EVEN MAGPIES GET THE BLUES
Sometimes having a partner who is a football and, worse, a Collingwood, agnostic, can bring a new dimension to obsession.
I was huffing, agitatedly texting, and puffing about the potential impact on Collingwood morale of the likely move by Mick Malthouse to the Carlton coaching job.
Magpies premiership coach, Mick Malthouse: Now a Carlton man. Pic via News Ltd.
“What’s the fuss?” she asked.
I replied: “Well, imagine if a First World War general had defected to the other side? Something like that.”
She gave me a “you-really-do-get-stranger-as-you-get-older” look, and said “okay darling”.
I abhor the application of war metaphors to peacetime happenings – especially in politics and sport. So I was a little shocked to hear myself say this.
Later I lunched with mates. One – a True Believer – was uncharacteristically distracted from the food and wine.
Someone asked: what’s wrong? It was, he said, the “whole Malthouse thing”.
The other diners (among them a St Kilda supporter who couldn’t possibly understand) looked quizzically. Then he explained: “Imagine if a First World War general . . .”
Okay. And it has come to pass. Malthouse, the revered coach of Collingwood’s 2010 Premiership team, is at Carlton.
Clearly this could cut deeply into the emotions of Magpies supporters and some players.
Superfically such emotion belies the unsentimental big-bucks reality of modern AFL. Good coaches like Carlton’s (formerly) own Brett Ratten are summarily dismissed although they have reversed the club’s win-loss ration – despite inheriting shallow player lists, lacklustre club cultures and injuries.
Good coaches are replaced even if, like Ratten, they are true sons of the club and the replacement is an outsider. The colour of the guernsey was long ago eclipsed by the colour of money and the statisticians’ clipboard – or IPad. Tenure for coaches is short; three years is considered time enough to u-turn Titanics.
Conversely, the emotional reaction to Malthouse’s move represents another colourful element in a 120-year geographic and socioeconomic rivalry that has manifested on the oval.
Collingwood was “The Flat”, a drain-less slum that sloped down to the Yarra, poisoned by the tanning and candle factories, breweries and canneries that belched smoke from dozens of chimneys. It was an oppressively malignant environment for citizens.
Melbourne’s winter rains made it worse, washing the filth and sewerage from higher suburbs – yes, Carlton – down onto the flat to stagnate.
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