Winning Should Mean More

The afternoon sparkles. For all the talk of gloves and thermal underwear, it’s t-shirt time at Kardinia. A full house, too.

Just glorious.

I’ve taken a spot high-ish in the Doug Wade Stand. My bum’s on hardwood. My seat number’s stenciled on. Metricon’s pretty flash, but this will always be better.

They say Ablett’s done a hammie but he drops in to say hello regardless. The Cattery, ’09 still fresh enough, greets him with a standing ovation. He walks a stretch of boundary, signs a few autographs, shares a few laughs, always a Cat despite other things.

To my right a neatly-scarved, silver-haired Cat-ette peels back a tupperware lid to reveal a selection of square-cut brownies.

She catches me gawking.

“Macadamia or hazelnut,” she says. “I’ve got plenty to go around. Take one.”

I don’t mind if I do. And I’m not alone. Hungry, smiling Cats converge.

Bounce goes up and they’re away in a blink, Geelong. Johnson snags their first. Lead. Kick. Catch. Goal. Clean and precise.

It’s strange how a place so hospitable, so utterly charming, and so resolutely honest can be so unimaginably horrible for visiting teams.

Maybe that’s the trick. Lure them in with ruddy-cheeked regional cheer. Dazzle them with home-made baked goods. Then completely disembowel them.

To witness it today is to observe the most delectable cruelty.

It’s made even more so by the relatively balanced early moments. Sure, Stevie J snagged the opener, but the Suns play the corridor and Bennell responds with one of his own. Hawkins adds another to Geelong’s tally, and Johnson follows with his second, but the Suns keep running hard and Danny Stanley slots a gem on the fly to keep it interesting. Brown goes down hurt – there’s mutterings of a dislocated pelvis – but the Suns don’t fold. When Fraser outmuscles Scarlett and kicks truly from a tough pocket, it’s a one point game. More importantly, it’s something of a contest.

Cat’s fans don’t seem to care though. My neighbours are perfectly content to sip coffee, quietly sledge Tom Hawkins, talk finals, eat. They’re simply biding time during the trailers. They know the power of this place, what it will do. The main feature will start soon enough.

There’s a cluttered passage of play on the far wing. The tupperware emerges once more.

“Go on,” says Madame Brownie. “Have another one.”

I do. And on cue, things go boom.

The Cats kick fifteen unanswered.

Johnson is untouchable. Podsiadly is a wrecking ball. Selwood is, well, Selwood. Off half-back, Varcoe is a revelation. Duncan. Christensen. All electrifying. All pretty much unopposed.

And for the second week running Geelong is some kind of footballing China Syndrome.

Wojcinski sums it up best when half way through the last instead of hitting any one of three leading forwards he takes two bounces, runs around a kid half his age, takes three more bounces, then drills one from forty.

There’s little point to this kind of massacre. Men on boys. Seasoned on developing. Old on new. It seems so wasteful. Demeaning, even? Being an underdog is one thing. Being an underdog without legs is another entirely. Still, they’ll take home a video, the Suns. They’ll pick it apart, drop four, recall four, filter through a couple of debutants and turn up next week for another day at a new job and repeat the whole charade until a crack of light appears from under their very first window.

As I leave the ground a sloppy drunk Cats fan, hands cuffed behind his back, sits in the company of a pair of less than impressed policemen.

“Only way they were gonna stop us,” barks some smartarse passing by.

True enough.

But gloating is misplaced today, and to be honest there’s precious little else of it as I stroll along the trainline among Cats loyalists, past South Geelong station and back to the car. In truth, there’s precious little of anything resembling feeling at all. At least no one got injured. It’s a line I hear more than a few times.

It’s a shame, because winning’s meant to be better than this.

Perhaps therein lies the true cost of expansionism.

At least for now.


Leave a Comment