Season 2016 ~ Mick's AFL Footy Blog

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

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!


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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Anzac Day marathon


SoldierWe’re at a dampish MCG, out in the open alongside Tex Perkins as he performs an Anzac tribute song with voiceover provided by Ronald Dale Barassi who lost his father in World War Two. When the match begins, there’s over 89,000 of us within. Just under a 100 years ago at Great war’s end, from our less than five million nation,  416,809 men have enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.

So we could multiply todays crowd twice and a bit over to capture those directly affected in service. When you drive through our country towns the cenotaph records the impact therein on those left behind to live on in the aftermath. Mates, brothers, sisters, mums, dads, grandparents, townsfolk connected in various degrees of grief. Death. Misery. Pain never transcended for generations. Loss…. of potential, of presence, of love. How many MCG’s to hold that net trawled through bottomless seas of wretched memory?

The biggest sacrifice we 89,000 will make today is to stay dry in the now traditional Essendon V Collingwood clash. No longer their sole domain and with this Anzac Day falling on a Saturday, the fixture is today jammed with 5 games. Carlton and St Kilda again play in New Zealand to an official crowd figure of 12,000 compiled by a seeing eye dog in stark contrast to the endless rows of Kiwi indifference in the stands exhibited to Aussie punters during the replay.  AFL touts proffering free tickets burn them at quarter time in a bid to stay warm while dreaming of home.

We recall former Anzac comrades as the sun sets on Gold Coast’s empire spanked into 66 point submission by the Great Western Sydney axis highlighting the consequence of contrasting recruitment strategies a the 2 clubs.  We’ve had some history at this event so today I’m staying clear of the giggle juice opting again for a weekly meat injection courtesy of the under 10 bucka pie and chips combo brought to me humble masses from Gillan McLaughlin.   Collingwood’s Jamie Elliot has his dry as a bone radar on early walking between the raindrops that fall 30 centimetres outside the boundary to curve a stupendous goal on the 50.

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Biffs, Bumps and Brawlers

121114_DraftedLargeBefore we realised the long-term potential for groundhog day style damage from a king hit behind play, we excused footy commentary that oscillated between “Ohhhs!!” and “Wow!!!” and the elegant “It’s On!!!”  so long as within the parentheis of brawls, bumps and bruising antics on the field. We’ve since turned back from the more violent aspects of the game, particularly that fine line between rules and cage fighting. The watershed was probably Byron Picketts  “say goodnight” shirtfont on Hawk Brendan Krummel that effectively killed the bump in 1999 that had lived at the top of the hard but fair food AFL food chain since the possum skin evolved into the pigskin. While the brawls are erased, the bump just will not die despite the games rule makers intentions to eradicate it’s  more perilous consequences.

Rules more in the interests of players future interests than the games violent heritage have progressively peeled back the shirtfont, head high contact – with or without malice aforethought – and the slide under a player’s legs. We have concussion tests and 20 minute time outs and close to the near mandatory week off after head injuries. All for the good of the game.

While many with a broader vision of life lament the recent declaration that the Western Black Rhino was now disastrously officially extinct, more in the now focussed sports fans continue to beat their breasts to breathe life back into another threatened species – the biff. “Soft” “Basketball”, even the dreaded (to a man at least) taunt of “Netball” seams the subterranean narrative of loss endured by these violence deprived fans subsisting under the “Nanny state” of the AFL.

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Hooker, line and sinker

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frontanatomy-blog-pectoralA day in the shade in the Ponsford bottom deck public access seats behind the city end goals for this Hawk member’s replacement game. We’re concerned about the Don’s take it to the limit three quarters domination against the Swans last week before they succumbed in the last stanza mostly to a lack of tribunal imposed match fitness.

We keep that in the back of our mind again and again during this game as we fall quickly behind by quarter time, almost at pack up for an early escape by half time but stay after late goals to Rioli and Paul “Poppy” Puopolo;  before we claw back in the third to narrowly get up by 2 goals in the last with 2 minutes to go before martyring our lead on the final siren.

Pre-game comes the news that Sammie Mitchell is a non starter with a corked calf and Josh Gibson too with the euphemistic “general soreness”, an affliction I also have carried mentally for some years now. Early in, ex Dee now Hawk soldier James Frawley “does” his pec and is subbed off. Now down 2 defensive gorillas to quell the atmosphere piercing Essendon forwards Jake Carlisle and Joe Daniher. Mix this into a brew from which this weekend Don warriors from the 1984/85 back to back flags are guzzling in a beer googled driven reunion high above us in a plastic lined hospitality suite and you cop a pass of Windy Hill emotion as you check your card at the turnstiles.

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