Monday, September 30, 2013

Tall ships

I had a meeting up in Forest Rd, West Hobart the other day. As I was getting out of the car I noticed sails on the river - arriving for the Tall Ships Festival. Exactly one week later I was back in Forest Rd for another meeting, and there they were again - going upriver to salute the Governor at Queens Domain before doing a u-turn and heading out again, on their way to Sydney for the celebration of the navy’s centenary. Elf and I and the boys did go to have a close up look at them while they were in port, but I didn’t take the camera. So I have pinched the pic below from Leigh Winburn © The Mercury. (Probably a little better than I would have taken myself).


A few weeks ago we spent a weekend in and around Burnie, my old home town. Since Mum and Dad left there in about 2002, I have only passed through it on rare occasions and never stayed. Marcus and his Central U/11s were invited to a new regional tournament there, so we drove up on Friday, stayed in Burnie that night and went out to the country district of F to stay with Mr and Mrs X and their lovely girls Y and Z on Saturday and Sunday nights.

I left Burnie at 17 to come to Hobart and study, and fell in love with this small city squeezed between the river and the mountain. It’s hard to appreciate the unique qualities of your home town when you are a kid. I didn’t ever feel like I was giving up very much by leaving. My friends were all headed for Hobart, Melbourne or somewhere else as soon as they could get there, and I had pretty much written everyone else off. I knew practically nothing of Hobart (my relatives were all in Launceston or Sydney), and I really thought it was beautiful and better.

It was scorching hot when I arrived, there was beer flowing everywhere and smart people saying smart things. Everyone in Hobart seemed beautiful, fit, clever and switched-on. Winter came and there was snow on the mountain, then suddenly snow on everything - right down to the waterline. Hobart was blanketed with it. It was so exciting and different from Burnie, where you would get a cold wind and up-country you might get a nasty frost, but no snow. (In fact it has never again snowed in Hobart like it did that day in 1986).

Burnie now is a post-industrial city. Last time we were there I blogged about its attempts to eke tourism gold from the grimy past. The drive in from the east used to take you past Tioxide paint factory, a huge quarry that had eaten away the base of Round Hill, the Acid Plant and the Pulp Mill. The water was often brick red from the effluent and the smell of ‘The Pulp’ was unsettlingly meaty. The Pulp is now in the last throes of dismantlement, the Acid Plant has been gone twenty years, and the site of Tioxide is gradually returning to bush.

Burnie’s setting is actually very beautiful. It sits on a broad bay, and spreads over the steep hills set a little back from the coastline. From down there looking up it has a bit of a Greek village vibe. (Although I have never seen a Greek village, to be honest). Little houses and big ones, brick and weatherboard, clinging to ridiculous steep hills. From up on the hill in Montello, where the soccer tournament was played, there is a panoramic view of the verdant farmland all around Burnie, and the coast from Table Cape around to Round Hill. And the dominating feature (for someone from Hobart) is the horizon.

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South East Tasmania is all fractured isthmuses, peninsulas, islands, estuaries and harbours. There are spots where you see water in front of you, then land, beyond that water, beyond that land, etc etc. But up around Burnie there is just Bass Strait. Somewhere out over the horizon is Victoria. Every five or so miles along the coast there is another river, but they just run out to sea, south to north: BAM, no fiddling around. Inglis, Cam, Emu, Blythe, Leven, Forth, Don, Mersey.

Downtown, practically everything is different from when I was little. As I have written before, the site of the hospital where I was born is now a Harvey Norman, and my old primary school was demolished for another Harvey which is now a Target. One little vestige remains, though. I took the family over to see where we used to line up for the buses - on the fence the names of the districts are still visible, written vertically down the palings. We used to go home on the Waterfall bus, which in fact went past a small but perfectly legitimate waterfall.

Unlike the middle of town, in the burbs not a thing has changed. Driving through Montello I felt like it was 1985. Look at this spot - you have to love the yellow house with the matching mini-me letterbox.

I’ll just leave you with one more. I grew up just beside Marist College and used to roam the grounds on weekends and through summer as though it was my personal territory. I had a few favourite spots to sit and muse, looking out over the empty fields and Bass Strait. Join teenage-me for a few moments and enjoy the view, with not another soul in sight, just the way I like it.

Melbourne Victory 2 d Western Sydney Wanderers 0

Yesterday we all went down to Kingston to see the biggest soccer match to come to town for a long time. I had been tempted by it, but decided not to go since it would mean having nearly the whole weekend wiped out for watching sport (since the previous day was dedicated to the AFL Grand Final).

Then Marcus came home from school with a ticket, and Elf announced she was very keen to go, so we did. Marcus’s mate EJ came too. We packed raincoats and jumpers, and I threw in my thermal top and even mittens. We were going early to see the curtain raiser (Tasmania v Melbourne Victory juniors) so I wanted to be ready for any weather that might crop up, sitting on a hill for five or so hours.

The early game was a pretty good standard. The “Tasmanian” team was 90% drawn from South Hobart soccer club, and coached by the notorious Ken Morton of the eponymous Soccer School. The well-informed crowd were un-ironically yelling “Go South Hobart”, as apart from the strip they wore it was very much the team they see from week to week playing at Darcy Street. Melbourne scored first, but Tassie responded with a beautiful goal shortly after. Then, um, Melbourne scored six more goals at regular intervals.

It was in fact very warm, which was great. We were sitting on a steep grassy bank, pretty damp, so were able to build ourselves little wedges to sit on, out of jumpers. Luckily we had a groundsheet and a rug, but like a lot others we found that "waterproof" is a relative term. I had never been to this new venue, the Twin Ovals, before. The top ground that was being used was just immaculate - I have never seen a surface like it. You could play international hockey on it, it was that smooth.

The main sponsor for the day was PFD Foodservices - I don't actually know anything about them. But seeing the words PFD plastered everywhere, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking about lifejackets more than usual. I expect there’ll be a bit of a sales bump out of it.'

The teams came out for the main game, holding hands with local junior players, like you see on TV before Champions League games. A lovely idea. Except on TV the kids are 5 or 6. The Wanderers came out with a team of littlies from Kingborough Lions, all good. But Melbourne came out holding hands with what looked like an under 14 girls team. Each player holding hands with an underage girl - awkward.

Poor planning was shown up at the next stage of the ceremony, when the Wanderers left their kids and filed past the Melbourne players shaking hands or fist bumping with each one as they went past. Normally this all happens over the heads of the tiny mascots, but in this case there was a lot of awkward bobbing and weaving required by the inconveniently tall girls. Hilarious.

As soon as the game started it was clear this was a very different standard. The pace and intensity was terrific. Unfortunately we’d lost the kids by this stage - had to keep dragging their attention back to the game and away from the touchscreen. Michael was (as usual) terrific at the soccer despite his complete lack of interest in the game. Elf really enjoyed the games and the whole day.

Melbourne were the better team on the day, scoring one in each half. They have put a lot of money into soccer in Tasmania so they were the “home” team, and we were pleased they won, but we were hoping the Wanderers would get one back at the end. They had a good cohort of loudly chanting travelling supporters who we thought deserved something.

So we had a good day out and left with a good feeling about the impending A-league season. I’m delighted that its going to be on free-to-air TV on Friday nights starting in October. Not only will I and millions of non-pay-TV people get to see it, but its a sure sign that soccer has taken another step up into the mainstream of Australian sport.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Our valley

I had a meeting at a friend’s place in Forest Road yesterday, and as I was running a bit early I took the chance to take this photo of our house from the new subdivision up the top of the hill. We are very lucky to live in this green and beautiful spot.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


For years now I have heard kids use the word "versus" as though it is the present tense of the imaginary verb "to verse", meaning to oppose, to play against, to match up with, to combat.

As we set off to Saturday morning soccer I am asked "Who are we versing?" When I tell Marcus that Richmond had a big win he asks "Who did they verse?" I have probably used it myself when responding to the under-11s, just to save time and explanations to a probably unreceptive crowd.

This new word has now made its debut in the newspapers. At the least The Age Online has adopted it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dr Rush's mercury laxatives

I just found out a fab fact on the [highly recommended] medical history podcast Sawbones. This episode is about the 18th century American doctor Benjamin Rush. He loved bloodletting, and is said to have been largely responsible for the deaths of George Washington and Ben Franklin.

He equipped the Lewis and Clark expedition with mercury laxative pills. And he gave them so many and they used them so enthusiastically that the best way for modern researchers to track the route of the expedition is the reliable trail of mercury they left behind.

So Sawbones - its free, look it up on the iTunes store.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Elimination Final: Carlton 18.8 (116) d Richmond 14.12 (96)

It’s so disappointing to go down the same track three times against Carlton this year. Pulled the first one out of the fire, but R21 and again yesterday the deja vu was … just very painful.

I get to one game a year at most – my heart goes out to the diehards who are there home and away, rain or shine. Multiply my angst by 100 and that’s how they would be feeling. The cheer squad banner was so beautiful – the G full to the brim with happy nervous Tigers. If nothing else Richmond can say we were part of a magnificent footy occasion.

11-year old Marcus (who had never seen a Tiger final) fled in tears when Judd tore us apart in the 3rd quarter. He knows in his guts that this Tiger team don’t have it in them to reverse momentum like that. Until we mature into a team that just doesn’t give up 5 and 6 goal runs, we are going to have these heartbreaking games.

Oh, so Dusty has mates in jail? Cool. Never would have guessed. I hope someone gave him an ultimatum on the spot about that disgraceful goal celebration. I was hoping Benny Gale had a direct line to the bench and would say to him “You have just taken $100,000 off what we are prepared to pay next year. You are a liability and if you are someone else’s problem next season we can live with that. You have taken the privilege of playing in a final and used it as a soapbox to show off your worst influences”.

Some guys who have been huge for us this year really came up short yesterday when the tide turned, and I count coach Dimma among them. He was squarely out-coached and I listened in vain to his post-match for an acknowledgement of that. It was all statspeak. He would have been shattered and not at his best, I’ll allow him that. But he didn’t concede what was obvious – Judd got off the chain and won 3 or 4 or 5 centre breaks on the trot. Losing Conca was a factor I guess.
It’s amazing that we had the rub of the green with the umpies, had the same number of scoring shots yet got flogged. Long before Carlton hit the front they had our measure. What was the rationale for Riewoldt AND Edwards going to defence in the 3rd quarter?

I am sorry I am feeling a bit negative at the moment. I will maybe start looking at the positives out of the season during the week. It’s been a very long wait, and although we have talented young players our club has never been good at backing up a good season (at least since the Whitlam years anyway).

RICHMOND   3.5   10.7  12.10  14.12  (96)                  
CARLTON     2.3    6.5  12.7  18.8 (116)

Saturday, September 07, 2013

South Hobart 16 d Friends School 1, Div 4 U/11 soccer

The school soccer season has come and gone. This year I split the coaching job with Mohamed, the big brother of one of the players. I paid him a visit last summer and said I would only coach them this year if he would take training, and I am very grateful that he said yes. I have had the bright and switched-on Saturday morning kids at games, while poor Mo has had the tired and cranky after-school kids at training.

For the first half of the season we were in Div 3. After an early flogging we improved rapidly, and picked up a couple of narrow wins and one big one by the end of term. Our stronger players were knitting together a little better, and our lesser lights were getting the hang of playing a position and improving their skills. After our initial bad loss our goals for/against were equal.

I was a bit dismayed that were then re-graded into Div 4. This term we haven't lost a game, handing out some thrashings culminating in today's 16-1 blowout. I would have preferred to stay in Div 3, and continue winning some and losing some, with the kids learning to fight back when they are down, and to hold on in close games.

The big benefit of being in the lower division was that it made it easier to teach the kids to use their skills, pass and work together, in a less pressured environment. Its natural in tight situations for the better players to form a clique and be reluctant to trust the others. And they had fun - it was a happy team, and winning every week must have been a big factor in that.

One of the four girls in the team scored her first goal today. I said to the group that I wanted them just to play this last game normally, but if we were way ahead with 10 minutes to go, they could start trying to tee up goals for people who hadn't scored. Jess usually plays in defence and is a wonderfully calm character. She doesn't have eye-catching skill, but she controls the ball, sizes up her options, and passes accurately (with her toe) nearly every time. Today she had a run up front in the 2nd half. She picked up a lovely square pass from Tully, controlled it, sized up her options and just passed it accurately (with her toe) into the corner of the goals. The best goal by far of the many.

We had a barbecue after and I got to hand out the trophies and say a few words. The school presentation day is next Saturday (for some reason, as this was the last game). We will be away cheering Marcus on at another regional soccer tournament in Burnie, so we did our celebration today.

I got a lot of appreciation for my coaching from kids and parents (and a hug from one of the boys), but everyone has really been lovely all through the season. I will need to wait and see where and when Marcus is playing next year before I can commit to coaching a primary school team again, but it was really nice that a few parents said they hoped I would still be around.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Tigers in a final: 3 days away

There was a bit of a trending discussion on Twitter a few weeks ago when it became clear Richmond had sewn up a top-8 finish, and an appearance in the finals. People were sharing their memories of what was happening last time the Tigers made it the finals in 2001.

As Richmond lined up to play Essendon in week one, the Twin Towers were still standing. Shrek was still in cinemas and the first Harry Potter film had still not been released. My son and fellow Tiger diehard Marcus was conceived but unborn. Richmond had beaten a very soft Essendon in the last home and away round, but the Dons turned up ready to play finals, and we were trounced. The privilege of finishing in the top 4 is getting a second chance, so the Tigers were back the following week looking for redemption against Carlton.

Of course during the week a war started, unlike anything we had seen before. I can’t actually recall anything of the game against Carlton after the minute of silence for the victims of September 11. Strangely the match is nowhere to be found on YouTube so I can’t even pretend I remember. But the stats say we led narrowly all day and won by 11 points. The following week we were steamrolled by the Brisbane Lions, on their way to the first of their three consecutive premierships. Sigh.

Zip to the present, 12 years on, and my 11-year-old and I are in a lather of expectation. In 3 days the boys will run out on the MCG in a final against Carlton. We have three key players coming back from injury and suspension. I have been over the team sheets from the last few weeks, trying to see who might be the unlucky ones to be dropped to make way. I am expecting at least one surprise.

Shane Tuck has just announced this will be his last season. Dugald has written a beautiful valedictory piece on Tucky that surpasses anything I could say. Everyone watched in vain as he went off after the last game on Saturday night, for a sign of a final farewell. He is not a demonstrative man but I feel in my guts that he's been given an assurance that he'll be in the 22 on Sunday, possibly in the green vest again as sub.

In the game the other night a man-mountain with the unfashionable 37 on his guernsey kept popping up in the play, receiving and giving off handballs. Orren Stephenson came in to the side to give star forward Jack Riewoldt a week to rest his back and other ailments. I find myself hoping the Big O keeps his spot this week. His ruckwork was excellent but his ability to be a link in the chain around the ground really impressed me. He was drafted by Geelong at the age of 29, and now as a 30 year-old he’s ours. He’s a premiership player too - he has 4 VFL flags to his name. I think he’s got what we need.

Who is going to miss out? I am tipping the brave Ricky Petterd and the proppy Matt White will miss out for Reiwoldt and veteran defender Chris Newman. If it’s dry then we may see an old fashioned Exchange of Shanes; Tuck out, Edwards in. But if its wet we'd be mad to to take an extra tall into the game, so Tuck stays, and its Orren who makes way for Shane Edwards.

Tigers to win by 35 points, with 4 goals each to Aaron Edwards, Jack Riewoldt and Ty Vickery and 33 touches for Brett Deledio.