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Rd 23 - Blues v Giants

 Race and religion

We’re sitting right at the top of the concrete race that splits the interchange. When my neighbour spills her seltzer, it trickles down the slope and makes an expensive slip n’ slide. The clear path allows seeing right through to Michael Voss’ MacBook screen, which is faithful to ‘behind the goals’ vision. Dare I say, it feels like checking a school-student stays on task. Throughout most of the match, Voss and Adam Kingsley patrol less than ten metres apart, like barrel-chested soccer managers. It makes you wonder whether one of each side’s myriad interchange staff are solely tasked with eavesdropping. I suggest – to Dad – that if any injured players are sucked into the tunnel ahead of us for an assessment, we’ll in the TV border. It’s a statement of fact – we’re all too old for this to be exciting. Television itself might be too old. But these seats, their bizarre concrete runway, contribute to one of the weirdest matches I’ve ever attended. And I’d expect most of the crowd to agree.

Well-aware of the extra yap Luke Beveridge can get from his Bulldogs during finals, the Carlton brethren seem unsure whether to even wish for a win. What we’re all supporting is Charlie Curnow’s dip for the Coleman. The Giants’ best defender is a late out – the replacement has a chance to at least become a future trivia answer if he can properly deprive our MVP. Can’t. Charlie’s early instincts are razor. He crawls to mark ahead of the opponent for a first – tying at the top of the leaderboard with equally-freakish Taylor Walker. Any further goals shall be a rejection of ‘sharing the spoils’, a rebuke of those pole-vaulters in Budapest earlier in the week. Charlie wastes no time. He drifts over a pack, pushed by blustery well-wishes in an indoor stadium, and marks to line-up for a second. The ball, in flight, mirrors his leg, whips easily. Charlie’s arms extend as they’re contractually obliged. He gets a moment of messianic fancy and he’s swamped by disciples. Much of the crowd stand and applaud him as a performer, and yet the curtain’s unfortunately a while from coming down.

What everyone had wanted is done. From here, it’s ‘Bulldogs’ or ‘Swans’ as finals opponents – a matter of opinion. The Giants, with their broom-footed midfielders, take the initiative once their narrative becomes the more compelling. They cut up the Blues ‘over the back’. Jacob Weitering, showing the effects of this, is first to be drawn down the concrete race I’m presiding over. Apparently, he’s got a busted finger. It’s reset and he's quickly returned to the dragging contest. And yet there must be some kind of laxity remaining in the joint, because I assume it’s this finger that strays of its own volition into a place where it might be seen to ‘hook’ the ever-fishy Toby Greene. Or, put simply, where it might be accused of eye-gouging. A ridiculous charge, were it not for Greene’s verification – and he’s experienced in the art. As fans at the ground, we don’t realise this even happened until early in the second half. There’s a fleshy bloke sitting at two o’clock – a Carltonian answer to Michael Moore – who revels in playing newsbreaker. There must be a radio in his ear, but you can’t actually see it. He has the aloof confidence of an oracle. Divided by that concrete race (like a Berlin Wall), proud, mischievous Europeans, one of whom barracks for another team, gossip about the permutations. In the last, Michael Moore keeps us all involuntarily subscribed to updates on the Giants’ bid for a home final. Blessedly, goals to Durdin and Fisher prevent them leaving Victoria with everything they might’ve hoped for.


The Blues have further highlights, but the many fumbles suggest confusion, and I can’t for the life of me guess what would have been most appropriate for Voss to say at three-quarter time. When were we last so luxuriously short of a cause, with a finals spot locked-in, immovable? Perhaps it’s the innocuous bump (and possibly broken collarbone) to Blake Acres that most shakes our resolve. He’s been in our best handful of players all season; his arm’s quickly in a sling. When he emerges from the race again, he’s white-faced and I doubt it’s from physical pain. I notice a pall over the bench, as well. The navy lackeys grind their chewing gum harder than before. After the match, criminally little is made of the cloud over Acres, and yet it’s appropriate to his general underratedness. He was Fremantle’s ‘Best Finals Player’ last year and they let him walk. You’d think, if that’s when he prospers most, the journos would’ve made greater fuss.

And yet, despite the sub-plots of Acres and Weitering, despite the Giants fulfilling their particular script, it never quite seems like a night of despair. Weirdness, is all. In the last quarter, with an orange win undeniable, swathes of Blues supporters drain down and up the aisles. In fairness, most are probably pushed to this decision by the league’s strange Sunday-night scheduling. There’d be young families amongst the departing. However given this game may have functioned as a send-off for a team that hasn’t progressed to finals for a decade, such behaviour does seem a little fickle, disloyal, not to mention risky. At Marvel Stadium, there are now food outlets branded ‘The Runner’, where slightly disconcerting technology allows you to tap your bank card on entry before you’re tracked throughout the space to determine an accurate charge. It’s so you can ‘get back to the action’, apparently. At this early stage in the rollout, the technology actually clogs things up a bit, what with countless foilheads crowding around staff to ask, skeptically, how exactly it all works. Without having checked my statement, I’ll assume it does. I wonder, with jostling for tickets a certainty in the build-up to the Swans, whether it would be dystopian or progress for similar technology to exact punishment on the membership cards of those that opted for ‘runners’ of another kind. But disunity shouldn’t be the aftertaste. Truth is, after Charlie’s second goal this eve, no-one apart from the Giants and their mousy cheer-squad knew quite what to do with themselves. I couldn’t have begrudged any of our coaches checking their emails, if I’d caught them.

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