Sunday, August 03, 2008

Keeping your slim finals hopes alive with a screamer

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.

4 comments:

Stephanie Trigg said...

Sometimes Blogger makes it hard to post a comment, so here's an email from Nadine...

tried to post a comment on your blog, but due to my computer illiteracy I don’t think it went through. I was at the game yesterday, and it was remarkable that everyone there knew instantly that they had seen something remarkable, even without the replay on the big screen. And also, such a mark can be called a “specie” (speccie?)---presumably short for “spectacular”. And in a mediaevalist vein, James Hird was the very model of an Arthurian knight, whereas Lloydy is much more an honest yeoman. I do enjoy reading your blog, having been introduced to it by Andrew Stephenson. You and I were at school together, though your sister Jocelyn was my contemporary. Yours, Nadine

In subsequent emails we've wondered about the spelling — "speckie"?

I also love Nadine's suggestion for a Coodabeens (oh, where to begin explaining this to a non-Oz readership?!) competition team,”from the backline” from the Middle Ages—Lancelot at half-forward, Little John in the ruck, the Sheriff of Nottingham as umpire, and Ethelred starting on the bench. The Norman army would, of course, be Collingwood."

Pavlov's Cat said...

You do know, of course, that James Hird (while captain) did in fact take some ballet lessons to improve his flexibility. I remember him talking about it on the Footy Show, some time last century.

I love your medieval team, but who are you going to put at full-forward? And what of Arthur? Mordred would have to be a journalist.

I once wrote an imaginary Creative Writing assignment along similar lines; students were required to think of eleven literary anti-heroes and turn them into a cricket team, thus:

'Assign them their fielding positions and batting order and speculate on their respective strengths, weaknesses and styles of play. It is, for example, quite obvious that Heathcliff and Macbeth will open the batting, that Hamlet is in constant danger of being run out, that Raskolnikov should be fielding at silly point, that Meursault won't care who wins, and that Captain Ahab can't catch for toffee and is going to need a runner.'

Matthew Lloyd said...

Thanks for the great description!

Stephanie Trigg said...

Well, thanks for stopping by! I'm seriously honoured. Congrats on a great result last night — for the team, and for the Bushfire appeal; and all the best for the coming season.