Sunday, 15 July 2012

Another old Ghost of Optus Oval article

These are fun to read again after a few years -


Zen and the Art of a Football Club's Maintenance

Not the so-called journo’s who pass for little more than gutter swipes, seeking to drag everyone down to their level. Asked to consider the fortunes of this great club in 2010 and their dirty little minds freeze, a mist rises, their vision blurs and all they can jot down in their boring articles is that without a certain forward we’ll lose more than we win.

Bah, humbug, wake up and smell the roses. Journos are like the northerlies in the outback - full of hot wind while failing to deliver the promised deluge.

Forget the journo’s  (except these articles of course!) their proud profession has fallen further than a Charles Dickens hero. Please sirs, do not write any more!

Certainly the backlines of opposing clubs. They haven’t a clue what to expect. Hendo or Santy out of the square, Kruise or Hammer dropping back, Warnock in the square, Yazza or Garlett on the flanks, Robbo or Betts dragging ‘em down from behind? This year, finally, we will have a forward line of equal, cohesive parts. We’ll have multiple goal kickers and we will force backmen to man everybody in our forward fifty, not just crowd a single individual. This year we will be unpredictable.

The other coaches don’t know what to expect either - well some do about some things. Malthouse knows what to expect, it’s a Caesar’s farewell from Bucks around March next year. Thommo knows what to expect, Gary packing his bags and heading up to the sunshine coast. Clarkson hasn’t a clue so he’ll just scream at someone and hope the camera’s switched off. Hardwick knows what to expect, about eighteen months of his contract before the tiglets start all over again. We all know what to expect from Lyons - boring, boring, boring football and another GF loss! But about us, the coaches are all as lost as Amelia Earhart. They don’t know what to expect from Ratts and co.

Supporters from other clubs know what they want to happen. It’s the same wish they have wished since we first strode the turf. They’d like to see us crash and burn, for they fear the rising Bluebagger beast, they dream of us holding 17, 18 and 19 aloft, singing our grand song and leaping, Peter Dean like, off the podium and onto the hallowed MCG turf like prodigals returning home.

Talking to fellow supporters, it seems we don’t know what to expect either. Fred thinks we might struggle to kick goals, young Luca wants to see us fly, Jack just wants to beat the Tigers and my brothers expect finals. It’s hard to know what will unfold this year. The club had made no promises. They have simply knuckled down and trained themselves into the turf. They look bigger, faster; they look hungry. Hendo looks a likely sort and Waitey’s back. Bowerbird wants to run the lines and JR’s become a vital cog. Murph and Gibbs are men and the Kruise is just himself! 206 is fit and casting a shadow like Justin Madden once did while Jammo’s become captain material.  Really none of us have a clue.

In this time of uncertainty then, there is really only one thing to do. It is time to drag out the scarves and duffel coast (although this Thursday might be a tad hot for coats) and get along to the G. It is time to click through the turn-styles, catch up with old faces and sit or stand in the stands of concrete and memory: Stand in the twilight of the year that was and the year that will be and wait for that first bounce.

Stand or sit with a beer or a pie and pause for a moment before the filthy white (or whatever colour they have turned this year) maggots hold the ball aloft and listen to the echoes of all the seasons past. Hear the ringing of old sirens and the faint blowing of forgotten whistles. This oval, this sacred ground, reverberates with the actions of past heroes. With ‘Jezza you beauty’ and Nick’s bag in ’72, with Goold’s dash and Swan’s marking prowess. Its Johnno’s bash and crash and Kouta’s one-handed slice through the pack. It’s Sticks from CHF or Williams under the pack handballing to a player before they are aware of the fact. We own this ground!

So pause for that moment, take a deep, deep breath, let the ghosts of all those great sides wash over you and then, then open the eyes, scream and watch the first bounce of the first game for 2010.

It’s the beginning of the season, it’s the start of a whole new ball game, and it’s the veil being lifted, the mist clearing. It is another Bluebagger season and it’s a future being written.

I’ll be there, I’ll be there with uncertainty and expectation, with passion and memory and the smell of this game unleashed again, touching, as it does every year, that little boy who once held the Ross Faulkner football close, smelled the leather and dreamed the dream of donning the great jumper. He is long gone, that boy, the dream too, and yet, like all things, he’s not gone also, just living in the shadows of those grand stands, remembering, dreaming and screaming out for the new heroes of this club to join the heroes from his past. 

Go Blues!

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