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Rd 21 - Saints v Blues

 The Turncoat

In the second quarter, a young guy in the rows behind is overheard bemoaning the health impacts of supporting the Blues. As clarifying evidence, he cites a family member (an uncle, from memory) who’d dropped dead at a Carlton game in the 80s – a successful era, so it might be speculated CVD was the actual culprit. Much as I can be physiologically afflicted by on-field events, surely the fact I’m two days 28 keeps me out of the danger zone. One might suspect chest tightness to be somewhat prevalent at Marvel Stadium this afternoon, however. It’s a tense, low-scoring affair, and urgent St Kilda pressure makes for fumbling and howl-inducing turnovers. Ross Lyon games typically have a sense of asphyxiation, although you suspect it hampers his own charges, as well.

Recent history between the sides is sympathetic to grinding St Kilda wins. They’re a bugbear, more than a foe. Like humans and bananas, perhaps, we share a surprising amount of DNA. Ratten, as a popular, maltreated coach. Silvagni, as a brooding list manager. Numerous players overlapping, too – Acres, Stocker, Newnes, Lappin, Rice, Jesaulenko. And several more linked to jump to the other in the off-season, out of SOS’ rightful respect for his own list-design. However, I’m aghast to note the Saints’ club-sanctioned emcee for Marvel home games is the same cheery woman I’ve seen many times this year masquerade at boundary lines as a rusted-on Blue. It seems a particularly egregious example of a double life – and however did she think she’d manage to get away with this? Brazenly she uses an adoptive ‘we’ to address the other tribe. She talks to diehard Saints fans as if they’re old friends, and reminisces about on-screen St Kilda highlights plucked for ‘retro round’ like they’re favourite memories from her own childhood. I’ve never been early enough to a match to learn her name – so permit me referring impersonally to ‘The Turncoat’. Of course, there’s a slim chance of blonde, camera-savvy twins on the same career path, albeit committed to different teams. Perhaps both are hoping AFL match-day duties shall springboard to other presenter’s roles. As I was channel-surfing in a Taiwanese hotel last year, Emily Angwin, a one-time celebrity crush, burst on-screen as an anchor for Al Jazeera, when the last time I may have seen her was presenting Carlton team selections on Facebook in the Bolton era. A lofty posting, indeed – yet the number of Al Jazeera watchers outside of airport lounges might in fact be comparable to the crowds she’d once commanded at Marvel Stadium. And rest assured I’m not completely naïve – snowflake’s chance there’s a twin that might explain the case of ‘The Turncoat’.

I’m a firm opponent of an AFL mid-season trade period (I’m hardly even approving of a May draft), so the idea of stadium MCs changing their stripes in season looks particularly alarming – a sign the league are readying us mugs to accept a more fluid future. Specifically, if personnel switch sides within a campaign, does this not start to present cracks in the performance? If ‘outsiders’ can be grafted onto a team’s frame mid-year without an angry immune response, doesn’t this suggest those two things were never so distinct to begin with? Or that, heaven forbid, the seriousness of sport is such a charade that tribalism oughtn’t matter? Subconsciously, what may disturb me most about the case of ‘The Turncoat’ is the appearance, to me, she’s been poached, lured by the Saints as a reprisal for Tom De Koning recommitting. Here, her talents taunt the Carlton crowd. As we well know, her elocution makes mediocre food and drinks vouchers (as prizes) seem like Maseratis. She interviews boffin St Kilda YouTubers with courtesy that could be warranted for visiting heads of state. She’s very good with kids. She calls the ‘races’ between juniors and those patronising animations on the light-up fence-boards with the gravitas of Stawell Gift finals. And for a half of the football match itself, it seems the flexibility of her allegiance may, after all, be wise – for the Saints have us snared in one of their typical traps.

But then Seaford-avoidant Tom De Koning wobbles a timely major (it’s somehow ‘ruck appreciation’ and ‘retro’ round) and Jesse Motlop embarks from the centre-circle for a goal that deserved vastly more press than it’s received. It turns out Lyon hasn’t quite managed denying oxygen to our self-belief, after all. An eight-point gap at three-quarter time quickly becomes less than a kick when David Cunningham, in congestion, gets a handball to his foot faster than if it’d been one of his own toes. Paddy Dow, in a moment touted as a belated ‘arrival’ (and yet he’s truly had several of these the media forget), receives from Docherty, and in his typically manic style kicks hard and flat through the target. He may be one of those linked to a regrettable sea-change, and yet this highlight, where he points a finger and rejects being substituted, reminds a double-handling list manager a fair price will need to be paid.


Continuing the crossover theme, Blake Acres (a former Saint, via the Dockers) is the architect of the Blues’ most significant moments in the last term – his perfect bump on Mason Wood to allow a handball to Charlie Curnow, most of all. As a panacea to all the ‘jumping ship’ and disloyalty, the bonds of family are also striking. Ed Curnow spent three and a half quarters on the pine. Charlie, double-teamed by Wilkie and Battle, hadn’t looked like scoring in all that time, but contented himself with laser field-kicking. And yet it’s Ed’s virtual first touch that sputters inside 50 with behaviour only Charlie might read – leading to the aforementioned ‘sealer’. It’s a win, on a birthday weekend, that I’m celebrating with family, as well. A slight leg tremor I’d noticed in the second half is relaxed. It's our best win of the year – but after defeats of Geelong, Port Adelaide and Collingwood, you might seem a snob for saying so. Like a person who insists Springsteen’s best song is ‘Atlantic City’. We linger in level 3 for the league’s best song, long enough for the players to gather, back-slap, and disperse towards fans crowding the fence-line. Long enough, too, for ‘The Turncoat’ to find a break in the music to unashamedly declare, “Sainters, it wasn’t our day today.” And yet she does sound upbeat. Almost as if aware the Blues are hosting Melbourne next week, and thus she may well be rostered to change again, stepping back into the character she must logically prefer. At least, with such loose attachment, a heart would be spared any serious trials.  

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