Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Anzac Day footy and Kilmainham Gaol
I had to write some lines for our corporate website about this weekend's AFL/TSL footy tipping - so I thought I'd post it here as well:
This photo is one Collingwood fans would probably feel at home with (all those vertical stripes...!) …nahhh, actually it is me, in the forecourt of the old Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland.
Built as a “new gaol” in 1796, Kilmainham was decommissioned in the 1920s and is a now a museum of Irish nationalism, which my wife and I visited whilst on our first ever overseas trip to UK/Ireland in mid-2008. Over its 128 years as a prison, Kilmainham's cells held many of the most famous people involved in the campaign for Irish independence. The British imprisoned and executed the leaders of the infamous 1916 Easter Rising there.
As nationalist political ideology was one of my major studies in my political science degree at the University of Tasmania, I found the visit to Kilmainham particularly captivating. This eerie building also reminded me at times of the ruins at Port Arthur. It's more than likely a number of Kilmainham's tenants ended up doing time on the Peninsula, too: two scenes of incarceration, separated by thousands of miles of oceans but tragically linked by their inhumanity.
But - back to the FOOTY!
I’m a proud and passionate Essendon Bombers fan, and I'm going to tell you a bit about that.
I have been ever since I saw Paul van der Haar (a talented centre-half-forward renowned for getting up high to take big pack marks) who visited my high school when I was in Grade 7, in 1980. Prior to that I had 'kind of' supported North Melbourne, but without much of a reason other than they had the same colours as my favourite local team, Sandy Bay, and my Grandma’s team from Perth, East Fremantle.
Not long after the Flying Dutchman's fateful visit, my teacher in Grade 7 - also a tragic Essendon fan - gave me a big fold-out football magazine poster of one of the most influential ruckmen/forwards of the modern era, All-Australian Bomber champion Simon Madden. That was the kicker. My fate was sealed. The red and black passion has been with me ever since.
I have been blessed (along with other Bomber fans who joined in the 80s) to see some pretty good footy, along with some very ordinary seasons thrown in. For the vast bulk of that time, the Essendon Football Club was synonymous with the tough, uncompromising, flawed at times yet constantly innovative and always entertaining genius of the Supercoach himself (with the very Irish name), Kevin Sheedy.
Unlike some clubs that I won't name (and if I did I reckon my colleague would kilda me, or would throw pies at me) Bombers fans were spoilt with some great teams, a few amazing individuals, and a reasonable measure of success throughout Sheedy's Golden Age - but it has thinned out in the last ten years.
Under Sheeds, the Bombers achieved a number of night premierships, a couple of Brownlow Medallists and of course four Premierships in 1984, 1985, 1993 and 2000.
In amongst these winning years, we have witnessed one of the game's greatest ever: the sublimely-skilled James Hird, a dead-set AFL legend. A Brownlow Medallist in 1996, Hird's sensational matchwinning career was curtailed by numerous serious injuries leading to him missing whole slabs of seasons.
In addition, a number of Bomber champions emerged: Madden the calm leader, the heroic dashing Tim Watson, goal-kicking machine Matthew Lloyd, tough-as-nails Terry Daniher, hard-nut Mark "Bomber" Thompson and the sheer brilliance of Michael Long and Gavin Wanganeen.
The bleakness of recent years has been punctuated by some questionable draft picks and downright hopeless trades leading to longer-than-expected 'rebuilding' phase. Tragically, these have unfortunately overlapped with strings of serious injuries to some senior players and retirements of irreplaceable champions.
However, there is some serious young talent at the Club in 2010, with the likes of Tayte Pears, Michael Hurley, Kyle Reimers, Jake Melksham, David Zaharakis, Travis Colyer, Jake Carlisle and the wonderfully-named Taite Silverlock. The quality of these sort of youngsters bodes well for the finals future of the Club.
The traditional Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon has producd some fabulous contests over the years. Possibly the best of recent times was last year's match, which I attended with my wife together with our Collingwood-supporting friends.The tragedy of Essendon ruck David Hille rupturing his ACL in the opening minutes was overtaken by the outstanding efforts of the brilliant Paddy Ryder (a Sheedy protege) rucking in Hille's place, and the heartstopping finish with Zaharakis's matchwinning goal in the last seconds of the game. Worth every cent that we paid for the tickets.
I'm hopping for a similarly entertaining contest for Sunday's big clash; only I will be shouting loudly at my in-laws' TV screen I suspect. Go you MIGHTY BOMBERS !
AFL Round 5 - ANZAC Day fixtures:
My tips are below
In this Anzac Day round, the first match could be a bit of a blow-out. Adelaide are in poor form, and have to travel to Etihad Stadium to meet a Western Bulldogs team that are starting to put it together. Great to see Barry Hall in blistering, don't-argue form, I love watching him give it to weak, part-committed defenders. Not sure which Crow's going to stop Big Baz.
Sydney should stop West Coast's celebrations from last week's win over my Bombers with a home ground win at the SCG. The promise shown by Lewis Jetta is exciting, and with some good service Bradshaw could kick a big bag.
I think Brisbane's multiple avenues to goal will test Melbourne's back six resilience, with Tassie lad Justin Sherman in good form and the absolute X-factor of an in-form Jared Brennan a real worry for Melbourne. I am backing the Lions to get over the improving Demons.
The loss of Chad Cornes with an awful broken nose will curtail Port's rebound ability from half-back, which St Kilda's stoppage experts like Hayes and Dal Santo will exploit. The ripping form of underrated 2002 #1 draft pick Brendon Goddard (I don't care about his antics - I have always liked his skills and hard-at-it style) together with Milne finding his radar will be hard for Port to deal with. The loss of Riewoldt is a big psychological blow, but it appears the Saints have got the cattle to cover it.
In the main game between Collingwood and Essendon, I am tipping the Bombers for no other reason than the fact that they will have more speed around the ground than the Pies who have looked a bit slow at times in recent weeks. Booth teams are suffering from the lack of a consistent goal-kicking forward line. The Bombers will be hoping that Angus Monfries, Brent Stanton and Mark McVeigh make it back into a fairly inexperienced Essendon line-up.I expect the Collingwood defence to perform well, but they may have a problem matching up on ex-Hawk Mark Williams, who will need to kick some goals if the Bombers are to win. I would like to see Knights mix it up a bit again, as he did (too late) against the West Coast when he moved Cale Hooker into the forward line and Gumbleton took some ruck contests: both looked reasonable moves.
The Tassie Hawks have a got a strong record at Aurora Stadium, and I feel have something to prove to their loyal Tasmanian fans after some fairly pedestrian efforts in recent weeks. The form of Jarrod Roughead, in particular, should be a real worry for the Hawks. It may be worth running him a bit more in the ruck, to help him get his hands on the ball early. The brave and highly-talented Brad Sewell (one of my favourite hard-at-it footballers) is set to return after rehab from an injury sustained in that infamous clash with the then Bombers' spearhead (and now commentator) Matthew Lloyd. I think Hawthorn - just.
Fremantle will beat the bitterly disappointing Richmond; leaving Carlton playing Geelong at the MCG, a match-up that will prove to be difficult for the reigning Premiers to overcome - but they should do so. The very underrated James Kelly and Corey Enright have given the Cats some additional drive across the centre and halfback lines in recent games, doing a lot of the heavy lifting so that the glamour finishers like G Ablett, and the downright receivers like Steve Johnson, can cream off the results.
All in all, a great Anzac Day round of football.
A number of good contests shaping up in the TSL this weekend – in fact, I think it’s fair to say the competition is still pretty even across most of the clubs, perhaps more so than in the AFL where some teams have clearly dropped off the pace quite early, and last year’s finalists are already again at the top of the ladder. It was pleasing to see the Lauderdale Bombers put a good win on the board over the weekend, so I’m tipping they will take that winning form into a tough home game against Hobart. Quite incredible to see local shops on South Arm Highway on Sunday with “WE WON!” signs in the window. There’s a firm wad of community support around the shores of Ralph’s Bay for the Lauderdale boys – that can sometimes be the X-factor.
In a local derby at Youngtown, I expect another tough encounter, with maybe North Launceston just over South – but could go either way. I’m tipping my mate Richard Colbeck’s old team Devonport to bounce back from their loss to the Demons and get over a well-performing Launceston at Windsor Park. Burnie at West Park can be a bit like Geelong at Kardinia Park: I reckon they’ll upset Glenorchy’s Anzac weekend. Clarence are up against an undefeated North Hobart in the game of the round. The Roos have full-forward Brett Geappen in some rare goalkicking form, and tough operators in defence like Gregg Sharman. I’m tipping Clarence in a physical clash.