West Coast and Fremantle players will travel around 50,000 kilometres this year with Virgin Australia, the AFL’s chosen airline in their bid for a 2015 premiership. Those hours in the air bracketed by endless lounge waiting, tedious queues through security, flight delays and a growing disenchantment with the in flight snack menu. Why put the pic of the cheese and ham melt toasties in the program when they’re only available on the haul to Honiara?
While 80’s soft focus Penthouse style mile high images of Ralph Fiennes on a job that cost a hostess her job come to a mind that’s picking at it’s food, club insider’s report the only bump uglies the players experience is the regular gut turning turbulence on the approach to most of the eastern seaboard capitals. Melbourne teams would be lucky to endure even a third of that agony as a marvellous analysis a few seasons back revealed the inequities of the competition.
My own experiment to travel like an Eagle or a Docker last year on a short 1 hour business inter capital trip revealed just how woeful my own physical and mental capacity for the big league really is. Determined to save on hotel fares by catching the 7am flight for a 9.30am, I grab a lazy preflight meal of off the shelf pasta and processed pesto sauce that begins to dive bomb my duodenum around 2am – about 2 hours out from the wake up call . I show the shop assistant my receipt and get my money back making a mental note to warn my partner of the spilt coins on the lawn. Purged and pumped up in that heady post transaction adrenalin, I check myself as now right, and head back to the sack bottomed out exhausted and worried I wont now get a stat during my presentation to the client.
My gut rages and I fight for sleep and just as a foggy image of joining Uncle Scrooge for a swim in one of his massive gold coin vaults arises like a sweet mirage, the alarm shrieks like a set of goodyears on the tarmac. This is going to be as tough as that day in the back pocket at Toora back in the mid seventies. My radar tells me I’m good to fly even though I nurse a hot camomile tea against the issue that has no name on the 80 kph drive to Tulla from Ballarat. I’m at the gate way too early when that internal jet engine roar washes over me as I taxi to the mens’. After a prolonged take off where I nearly over dry reach the runway, I hit the skies convinced that 2 money backs in 3 hours has seen me upgraded to business class ready to take the field.
Exhaustion and mild nausea are coming in twelve o’clock high. I can’t get my nose up as they trolley approaches with breakfast. Like a horse, I’m grazing in anticipation, at the bag. I’m jammed up against the window alongside an excited mum and her teenage daughter whose travel joy is about to shattered just as she’s about to take her first spoon of muesli.
I decline the breakfast offer but the adjoining food aroma sends me into a tail spin where the only wind beneath my wings is the approaching updraft that will launch a 100 rescue flights. Nervously I feel the bag filling, getting heavy atop my open palm as the wonder of the pinch bottom construction now becomes apparent. Hoping the hostie can take it off my hands, I’m forced to do my own tax and submit my return into the vacuum behind closed doors at 33,000 feet praying I’m spared an audit.
You know, if you looking to clean up at your club’s next trivia night let me tell you that the capacity of the standard issue airline sick bag is around 1.2 litres. It’s a frightening feeling to feel it fill on your approach. Later I discovered the manufacturer produces several variations on yer common square bag with square bag, pinch bottom bag and the holy grail – the heavy duty Tin Tie plastic bag. They also make oven bags…as Sylvester used to say to Tweetie – Helloooo Breakfast.
Into the cab and off to the client, I take and hold a coffee and begin my work as that old familar magic works it’s spell until the lunch break. I sense a sonic boom in search of a mach 1 within and look to food as the possible salvation for my performance in the afternoon. With the sun on my face I’m feeling dandy and formidable, you know I CAN DO ANYTHING, until I open the door of that busy little hip brassière and fly into trade winds that carry the spice trade direct into my cockpit.
Suddenly the wheels won’t come down and I’m on my knees shaking hands with Trevor Barker in the office block garden awaiting instructions from air traffic control. I admit defeat, am subbed from the game and head back to the airport for an uneventful flight and another 80 kph drive home followed by 14 hours straight sleep where Bette hazily speaks to me:
Did you ever know that you’re my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle (or docker)…
…But it was only a dream.