This year statewide football has come back. Marcus and I went to the inaugural Tasmanian Statewide League grand final yesterday with our mate Rob. Glenorchy Magpies were favourites to beat the traditional rivals Clarence Roos, having won the last two SFL flags. There was over 7000 at the Bellerive Oval for the big day.
As usual at any high-profile sporting event in Tasmania, organisation was farcical. The two sides lined up for the national anthem. This is the moment when the big crowd falls silent, and each team links arms down the line, all of the players trying to contain their emotions and focus on the job at hand. Time passed. Someone in front started singing the anthem (badly) to fill the silence. Players looked restless, unlinked and started stretching and bouncing. Finally the Clarence playing-coach pulled his players out and off they ran. A sheepish official came on the PA to say due to a technical hitch there would be no anthem. Someone didn't put the record back in the sleeve, perhaps.
The conditions were blustery and wet but the standard of footy was still pretty good. After an even first quarter Clarence jumped out to a good lead at halftime, and shortly after extended it to seven goals. Or so I heard. I waited until 10 minutes into the third to head to the shop for sustenance - usually a good time to go for short queues. There were about 500 people lined up down there. That seems incredible but believe me, I had plenty of time to count them while I waited to get to the front of my particular queue. I waited five minutes before I saw anyone depart with actual food.
When I did get back [to the relief of the rest of the party], the Pies were clawing back into it. Incredibly they got within 2 points, but Clarence had enough left in the tank to surge again. A Glenorchy kick-out landed right in Jerome Webberley's lap about 55 out. Without stopping to think he just bombed it back the way it came, and it sailed through post high for a goal. [Look out for him in the AFL next year.] The Pies took it forward and had a couple of chances at goal but they sprayed both wide. Clarence ran out winners by 6 points, despite Glenorchy winning three of the quarters.
The desperation and endeavour at the end was just wonderful to witness. The skill level, fitness and professionalism of Tasmanian footy will not often match that of the AFL, but there is no question the commitment of the players yesterday was no less than that at the top level.
Marcus and I had a kick on the [slightly] hallowed turf at quarter and half time, along with about three hundred other mostly men and boys. It is a kind of joyful mayhem that I always love. There are balls of all sizes going in all directions. Fortunately my catlike reflexes came to my rescue a few times when someone else's big 60 metre bomb was zeroing in on the side of my head.
Rob had parked the car at his mum's place near the ground. We walked back, popped in our heads to say hi to Mrs B, then tried to get out of the driveway. It was hell, but we finally managed to wriggle out, and get down to the T-junction without hitting any of the drunken pedestrians weaving across the road.
Then, there was one last golden moment for the afternoon. After a long wait to turn right, we were let in by legendary Test batsman David Stumpy Boon. Does it get better than that?