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Soup of This Day #78: From Little Things Big Things Grow

September 29, 2011

Big Brook Dam
Big Brook Dam, Pemberton. There’s a lake, a beach and a forest – Photo: Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

On this day, the 29th of September, exactly 4 years ago, my fiancée, her sister, my brother, a friend and I piled into 2 cars and headed out of Perth for a 5 hour trip south to Pemberton, a logging-cum-tourist town in Western Australia’s astonishingly diverse South-West corner. It was a relatively fine autumnal day and our convoy made decent time without breaking records. We did stop a couple of times for breaks, particularly in Balingup, where I like to get a mushroom pie or 3 from the bakery.

For the most part my fiancée drove our 4Runner, with her sister as a passenger, while my friend drove her car, with my brother and I as passengers. This arrangement worked because it was the day of the 2007 AFL Grand Final and my fiancée wasn’t that into football.

Or any sport really.

So we cruised along in separate cars. Her and her sister listening to music and books on tape, the rest of us listening to Geelong play Port Adelaide on the radio.

Sort of. The signal did drop in and out a bit though we got the gist of the game as it unfolded.

Port Power were surprise Grand Finalists. They’d won the Premiership in 2004 but had struggled a bit since. Geelong had not won a Premiership in 44 years but they had impressed throughout the season, losing just 4 games. With a gun midfield, featuring future Brownlow winner Gary Ablett Jr and that year’s Brownlow winner, Jimmy Bartel, the Cats deserved to be the favourites. Significantly Port had been the only team to beat the Cats since Round 5, knocking them off by a narrow 5 point margin at Geelong’s Kardinia Park home. With this in mind a tight game looked to be in the offing.

That suggestion of a close game looked on the money in the 10 minutes or so after the 1st bounce as we headed south through Mandurah. The 1st quarter was even in the early contests although late in the stanza the Cats booted a mini-break clear to lead 5.7 (37) to 2.2 (14). A handy lead although the most ominous statistic was the count of 12 scoring shots for the Cats as opposed to just 4 for the Power. Still the Cats hadn’t really capitalised on their opportunities and there was potential for the Power to hit back in the 2nd.

They didn’t.

Geelong booted the next 5 goals to open the 2nd and although Port clawed back 2 to 1 thereafter the Cats lead by 52 points at halftime as we approached Bunbury. The scores were 11.13 (79) to 4.3 (27). That gap was not insurmountable, particularly given Geelong’s tortured Grand Final history through the 90’s, but by now the ominous scoring shot count had blown out to 24 to 7.

As the teams refreshed themselves we churned through Donnybrook and headed for Balingup, the scenery changing from the flat coastal plain through to a hillier, more woody, farmland. Sadly for Port, their outlook didn’t change nearly as much in the 3rd term. Again they were outscored and again they failed to provide a scoring threat. Geelong added 7 goals to stretch their score to 18.17 (125) while the Power could manage just the 1 major to limp to 5.5 (35). At 3 quarter time, spent in Balingup over a pie or many, the Cats therefore led by 90, threatening the all-time Grand Final record margin of 96, registered in 1988 by Hawthorn over Melbourne.

For the final quarter they set about demolishing that record. As we sailed through Bridgetown and further south, the shadows starting to lengthen on the road, the Cats booted 6 goals to 1 to run out 24.19 (163) to 6.8 (44) winners. It had been a brutal 119 point demolition, 1 that was beyond even the wildest expectations of delirious Geelong fans.

Port and their fans sadly have still not recovered from that loss to this day. Such has been their fall that this year they managed to finish 2nd last, winning just the 3 times and becoming the embarrassed 1st victim of the new expansion club Gold Coast.

A further problem for them is that they are cash-strapped. Success breeds financial strength and they have been starved of both since that 2007 pasting. Their club model isn’t necessarily 1 that helps either. Port were formed out of a single SANFL (South Australian National Football League) team of the same name, deriving the core of their fan base from that relatively narrow pool. By contrast the Fremantle Dockers did not base their club on 1 local side. Instead they focused on being from Fremantle, which is south of the Swan River. The Swan neatly divides the greater metropolitan area of Perth and so the club has a large natural heartland to build from.

To be fair, when they did start they derived a large number of players plus the inaugural head coach, Gerard Neesham, from local giants Claremont. I grew up as a Claremont fan, as my dad had and it’s the prevailing reason why I became a Dockers man. I still watch the Tigers play occasionally, almost entirely via tv, although I did get to see them in person in a WAFL (Western Australian Football League) Grand Final in 2007, just a week before that trip to Pemberton. They lost that day to Subiaco and funnily enough those 2 teams played off in a rematch this Sunday past. The Tigers hadn’t won a premiership for 15 years, the year the Dockers were formed, but this day they came out roaring and easily accounted for the Lions 19.13 (127) to 10.11 (71).

Back in the SANFL and the local Port Adelaide team was not as successful, missing out on a finals campaign in 2011 by 1 place on the ladder. The SANFL Port Adelaide are known as the Magpies and ply their trade in black and white stripes. For the AFL they had to change their name and playing strip, due to a clash with the existing Collingwood Magpies.

It is fitting then that this Saturday sees the 2011 AFL Grand Final pit Geelong against the Magpies. Sadly for Port it’s the Collingwood version. Happily for all other AFL fans it’s the Collingwood version and the game shouldn’t be as lopsided as when Port were last featured.

Meanwhile, it occurs to me that I haven’t quite finished the account of our journey to Pemberton. We arrived in town around 4-ish and dropped my brother and friend off at their accommodation. My fiancée and I then drove to a secluded series of cottages, set on a gentle slope that overlooked a block of Karri forest.

Karri trees are majestic timber giants and a decent enough reason all by themselves to go to Pemberton. These towering eucalyptus have tall straight trunks that hardly taper in a vertical rush that can easily reach 90m or more.

Despite their monumental bulk Karris are really quite sensitive. They need high rainfall, something Pemberton has, and they like a particular type of soil, called Karri Loam, that is largely built up from bark shed by the Karri’s themselves. The upshot of this fussy set of requirements is that they tend to thrive over a small range with isolated pockets in areas of Western Australia’s South West with by far the largest enclave being centred around Pemberton.

They really are quite special and to walk though an old-growth patch of Karri forest is to feel like you’re walking back in time. The air is thick and musty, the under-storey is dense and the whole is crawling with wildlife. You will get a sore neck from craning your gaze up to the treetops but it is worth it.

Which is why we go back there a lot but for that trip, 4 years ago we had another purpose in mind. The following day, September 30th, 2007 we grabbed my brother, my friend and a small group of other friends and family and we headed for a place called Big Brook Dam. A lake, set in the middle of some fine Karri forest that has a striking white sand beach set to 1 side.

There, in the presence of a celebrant and surrounded by tall trees and loved 1s, Longworth72 and fiancée got married.

It would be nice to say that it was the best day of my life but I can’t honestly do that. It was a wonderful day to be sure but you see, there have been many more wonderful days since and somehow they just seem to get better. There’s some rough patches too but they we get through them and they make us stronger.

It’s funny because I never saw myself as the marrying type, figuring that I wasn’t grown-up enough for that. I’m still not sure I am grown up but I am sure of this:

I love my wife more each day. Whether it’s by marriage or not I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have spent the past 4 years in partnership with and I hope it carries on for the rest of my days.

I’ll let this post end with a sporting segue:

Fans of Geelong in 2007 and Claremont in 2011 are probably amongst the happiest people going around. I reckon though that there isn’t any sporting triumph anywhere or anytime that I’d trade for what I have with my partner.

Love you babe. Always.

From Little Things Big Things Grow

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