines would read.
Commentators would point out that the Cats are still a champion team, they’re still in it. I would nod knowingly. “Too good” I would mutter as the Cats left the ground to the tune of Toreador.
Then Mattner’s finger nail intervened. If only he’d bitten it off on Thursday night as he nervously contemplated the contest the following evening. As he threw out his arm his finger nail touched the ball. That’s all it was; a kiss, a nibble, the gentlest caresses. It had all the impact of an autumn leaf landing in a fresh cow pat. But it was enough to cause dislodgement. The ball was in Wojo’s hands and then it wasn’t. He glanced down bewildered and confused not knowing in which direction the ball had spilled.
The moment was lost and so was the game.
Greatness is fleeting; as robust as a finger nail.

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. Earl O'Neill says

    Great piece, Dips. Football can be a game of cubic metres and it can be a game of a millimetre. I dig how you’ve described that.

  2. I’ll take a toe (poke) nail over a finger nail any time

  3. Good yarn, Dips. I really enjoyed Friday night’s game, for that theatre of the regenerated challenger and the proud champ.
    Looking at Chappy all shaven headed, willing himself forward in the last quarter gave me the mental image of a cancer survivor.
    “They said we were dead in 2010, but we showed them in 2011. Please don’t let this be the end. This isn’t the wasy I want to go out. One last effort.”
    Remission? Recovery? Remission? Recovery? Re…………..(to be continued, they hope).

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    Great effort by the Cats. The umpiring was a tad one-way in the first quarter. Anyway, Steve J is a forward, not a midfielder. Let us hope this nonsense is no more. Allen Christensen is ‘starting 18’, not a sub.

  5. The Wrap says

    It’s time for all those Sleepy Hollow faithful to come to grips with the reality and return to The Faith of Their Fathers. The Cats have run out of lives, and The Handbags have reverted to type. We all have a few loveable Old Fashioned Geelong Supporters in our friendship group, haven’t we? You know, up one week, down the next. Never sure if their Pussies are going to roar, sulk or purr. Welcome back – we’ve missed you.

  6. Skip of Skipton says

    Here’s a great example of wishful thinking by ‘The Wrap’. Plenty of it in the newspapers and TV also. Fools.

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    It was Grundy, Dips. Heath Grundy. The hand of Reg. And he owed it to us having botched a vital kick to Mattner on the wing, down 72 to 74 on the see saw. And we thank him for it.
    Mattner 29, Reg 39. Mattner socks up, Reg socks down.

    Your piece is very timely in our household as the Cygnet asked me to paint each of his fingernails a different colour today!

  8. Mathilde – thanks for the clarification. At least Grundy and Mattner both have an “r” in their surname and a “9” in their number – I was close. I’ll keep an eye out for the socks next time.

    Some of my uncles are South Melbourne/Swans supporters. The one who lives in Sydney will be particulalrly pumped.

  9. Great piece Dips. It was a ripper of a game to watch. This year has completely done my head in, the winners and losers are hard to pick. I’d tipped the Cats because of their ability to claw back, to face defeat and say, stuff it, it’s ours. I am a believer after the GF 2009 and 2011. As all other premiership-less teams of the last however long, feel, well, it’s our turn knowing it’s not really and as the Saints slide and the Cats slide and the Bulldogs, Pies are rising as with the Coast and Sydney and Adelaide. They’ll be the ones to fight it out up the top this year. The landscape has changed but you have plenty of silverware to keep your Cheshire cats grinning until the next time around. Your club now has earned the winning feeling and know how to do

    Well done


  10. Dips,

    Thanks for this piece. Footy is truly a game of millimetres.
    As a neutral observer, I really enjoyed Friday night’s contest:
    the long-time champ being battered around early, slowly climbing off the canvas…

    Plenty has (deservedly) been written about the Cats over the past 5 – 6 years,
    but what about the Swans and their ability to keep re-generating themselves
    in a competition in which all teams are supposed to take their turn at the bottom?
    Their continued competitiveness has been a remarkable story.

  11. Peter Flynn says


    Great description of the finger nail and the Everett goal.

    You are right about the lack of pace. Getting blown away early, particularly interstate.

  12. Andrew Fithall says

    Thanks Dips for proving me wrong (again). Cats supporters do occasionally write articles about a loss. Well done.

  13. AF – only occassionally. (because we’ve very rarely lost in the last few years !!!!)

  14. Don’t vultures like necrotic flesh Dips?

    Yet they are flocking around the Cats to scavenge a feed and we aren’t even dead yet. I think we still smell sweet and rosey.

    If, for example, the Pies had come back from so far it would be all about ‘side by side we stick together’ or ‘the maggots cost us again’. Yardy, yardy yah.

  15. John Harms says

    Dips, the Cats will win the flag. There are so many reasons why. Only one commentator is onto it – Grant Thomas and he’s only hinting at it and reminding the Cats they better not muck around too much else they’ll struggle to make the eight.

    And, if John Mosig had read the History of the Geelong FC from 1859, he would know that what has happened in the last few years is entirely IN CHARACTER. Periods of brilliance and commensurate success, followed by longer droughts. So what is the type? Victor? Vanquished? And why in bursts? (7 flags in 9 years from 1878 to 1886, 1930s when there were many good sides, 1951-53 for two out of three flags, and now.)

  16. JTH – brilliantly put. Very compelling argument.

    So is what The Wrap wrote actually crap?

  17. Andrew Starkie says

    Harmsy, wrong. Just wrong. Not this year.

  18. It’s North’s year, isn’t it Andrew. (Or was that just after round 3?)

  19. Andrew Starkie says

    Cookie, we’re back. I never doubted them. Cats flirting too much

    Speaking of which….How’s the Reser bakery going? I miss it. The um… bread isn’t as good in Coburg. Um…

  20. Harmsy has me convinced – we can win this !!

  21. Me too, Dips. Come on!

    Starks, popped in the other day. Service was first class.

  22. Andrew Starkie says

    good to hear Cookie.

    Boys, you can’t win it. you’re sounding like carl and Essn people.

  23. Andrew………………………and then I woke up.

  24. Andrew Fithall says

    Last time I heard “We can win this”, the team I was part of came in inglorious fourth at a trivia night in Wynyard. I wouldn’t be putting too much store in the JTH prediction Dips/Cookie. When you also consider that he has mentioned that his chief supporter for this optimism is Grant Thomas, I would be even more concerned.

  25. The Wrap says

    You stand on a Cat’s tail and do they ark up? I didn’t realize the Almanac was a Sleepy Hollow love-in.

    Look lads, I’m old enough to have collected Peter Pianto, Troubles Flanagan, Russ Renferey and George Goninon footy cards from the bottom of Kornies cerel packets. Sure they were a wonderful team and it was a great era, So was the last one. I was also a member of the Western District Car Club in the 60s and used to shoot clay targets at Point Henry in the 70s, so have quite a few old mates who still wear blue & white hooped underwear. I’ve had a consoling arm around many a heaving shoulder at the Great Western as The Pussies’ fortunes ebbed & flowed like the tide across the Avalon Beach salt pans.

    I also lived through the last Richmond Era with Tiger Tom, Royce, St Francis, Billy ‘The Grin’ Barrott, Hungry, Disco, Dick Clay. I too fought against the fading of the day. I fought hard because once night comes, September is a very lonely place.

    But as far as winning this Years Flag goes fellas – better get those sheets in the wash before Mum sees them. She’ll have you on bromide till Christmas

  26. The Wrap, beware the snoozing Cat. You’re not talking about the Great Western in King Street are you? I’ve been known to pop in there. Can’t remember any consoling arms around me in the difficult times, of which there were many for us Cats fans.

    By the way Harmsy, any more kids on the way? Go Cats. Another premiership beckons!

  27. Go easy on the Wrapster, Catsters.

    He is a bit confused at the moment. There is loud music playing in his head.

    Jethro Tull – Living in the Past.

    It’s from a bygone era called the seventies.

  28. Interesting reading the thoughts of the premiership-drenched Cat fans on this forum.

    We have all heard and read how every agonisingly narrow Cat loss this year was THIS close to an amazing Cat win. Funny, but the Cats used to be the masters at winning the close ones….

    We have all heard that the Cats have won every last quarter this year. That’s great. Pity that the four points goes to the team with the highest score at the end of four quarters.

    Some scribes point out the fact that, but for narrow losses to Freo, the Pies & now the Swans, the Cats would be further up the ladder. Please then don’t forget to balance this point by highlighting the lucky escapes versus the Hawks, the Tigers at Skilled and even the Dogs.

    I for one will not write the Cats off in 2012 just yet in deference to their superb recent reign. But their air of invincibility is clearly gone now and to boldly state that they will win the flag this year is certainly based upon hope and not exposed form.

  29. To my eye the Cats need 2 things to get deep into September:
    – A fit and firing TVarcoe for some dash and flair in the midfield;
    – A very wet September where the hard experienced bodies, sure hands (and slow legs) can come to the fore.
    Possible but not probable.

  30. I love all this Cat chat.

    By all accounts we are goorn but not forgotten.

  31. John Harms says

    The only thing we need is that there remains the customary proportion of Oxygen in the air.

    The only thing in doubt is who will present the Cup.

  32. 9.02pm ?? Shiraz or Cabernet talking???

  33. The Wrap says

    The only music ringing in my head Phanto goes “Oh we’re from Tigerland ……”

    And get used to it Sunshine, because you’re going to be hearing it a lot from now on.

    And PeterB, never mind the gentle cab savs & merlots, those Catters will be down Gin Lane before this season’s out.

    And I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that, if he were alive today, Napoleon would have been a Geelong man.

  34. If I may take the liberty here, prompted by your last comment Wrapster, I may add:

    If Napoleon was asked today whether Chris Scott can win another flag this year he may reply ” of Corsican.”

  35. Carey is behind Harms on this one – don’t write off the Cats, he says. Wise words.

  36. Great image, Mr Wrap. I can see Harms perched on his white charger at the MCG (Waterloo?) with his cocked hat and arm folded inside his striped tunic – “Marshall Flynn, send Bartel to the right flank to cover those Prussian forwards. Where are our reinforcements? What do you mean that General Ling and General Ottens have left the field? Traitors. Cowards. Shoot them all.”
    As for another Harms scion to mark 2012 as a premiership year.
    “Not tonight Josephine”

  37. Cookie, so far The Moggies have Doubtful Thomas, The Wayne, John Harms & Napoleon on the bandwagon. And, from his admirable of Corsican quip, I presume Phanto, and you. I notice that shrewd student of the game & Sleepy Hollow Diehard, The Mighty Flynn, has been astutely silent on the matter.

    Last year, with an untried coach & in supposed disarray, they started at $11.50. This year, after opening at $17.00, they’re $17.60 and drifting. The market has spoken.

  38. John Harms says

    The Wrap

    You need to keep a closer eye on betting markets.

    The Cats have come in a number of points on the exchanges this week and will continue to firm for a fortnight. Then blow again after losing to Collingwood (unbeatable I’m told) and further after that.

    However astute punters may wait until mid-August when the Cats might touch $30. I say pounce on Assumption Day.

    This will make them one of the highest-priced premiers of all time.

    And I am happy to line up with Grant Thomas and Wayne Carey. I’m not fussy. It’s the keenness of eye which interests me.

  39. Wrapster,

    you started this biffo and being an old fashioned back flanker from long ago in days or yore (last Tiger flag) I will not be intimidated. It is my designated role in the Knacker Cat game plan to run a hot tag on you; and so I am.

    I have recently had the pleasure of meeting the great Cat mathematician Pythagoras Flynn. I observed his withdrawn and cryptic demeanor for several days as he took residence in the Wynyard Footy Club bar staving the perils off dehydration

    He is obviously occupied studying sums at this very moment. I believe he is analysing the relationship of numbers over time. Further, he is giving close scrutiny to the following formulas and their association in big picture stuff.

    1) Tr(10) @ (1980) x 0/32 = 10 (This formula has been catalysed on many occasions by numbers greater than eight, with a significant repetition of the number nine)

    2) Ge(6) @ (2007) x 3/5 = 9

    3) 10 + 0 = 10

    4) 9 + 1 = 10

    5) 10 = 10

    With the logical use of algebra to explain an evolutionary process within the fauna realm Pythagoras Flynn’s thesis could will likely prove that there is a new (once incorrectly considered a sub) species of felines ruthlessly moving towards the top of the food chain.

  40. I’m very pleased with the sound logic of Harms and Phanto. Harms has spiritual belief; Phantom mathematical proof. That makes it very likely.

  41. I thought the Centrebet lure I laid out would draw the more cerebral of the Feral Felines out into the open. I was hoping to draw Pythagorus Flynn himself, but it would appear Old Brer Cat is lying low. Love his work. I think you’ve nailed it above. A a cascading symphony of the purest logic.

  42. ‘Able was I ere I saw Ablett.’ Napoleon…..(or was it Guru Bob?)

  43. John Harms says

    Cats in another half point on the exchanges.

  44. John Harms says

    Sorry, my mistake, that should have read a full point.

  45. Still on target for Assumption Day?

  46. Andrew Starkie says

    Look you blokes, the Cats won’t win the flag. Get over it.

  47. 4 flags in six years – this must make us one of the best teams of all time.

  48. Starkie siding with David King circa 2011 I see

  49. The Almanac might have a wider influence than we imagine Harmsie.

  50. King Con, Cookie?

  51. Andrew Starkie says

    fair dinkum you blokes are turning into carlton. unbecoming.

  52. I know another Scott led blue and white striped team that will stuggle as well this year.

  53. Andrew Starkie says

    I liked cat fans more when they were full of inferiority and pessimism.

  54. That’s what I tried to tell them AS, but they climbed all over me.

  55. John Harms says

    Andrew, I can assure you the well of pessimism and inferiority is full. But only when there is reason to be pessimistic and violet-shrinking. We have gone from playthings of the gods to rationalists. Woops…I should re-phrase that the gods have let us go from playthings to rationalists. Wrap your noggin around that conundrum.

  56. John Harms says

    Wrap, are there licensed persons in football writing?

    Also, is the Wrap family name a German adjective? Remind me? Haven’t studied German since 1977.

  57. Andrew Starkie says

    Yes, harmsy, never forget we are all at the mercy of the sporting gods. I recall feeling the footy gods were rewarding thre cats in the last term of the 07 gf. On the flipside, we all were nearly punished at Ascot on Saty night for our arrogance.

  58. If there is in poetry writing there’d have to be some in football writing, wouldn’t you think Harmsie.

    And I’ve no idea what the name means. I remember at a Dandenong Octoberfest years ago they had one of those heritage booths and the woman looked up the family shield. It was a three golden ears of wheat on a burgundy shield. As I was a grain merchant in those days I thought it was prophetic. I was going to get some cuff inks made up – but I’d never wear them so the urge lapsed. Then I thought maybe the kids will find them going through my effects after the funeral and think there was an inheritance over in Deutchland awaiting them. They probably don’t deserve that – the ruse, not the inheritance, -but it would put me one up and there’s be no comeback. Then there was the post-war German migrant who told one of my market gardening cousins that there was a Mosig Island in the Baltic. I knew there was a Biggles in the Baltic, but I didn’t know about the island. True, it’s not a castle in Scotland, but I’m thinking I might get those cuff links done after all and leave a few clues about a long lost but fondly remembered uncle Siegfried. Maybe one of those Adams family replica key rings and half a map with an X one it. That’ll keep them going for a bit.

    That’s me, what’s your story?

  59. Do you know the Breiers from Berlin, Wrapster.

    I married the daughter of one of them. You marry the fraulien and wake up next to the Frau. Das is life.

    Don’t worry about your teutonic fiscal fantasy. Angela will ensure that the Demetrio’s don’t get it.

    Starkie, we are full of inferiority and pessimism. We have had it bashed into us over the last forty years. We just fight fire with fire.

    What is that old outback saying? “If you kick a dog long enough it will either bite you or run away”. My hip is buggared but my new teeth are very sharp.

  60. The Wrap says

    You’re a brave man Phanto.

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