Season 2017 ~ Mick's AFL Footy Blog

3 clubs, 23 rounds, A slab of passion….

Arden Street Cargo Cult

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mickA chance vacation encounter with Melanesian spirit keepers by influential north supporters spread a message of change like butter across a hot cross bun through the club. They witness the islanders mimic the memory of long gone second world war western armed forces manoeuvres and their ritualistic rapid deployment of fantastic military and consumer technology. Once the war is over these daily marches in formation coupled with a trance like reconstruction of military equipment through stone, wood and palm is relentlessly repeated in the hope the foreigners and their mythical equipment return to renew the island. Agog at the faith that the memory of such sacred cargo ferments, the visiting group is convinced that spiritual change was required at Arden Street to reincarnate a fifth flag.

arden_stOver time and gripped by flagless fervour the Roos congregants desecrated the temple. They set ablaze the older grandstanded trapppings of worship. Bare hands of devoted rage tore down the matchday fence. Blessed earth movers split asunder the concreted stepped standing terraces. Fundamentalists banished the social club and it’s pokie squalor. Benevolent shareholders were outed. They filled in the ancient races that once catapulted the mystic historical players from the darkness of that mounded bunkered shrine on the Kensington side.  Yet still their most visible and energetic acts of devotion had not resulted in the elusive flag cargo promised with the rise of Saint Brad of Sniping. He who denounced the cult of shinbonerism only to return to it for redemption once the old saints failed in discharging the four point deity.

The King was dead.

balloonsInitially, they looked for fulfillment toward the Gold Coast before  a brash charismatic President Brayshaw lead the flock to the barren wastelands of docklands stadium with its bays of penance offering up crimson skinned tepid hotdogs as nourishment for a soul that knew no home. Silver spades turned sods on the hallowed turf erecting administrative temples where once stood the members stand.

Then in 2016, they subject disciplines to an exacting test of belief by expelling the older prophets of play and severing the living memory of plenty that stretches back to 1999. Today at Arden street, they bid to renew again in the first religious gathering at this most glorious of inner city sanctuaries for 35 years.  Gnostic like they embrace again from this troubled period in the wilderness the shinboner creed in search of fulfillment. That precious altar of youth now the playing field of remarkable acts by remarkable men held captive by a heady mix of atonement through myth and the suffering induced by missing the eight.

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Walking on Sunshine

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afl_womens_logoToday it’s carnival footy for the AFLW clash between Footscray and Collingwood. Both teams hyped pre-season as contenders but you sense that supporter tension has eased from the bulldog psyche with that boys’ premiership in the back pack. Up on the hill lots of polite clapping. Heaps of families. Girl gangs – old and young abound. People bring quiches, organic tortilla chips sprinkled with exotic dips and quinoa salads laced with dark beans and avocado while up on the forward pocket mound a family works overtime in their van knocking out bespoke pizza. Beer on offer is boutique – colonial draught – once emptied thoughtfully deposited neatly in the recycle bin. Toddlers help joyously to recycle daddy and mummy’s cans, some resplendent in their team of “choice”

Girls Footy   Girls Love Footy

[ These two pictures above kindly supplied by Erin McCuskey ]

No doing your ankle on a stray can these days like the standing terraces of yore. That nostalgia is channelled tonight in the  ragged glory army of pies ex officio cheer squad consigliere who commandeer the goal mouth. “Let her go you mongrel” (which I’m assured is a gender-neutral term) “ball” “you white idiot” “bulldog bullshit” pepper the fringe aspects of their barracking in keeping with the male supporter model. It’s a motley crew among them, perhaps not enough to build a new civilisation out west but it’s the best the pies have tonight. You ponder that this game could be contested by goats in the prison bar guernsey and the cheer squad intensity would remain undiminished.

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Let Love In

afl_womens_logoIt’s a sweet joy on three levels to be back at Princess aka “Ikon” park. Preeminent among these is to witness the birth of the AFLW between traditional scallywags Carlton and Collingwood. They come on foot, by bus, by tram,  car and wheelchair to siphon into the ground until capacity is reached at 22,000 leaving 2000 outside adrift in waiting, hoping. It’s a perfect day sitting into the still twilight on 25 degrees.

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Secondly a sense of sweet nostalgia for the days Hawthorn played here 1974 until 1991 before decamping permanently to Waverley park. The hawks even built their own stand there since renamed to celebrate one of the endless array of Carlton notables.

And thirdly it was the scene of an emotional documented happenstance some 38 years earlier on 9th June 1979 when Carlton Captain Coach Alex Jesaulenko was knocked senseless into the hospital in which his wife tenanted after giving birth by burly magpie assassin for a day Stan Magro. It erupted right before us on that city wing on the standing terrace before that Hawthorn stand, the air sucked from our stomach by the collective gasps of true blue bloods spread forty thousand about us.

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Bomber for a day #DonsTheSash

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Queen-For-A-Day-March-1958The march of 10,00 was on our heels. This is more game of wooden spoons than thrones. We quickened our step away from those public seating maruaders. As a “bomber for a day”  I can feel the tension of my companions – lifelong Essendon people – in fear of their own lest demand outstrip supply in those meagre strips of front row seats made available to plebs who dont reserve. So it’s important to get in before the mass of “Make a Stand” lest it become an omen.

Stripping is about the only thing we dont do at the turnstyle as wands wave about our body in search of performance enhancing explosives.  The two poached eggs within me dont register and finally we’re in and the rush to M2 behind the punt road point post sees sucess squatting in empty row 2.

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4 stroke for 4 peats

Start you bastard!!! I screamed at the cursed ball of metal that had finally won the mind game against mowing the law. Or,  as I texted to a mate at a rapidity that motivated the spell checker to have one final dig:

ios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_face“I just dicked the bunt of tha gower in the tuts after it want start up.ios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_face Gucken bunt of a chit heep!!” ios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_faceios_emoji_pouting_face

Ideal-NG-Feb-27Now the opening AFL bounce is under a week away, the motifs of autumn begin to raise bubbles across the senses. But its the smell of turf that best captures that foray into the joy of the new season. An entrancing aroma of slightly moist grass, and rich loam released by the rupture of stops that travels to the back of the first level of most AFL grounds. If the air is crisp and frosty, it may slumber up the stairs to snuggle round the nostrils of the less flush upper decks.

You can stare in wonder at the tartan inspired patterns embedded through the field. I have a near neighbour who obessively mows his lawn every 3 days to maintain this effect. His blades are set too low, the grass has no spring and mostly it looks dead. Sometimes if the binoculars are handy you can watch him smoke the clippings. But not here at the MCG, here the art of mowing is lifted to a transcendence delivering us a canvas upon which our hopes are painted. A four peat no less up for grabs.

Yet my earnest sentiments are totally at odds with my own mowing history. Sold as a task to you while young as being “good for you”, the con is complete once the assessment arrives that I am still the low fruit thinking degenerate I was when at the peak of teenage victa pushing years despite a life time of pushing a four stroke. Continue reading

AFL thrones Prince Charles

Prince Charles couldn’t give a rats toss about Aussie Rules. Yet he has been re-appointed to the role of patron by the AFL of the game in Europe on a two year deal. My palace sources tell me that on average the Prince attends just on 100 events a year and is patron of over 400 organisations. Footy is completing with known “in crowd” cocktail set issues amongst peerages of such wealth and privilege they make the MCC members look like Reject Shop red and bluebloods.  Even without Charle’s obligatory in-dining snifters, AFL promotion is hardly going from a whisper to a scream under the Prince’s watch.

Word is he’s passionate about ensuring today’s youth are developed fully and it’s this laudable trait that so impressed the AFL in making the appointment. His one handed attempt to take a handball receive whilst cradling a Johnny Gold on the rocks is role model 101. One junior diplomat – since demoted – quipped he looked flush like he’d just knocked over a pre season time trial.

831678-royal-reception-australia-nzWhile he only really needs a helicopter view of the game, he’s got to be on top of the small talk Continue reading

Load it up and Bang it home

It still beggers belief that these unions continue on that last day of September. My daughter missed the Grand Final – against her wishes – by attending the wedding of a friends father. Even if you are not a footy fan, surely you’re not that much of a smart arse that you push through with your nuptuals despite a high likelihood that it will cause unbearable tension post fixture perusal within family and friend circles. Will they both be attending on the big day? What of the chilling realisation that a rapid thought free gift of a footy themed olive oil set from the wedding gift register will be so misunderstood?

Rest easy weary celebration traveller for you are among friends. A recent Sportsyear survey, as reported by that august journal of peer reviewed research The Herald Sun, found that one in four Australians has missed such events in favour of following and or attending sport. An admirable one third surveyed pulled the pin on family gatherings to soak in a game. Why arent we saluting these people on the nation’s current affairs channel as the real antipodean heroes? Forget your 35 carat wedding rings and your shark attack survival stories, open the dialogue with the men and women who channel our nation’s great spirit by looking relatives and friends in the eye and say boldly “No”.

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I’ll stand by you….

As we approach the final game for the season, let’s visit some of my great moments in standing at the footy:

Slade alive by Doug Wade 1974

My first experience in finals standing room came in the 1974 Preliminary final in conditions that would even see battery hens quit laying on principle. I’d pre ordered my tickets months earlier via a Sun News Pictorial mail in coupon in the hope the Hawks could add to the 1971 prize.

Throw in a free for all on BYO packed deep into foam eskies and by quarter time the whole bay is collectively ready to sing Russian folk songs. Beer came in steel cans so be prepared for a dislocated ankle should you try flattening them.

The sound they made rolling down the terrace permeated the radio broadcast, shone through the TV replay, and became a cacophony live at the ground – especially as the game progressed. Standing room was a fortress, you could forget about struggling out for chips or more beer. In ’74, the bloke next to me silently acknowledges this by electing to toilet into his breeding collection of spent cans so as to not lose his spot. By half time he’s attracting the attention of the water authority who believe he ought to be charged rates.

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Hawk Odyssey

GFlogoThe pending transaction monikered by TickeTek  yesterday afternoon confirmed we’ve scored standing room for our Hawks 4th consecutive Grand Final appearance.  The in season set back against Port Adelaide in Round 21 that thwarted the bid for a home final set up the questions that followed our 32 point dispatch by the Eagles in finals week one.

Our pin point pass game was pick pocketed by primed Perth participants reinforced  by a quadrophonic passive aggressive crowd whose vocal alphabet contains only one consonant – “B”, and one vowel “O”. The entire language contains simply one diagraph – “oo”. Close your eyes and vision a scenario where the entire Eagles social club is served up snags with a self-effacing cauliflower in cheese sauce to approximate the venom that passes for noise at the Subiaco stadium.

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Oh! What a Lovely War!

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Ron_Barassi_MCG_1975History is in the air at tonight at Etihad. It adds an edge to spiteful proceedings later.  The Roos are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their first VFL premiership, snared during their golden era under Ron Barrassi who is doing a lap in the back of a Tarrago, cup in hand along with captain that day Barry Davis.  Nowadays players move around the clubs like cycling men in lycra. But the 1975 triumph against Hawthorn came after a clever exploitation of a short-lived 10 year rule whereby players of that service could freely move. In what was a great rivalry, the Hawks play the Roos in 10 finals during the mid 70’s, meeting in Grand Finals in 1975, 1976 and 1978. Arden Street admin today maybe scrimping on the brasso as the glittering prize is not cutting through the UV like cups do on that one day in September.

But where is the Kanga’s song on this of all celebratory nights? It’s replaced by YouAmI’s IMG_5594Kangtragic Timmy Rogers dirge like interpretation of the ROOS song thats so reverential it comes across as a Salvation Army soundtrack for which it’s hard to join in the chorus. I hear the plan is to play the original when the lads win, but for me pre game to hear that fox hunt like opening horn in the original genuinely arouses the mind and focuses the emotions of  the fans around sniffing the breeze for vermin on the home estate. Deep in the mix lays a foot stompin’ banjo that conjures up visions of the hillbilly scrub of the 1840’s Errol Street. How to tell the Caberet Band booked for the anniversary dinner dance up on level 2 that their corduroy jackets are backing the wrong side. Continue reading

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