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

Stations of the {Southern} Cross

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badge-rooOut we come, out we come, out we come to pray for a win for the Roos today on Good Friday against wild card St Kilda. North built up the Friday night brand on their own, it’s zenith the heady days of the late nineties before crashing in the debris of the Carey debacle and resulting slide out of the eight and prime time. When the Good Friday suggestion arose out of the Arden Street think-tank a disbelieving Andrew Demitriou, then CEO and publicly good Greek orthodox vetoed the plan during his tenure. The more progressive McLachlan regime succumbed Herod like to the kanga’s chant and here for the second year we are.

It’s not like Easter iconography hasn’t strayed already into the AFL. Unlucky players denied on field natural justice are  “crucified”, players who fail to assert themselves consistently in the team are “condemned” to the feeder side, long goals outside 50 are “nailed”, while others who bet, drink drive, or generally act up in ways beyond we mere mortals imagination are chided before offered anew, opportunities at “redemption”.

Today’s game coincides with the Good Friday appeal and for a decent donation to in-ground tin rattlers you get a set of rabbit ears. Hospital boffin’s original idea of handing out a Calvary cross in return for support seem good on paper until a focus group involuntary yell “Repent” when shown amongst the Rorschach inkblots an abstract shape that resembles an umpire. Despite there not being an ear wearer in sight in my bay, yet true to my long history of having kicking kids sitting behind me, record breaking Afro teasers in front, and reverse Pavarotti’s alongside, a young girl sits down before me with said ears. The effect on the eyes is immediate with the game in long sight and the ears in short. This dual focus fools the brain that there is in fact a cardboard box in front of you evaporating all game involvement.

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Mostly it’s more plastic that will eventually traverse the drain system to end up in a schnapper’s guts. Like those long blow up sticks they hand out at other teams matches and the cricket that are joyfully smashed together by young boys. They strike them at just the right frequency to ring the ears exponentially at the exact threshold of the flashback next morning hangover from hell.

mick-rooOnce the ears are dealt with, we ponder that the only religious icon to be included in today’s game are the Saints themselves. Their long tradition of personal growth through suffering alone is evidence enough that the cross handout could have worked among the red, white and black fraternity. Their fans reflect the heaven and hell divide. Those sitting in Charon’s boat are generally mindless booming drunkards who pepper their view of “incorrect” decisions 100 metres with the f word that families know and love. They’re quietened early by North’s second half. Then there’s the true “Sainters” – rich with old school theatre style clapping of the sort that once greeted the villian getting their comeuppance. They seemed trapped in the early 1960’s like they just emerged from Channel 7’s old Johnson street Fitzroy tele-theatre after a video taping of variety staple Sunnyside up.

You can read more on my Saint thesis here.

stkilda-crossOn field during Stan Alve’s glory years in the late nineties a large black cross was manifest on the guernsey’s front. In recent seasons it has returned.  Today is that day for that  jumper because it’s their away jumper. But that option is denied because it’s the Royal Children’s hospital day and no-one wants any ambiguity. I’m close to this as I spent time as an 18 month fighting off a liver condition there where a very small sample of my liver was taken. Later in my ragged youth the scars had grown to describe the removal of over half of my liver. After drinks and toward the end of the night said scars would be displayed  in a futile attempt to impress the “ladies” that I was a back to the future Derryn Hinch without the water in the wine.

It’s been a beautiful day, the roof is open and sun cascades down the three levels of the outer. My belief is that it should only be closed during an apocalypse. The big sky beckons us and the stadium feels young-modern and huge. Too often the roof is shut, compressing us as if we’re trapped in the Fuehrer’s bunker while the Russians march on nearby Southern Cross station.

You feel like donating instead to both clubs after the first half where both sides kick 2 goals and 10 points. The third quarter goes up a notch and Ben Brown, north spearhead breaks the Carlyle blanket and kicks a quick couple and suddenly the roos are out by twenty. What follows is the sort of result that true fans trudge through defeats for, the unexpected caning of the more favoured team. Out by 52 points by games end, the Saints cough, splutter and dribble the ball in an unconfident display. North in contrast look like St Kilda should be at this point in their journey – assured, relentless and full of run and carry. They even hand out Easter eggs at games end.

It wont be for a few rounds yet before we can decide whether St Kilda’s pre-season hype can be resurrected.

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Hit me on the chest with your centimetre perfect pass