There's nothing like a sporting cliché, in my view. My AFL team, Essendon, has had a grim couple of years, and the start of this season was not much better. But now, as the home-and-away series draws to a close (only three or four weeks to go), we are starting to put together some wins, and if we win all our remaining games, and if the right teams above us on the ladder lose the right ones, we might just make it into the top eight for the September finals. For the last few weeks, each win has been described as "keeping their slim finals hopes alive".
And how do you do that? Like this.
This photograph was taken by Sebastian Costanza for The Age, and can be found here.
I didn't watch the game, but (and apologies to my footy-loving Australian readers) this is a "mark", taken by the captain, Matthew Lloyd. If you take a mark cleanly, you are given a free kick, immune from tackling by the other players. If you take it at the right angle, and not more than about 50 metres from goal (that is, the sticks), you have a good chance of kicking a goal that will put your team 6 points ahead. When you fly up like this, it's invariably called a "screaming mark", or just a "screamer". I love this! Check the face of the kid above player No. 37 and the general open-mouthed quality of the crowd for a sense of the greatness of this contender for MOTY (mark of the year). Check the relative position of Lloyd's knees to the shoulders of the opposition, and note that he, at 30 years of age, is a veteran of the game, to get a sense of the athleticism we are dealing with here. And check the beautiful reach of the player disappearing out of the left side of the picture — himself half a metre off the ground and reaching back over his own head — to see why Australian football is sometimes compared to ballet.