In which our guest commentator, “Big Karl” Marx offers us his somewhat belated thoughts on the 3rd anniversary reprise of the match which set Geelong on the path to the 2007 premiership.
Mike Sheahan remarks somewhere that all great football teams and personages appear, so to speak, twice on his list. He forgot to add: the first time as a coronation, the second time as an obituary. Lonergan for Scarlett, Tom Hawkins for Nathan Ablett, the Podsiadly of 2010 for the Harley of 2007. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Sixth round vs Richmond.
Men play their own football, but they do not play it as they please; they do not play it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all of the club’s dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new game in AFL history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Lance Franklin put on the mask of Dermot Brereton, the Swans of 2006 draped themselves alternately in the guise of New South Welshmen and denizens of the Lake Oval, and the Cats of 2004-06 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1989, now the premiership tradition of 1963. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.
When we think about this conjuring up of the dead of football history, a salient difference reveals itself. Bomber Thompson, Frank Costa, Brian Cook, Harley, Chapman, the heroes as well as the players and the supporters of the old Kardinia Park, performed the task of their time – that of unchaining and establishing the modern Geelong dynasty – in blue and white hoops and with sound finances. They first rebuilt the 1990’s club and cut off the big heads that had grown on it. Then they created inside Geelong the only conditions under which a competitive team could be developed, players properly used, and the unfettered scoring power of the team employed; and beyond the Barwon River it swept away interstate avifauna, to provide Victorian clubs with an attacking style of Premiership football. Once the new team strategy was established, the interstate colossi disappeared and with them also the dreaded zone – the Rooses, the Worsfolds, and Matthews himself.
Thus the awakening of the dead in those matches served the purpose of glorifying the new struggles, not of parodying the old; of magnifying the given task in the imagination, not recoiling from its solution in reality; of finding once more the spirit of football, not making its ghost walk again.
And so Geelong in 2010 goes up against Richmond in a replay of the game after which it was crowned as a true football power in 2007: the 157 point demolition of the Tigers. Arguably, Geelong needs to be reinfused with the spirit of football evident in 2007 once more as age and the heavy hits taken through its 3 year reign as the club to beat may have taken an edge off a great team; not much, just enough to give the opposition a scent. Geelong are still Premiership favourites or thereabouts but they have won only 2/3 of their games since the first titanic clash with St Kilda in 2009 and Carlton ran them off their feet in round 5, prompting Bomber to decisively not praise Gary jnr for his 38 possession game.
So what can we glean from the aftermath of a 108 point demolition job? Is Geelong a real contender this year or a fading and unsettled Louis Napoleon outfit masquerading as the equal of the glorious ’07? The team that beat Richmond in 2010 was missing Scarlett and Ablett, and Ottens would sustain another 8 week injury during the game. Injury looms as a bigger threat than it did in the past to older bodies with more kilometres on the odometer. Nevertheless self belief is an important ingredient of a winning team and this team has plenty of that. They also have a few handy spares and new recruits such as Lonergan, Gamble, Hogan and Duncan. There is the luxury of playing mix and match on the forward line around Mooney and Chapman by including various combinations of Johnson, Varcoe, Podsiadly, Hawkins, Byrnes and Stokes. The absence of Ottens will allow the team to assess the progress of West and Simpson in the ruck. The midfield is unparalleled in its depth and already boasts two Brownlows, while Hunt has slotted back into the defence as a readymade replacement for Harley.
The 2007 Geelong demolition of the Tigers presaged tragedy for the other clubs as they rampaged through the season, stumbling only to lose to Port Adelaide in round 21; a slipup they rectified on the last Saturday in September. The 2010 Cats outfit is no farcical approximation of the earlier model; they can go all the way in 2010, albeit in the manner of Brisbane circa 2003 with a gutsy 15 win season rather than after the steamroller fashion of the ’07 team.
The word farce in this context must be reserved for Richmond where truly the weight of all the dead seasons since 1981 weigh heavily on a club which some supporters say has never adapted from the old semi professional VFL of the 1970’s to the requirements of the modern professional AFL. How, comrades, can we fulfil the current five year plan?
Geelong 7.2 13.7 19.10 24.17 161
Richmond 0.2 2.5 4.9 7.11 53