Footy Almanac 2008 Round 13 Saints vs Dockers
A footy trip to Melbourne. Good food, a tribute to The Triffids. Even some footy...
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St Kilda versus Fremantle
7.40pm, Friday, June 21
Telstra Dome, Melbourne
Betting on this Friday night game was suspended for a while on the Thursday due to the weight of money waged on Fremantle. That's the team with two wins to their credit for the season. The betting frenzy was sparked by St Kilda's decision to drop two out-of-form players, Stephen Milne and Nick Del Santo. Such was the level of this madness that I was tempted to put some money on the Saints.
We'd booked this footy trip in October 2007 and while I wasn't overly optimistic about Fremantle's prospects in 2008 I certainly didn't expect them to be out of contention by this stage.
Many of the passengers on our flight were heading over for the footy. Fremantle jackets, shirts, scarves and caps were dotted throughout the plane - emphasising the ever-rising popularity of footy weekends in Melbourne among fans in the west.
Speaking of passengers, the Dockers fielded the same 22 players who crushed North Melbourne a week earlier but I got the feeling early in the game that some of them had just come along for the ride.
The game was horrible with only the performances of two of the AFL's best big men suggesting we were witnessing an elite sporting event. Nick Reiwoldt took marks all over the place and finished with three goals including the last of the game. Matthew Pavlich kicked five goals and for a while it seemed he might rouse his lethargic team mates into a winning mood.
The Saints played a turgid type of footy and the Dockers didn't have the required levels of skill or imagination to counter it.
Lenny Hayes had 16 disposals in the first quarter then pinged a hammy and didn't appear for the rest of the game so maybe Fremantle were lucky to get as close as they did.
With the footy out of the way we got on with the job of enjoying our time in Australia's best city. (Actually I did pop along to the MCG on Saturday afternoon to see an equally unattractive game between the Roos and Hawks.)
We ate well though the venues and choices for our three evening meals were widely contrasting.
We'd coincidentally timed our visit to coincide with a gathering of Almanackers at the Rose Hotel in Fitzroy where I took a break from Australian Rules discussion and inevitable 'what's wrong with Freo?'* questions to enjoy a huge serving of sausages and mash. It was an unimaginative but brilliant choice.
More highlights came at the Corner Bar in Richmond where a gig was held to raise money for a film about David McComb from Perth band The Triffids. Sadly The Triffids gained far greater critical acclaim than commercial success and David McComb, the singer and songwriter, died in 1999. The gathering at the Corner Bar showed, however, that they live on in many hearts.
I felt transported back to the Broadway Tavern in Nedlands when Diving Bell performed Seabird and felt privileged to see Triffids Rob McComb and Evil Graham Lee play with The Blackeyed Susans. But the moment that stayed with me was the rendition of Spanish Blue by St Kilda fan Mick Thomas and his 'Sunday band' The Shackletons.
"Nothing happens here/Nothing gets done/But you get to like it..."
All this, of course, has a connection to the Dockers. Early in 2003 I was taking a photograph for a local newspaper of Paul Hasleby in East Fremantle when two fans appeared. They were star-struck and politely asked for the Docker's autograph. I was star-struck. They were Alsy MacDonald (drummer) and Jill Birt (keyboard player) from The Triffids. Afterwards as I explained to Paul the significance of the meeting I realised he was born in 1981, about when I was following The Triffids from pub to pub.
The film will be called Love in Bright Landscapes.
Our weekend extended though to Monday and we stepped up the fine dining stakes by booking at The Botanical in South Yarra. The crab coleslaw was amazing. At an earlier visit to the Bot (as we locals call it) I saw Simon Beasley the full forward who became a bookmaker.
Friday night footy seemed far away and another of David McComb's lines from Spanish Blue came to mind.
"Once I felt some pain but it was gone in a flash."
St Kilda 10.5 (65) vs Fremantle 8.9 (57)
•The Bot in South Yarra. Photo by Les Everett.