Friday, 3 August 2012


 In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night  

(For David Teague, gone now to be assistant coach elsewhere but he will always be a winner of Carlton's Best and fairest.)

As a kid I loved my comics. I especially liked the superhero comic books. While my sister read about Little Audrey and Wendy the Good Witch I read about the heroes that saved the world from the clutches of either one or other evil villain. Superman, The Flash, Martian Manhunter...and so on. I loved them all. 

Each week mum or dad would deliver a new comic into my lap and I'd fall away into a wondrous realm populated by Heroes and their arch villains. It was a simple world where right always triumphed over evil - much like a Carlton versus Collingwood Grand Final. In those faraway days of childhood there was a connection between my comic book heroes and the champions that donned the old navy blue. Big Nick strode the ground like a giant Thor. Ragsy was my Flash, a navy blue Flash with his white bands rather than the red with the gold lightning bolts of the comic book variety and Jezza was Superman; he could do anything. All the players shone with that heroic light as their acts upon the field somehow reflected the actions of the heroes in my comic books.

There was a wonderful symmetry between the comics and the exploits of the Carlton teams of the late 60’s and early 70’s. While I read about Right triumphing over Evil in the comics of a Friday evening I witnessed our Navy Blue triumphs on the field of a Saturday afternoon. The world seemed right, as if perpetually bathed in the warming sunshine of those wonderful spring Grand Finals. Collingwood and Richmond played the arch villains (Essendon had yet to raise its ugly, villainess head) forever pitting their evil cronies against our boys in blue. And always when things seemed at their darkest a Galahad called Croswell or a flashing hero called Hopkins or the leviathan that was Big Nick would rise up and swat them away. We were the good guys, the heroes in navy blue rather than white; we could not lose (well not as often as we won anyway). As a boy the game resonated with the comics that I read and reread time and time again and the world was a Just place. Everything made sense; everything seemed to fit. 

Then came the confusion of adolescence, the stumbling in the darkness, the mistakes made through clumsiness or ignorance. There too came the pains of first love and its loss, the nervousness as the child changes into the adult. For a time Carlton stumbled along with me though it redeemed itself by the end of the 70’s. I forgot my comic book lessons and moved into the adult world and the Blues came with me, triumphant for a time but destined, as we all are for a fall. The fall came hard and fast, it brought shock and anger and pain, but after the fall there is always the rise and though we all acknowledge we have much yet to do, that those that lead nowadays are still far, far ahead of us, still there is a rise happening, the phoenix’s feathers flutter once more; the heroes escape their death traps and fight again. 

These days I do not travel to the ground with dread in my heart. These days the little boy actually talks about a win, for a time this has not been the case, for a time Evil seemed to always triumph. So the efforts of the players and coaching staff this year stirred the memories of those far off days and my mind has turned again to comics and heroes and Right over Evil. Now my favourite hero of all was The Green Lantern - the man who knows no fear. I was thinking about G.L. (Green Lantern) the other day and the image of Teague popped into my head. An apt fit really. 

If anyone in our side was The Green Lantern it would be Teaguey 'cos this bloke knows no fear. Super stars with pace and skills and sublime anticipation or huge leaps that send them soaring get the vocal chords screaming but nothing, nothing, gets the heart pumping faster than an act of bravery. A sheer disregard for the consequences of one's actions upon one's body. Teaguey fits the bill. He is our G.L. as week in and week out he does the acts that set our hearts racing. He runs back with the flight of the ball, puts his head over the ball, and stands in front of on oncoming tall. Teaguey knows no fear. 

All teams need this kind of bloke. He sets the standard for the rest of the team. Forces his team mates to also put their bodies on the line for the sake of the team. David Teague has become the soul of this developing team. He could be the pinup boy but he plays too recklessly for that. No good having a photo shoot with him turning up battered and bruised, and the way he plays this is too big a risk. Not that Teaguey would want that anyway. That is not where he wants to be, not our Teaguey (and how quickly he has become that, ‘our Teaguey’). 

Teague belongs in the dark, cold trenches of battle not under the glare of a spotlight. He likes to get his hands dirty. He is the spark that sets the flame of resistance so that this team of ours is slowly learning the philosophy to never surrender. If they continue to follow this bloke's lead we'll have a super team of committed souls willing to take the risks necessary to push a team all the way. 

Talent is one thing but without courage talent is a rudderless boat. It might look great in flashes but it gets you nowhere. As well as developing our talent our team needed to rediscover its courage, players needed to redevelop a willingness to put their body on the line for a mate. Teague shows the way. Teague is our Green Lantern, our bright shining light, our winner of the John Nichols medal.

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