Was that Assumption Day that just went by?

It will come as no surprise to anyone (especially to The Handicapper) that I didn’t know what day it was on Wednesday. I see, now, it was Assumption Day all around the Christian world (except for Brisbane , where it was the Ekka holiday – but that’s another story).

It is a day of Holy Obligation.

It’s the day when Cats punters act on their holy obligation to back the Geelong Football Club to win the flag.

It was my contention earlier this season that punters remain patient insofar as investing in the Cats is concerned; that they would be $30 on Assumption Day. The rationale was that Geelong would lose a few to the big guns, especially Hawthorn and West Coast and the juicy odds would be on offer by Assumption Day.

Funny thing is Geelong got to $30 much earlier in the piece. After the Cats shock-loss to Collingwood they blew to $25 on TattsBet and touched $40 on the exchange. I couldn’t wait until Assumption Day. Too good to be true.

I was wondering whether it was a mortal sin to be thieving from a book-maker, until I realised the wise words of Father O’Anything who’d once told me that St Peter himself wouldn’t give you the door code at The Gates unless you’d taken advantage of a bookie.

But then it happened: Geelong beat the premiership favourites, and that meant everywhere in market-makers’ clubs on Assumption Day the satchel-swingers were greeting any mention of Geelong with the words “Keep Safe.” Indeed.

I have fond memories of Assumption Day – and of the Ekka Holiday which often meant a game of gold or a trip up the mountain to St Leonard’s Hotel at Mt Tambourine to sit in the late-winter sun and lunch.

My fondest Assumption Day though was of arriving in Paris without realising the date. It was my first-ever trip to the Continent, and on a shoe-string budget, I had been recommended London’s cheapest method of getting to France: a three-day packaged bus tour, including hotels, for less than the cost of an air fare. How did they do it?

It had been put together by a chap – actually, by a geezer – upon whom any character ever played by Sid James was based. He was the money collector and tour guide. Not one reference to history along the way, but a keen eye for petrol signs. Cruising the Champs Elysees we were invited to observe not the avenue, the museums, the monuments, the gardens, and the galleries, but French parking technique. “Look at’em, the filthy French. Look. Look. There’s one now. Look. Look,  it’s touch parkin’. Wouldn’ see that on the Clapham High Street.”

The itinerary was not actually printed anywhere. We then went to Montmartre to see the quality of hooker, and to a famous perfume company, across the road from which was the National Opera House (which didn’t rate a mention).

At that point I got out, and made my way to the centre of Paris. I found a backpackers’ place run by a cocky French student who had quite good English and was willing to use it. Indeed, he seemed to like my sense of naïve wonder. He sent me up rickety stairs to the third floor. Rooms for four people. I knocked on the door, and eased my way in.

Having only backpacked in England and Scotland to that point, and it being a long time ago, I was familiar only with the same-sex dorm-style accommodation of dank castles (even in summer) and other English architectural curiosities. So I was quite surprised to be met by two semi-clad beauties from Switzerland. I had made my way through the makeshift clothes-line which had been strung from bunk to bunk. From it dangled women’s attire. Being young and single I was familiar with the concept of smalls (from Myer catalogues), and I knew these were more like smallests. The girls said hello.

I put my backpack on the bottom bunk and promptly headed back downstairs.

With urgency in my voice (that nagging worry of the inexperienced traveller) I said to the student behind the jump, “I think there has been a mistake?”

“What!” he said.

“Yes, you’ve put me in a room with two girls.”

I will never forget the look he gave me. It was an SBS look; the look of a man who pitied me for growing up in a colony of the English.

He held the pause, as if to highlight my stupidity. Finally he spoke.

“Yes,” he said, and on leaning forward he grabbed my chest with both hands like he was dialling up a Tokyo radio station. “And if you don’ play, you don’ stay.”

I stayed, but I was unable to satisfy the condition.

That afternoon I went straight in to Notre Dame which was shoulder to shoulder. I eventually sat and admired that famous stain-glass window for a while, catching my thoughts.  The narthex was uncomfortably crammed. “Gee,” I thought to myself, “Europe really is full of tourists.”

Only then did I learn that it was Assumption Day. And many were fulfilling their Obligation.

I mention these things as a complete distraction from the reality of Geelong’s sad loss to the Eagles last Friday. The Eagles were too good on the night in a game which was not of great quality, but did have intensity. Cox and Naitanui were tremendous, although I would say more so around the ground than in the ruck contests. At times they played like Under 16s in the Under 14s.

Tom Hawkins’ injury was a key to the result, although there were other what-ifs as well. Quite a few of them were Geelong what-ifs, including Johnno and a couple of goals. He is mercurial in the up-and-down context of the word. He was brilliant early, but he missed from close range with his trademark round-the-corner shot, and there was a fast-break where, five on one, he picked out the one.

I reckon the Eagles had a few what-ifs as well. They left a fair bit out there, and their fans will look for improvement over the next weeks – and can expect it.

So that affected the market and on this Assumption Day Geelong were $10 to win the flag. That means they are a three-times better side than I thought they were.

You do the Maths and work out where that has them in the pecking order.

Tonight’s match against St Kilda will be tense. Both teams have everything to play for. Riewoldt is out of course; the match may feature other late changes. Big responsibility for Trent West and I an interested to see how Harry Taylor is used.

I think the Cats can win, and I reckon now is the time to stock up on them for the flag – at any price.



About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Dear Pastor Harms,
    I note that you are taking the affirmative position in an upcoming debate on the question of whether footy is a religion. Should you be successful and have your Cats win the flag, then surely beatification awaits (do Lutherans do that – I know you’re very low church – but I’m not across the Germanic traditions).
    My concern is that I have singularly failed to achieve St Peter and Father O’Anythings requirements for heavenly admission.
    I spent 30 years being taken advantage of BY bookmakers, totes, tipsters, urgers and other n’er do wells. Much to my financial and emotional embarrasment.
    Since becoming an abolitionist I have found personal and spiritual fulfilment here on earth (the Almanac, Woosha and AE have helped).
    Is this the reverse of the meek shall inherit the earth? If StP and FO are right, I am doomed to eternal damnation.
    Or is that only true for Micks, and I am ok if I join you Lutherans?
    Please reply urgently, as I am in mortal doubt of everything bar the Eagles flogging the Pies next week to finish Top 4 and then roll the Murder in the first week of the finals.
    Yours faithfully,
    Peter B (as I am known down the Temperance Hall).
    PS – don’t ask Flynn or Crio for spiritual guidance. I fear they long ago sold their souls for an upheld protest decision.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    Two Catholic corrections of nomenclature:

    It is known as Feast of the Assumption

    and it is a Holy Day of Obligation

  3. John Harms says

    See AF I can be a wannabe Catholic, and try my hardest, but somehow it always finds a way of showing.

    PB I’ll get back to all that.

  4. Great piece JH.
    But there’s no way I wannabe a wannabe catholic or any other religion, unless they wannabe fair and just to women.
    Go Cats!

  5. As usual Mr Harms, you have taken us such a delightful journey, it’s as if the destination is of little moment (my one religiousy reference).

    As with journeys, one’s thoughts meander. Here are a couple of mine.

    I don’t know Mt Tamborine but I do know Mt Tamborine Black Shiraz, having enjoyed a number of bottles. There are fine tasting reds and then there are bottles or wineries that speak directly to you. Mmmm. Reading your piece reminds me that I must order more in.

    Apart from chuckling at the Sid James reference (and he, sadly, is doomed to be an example of how popular culture references have an oh too short shelf life) it did remind me of my time in Liverpool. It was recommended to do a Beatles taxi tour rather than the Magical Mystery bus tour, as the taxi tour will allow more time at each point of interest. And so we did it. Our host and tour guide was a right Scouser who a) thought he was a stand up comic (to be fair, he was piss funny) and b) hated the Beatles. When we suggested as an accompaniment to the tour he might play a Beatles CD to, you know, accentuate the experience, he launched into one of his tirades about how crap they were. He did take us to Anfield for free, so you know, swings and roundabouts.


  6. Great yarn, JTH

    I was going to pick you up on some Catholic nomenclature, but I see AF has already done that.

    Notre Dame is still shoulder to shoulder (regardless of it being a Holy Day of Obligation or otherwise), and the quality of hooker at Montmarte is no better than the back streets of St Kilda (from observation, not practical experience). Parisian women on the other hand are beautiful, elegant, tanned and gamine, and too often on the arm of weedy, pompous, pseudo intellectuals – more than once I was reminded of the term from ‘The Simpsons’ of ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’.

  7. John Harms says

    “Parisian women on the other hand are beautiful, elegant, tanned and gamine, and too often on the arm of weedy, pompous, pseudo intellectuals”

    I knew I should have moved there in the 80s, before pizza was invented and we all became middle-aged overnight.

  8. The Catholics were very fair and just to women in medievil times Jen.

    When they were accused by priests of being witches (simply for being outspoken) they had a very fair way of testing the theory.

    They were thrown into the sea. If they drowned they weren’t witches so all was hunky dory but if they swam they were witches and of course had to be burned at the stake. That sounds pretty fair doesn’t it.

    Have a listen tp Christie Moore’s ‘Burning Times’ song. Haunting.

Leave a Comment