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Among Saints

Originally and only published in the Footy Almanac – season 2012

Among Saints

Geelong versus St. Kilda
7.50pm, Friday, 21 August 2012
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Bob Pettifer

Bob and I caught up at KP in Round 13, 2014 vs Saints (something about Saints games and Bob eh?)

“Do you want to come into the rooms and meet the players?” asked Bob the doorman.

We were at Linton Street, the old home of the Saints. We snuck in under a wire fence at the Doonga Avenue end of the ground. The Cats were getting smashed so Nic and I went walkabout half way through the last quarter, eventually making our way past the players’ entrance of the Geelong rooms. That’s where we met Bob.

I was twelve, my cousin Nic was sixteen; he is my Saint Nic. He’s watched over me all of my life; it’s a special bond. Bob let us in the rooms and we waited. Our heroes burst in. We’d never been in the rooms before. Andrews Bews was my favourite player and once introduced we struck a friendship which lasts to this day. That was 32 years ago. Memories of that day stir me every time the Cats play the Saints.

Tonight Darl and I are at Etihad Stadium, sitting at the St. Kilda cheer-squad end, a couple of Cats supporters amidst a throng of Saints. Bob the doorman has retired to the Gold Coast and no longer can we sneak into the ground from under a fence. But at least we’re at Etihad where it is comfortable; a good place for warm-up beers and customary catch-up with friends.

The Cats team takes on a particularly familiar look with Pops, the Joshinator (Hunt), Smithy (Joel Corey) and Chappy all back in the team. Tomahawk is fit after KO’ing himself last week against the Eagles. But, as we’ve become accustomed, it’s another player, the unheralded Taylor Hunt who gets the Cats rolling with the two opening goals of the game.

The Cats have the Saints on the back foot until…enter the Tip-Rat: Stephen Milne. A snapped goal gets him started. In the same minute, another goal to Geary and the Cats superior effort in opening minutes seems to have been in vain. Saints fans find their voice; the Sainter two seats up senses a menacing opponent and tries to rev me up.

He succeeds. Darl gives me that look.

The third 50 metre penalty of the quarter comes after Duncan takes a strong mark against Gram. Duncan sends a long kick to the goal square to find West who takes a strong Glenn Middlemiss-like mark in front of goal. West’s goal steadies the Cats and Tomahawk opens his account. His second goal is a carbon-copy of his famous match-winner against the Hawks a couple of weeks ago. Fifty-five metres out, slight angle, dead straight. A late goal to the Saints keeps them in touch.

In the second quarter, the Cats are tentative. The Tip Rat goals again. The Saints dish out attention to Joel Selwood keeping him quiet. In fact they are a bit more aggressive than usual. Saint Lenny smashes Taylor Hunt’s nose in a brutal but fair bump.

The Saints keep ‘in touch’ until about half way through the quarter when the Cats play some inspiring football: four goals in thirteen minutes put Geelong in command by half-time.

A flurry of half-time text messages between my Saint Nic and me confirm two things. He’s happy with the Cats first half effort and equally unhappy at being stuck at a work function and unable to get to the game. I keep him up to date.

No one saw the change coming. The Cats can’t get their hands on the ball in the third quarter. The Saints play relentless footy and the Cats struggle to find the right match-ups on their smalls.

Seat 33 is really up and about: he’s going on about the umps are and how lucky the Cats are to be in the game. The Saints keep us goal-less for the term, but they’re still to hit the lead. Darl is two minutes away from divorcing herself from the game –and me.

Holding their nerve, the Saints check their cards and raise the stakes. Through quick goals to Saad and Schneider they get to within a point early in the final quarter. Flashbacks to the 2009 Grand Final flood back. Another close one? We need Max Rooke and the Moon Dog.

It seems that for the last forty minutes the Saints have been playing with two extra men. Or have the Cats been playing with two less?

These concerns are allayed when the J-Pod flies and purposefully taps the ball to the roving Hawkins who snaps the second most timely goal of his career. Then superb long-range goals to Murdoch (he reminds me of a young Riccardi) and Mackie, and Tomahawk snags his sixth of the night. The Cats have finally put their foot down. Old mate next to us concedes.

The Cats were pushed and when all seemed critical they responded. Watch out in the finals. If we’re ‘on’ for four quarters we will do some damage.

Postscript: The Cats lost that game at Linton St in 1980 by just 5 points after being down by 27 points at three-quarter time.

fa-2012-jd-siteGEELONG 5.3 11.9 11.13 18.15 (123)
ST KILDA 3.2 6.5 9.12 11.15 (81)

Geelong: Hawkins 6, T Hunt 2, West 2, Motlop 2, Podsiadly 2, Stokes, Murdoch, Mackie, Chapman
St Kilda: Milne 4, Saad 3, Geary, Armitage, Goddard, Schneider

Geelong: Kelly, Hawkins, Duncan, Johnson, West, Taylor, J Hunt, Murdoch
St Kilda: Gram, Montagna, Hayes, Milne, Armitage, McEvoy, Saad, Dempster

Umpires: Donlon, Rosebury, Meredith

Crowd: 38,169 at Etihad Stadium

Our (Malarkey Medal) votes: Kelly (3), Hawkins (2), Duncan (1)
Brownlow votes: Kelly (3), Hawkins (2), Goddard (1)



Read more of my stories and creative writing at the Footy Almanac here


Cycling through the Eras

Some of the Cats of 2002 went on to become legends of the Club.

Premierships are the benchmark of successful teams.  Geelong had been starved of real success since 1963.  A founding member of the league as we know it, influential on the rules as we know them, the once powerful Geelong had become mediocre.  A spate of losing efforts in Grand Finals dating back to 1967 against Richmond, 1989 against Hawthorn, 1992 and 1994 against West Coast and in 1995 against the Blues, teased us supporters and Geelong had become known as the ‘handbag team’ of the competition.  Together with a lack of success on field and financial trouble, Geelong looked to be a real mess.

The year 2000 saw Mark Thompson appointed as Senior Coach.  His mission was to rekindle and revamp, the team.  He saw that a rebuild was in order and over that 2000 season (finished 5th) and the following one in 2001 (finished 12th) blooded some impressive talent, mixed in with some older heads who could show the young guns the way.  The plan was laid, the new team unveiled in the reserves.  The seniors road was still going to be rocky; because the young guys had to do their time in the reserves and slowly be introduced into the seniors, the old blood trained the new breed ‘on the job’.

In 2002 Geelong reserves (VFL team) showed something extraordinary.  The young guns, unearthed by Stephen Wells (recruiting manager at the Cats) provided a glimpse as to what the future team would look like, when it conquered Port Melbourne, by 22 points to win the VFL Premiership.

In that team there were players who were relatively untried and unknown and they included: Gary Ablett, Steve Johnson, Paul Chapman, Josh Hunt, Jim Bartel, James Kelly… these players have now gone on to become common household AFL names and Premiership superstars. That game also saw the exit of Tim McGrath and David Mensch.

A new look team started to take shape.  Add to this, impressive list, the likes of Cameron Ling, Cameron Mooney, Corey Enright, Joel Corey, Tom Harley, David Wojcinski and of course Matty Scarlett who debuted with one game in 1999.

This was the new breed.

2002 VFL Grand Final

In 2012, there was a strange feeling ‘around the Club’; with an ageing list of players, some already retired or moved on from that fantastic list of 1999-2002.  We’d got used to winning.  We were used to playing finals.  Funny isn’t it? Another oxymoron in the football world.  Pre-2000 we were used to losing.  Used to having a vacant calendar September to do something other than go to finals matches.   The 2012 season was a series of ups and downs, but we always felt like we’d make the top eight.  Perhaps even defy history and win the big one from outside the top 4 relying just on muscle memory alone.  As it turned out, the Cats made an inglorious exit in Elimination week; we were nonetheless proud of our team.  From all angles there was talk of the ‘era’ being all but gone.

True believers, like me, are not wanting to buy into the assumption of the era being gone.  We have new faith.  They say that faith is believing in a cause with no real evidence to back it up with.  The recent ‘golden era’ has given us evidence, tangible reasons to believe; here’s some evidence: since that VFL premiership day in 2002, the Cats have won 3 AFL premierships, 2 AFL Pre Season premierships, 2 VFL premiership, 2 Brownlow Medals, 3 norm Smith Medals, almost a whole team worth of All-Australians and many other awards, the list too long to mention.  In addition, Stephen Wells and the recruiting team have continued their outstanding work by unearthing even more talent which promises to keep stoking the faith fire for a time to come.

Can these Cats fill the massive boots being left by the Cats of 2002?

It has been less than 24 hours since (at the time of writing) that the siren on the VFL season blasted and in that solitary note possibly heralded a second coming.  The Cats again conquered Port Melbourne for the VFL premiership, this time by 33 points. Could this VFL premiership in 2012 signal the same or similar for Geelong as what 2002, in hindsight, was for that team?

The list is changing, old breed being exchanged for new.  New names, new heroes.  Horlin-Smith, Kersten, Brown, Burbury, Stringer, Walker, Sherringham, Gillies, Schroder, Simpkin (to name a few), unfamiliar names to many, lead the changing of the guard.  These players have been watching the golden era and have been salivating at the thought of their own success.  In the meantime they have honoured the retirements of Simon Hogan and David Wojcinski and at the same time announce themselves as they take a firm grip of the reigns.  If success breeds more success, then Geelong is in good shape and can look forward to more sustained successful eras.

Add to the mix, Selwood, Hawkins, Duncan, Christensen, West, Guthrie, Motlop, Taylor Hunt, Varcoe, Menzel and Vardy the future looks bright. Will we be looking back at this VFL Premiership team in a few years time as the catalyst of another great Cats era… let’s hope so.

Power House – my home away from home

Power House senior team runs out for battle against Old Westbourne on 11 August 2012

I’ve been involved with Power House footy club since 1985, I played just 66 games for the Club over 15 seasons (I retired from playing in 2000).  I’ve been a player, a committee man and since 1995 my business DISKMANdotNet has been the Club’s web designer, domain name and web hosting provider and more recently I’ve been an official photographer.  Everytime I go to the Club I get a really special feeling.  There’s no better place when I am there.  The clubrooms, the smell of liniment, the sight of the boys running out in the Green, White and Black; it stirs really special memories.  Makes me want to pull on a pair of boots and join them!

Being involved with the Club post-retirement is something which I really enjoy doing.  Giving back to the Club is really important to me as it gave so much to me.  It’s part of my identity and it feels great when I share that ‘my Club is Power House’ in conversations with people close and far from the Club.  “My Club”….

When I think of Power House, I stand tall and I am proud.  I am positive I am not alone with this feeling.

The reason I love Power House so much is the history of the place.  The characters which make up the Club are amongst some of the best people I know.  Their passion for the Club is infectious and you can’t help but being caught up by it.  From my past team mates, young and old, to the ‘old timers’ whose very shoulders the Club was built upon, to the present players; they are all important to me.

The Club was originally founded in 1940, but it wasn’t until 1947 (after the war) when it was resurrected and joined the VAFA.  Since then it has won 7 Premierships (U19’s, Reserves and Seniors), has had 2 players awarded with 300 game status by the VAFA and has had numerous  VAFA Victorian representatives.  More Club history can be viewed on the PHFC web site.

A great example of how my Club comes together to support, remember and appreciate each other is last Saturday (11 August 2012) when the Club hosted a Past Players’ Luncheon in memory of Les Gordon.  Sadly we lost Les this year and  it was fitting to dedicate the lunch and the game day in Les’ name.

Les Gordon

Les Gordon (middle) with (L-R) Ian Dakin, Rick Sykes, Peter Dakin and Peter Hutchinson

A bit about Les Gordon

Les is the games record holder for the Power House Football Club. He played 357 games in a playing career that spanned 1952 – 1971. Les is a 4-time Seniors Best and Fairest winner (1960, 1961, 1962 and 1964) and was Senior Captain in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1971. He was Senior Coach for 6 seasons. He was a member of the 1959 Invincibles Premiership Team and was Senior Playing Captain-Coach of the 1971 Premiership Team. In 2011, Les was elevated to LEGEND status of the Power House Football Club.

I’ll never be a legend of the Club, I’ll never be a Life Member and I’ll never be one of the greats; but that’s ok by me because in my own way I played my part in the past and I continue to play a different part now which many people associated with the Club appreciate.  It’s enough to make ‘my’ heart grow glad. I am proud to be involved and lending my hand to recording and promoting the Club’s history.

Go Power House!  Go you Slushee Warriors!

Tom Hawkins: Rise of the Tomahawk

Tom Hawkins, much maligned, much anticipated.  Some supporters always knew he’d take time to develop; but many were screaming for his head on a platter.  It’s time now for the nay-sayers to give him the respect he richly deserves.

Finally he is getting the recognition that he has fought for; that he was going to be good is something, internally, the Cats hierarchy knew was within Tom Hawkins.  Dumped from the team mid-season in 2011 he fought back and set about resurrecting himself as the prominent forward in the Cats team.  He now sits at the (near) top of the season’s goal kicking ladder for the AFL and has cemented himself as the dominating forward for Geelong.

Watch this inspiring video on Geelong’s web site to see for yourself just how good this kid is.  Just how highly he is respected and how much more we can expect from him in the seasons to come.

Click here or the image above to view this remarkable insight to Tom Hawkins… the Tomahawk

Party Time on the Gold Coast

A new family tradition was borne this week – we were off to the Gold Coast to watch our beloved Cats take on the Suns at their new home ground, the old Cararra.  When we were kids we’d drive to VFL Park or the ‘G’ or catch the train down to Geelong; in this modern era we have the privilege of cheap air travel. So here we are two families, decked out in our gear; shades of catching the train to Kardinia park, only this train is going to take off.

We board our flight amidst several other Cats supporters, it seems as though all of Geelong is heading north this week… Even our flight attendant Susan is a Cat and hails from Geelong; we get extra attention from her and she knowingly smiles at us each time she walks by.  5000 Cats fans besiege the Gold Coast leading up to the game; no matter which theme park, or which restaurant we go, they’re full of fellow Cats, its like being in Geelong on match day; and as long as you’re identified as a Catter, we’re friends and we smile and shake hands and talk “shop” –  its all in anticipation for the game which is still two long days away.

James Pavlou

In awe...

It’s match day, everyone’s up early and there are still 10 hours before match time, so we take a walk down to the beach and supervise little James ‘surf’ the Broadbeach waves on his boogie-board.  All of a sudden excitement washes over the beach and hush talk spreads that some Cats players are taking a dip in the surf.  You can imagine our delight as we glance over to see Podsy, Wojo, Taylor Hunt and Mitch Duncan sharing the water with us. Although the kids have met all the players a number of times, Anna and Tarsh are beside themselves and little James, who loves the Pod, just stands there a-gasp at seeing him again so close up and personal.  A messenger is sent back to our apartment to hail the rest of the gang onto the beach to take a sneak peak at the awesome foursome.  I am pumped… nervous but pumped. Anticipation is building, will the Suns beat us? Will we rain on their parade? Who’s going to keep Gary in check and will Stevie J put on a show?

It’s still 6 hours to game time, thoughts and scenarios are bantered around.  We transfer out time killing activities to Pacific Fair where we find more Cats supporters who have emerged from their hotels with high expectations in their hearts and minds.  It’s hard not to give them a reassuring nod, a quick “GO Cats” and a thumbs up… Cats are everywhere!

Game time t-minus 2 hours.  It’s time to go, and we load up into our rented people mover en-route to the train station to catch the shuttle bus to the ground, we’re still wondering if Stevie is going to put on that show. Anna is stoked that Ling’s back in the team, Tarsh is delirious at getting to see Jimmy in the flesh again and little James clutches onto his toy car, just as long as the Cats win he’s going to be happy.  As for us big kids, there’s more at stake, Pav just wants the 4 points (a win is a win), Maz can’t believe we’re going to the footy interstate and is hopeful it doesn’t end in tears and ruin the last of our holiday (yes even us big kids sulk when we lose) and me, well i am hoping the Cats win by a mile and that the bar isn’t too far away.  It couldn’t be any easier, park at the station, jump on the bus and banter, yet again with the Suns and Cats supporters on our 2.5km trip to the ground. Everyone’s really happy and smiling.

Traditional Family Photo

The stadium is aglow and the fans stream in… We pause for the mandatory group photo in front of the match day sign; beautifully taken by some fellow Cats supporters who’d made their way down from Brisbane and we’d met on the short bus ride; yes, Geelong supporters come from all corners of the country!

The new stadium can’t even be compared to the old one, thank Ablett (god) for modern day progress!  They’ve got pretty fancy sheds now!

Our seats are in perfect position between the goal and point posts right next door to the Cats cheer squad  we’re in good company tonight, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be loud. We better win… Stevie J has to put on that show. Its only 30 feet to the bar and to the pies from where we sit; did i mention our seats are in perfect position?

The Suns put on a great opening ceremony show, traditional land owners speak, music blares, and fireworks scare the bejesus out of us and fill the stadium with smoke which seems will take forever to clear. At this stage of the night football is the winner, new team, new stadium and a new family tradition.  The teams break through their banners with the stench of gun powder still in the air; but its more than gun powder which fills the stadium, everyone is nervous in anticipation of how the match will pan out .The Suns fans break into a feverish frenzied chant; its almost time for the first bounce, the Cats cheer squad fires up… It’s electric, it’s game on!

The first quarter doesn’t pan out the way we thought it would; we discounted the emotion and pride of the Suns who came out all guns firing, out playing and outscoring the Cats.  The Cats cheer squad tries to fire up by chanting and clapping.. GEELONG, CLAP CLAP CLAP, GEELONG, CLAP CLAP CLAP. Suns fans are growing cockier by the minute, they try to drown out the clapping by shouting CRAP CRAP CRAP.  “Just wait till Stevie gets out his bag of tricks” we were thinking; hoping.  We’ve had slow starts in just about every game this season and this gives us a false sense of security because we’re undefeated (so far) and we’ve escaped with some tight wins so far but have we given them too much of a start this time?  The kids are despondent. The adults are really worried. 19 points down.

The second quarter was a bit more respectable but by our standards we were still struggling.  Now we knew what it felt like for away teams (and supporters) coming to Kardinia Park.  We put on our brave faces and prayed to the football gods.  The Suns fans were basking in their team’s first half effort and rightly so because they had clearly out played us. We could sense we were fighting back but where was that Steve Johnson show? 11 points down.

Steve Johnson - Party Trick Specialist

Party Trick Specialist

The half time break couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cats but we in the stands were confident it would turn around, after-all the gods listen; don’t they?  Thankfully the bar was close, the amber ale was flowing and collectively our optimism was high.

The third quarter starts, fresh beer in hand and enter from left stage Stevie J, the party time specialist. Two goals in 2 and a half minutes and the Cats hit the lead, the show had begun, this was the Geelong we knew and have grown accustomed to. Stevie came through with the goods (we knew he would), sparking our team and putting to bed our fears of being done to what we’d done to others at our home ground. The kids were smiling again and we adults breathed a bit easier. 8 goals to 1 made sure that not only did we hit the lead but we commanded the flow of the game.  34 points up.

The last quarter was time for us to cautiously enjoy, as long as we continued with our work rate from the third quarter we would win!  The Cats machine continued to out play, out muscle and out think the Suns.  66 points to the good.  It was indeed party time.

As we made our way to the shuttle bus queue, our conversation turned to our next “away” trip. Traveling to go to the footy was given a new meaning and air of excitement and so its been decided that in 2012 we will go to Perth, to see our Cats play the Dockers or the Eagles.

Story originally published on the Footy Almanac web site on June 6, 2011