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Soup of This Day #312: Water Flowing Underground

May 27, 2013

The SCG
This is the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), home to the Australian Football League’s (AFL’s) Sydney Swans. It might seem a decently proportioned ground in this image but that’s because those people are actually very small and the camera had 1 of those extreme zoom lens things going on – Photo: Paul Holloway, 2009. Paul Holloway is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

In a previous job I once had to ride shotgun on a trip to ferry a man to work. I was there because my boss felt like the driver should have some cover with the man, who I will call Ben. This was in part because the driver was a petite woman, who I’ll call Edwina, in her late 40s and Ben was a giant of a man, around 6’ 8’’ and maybe 150kg.

And he’d once killed someone.

My memory wants to say he was a convicted murderer but that may not be accurate. Whatever the legal terminology there are 3 basic things to be aware of:

1. Ben had killed a man; 2. Ben had served his time for the offence; and 3. Ben was now free to live his life in peace.

Still, my boss had felt like he might be dangerous for Edwina by herself and so I was sent along as a bodyguard.

Because that’s what you do with your new office IT guy.

Notably, nobody told me about Ben until we were well on the way there and going fast enough that wrenching open a door and plunging out of a moving van was not an option.

I thought about escaping anyway though, because I wasn’t mentally set up to protect myself from Ben, let alone shield poor old Edwina as well. They might as well have parked an anxiety-stricken rabbit in the glare of a 50-gazillion candle-power spotlight – At least the rabbit could have communicated by shadow puppetry.

Sure it would have been an impression of a rabbit quietly @#$%ting itself, but at least that’s something right? Me, I was so out of my zone that I had gone past @#$%ting myself quietly or otherwise and was well into shutting down bodily functions in the hope that 1 day cryogenics could bring me back.

Yep, I was seriously intimidated – At least at 1st. As it happened poor old Edwina was not poor, old, or at all spooked by Ben’s past. This was a regular occurrence for her, travelling with skeletons that lived outside of closets, and while she was careful she didn’t show any outward signs of concern. She definitely wasn’t on tenterhooks, so much so that she felt like it was ok to poke Ben about his love of the West Coast Eagles. Edwina was a Dockers fan and even Ben’s criminal record and imposing bulk was not enough for her to skip an opportunity to sink the boot in to a West Coast fan, albeit with good humour.

Like Edwina, I’m a Dockers fan. Unlike Edwina, at that moment in time, I was pretty happy to let Ben’s footy preference slide by me. Actually, I’d have quite happily professed my love for the blue and gold by singing the Eagles club song, disavowing my Freo heritage in a trade off for peace in my time.

Sadly this was not an option after Edwina punted me into the conversation by proudly announcing that: a. I was a Fremantle guy; and b. That the Dockers were going to smash the Eagles, isn’t that right Longworth72?

At which point the rabbit would have thought, ‘#$%^ ’em if they can’t take a joke’ and said direct into that searchlight, ‘Hell yeah. The Wet Toast is getting buttered on both sides,’ and laughed in the face of danger like a rabbit that can have as much rabbit sex as it wants, whenever it wants.

Which in truth is pretty much how I think it works with rabbits. At least with the sex bit anyway.

I’m not a rabbit though and so I think the best I could offer was a squeaked out, ‘Yeah.’ before praying that Ben hadn’t gone down to the law for love of a sporting team.

If I thought about that in football terms I probably would have saved my prayers. The Eagles faithful have always figured themselves a gulf in class above the Dockers and back then they could make a case to back up that assertion: 2 Premierships to 0, 28 post-season games to 1 and only having finished a term below the Dockers on the league table on 2 occasions.

That latter stat was across 10 seasons. In 1 of those the Dockers collected the wooden spoon for finishing last. The Eagles, at the time that I met Ben, had never collected the wooden spoon, coming closest in 2001, with just 2 teams below them. 1 of those limbo-ing outfits was Freo.

The Dockers just weren’t a threat to the Eagles – They were more like some sort of small sibling – Good for a pat on the head and a laugh but run along lads because the big kids have to play.

Hopefully Ben isn’t reading this because we’re running with the big kids now.

Across the past 3 weeks the Dockers have bested 2 genuine Premiership contenders. They’ve done that previously so in of itself that’s no big deal. It was more the manner in which they competed that has highlighted how the little brother of a club has grown up.

The 1st of those games was against Collingwood. The Magpies were contenders last year and will be again this year, albeit weaker under 2nd year coach Nathan Buckley than they ever were with the veteran Mick Malthouse at the helm. Most notably the Pies have a leaky defence, however this is offset by a potent forward line and a midfield that transitions at speed. Even on the Dockers’ home ground of Subiaco Oval, the Magpies are a formidable threat in 2013.

Although you might have written them off after they failed to turn up for the 1st quarter of the game. The Pies no-show, coupled with a stunning opening saw the Dockers lead 6.4 (40) to 1.2 (8) at quarter-time. Freo had not even been slowed by the loss of their only remaining specialist ruckman, Jonathon Griffin, midway through the stanza.

Given that critical injury, and that Collingwood are not the side to just roll over, it was almost inevitable that the Pies would come back hard.

And they did.

Not in the 2nd quarter – They ended the half down 9.6 (60) to 3.6 (24). The 3rd quarter was instead when Collingwood made it’s move, reversing the Dockers 1st quarter demo job and notching 6 goals to 1 to trail by just 5 points heading into the last. The Magpies were now the favourites despite that narrow deficit – Crucially, they had momentum and a fully functioning ruckman – They’d surely overrun the Dockers down the stretch.

For a short time they did, going to a 2 point lead within earshot of the final siren. And at that point he Dockers of old would have crumbled and Ben would have given a knowing smile and a shake of his resigned head at the collapse.

Ben best be getting a new attitude though because that’s not these Dockers. Instead of limply folding like an IT guy on unexpected human-shield duty, this Freo outfit shrugged off the absence of a genuine ruckman and turned the momentum arse-about. They kicked the last 5 goals of the match and ran out winners 15.10 (100) to 10.13 (73).

That moment when they not just went against the tide, but somehow turned it back on itself – That’s serious stuff right there.

And the following week, this Saturday night just past, they backed that up. This time they were away from home, travelling to the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to face off against the Swans.

The same Swans who were last season’s Premiers.

That kind of reputation matters not to these Dockers though. On that tiny postage-stamp of a ground they out-attacked and out-defended the reigning champs – So much so that, approaching time-on in the 4th, Freo had notched up 21 scoring shots to Sydney’s 15.

Which doesn’t quite explain why Freo trailed by 19 points, but there you go. Maybe ‘out-attacked’ is not so true, even if they had sort of created more chances. It’s just that they then then got a case of the wobbles.

But any time a team creates that many chances then they still have a crack and the Dockers proved that in the dying minutes, booting the last 3.1 of the game to tie the scores at the final siren and record the club’s 1st ever draw, 11.4 (70) for Sydney versus 9.16 (70) for Fremantle.

Some might look at that as an opportunity lost. Not me though. I prefer to take a moment to reflect on how the lads curtailed the champs, limiting them to just 15 scoring shots on a ground so small that the seagulls need a roster system for landing. That’s the kind of defence that wins flags.

So Freo is in this thing and not too many fans would be laughing at them now. Maybe Ben is but somehow I doubt it, for he didn’t offer more than a half-smile when I squeaked out my defiance. He just took his taxi ride and got on with his life. Which football-wise was eventful that season. It almost always is but for that year there are 3 basic things to be aware of:

1. West Coast beat Fremantle in both contests; 2. Fremantle recorded what is still today their highest ever score and biggest winning margin, 28.12 (180) to 10.8 (68). That was against Collingwood; and 3. West Coast made the Grand Final but lost out by 4 points in a thriller. Against Sydney.

Football – It’s a funny old game generally, but this year you’d best be taking the Dockers seriously. Even you Ben.

That’s if you want to big guy. No pressure or anything.

Water Flowing Underground

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