Harmsy's Handle - AFL Round 18

Tom Hawkins - Geelong Cats
Tom Hawkins kicked another two goals against GWS. Image courtesy of the Herald Sun.

It’s not often you see someone stop a bar.

Beauty will do it.

I saw it once. I was hosting a Swiss historian and his stunningly gorgeous French girlfriend who were attending a conference in Brisbane. I wanted to give them an authentic cultural experience so it was pre-match beers at the old Gabba Hotel and a Lions game across the road.

As we walked in, the eyes of old PMG workers and Tele readers, Bundy drinkers and deck-shoed Churchie spivs, all turned to dark-haired Simone. Just for a moment or two.

The bar returned to normal transmission but you could see blokes nodding in our direction and pointing.
Finally a punter broke ranks and came. “Sorry for the intrusion love,” said the archetypal Aussie battler, “but my mate’s got a lobster on this.”

He was settling a bet.

“Were you ever Miss World?”

He was very proud of himself, and sauntered back to hand over the $20. It was cash well spent.

The night ended with Simone very impressed that the French national anthem was being played over the Gabba PA system.

I was in Sydney on Saturday for the Geelong-GWS game.

It’s four o’clock and I am catching up with Geelong-supporter J. Welch for a few beers at the Royal Exhibition Hotel just opposite Central Station.

Punters dabble. The 60-something barmaid has lived well. There are a couple of groups of old rugby league fans enjoying a celebratory drink. They look like old coppers and have been to see (the famous) Newtown play Penrith in the early NSW Cup game. The Jets have scored the last four tries of the game and at 30-all have dobbed the field goal. They are in appropriate spirits.

J. Welch and I are talking about the pitfalls of living at the wrong end of the Hume Highway but, after lifting the bails on his first marriage, he fell in love with Mr Squiggle’s daughter and she dragged him north.

It’s just another afternoon in a pub. Routine. Blokes are still peering at form guides, trying to get out.

Suddenly a guttural yell: “Go Oakey!”

It’s a captivating yell. Primal. Engaged. Occupied. It comes from a bloke in tracky-dacks and runners. He’s reached roley-poley middle-age and would struggle to run for the 5.14 to Lidcombe.

“Get through,” he yells. Very loudly. “Get through!”

The whole bar is now watching. (He is oblivious to this). His face, filled with blood, screams “Go Oakey! Go Oakey! Go Oakey!”

It’s usually poor form to be overly exuberant in a TAB. A key part of the etiquette of punting is in the knowledge that not everyone has backed the horse you have. [Brisbane’s former Archbishop, John Bathersby once told me that he had to discipline a priest for barracking too hard in the Ascot TAB].

But on this occasion no-one cares. In fact, people are with him. Old Mate is the centre of attention and he is putting on a stellar performance.



“Go!” he screams, in a build-up of wedding night proportions.

They hit the line.

His right arm starts doing involuntary circles. He has moved from behind the table, making the necessary room for himself. “You f##ken beauty!” he yells. “I’ve got the lot. The whole f##cken lot!”

The rest of the pub has been silent for the last two furlongs of the last at Eagle Farm. As he finishes his show, we break into spontaneous applause, and amused laughter. Everyone is happy for him.

Now he has the floor. Oak’n’Arthur has won by a lip. “I backed it at 20s and it’s paid…” Just then the totes come up. “$25.30,” he says, mocking himself.

He’s all the talk of the bar. Sandy behind the jump is smirking, “He’s been coming here for years and he’s never said boo. Not once.”

It is memorable. I chat to him. He’s won “at least 18 grand”.

While this is happening, St Kilda are apparently getting the jump on Freo. Not that you would know in the foreign nation of New South Wales. There’s no sign of footy on a screen, so as we get the train to Olympic Park, keeping up to date using the phone.

The carriages are full of Geelong travellers. Everyone is talking about the Saints. A Freo loss will really open things up for the others in the Top 4. St Kilda kick a couple after half-time and extend their lead, and by the time we are at the picturesque little GWS ground (excellent venue) they are hanging on. They win.

“You beauty.”

Picture: Michael Klein/Herald Sun
Picture Michael Klein/Herald Sun

At Spotless Stadium, it is freezing. We watch a pretty awful first half of footy and then the Cats kick clear, having flicked the famous switch. It looks all over. But the Giants are full of running and they have excellent targets up forward. Cameron is a star, Patton is huge and mobile, and Tom Boyd catches the eye. And please, can big Mummy come back to Geelong some time.

The Cats get a bit of a scare in the last five minutes, and a more experienced side may have taken advantage of their wobble.

They finish the weekend second on the ladder, which comes as a shock to even the most loyal Cats supporters.

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au
Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au

It makes their games against North and Freo enormous.

A lot will happen in the next six weeks.

J. Welch and I get the train back to Central and return to the Royal Exhibition.

Old Mate has gone home. But he will be remembered.

John Harms is editor of footyalmanac.com.au


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