Finals Week 1 – West Coast v Hawthorn: Some things are more important than footy

 

West Coast Eagles versus Hawthorn
Qualifying Final, Friday 11th Sept
Domain Stadium

Matt Quartermaine

 

Tragedy seemed to follow me all day. A quick trip to the city before viewing the match meant catching the train, but an accident at Victoria Park closed down the line. As I crossed Punt Road and headed into Clifton Hill to catch a crowded tram, I remembered the tragedies across the year that have intruded on our sport. Sport’s not supposed to do that. Sport’s supposed to hide us from the real world. The Phillip Hughes, Nic Nat’s mum and Phil Walsh tragedies have shaken the sporting fortress and it makes me want to watch my team to retreat from the madness. I finished my business in the city, barely inhaling the fast food, cement, metal and stale nightclub piss aroma from my nostrils, crossed Bourke St and caught the very next tram out. The tram then pulled up mid intersection of Nicholson St as the polite driver informed us an ambulance was blocking the way. I tried to empathise with other misfortunes, but I am reminded of Sydney and London, where the trains are stopped so often from people ending their life that empathy drains from the mob and each sad delay is now usually greeted with eye rolling. Sometimes there is too much to handle.

To make matters worse my two old Hawthorn loving – not gloating but how can we not gloat – mates, Rogo and Trucker Slim were unavailable to watch the game at a pub. Rogo was interstate hosting a headmaster’s conference and Trucker was going to his daughter’s footy presentation night. And of course he’s on the committee, because Trucker loves a committee. It bugs me because I’m really quite happy to bear the brunt of their joy as the Eagles have exceeded my expectations all year. Adam Simpson has not rested players the week before, explaining they’d never had a full team available all year, but having to adapt has become a strength; the Eagles play as a team game. When I heard Brownlow medallist, The Perm Matt Priddis, was a late withdrawal (said the actress to the Bishop) I was at ease with my impending loss. After all this is Hawthorn. In the finals. Sport is brutal and unsentimental, how else to explain Bradman’s 99.94 or Greg Norman’s major losses, and it is madness to attach sentimentality to something that must have a winner and a loser. But we do.

I return home in time to catch the start of the game. Luckily there’s cricket on the other channel so I don’t have to watch the meta-saccharine build up or the half time analysis by ex-footballers disappearing up their own rectums. The first quarter is close and hard. An arm wrestle with feet. Cyril starts in the centre and manages to get the ball out from under the mass of bodies towards the Hawthorn goals and Mitchell is looking dangerous, but Lewis and Hodge don’t pop up on the radar too often. McGovern has injured his shoulder, returning to play unable to lift his right arm, but like the one armed man in The Fugitive he just won’t stay down. My keen football analysis comes up with “We’re stuffed.” son is keeping to the far end of the couch as my empathetic kicking leg is in full flight, involuntarily shooting up like someone is doing the reflex test on my knee with a tiny invisible hammer. My boy looks up from his laptop as he hears the crowd go nuts. “Lot of angry people,” he says and returns to modifying the skin of his avatar. A point the difference at the end of the quarter, but the Eagles have done well against the breeze, which is making kicking goals difficult for the Hawks.

Shuey steps up and Selwood is in an under, throwing himself at the dirt like a truffle pig. The tackling pressure of the Eagles is creating mistakes in the usually imperious Hawthorn kicking. Super slow mo replays of Shuey breaking three Hawthorn tackles makes him look like Bruce Lee going through a Japanese dojo in the Fist of Fury. Kennedy also takes the second quarter by the scruff of the neck and throws it against the wall like a disgusted restaurant critic. He and Darling look strong and broad as they bustle bodies to gain control of the ball. Kennedy leaves Thunderbird One Scott Tracy eyebrow impersonator Brian Lake flatfooted when he leads out to mark and goal. It was like Lake missed the train to work and then stopped to think up excuses to tell the boss. Half time, 30 point buffer.

I was having a half time (needlessly) nervous durry on the back veranda as Rogo called from the airport, just off the plane. I can tell from the hiccup modulation in his voice that he’s carrying his bags on route to catch the rest of the game. “Well is your night looking better than mine?’

“Um…”

“Mmmm?”

“You might not want to hurry back to catch the game.”

“Score?”

“I think we’re thirty or is it forty points up and we’ve played…”

“Hang on, so what you’re telling me is you’re so far in front that you’re not even sure of the score?”

“Yes.” I stifled the impulse to giggle like a schoolgirl.

“Okay maaate. Enjoy your night.”

Nic Nat is head shoulders and hips above the opposition ruckmen and then Le Cras steps up. Like Mitchell for the Hawks, Le Cras is too good looking to have all that skill. Those guys must have ruled high school and pulled like bastards. With poise and balance under extreme pressure, Le Cras’ hands mould the ball on to the boot and guide it with a Nureyev pointed toe. Three quarter time, 50 point buffer.

It’s the start of the fourth quarter, which means I have to pick up my daughter from a fourteen year old party. I negotiate the renovated backstreets of Northcote and listen to the radio as the Hawks hit back with an early couple of goals. My 13 year old tried make-up tonight, which included a shopping trip for eye lashes. Said lashes were later found discarded in a manner so haphazard we were going to call in CSI. I hurry to the front door of the party, grab her hand and pull her along with a cry of “Footy’s on” to the greater sympathy of the other pick-up parents.

Bless my girl she loves a chat and tonight she’s giving me ALL the details as I keep one ear on the score.

“Shanna had friend’s lots of different grades. I’d like to have a party and invite my whole class.”

“But there not all your friends darlin.”

Another goal to Hawthorn.

“My fingernails only lasted about an hour.”

“Longer than your eye lashes.”

Was that another one? I suddenly got annoyed with my split attention and switched it off the radio with the convenient justification that some things are more important than football.

“Monique told me that she goes to bed at 12 or 1. I told her, look at Harlan, he goes to bed at 9 every night and he’s always happy and he does really well at school…”

I return to the game having missed all the last quarter Hawthorn goals so far and I start to think maybe my luck is in. A settling final reply goal from Hutchings and then Hill after the Hawks last quarter unanswered charge finally returns my thirty point buffer. The siren sounded and I whooped like a teenager at a Taylor Swift concert. Parko, mate and fellow East Coast Eagle fan (we live here), texted a triumphant “Yeeeesss!” As I sat on the couch enjoying a fairytale win, reality came knocking again. The camera caught Nic Nat in a moment that froze me in my seat. With victory he walked from the bench on to the ground and suddenly exhaled pure grief. Grief has no airs and graces, so it came out in what I can only describe as a blubber. Grief flopped his bottom lip and he blubbered. He looked so young and alone amongst his celebrating comrades. He looked a lot more heartbroken that the losing Hawthorn players, crying like a shopping mall lost child. He buried his head in a friend’s chest as I understood some things are more important than footy.

Early the next morning I was awoken with the news that an old mate’s partner had taken her life when Winston Churchill’s black dog came to visit. Okay world I get it! Now I need to watch some footy to forget for a little while, but I doubt I will.

 

WEST COAST     2.2   7.6   12.11  14.12 (96)
HAWTHORN       2.3    2.4   4.9    9.10 (64)

GOALS
West Coast:
Kennedy 3, Hill 3, LeCras 2, Cripps 2, Yeo, Sheppard, Darling, Hutchings
Hawthorn: Roughead 2, Burgoyne 2, Gunston, Rioli, Hale, Smith, Hodge

Votes

3 Shuey

2 Kennedy

1 Le Cras

 

 

Lifeline

Beyond Blue

 

Other Footy Almanac stories of Finals – Week 1: West Coast v Hawthorn

Other Footy Almanac stories of Finals – Week 1

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Comments

  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Beautifully written Matty Q. Footy does have healing power. Add up all those ephemeral moments and they mean something to our history, memories, the people we’re with and those we miss. Great stuff.

  2. Well played Matty Q.

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Emmy Q,

    Superb.

    Lots of nodding and grinning.

  4. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Yup, more important than footy. And as important as the trails of footy that let us make sense of the ‘more important,’ follow it and stay with it. Learn to live with it.
    I have a feeling Nic Nat’s mum might have something to say about your mob’s season. They may just have an angel on side.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Matty you nailed it

  6. Great stuff Matt.
    Hopefully catch you at the courthouse gig in North Melbourne tmrw night…

    https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/program/event/view/331bed30-1064-4aa8-b466-dfe05cd400c6

    tkts at door?

  7. Thanks Phil. The shared experience and the sense of community in football, especially here at the Almanac, helps us all to try to make sense. Maybe it’s the egalitarianism in footy that I love; even the most disenfranchised of our society can put on their club beanie and they’re part of a community. And this piece comes off the back of many thoughtful pieces from yourself, Trucker, E. Regnans, Micky Randall et all.
    Dave much appreciated from an opinion that I have much respect for here.
    Flynny, I love it when your life writes your pieces for you. Let me know when you’re in town for an Almanac event- no better man to share a few jars with.
    Thanks Matildhe. There have been so many wonderful narratives to follow these finals and the Eagles journey would have been a standout except the other teams stories have been pretty amazing in themselves.
    Malcolm, thanks. I’m really just trying to mount an argument that I just want to be left alone to enjoy watching my footy- and I enjoyed Fridays game very much.
    Thanks Crio, tickets are available on the door. Having you down at the show will make it like an Almanac get together… I better watch out. I think you’ll love the story telling.

  8. Matty- really enjoyed this. Among the imagery were some sober insights into life’s horrible intrusions.

    The Thunderbirds reference was great; Gerard Whateley could morph into everyone’s favourite chauffeur, Parker over the coming decades.

    I also have empathetic kicking leg. Happily our oldest does too.

    Thanks Matty.

  9. Matt Quartermaine says:

    Thanks Mickey, hope your kicking leg goes off so much in the finals you need a physio.

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