To the Pub for Cats vs Hawks!

The bittersweet month is upon us. I love September. But it comes with the knowledge that it will be followed by the long, bleak months of the off-season. This year comes with an extra bonus; the Rugby World Cup. The broadcast schedule for this weekend will give you some idea why I’m so happy. Friday night; Cats vs Hawks, All Blacks vs Tonga. Saturday; West Coast vs Collingwood, England vs Argentina, Sydney vs St Kilda. Sunday; Australia vs Italy, Carlton vs Essendon. The pub is doing very well off me this weekend!

I’ve been hanging out for this all week. Come Friday arvo I basically can’t think about anything else but getting to the pub with the boys and watching the Cats bag themselves a bird and a prelim berth. There’s only two problems; One – the pub has a Northern Territory Foxtel satellite and are showing the game at 5.30 instead of 6.30, and it’s on the other side of town. Two – the Minister for Education has decided to pay the school a visit after hours and I’m stuck at work until she’s done with us. This is a good visit so I’m trying to contain my impatience but when she asks us what we’d ask for if she could grant us one wish I mutter “To be at the pub watching the footy in the next ten minutes” to Bolas. Bolas shares my priorities when it comes to football, a good man for a Collingwood fan. I get out of work with forty minutes to get to the pub, one of the prac students offers me a lift, her Subaru is gonna be a lot faster than my skateboard and the train, I might have half a shot now! We got to the pub in perfect time for the opening bounce. I grab a pint and join the boys, we manage to find a table under the screen, all set!

First quarter is intense. Hawks get on top and we can’t seem to get the ball through the sticks. Rioli and Franklin are having no such problems and the easily spooked might be getting nervous about now. Those with longer memories note that this is how we started the last couple of times we played them and then settled. Towards the end Menzel gets up and kicks a couple, damage undone. Hawks dominance hasn’t translated to the scoreboard and two straight kicks put us right back in it. Menzel looks like he might be a big factor in September. He’s coming off a five goal haul against the reigning premiers and he’s pulling down marks like champion full forward in his prime, rather than a first year kid who’s a week off turning twenty.

Like last week the Cats come out firing in the second. They cut the Hawks up like a loaf of bread, piling on five goals to one. The Hawks are in good form coming into September but Geelong make clear the difference between the top two sides and the rest of the competition. They have an extra gear and when they hit it they are nigh on untouchable. We’re going nuts in the pub! Not for the first time the fact that half of us work at the pub probably saves us from getting kicked out… the rest of the crowd are loud enough that we don’t stand out too much. Everything is looking good, we’re all over them. But then just before the break Menzel and Puopolo race for a ball that was always going to beat both of them to the line. It’s not about keeping the ball in, it’s about the opportunity afforded by the proximity of the ball to knock the opposition on it’s arse and set the tone for the match. They hit. Menzel spins off Puopolo and comes up clutching his knee in agony. The replay that Foxtel show a couple dozen times is devastating. Menzel’s knee twists sickeningly in slow motion. He’s stretchered off. I speculate that it might just have been the kneecap and not the ACL. A dim hope that is crushed the next morning, Menzel is out for a long time. I’m truly gutted for him, finals aside. It’s a long road back and an injury that seems to re-occur and it’s very early in his career.

Dad’s at the game and for once we have it live so we can actually trade texts. My little brother asks me to put a bet on West Coast to win the flag, he likes the odds, $3 outlay for a $49 return. I suggest he tries a bet on them to beat Collingwood next day but he’s only interested in the big return. The game’s back on and the Hawks are throwing everything at Geelong. Hodge gets them back in the game with two quick goals and the Hawthorn surge gets them two points up before Geelong turn the tide again. Varcoe goes on a run through the middle, burns off his man!!takes three bounces!!shoots from thirty out!!and misses to the left… easily in contention for point of the century. Geelong turn on some more brilliance. Hawkins is coming into his own (finally!) and kicks one of the goals of the match when he holds off Gibson, taps the ball down, shrugs off Gibson all together, turns, gathers and goals! By the time we reach the last break we’re four goals clear.

The fourth is still tense. I make my displeasure with the umpiring known. Hawks keep coming, we keep holding them off. Trent West takes a huge mark out of Pods’ hands and then puts it through the middle! One more will do it. Stokes seals it with ten minutes to go and I relax. The last ten minutes play out without much further incident until Franklin hyper-extends his knee. Poor bastard. That’s the Hawks season all but done. “Wouldn’t wish that on Milne” I text Dad. The game’s done. We’ve booked the prelim! I’m shattered, my voice is just about gone, the doubters have been silenced. If last week didn’t shut them up then that has to have done it. The Cats are far from fading. On balance against Collingwoods performance today they are surely now the team to beat. Bring on the prelim! Bring on the flag!

Leave a Comment