Monday, May 30, 2011

What's Been Happening?

It's been a busy and intense couple of weeks in the Holt Press world.

My has Mum arrived for a visit. She apparently spent a great time with Vicki at a scrapbooking weekend retreat at Nowra if such a thing is possible before hosting her Victorian grandchildren for a weekend at Echuca. Then came a real highlight, a reunion with her best friend from school, Irene, whom she hadn't seen in over 40 years!! She came back to Ocean Grove glowing and bubbling over with stories and happiness.

Mrs Holt Press' Dad Alan has been sick and in hospital for a few weeks. One thing has led to another and his condition has deteriorated significantly. Despite this, after discussions with me and her brothers she decided to take a short trip back to WA to see The Heir for his birthday and visit her friends whom she misses terribly. Her brother Trevor was on hand to do "hospital duty". Unfortunately the day after she flew to Perth her Dad's health took a serious downturn, to the point where the medical staff were afraid he wouldn't make it through the night. So Mrs HP got on the next available flight and came back, with The Heir as her companion.
I spent a couple of hours at the hospital with her Dad before going up to Melbourne to pick them up and am pleased to report that he has perked up considerably and the crisis has passed for the time being. He is still gravely ill and the prospects of him coming out of hospital are not great but he has improved enough to be able to talk and smile and enjoy the visits of various family members over the weekend. We're taking it one day at a time. 
It is nice to have The Heir here for a visit and last night Favourite Daughter cooked a stupendous meal in honour of his birthday, roast chicken and lamb and veges followed by homemade pavlova! The only one missing was Spike.

Sunday morning I umpired a footy game at the old Geelong West oval which brought back happy memories of going to watch the Roosters play there in the VFA when I was a kid. 
Sport Boy had a soccer game at Lara, North Geelong's home ground, and drew 1-1 with Werribee in a good quality game. After that we took Mum up to the MCG to watch the West Coast v Collingwood game, risking the physical contortions and exclamations that go with watching a live game of football with my mother! The Heir, Sport Boy and I laughed our heads off at the looks on the faces of all around after one particularly high-pitched outburst after a West Coast goal! To say Mum is a nervous spectator is the height of understatement.

I have a couple of days off but work rang to ask if I can cover a late shift this arvo. Money is tight so overtime is a welcome boost. Tomorrow I'm hoping to take Mum up to Shepparton to visit Auntie Merle who hasn't been in very good health herself lately but is back home again now.

The other family milestone of late was my Dad's 75th birthday on Saturday. He too has been having his own health problems recently, suffering an episode of Bell's Palsy which has not gotten better as yet. Despite that he sounded in good spirits when I rang to wish him happy birthday.
No extended footy report this week but suffice to say I was a lot more pleased, and relieved, with Geelong's second half performance than their first half effort against the Gold Coast Suns on Saturday night. There was a lot of love for ex-Cat Gary Ablett after the game, once victory had been secured!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cats v Blues @ Docklands: Footy Almanac

Carlton v Geelong Rd 9 Docklands

May 22, 2011 @ 10:38 pm posted by Marcus Holt
Preparation for this game started months ago.
As soon as the AFL fixtures came out and I saw that my roster had me finishing work at 2031 that night. Too late.
I needed to find someone who would swap a shift with me.
I needed someone who’s not a footy fan. Billy was my man. He was happy to forgo a 5th consecutive day of Deakin Expresses for a late finish on Friday night. Not only that, he made up the balance of hours by doing my last couple of runs on Monday night, freeing me up to pick Mum up from Avalon airport.
There was a setback when the game threatened to be a sell-out and the only way to secure seats as a Geelong member was to get there when the gates opened. Even with an earlier shift that wasn’t possible. Enter Favourite Daughter and Sport Boy: their mission- get to Docklands early and save me a seat.
I finished the last run of the day, resisting the temptation to tilt the bus to tip the last few passengers out at Geelong station and ten minutes later I was on my way up the Princes Freeway and headed for the footy.
I found a park in my usual place, made the dash up the stairs at Southern Cross and headed for Docklands and a rendezvous at Aisle 41 Row N.
I was especially keen to get there in time for the pre-game tribute to Bob Davis. The word icon is used way too easily these days but in this instance it is the perfect description for Woofa, The Geelong Flier who passed away earlier in the week. The minute’s silence was powerful and emotional.
The game starts and Carlton jump us early. The ball is camped inside their forward 50 and they have two goals on the board before we’ve even crossed the half way line. It’s not a good start but I’m not worried. The Hawks jumped us and we got them in the end, we’ve been finishing games really strongly.
Sure enough we kick a couple of goals but the pattern is established. Carlton break away and we reel them in. They look good and we’re playing catch-up. The Blues move the ball quickly and effectively with Murphy the driving force. Kelly is outstanding for the Cats. Put these two in a room together with a footy and no-one gets out alive.
A dubious free kick and goal to the Cats just before the main break and the scores are tied.
Some things in football are 100% predictable. Tonight it is that Darren Milburn will get roundly booed every time he touches the ball, and Joel Selwood will get the most free kicks and the Carlton fans will howl and moan at the injustice. Never mind that he goes where angels fear to tread and the ball is always his object.
Half time brings an unexpected question.
“How come your son doesn’t have a fishing rod?”
The enquiry comes from a big burley Blues fan sitting next to Sport Boy.
His name is Raff and he is friendly, engaging and good company, and seemingly equally passionate about the Blues and fishing.
I tell him my interest in fish only extends as far as eating them. He confides he’d rather catch them than eat them. I see a beautiful relationship forming!
The game restarts and the battle is rejoined. It’s a high standard game and the Cats need someone to stand up and break the game open. As if on cue, Travis Varcoe realises it is Indigenous round and this is his stage. He kicks the first three goals of the third quarter as a result of that most wonderful combination, speed and skill. The Blues hit back and Geelong lead by 7 at the last change.
The Cats had suggested they were about to run away with the game but one Blue has other plans and a certain dual Brownlow medallist threatens to win the game on his own. I’m sure he limped off with an ankle injury late in the second quarter but you’d never know when he kicks a brilliant goal to start the last quarter and follows up with a pinpoint pass to Simpson moments later and it is well and truly game on.
Can anything or anyone stop Chris Judd when he sets his mind to a task?
In the hour of need Chappy and Stevie J can always be relied upon. They both kick goals and the Cats grab back the lead.
Two defining moments bring the game to a thunderous crescendo.
The first is when Steve Johnson climbs high for a pack mark at full forward and is eclipsed by the soaring shadow of James Podsiadly who comes from four deep to fly even higher and pull down a screamer. I immediately look at Sport Boy and we share the same thought without having to say a word. Seven nights ago the JPod missed three dead-set sitters against the Magpies from about the same position. What would he do this time with the game again in the balance?
We needn’t have worried. He put it through the big sticks although the replay revealed the ball had helicoptered back from outside the left hand goalpost to get there. Cats by 10 and not long to go surely.
Carlton respond and Jarrad Waite goals shortly after. Cats by 4.
Andrew walker has a set shot from just inside 50 and misses.
Cats by 3.
Nerves fraying.
Then comes the final decisive moment. Corey Enright tries to spoil and succeeds only in clouting Blues ruckman Robbie Warnock in the head.
Free kick. 15 metres out, bit of an angle. The result rests on the big man’s shoulders but unbeknownst to anyone at the time, he is not a well boy. In fact he spends the night in hospital with concussion. Armed with this knowledge his miss to the left for a point is perfectly understandable. Never-the-less, at the time all we know is the Cats are clinging to a 2 point lead and in need of another hero.
Matty Scarlett volunteers for the job with two game saving marks in the heart of the Carlton forward line. The Cats clear the ball to half forward.
The siren goes.
I jump out of my seat in relief and joy and give myself a headspin.
We’ve won again.
Another thriller.
Saints by 1, Pies by 3 and now the Blues by 2.
What a ride!
“We are Geelong” rings out and I fancy Bobby Davis is grinning from ear to ear.
I swap phone numbers with Raff and picture a juicy snapper for dinner.
Votes: Kelly 3, Selwood 2, Murphy 1

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Comings and Goings

There has been a shift in the "balance of power" in the Holt Press home of late. 
Favourite Daughter has returned from her sojourn to WA for weddings and such. She has brought her friend Toni: the two of them crossed the continent in the Kombi which is proving to be a most dependable vehicle.
And to fully complete the package, Mum has arrived for a visit.
Suddenly Sport Boy and I are out-numbered and the house is awash with females.
Mrs Holt Press is not complaining, especially as she has been fully occupied for the last few weeks tending to her Dad. He has been in hospital with a succession of issues, most of which have improved to the point where he may go home again soon.
Meanwhile, Mrs HP is booked to make a short visit back to WA next week, her Dad's health permitting.
She had an unused air ticket as a result of the move back to Victoria and booked a trip "home" to coincide with The Heir's birthday. We'll have to wait and see whether she can go or not.
Sport Boy has a trip to WA in the July school holidays which he is really looking forward to.
He has started the soccer season with North Geelong in the U14 A Division which involves playing against teams from Melbourne every second weekend as well as Ballarat. After two losses they won their first game last weekend so we were all very pleased and relieved.
He is home from school today with a cold.
Mum has caught the train and bus up to Echuca to spend a weekend with her grandchildren (Shannon's kids) and is then having a reunion with a schoolfriend, Irene who she hasn't seen in over 50 years: they are both very excited at the prospect.
Favourite Daughter and Toni have gone for a drive down the Great Ocean Road for the day.
I've got a late start today and am currently doing as much overtime as I can to ease some financial pressures. When I'm not working I'm enjoying going to the footy. Last week's win over Collingwood was an absolute thriller. Beating the Magpies is always good but this one was even sweeter considering both teams went into the game undefeated.
The Cats play Carlton at Docklands on Friday night which will be Favourite Daughter's first game of the season. It will be an emotional game following the death of Geelong legend Bob Davis this week. I'm hoping to attend his funeral on Tuesday.
Winter has arrived in Victoria! We've had the fire going the last couple of nights which provides very welcome comfort against the cold.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Footy Almanac Round 7 Geelong v North Melbourne 2011

 When I was growing up Saturday in Geelong was always synonymous with footy. Saturday mornings saw me running out in the resplendent yellow and red jumpers of the Terrifics in the Geelong West YMCA Little League under 9’s. Each week we’d line up against similarly named opposition: the Dazzlers, Rippers, Corkers or Beauts. Positive reinforcement may have had its birth place in Geelong junior football.
The only premiership I ever won was against the Dazzlers in 1970 on the back of our star player Grant Sutherland and our little red haired rover Patrick McGinnes.
Fast forward 41 years and Saturday morning finds me back at a junior footy ground, this time as an umpire for my first game of the season. Resplendent this time in bright orange I may look the part but before long it’s obvious my body has lost all semblance to the 9 year old who used to run around for the Terrifcs. I struggle to keep up with the under 16’s in the opening game and in the second game the under 18’s whiz past me in a blur of footy speed and skill that leaves me breathless. I contemplate alternative means of transport for aging unfit umpires to get around a footy ground; maybe one of those Segways I’ve seen on TV would do the job, or a horse?
I’m just glad that Neil, my co-umpire is fitter than me and carries more than his share of the load. After the game(s) I start to stiffen up as I walk to the car and wonder at the wisdom of it all.

I’ve got about an hour to have a quick look for footy badges at the Collectables Fair in Belmont before the Cats v Roos game at Kardinia Park.
Carolyn delivers Sport Boy and a very tasty packed lunch then drops us off outside the ground.
We find some seats in the temporary stand in the pocket at the river end that is set aside for general admission punters. It’s a good spot: I like having some elevation and a better over-view of the game and bring binoculars to see what’s going on at the city end.

Much has been made of this being the first AFL game ever coached by opposing twin brothers, the Scott boys. They refuse to buy into the hype:
“It’s not about us, it’s about the teams”. Fair enough; it’s an interesting piece of trivia and that’s about it.

Of more long term interest is Geelong’s chance of setting a new record for consecutive wins at our home ground. Victory today will take it to 25 in a row. Kardinia Park has become an impregnable fortress for the mighty Cats.

I have to make comment here on the number of talk-back callers and footy commentators who have suggested that the record is somehow lessened in stature because of the number of “weaker” teams we play down here.
Firstly, we have no control over who we play here or anywhere else, the AFL set the fixtures not Geelong.
As we all know, footy is a business and the dollar is the bottom line, therefore, all clubs like to maximise their earnings by playing the biggest drawing teams at the biggest venues. The Cattery only holds about 28,000 (at this stage) so if Geelong played a team like Collingwood down here 50-60,000 people would not be able to come to the game. It makes perfect common and financial sense to play such a game at the MCG. But here’s the rub, where would we prefer to play all of our home games? At Kardinia Park of course.

Finally, and most significantly in my mind, the criterion for which teams we play at Geelong has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the relative strength or weakness of the opposition and everything to do with the size of the crowd they are likely to draw. Naturally enough that means the non-Victorian teams are scheduled at Kardinia Park because of their small support at away games.
Similarly, North Melbourne tend to play us here because they don’t attract huge crowds. But the thing everyone seems to forget or ignore is that we just happen to be in a period of dominance of Victorian teams.
We have been playing much the same teams at home for years. Let’s just consider the last ten years.
Brisbane, triple premiers 2001-2003, Port Adelaide, premiers 2004, Sydney, premiers 2005, West Coast, premiers 2006, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, regular finalists are all regular visitors to the Cattery.
No-one complained about unfair fixturing when we were drawn to play premiership teams down here year after year. Conversely we never play Collingwood or Essendon at home because of the ground capacity and nothing to do with where they are on the ladder.
Sorry, I worked up a head of steam there but it is a pet peeve of mine.

The game itself goes to script. The Cats start well and threaten an avalanche.
North put up some early resistance and Petrie marks everything in sight. Lindsay Thomas rediscovers his radar and snaps a ripper goal.
Dasher Milburn defies all rumours of his demise and ghosts forward to kick a goal. Menzel out-muscles his opponent in the goal square and pulls in a one-hander. Selwood racks up clearances and Matty Stokes kicks goals.

The stand-outs are Podsiadly, Varcoe and Kelly. JPod crashes into packs and pulls down a string of contested marks although no-one in football takes longer to get up off the ground after a mark than James. His kicking is erratic but he still bags three. Travis runs and runs and runs and his finishing has gotten better and better on either foot. And Kelly does what Kelly does: goes in hard, wins contested possessions, delivers accurately and tackles anything that moves, not flashy just super-effective.

After the first quarter North become bit-part players as the Cats pile on the goals and run away with the game. By half time the result is so certain that Chris Scott makes possibly the most unusual substitution of the season so far, giant ruckman Brad Ottens is replaced by midget first year Allen Christensen, hardly like for like. Hawkins and Moons share the ruck duties while Otto rests up for Collingwood next week.

The Cats coast to an 11 goal win, the streak extends to 25, the Cattery remains a fortress and everyone goes home happy.

The only thing that soured the day was the four blokes behind us who swore loudly and yelled obscenities and abuse all day and took extreme exception to my polite request that they restrain their bad language out of respect for the nine small kids sitting nearby. They looked at me as if I had three heads, incredulous that anyone could suggest they had no right to yell and swear and carry on as they pleased. Sport Boy was worried they were going to hit me but thankfully it didn’t come to that.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Footy Almanac Rd 5 Geelong v Hawthorn

My effort at reporting on the Hawthorn game is below but if you want to read some brilliant writing about the same game, go here and see what John Harms had to say.

It started out as a day of no-shows. 

First, Sport Boy’s mate Dylan piked it on the morning of the game. (That family membership I bought with the extra kid’s ticket has been a waste of money so far.)
We caught the early train so we could hook up with Darlow at the Hilton for a drink before the game but that also fell through. His apologetic text read “Sick kids going mental, I’m losing my mind. Call U later, I’m not gonna make it”.
Ditching the Hilton plan we settle on a gluten-free microwave meal from 7-11 and a kick in the park outside the MCG.
Not surprisingly the kick-to-kick was better than the food.

There was a huge crowd making there way to the ground and gold and brown seemed to be the predominant colours.

The third no-show of the day was the Cats in the first 10 minutes.
They were nowhere to be found and it was Buddy Franklin in full flight.
The Hawks had 4:2 on the board before we troubled the goal umps and Sport Boy and I were quiet and pensive.
Chris Scott moved Lonergan onto Buddy: enjoy your day Tom!

The first glimmer of hope came when Tomahawk out-muscled Josh Gibson to mark and goal. We started to breathe again.
More goals followed and by some sort of Easter miracle we were only a point behind at quarter time.
Turnovers and missed shots hurt us badly in the first half: mistakes from Milburn, Varcoe and Selwood all lead directly to Hawk’s goals and they were out to a 16 point lead before Joel redeemed himself to kick our only goal of the 2nd quarter.
The game washard and tough and fast and furious and neither side was giving an inch. In other words it was a typical Geelong v Hawthorn game.
In the mid noughties Sydney and West Coast fought out a succession of thrillers.
Since the 08 Grand Final it has been the Cats and the Hawks  turn to deliver epic encounters with single digit margins. By equal measures of luck and determination the Cats have triumphed in the last four battles but I’d gladly trade all those victories for the 08 flag.
That can’t happen of course so I’ll settle for another victory today but right now I’m not feeling confident.

In the third quarter Chance Bateman set the Hawks alight with a couple of goals, one a brilliant snap from the pocket and my anxiety levels were climbing again.
Then, someone flipped a switch and the Cats suddenly unleashed the sort of stunning 5 goal burst they were renowned for in the premiership years.
Fast, direct, daring up-the-guts footy launched by Scarlett, Enright and Taylor and finished off by Varcoe, Ling, Bartel and Duncan. Suddenly the Cats were 22 points in front and looking a million dollars.
Hawthorn responded with the last two goals of the quarter to narrow the margin and constrict the lungs.
They kept coming at the start of the last quarter and the margin was less than a goal. This wasn’t fun. This was becoming unbearable in that exquisitely painful way only a close game of footy can be.

Lonergan had done a brilliant job on Franklin but when he slotted one from the boundary the Hawks looked capable of pinching the game.
Joel Selwood must have sensed the same thing because he refused to be beaten at the ensuing centre bounce and forced the ball to James Kelly who dobbed the immediate reply from the 50.

A small wave of calm washed over me; I knew at that moment we were going to win.  When Duncan finished off some great work by Menzel and J-Pod goaled from the boundary line a minute later it was just the icing on the banana cake. The Cats were home: played 5, won 5. Chris Scott must think coaching is easy. Scarlo was chaired off in triumph for his 250th.

We missed the last footy special so Sport Boy and I indulged in a curry at our favourite Indian restaurant before catching the Warnambool train back to Geelong.

3 Lonergan 2 Taylor 1 Scarlett