Wednesday, 22 August 2012

another old ghost of optus

 The Clampetts move to Carlton
(there's oil in them thar hills!)

Just sit right back and (yes, yes, I know, I am mixing sitcoms here but after last night anything is possible) I'll tell you a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from a suburban ground that lost is famous grip (etc). Oh how the poor have struck a rich vein! (see, back to the Clampetts now) As a kid I was dragged along to that horrible '69 GF when the Tigers knocked off my beloved Blues – in those days I thought with Big Nick and Johhny Goold we could not lose – and then again when the mongrel Tigers flattened Big Nick and whacked Southby from behind and the world stopped for all Bluebaggers in the after shock.

I have always hated Richmond. Bartlett's balding runs, Bourke's battering rams, Brown's whacks. I have hated the yellow and black but when you're down you keep the rage quite, you wait. You accept the smug comments and wait. You take the glib jokes, the snide remarks and  continue to wait. Last night the Bluebaggers unleashed the frustration of several ordinary seasons and showed the town they are back, back under lights on the biggest of stages, strutting their stuff, the mighty Navy Blue jumper glowing in the balmy night. I was there with 86,000 others screaming, there with my brother and niece, as we have been through the dark days, watching, believing, seeing the dark blue gold sprout and rise higher and higher into the glorious evening sky.

So I take joy in last night, hill-billy joy, kick up ya heels and dance a jig joy (and in the distance I see a small stone hut and the Tiger fans outside in the dark banging on the door screaming Wilma! No entry for them. Not tonight, probably not this season). I praise Hughsey and co for the picks, not the number 1's – they were almost givens, but the kids, kids like Robbo and Garlett, like AJ and Sauce. Others too, Jammo, Bower and so on. Finally we have dug deep and now have depth (confusing metaphor I know, but after last night you cannot expect much sense out of me, just joy, just navy blue joy that keeps on rising up like a series of glorious sunrises).

Last night we showed we're not coming, we are here! We've loaded the car full of goodies, grabbed a few more members and headed on into town to play with the big boys. Yes siree, we are back. Oh I know there is still ground to make up, still some niceties to learn, some yokel bad habits to ditch, but the thing is the work is being done, the boys are striving, pushing themselves and each other and at the front stands Judd. He's lucky you know, very lucky, he and I will never meet, 'cos if we did I would become an embarrassment! What a player! He's our Goold and Gags, our Dominator and Swan, he's Jezza and Fitzy and Sticks. He's them all and still his own man. He's Chris Judd and he's ours!

What a midfield! I remember the mosquito fleet, the small, fast and furious army of mid fielders the Bluebaggers had that drove opposition teams mad and propelled us to some great flags. Well this time the fleet is as just maddening but bigger, stronger - we've caught up with the times. This fleet is a swarm of wasps!

Okay so we've been poor, we hunted rabbits while everyone chose lions. We turned from riches to rags and lost ourselves in a great depression – but now, now we've found ourselves again and for this I thank Ratts. Its all very well to have good players but every team needs a coach. We now have ours.  Ratts and the boys chose some kids (and we supporters panicked, trust has taken an almighty belting these past few years) to strut their stuff on the big stage, and strut they did. We Bluebagger Clampetts sure know how to dance!

For a time there in the third, the eyes went all misty and I started catching glimpses of Jezza or Sheldon or Buckley or Goold, even Big Nick seemed to flash passed (though wearing the number 8 – how good was the kid's game last night?). The thing about this game is that when it's good it captures all the other good moments so the mind sets up a highlights reel of what's happening and what has happened in the past. Last night did that. It brought the great times back while showing the future.

We play this game as fast and furious as a banjo player from the deep south (as yes, deliverance is upon us!).

In that old sitcom the Clampetts never lost themselves even as they were feted upon by the frivolities of Beverley Hills. Truth is Carlton did lose itself. But with hard work and leadership back in place we have found our core, we are back, sure not at the top, not yet, but we are Carlton again, we know how to play this game and last night, like so many times in the past, from child to adolescent to man, the team did not let us down.

Best for mine was a working man, Haddles in the middle, under everything, tackling anything in black and yellow that dared touch the ball, hand-balling, kicking to targets, the in and under genius to go with the runners. Wiggo too, another blue collar type, like gold nuggets are these types, the players who just lay themselves on the line time after time. Robbo's another gem. Then the oil, the dark blue glide across the grass of Murph and Judd. And that's leaving out The Kruise, Gibbsey and a host of others!

Its only the first game in a long season, the first of many tests, the first of many times each and every Bluebagger player will be placed under pressure, but it was our first test and we passed it with flying colours – that's all you can ask.

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