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