Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don’t know what the city is getting
What Bangkok certainly was getting was the last joust ever for this 2015 Bintangs team which had fought and won so many battles together. After this last blast for the Asian Champs silverware, come what may, major changes would ensue. For one, the eldritch Dirk Diggler appears to have been on the field for the Bintangs for the last time. It is always a loss for a team to lose a player with triple figures of experience, more so in Diggler’s case where it is seasons as well as games. Though no one could give a name to it and say it out loud, rumours abounded in whispery corridors that Stewart Lyons could be up for his last crack for the Bintangs, playing footy with his mates on a Saturday one last time. Could it be that those massive boots and entirely fabulous little lemon green frock for afterwards were to be hung up at last? How about Simon The Holy Quail, also a former one time All Asian, rumoured to finish soon and so one way or another on this day the Bintangs would be seeing the end of Woewoedinism. One way or another.
There were more rumours (Simpson? Surely not. Smith? Harris? God forbid). Amongst the whispered rumours and dark hints, there was one definitive retirement on this fateful day: by a Premiership player and people’s poet, the most dithyrambic AFL Asian player in history. But that comes later. Much later.
First task: to beard the Tiger in his den. A dangerous ploy at best.
Game #1: Jakarta Bintangs vs. Thailand Tigers
At stake: Put simply, the chance to hurtle forward, spears aloft and slaughter the cornered Tiger in his own den before the morning dew had dried.
What transpired: Football hijack.
Make no mistake about it, the Bintangs were fielding a formidable team this day. Henderson bound for glory, for example, Quail, eyes glazed over in commitment to scourge the yoke of Woewoedinism from South East Asia, youthful Gerard Barnes, the pride of East Traralgon, ready to show what he was made of and to hello these kitties from Krung Thep. We thought we’d have them. But Thailand were ready for it, more than ready.
Thailand tore up the form guide and came out blazing on all sides of the ground. Their passing was sure and their tackling hard and if you come out fighting like they do in 10 minute halves, you can get your opponents on the ropes quickly. Thailand put through 4 in the first half, answered only by a dazzling bouncing shepherded goal booted by HQ. As Mick Lewthwaite insightfully observed: “Golly”.
Stung awake by this turn in the tide of affairs of men, the Bintangs came out from their corner ready to roll. Vanders saved a certain Tigers goal with an adept toe poke and “Darrell” Lee van Gils commenced selling candy without a license. Bawden shone. Barnesy was displaying some of the renowned Latrobe Valley savoir faire around the ground and Pope John Paul Kenyon brought the crowd to fever pitch after his tirade to the umpire following being bashed and robbed of the football. JP then proved you can get both mad and even by executing a brilliant soccer dribble of the ovoid article to get possession then dobbing it through for a goal. MJ coolly converted from a free bringing the Bintangs up to win the second half but the damage had all been done in the first. A three goal loss and a cussed way to start our tilt at Champs glory.
Bringing the spirits a notch lower was the news that Tim Donkey Simpson, rampaging reigning All Asian was out for the tournament, a fact he only realized when he removed his tight bucket hat and the 80 points that tight bucket hats shave off the IQ returned to him.
Phineas Gage Award for Hardmannedness: Borneo Bears Blockbuster Beau Temby had had a breakout debut for the Bintangs at the Bali 9s picking up a stat for every tatt and looked a likely surprise packet for the Champs. With accustomed gusto, he went up courageously for a mark within goalkicking range even with the sound of an elephant charge at his hind. That elephant charge was Butcher and his 100 kilo Tigers opponent zeroing in on the same ball. The resultant clash echoed across the scorched Harrow School field, redolent of the time Butcher (who from his years at the Sale Remand Centre is without tincture of remorse or human compunction) had earlier taken out Mark Sabbatucci (Chia’s Dad and son of Vin Sabbatucci ST K 1954-55 6 games 9 goals) although that time it was intentional. Temby’s shoulder cracked as a result of his valorous focus on the ball at all costs. Phineas.
Champagne Moment: It could only be when dangerous David The Butcher Edwards ran out for his 100th game for the Bintangs carrying the hopes and dreams of Sale and beyond (Moe, Yallourn, Morwell) on his tattooed and horsewhipped shoulders. Coach, former Captain, Best and Fairest Winner, multiple Leading Goalkicker. There are still gigalitres left in the tank of his football Monaro. This milestone was greeted with admiration from all Bintangs outside of the Temby and Sabbatucci families.
Relevant Clint Eastwood Quote: “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster” (The Rookie 2002)
Jakarta Bintangs 3.2.20
Thailand Tigers 6.1.37
Goals: Quail, Kenyon, Jolly
Best: Bawden, Quail, Barnes, Jolly, Prowler, Lyons, Harvey
One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over the football, Brother
Game #2: Jakarta Bintangs vs. Philippine Eagles
At stake: Simply put: All. With our tough A Grade pool, another loss could see us out before we had even really started. The Bintangs’ Champs Ferrari 2015 was spluttering and shuddering like cop cars do when you pour sand into the petrol tank while they’re off busting someone who is probably innocent.
What transpired: If it’s a cut throat comp, then throats are gonna get cut.
The Bintangs have on occasion suffered small team syndrome, for example in 2012 when we made the Asian Champs Grand Final with 168 minutes of rucking from only one ruckman, and he a rogue newsreader in South East Asia under a Witness Protection programme.
Today, you couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Four Colossi: the ever reliable man mountain Tom Harvey, fleet footed oak Andy Bawden, Cast Iron Corbett and Roscoe Currie, last Champs debuting as Fidel Gastro after a rotten egg sandwich, now better, stronger, faster.
Ball it up and it’s hell for leather. DOS gets into his own and provides a link between centre and up forward. Henderson is like some elemental force of nature and do not get between him and the ball, Eagles, think of your children.
Jacob Curtis is in for his first game ever and gives unstintingly of his leg speed and focus on the ball. The seeds of years of outreach bear spectacular fruit here when Michael Laehutu charges the ball downfield and into the guts with a ballbursting roost.
The Eagles feel the pressure and so does the scoreboard when Roscoe executes a classic pass to Matt Jolly for the first goal. Barnsey was rounding up the loose balls like they were sheep in a Traralgon paddock and pulled off an absolute screamer in the middle of the ground. Way to go. With Harvey pulling off more smothers than an Irish home for unwed mothers in the 1920s, the tide was turned and the Bintangs won and stood on the precipice on 1-1. It’s tough up there. Do not look too long into the abyss or it will start looking into you.
Champagne Moments: Six pointers to Ben Corbett and Chris Perez. When the opposition’s game plan to stop bubbling goal cauldrons such as Kenyon, Butcher and Jolly is working, a very good team has a second column of goalkicking resistance to rise up and vanquish their opponent’s hopes and dreams. Cometh the moment, cometh the men. Corbett and Perez. The Eagles looked upon their works and despaired.
Relevant Clint Eastwood Quote: “Assassins that stay assassins too long wind up getting assassinated” (The Eiger Sanction 1975) (The Eagles knocked us out of the Champs in 2013. Suffer in the dark.)
Jakarta Bintangs 4.2.26
Philippine Eagles: 2.2.14
Goals: Corbett, Perez, Bawden, Jolly,
Best: Henderson, Barnes, Lyons, Bawden, O’Shea, van Gils, Harvey
Game #3: Jakarta Bintangs vs. Hong Kong Dragons
At stake: Our first loss put us under the Sword of Damocles all day and the souped up Dragons longed to cut the hair holding it. They’re an Edward Scissorhands of a team.
What transpired: Much. Half way through the qualifying games and 1-1. The seesaw decidedly poised but 2000 kilos of Hong Kong players prepared to jump on their end and propel the Bintangs into the starry football firmament and not in a good way.
In this hard edged encounter, Andy Bawden stood tall. He moved adroitly around the ground and presented every time the ball went forward. He made himself a target more often than a Mexican Anti-Drug Commissioner. Still the ball had to get to him and Quail took that role in a game he called “The Job Interview”. Hong Kong beckons, they say.
If Quail didn’t get it, Jolly did, but sadly more often Hong Kong did and they reeled off a polished signature performance. All Asian Vincent Halim was sorely missed with a broken hand back on the medical bench.
Resistance never wavered. Corbett jostled and shrugged off tackles as did van der Meer, ultimately executing more shrugs than a late night French concierge, but Hong Kong had it that game, we didn’t, and now its 1-2 in the City of Treasures gracing the Ocean.
Champagne Moments: The unending highlights reel of Quail’s game. If anyone came to play, HQ did today. (I was also quite partial to the Stewart Lyons vs the Special Administrative Region of the Peoples’ Republic of China bout at the end of the first half but obviously cannot condone that sort of behavior in a match report)
Relevant Clint Eastwood Quote: “Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.” (The Outlaw Josey Wales 1976)
Jakarta Bintangs 0.4.04
Hong Kong Dragons 6.3.39
Best: Quail, Bawden, Harvey, Jolly, van der Meer, Corbett
Siam’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of physical fitness
This grips me more than would a
Muddy old river or Reclining Buddha
Game #4: Jakarta Bintangs vs. Viet Nam Swans
At stake: Prestige. Credibility. The ability to look your parole board straight in the face and say with pride “I am a Bintang”.
The Swans had come to play, even bringing in as artillery ex-Bintang Angus McEwin, the progeny of doughty Antarctic exploring legend Douglas Mawson, as well as a score of other footballers whose rellos do not appear on the $100 note. However McEwin on the day more resembled his frosty ancestor in the après eating sled dogs’ liver (far too high in Vitamin A causing the debilitating Hypervitaminosis A) and falling down crevasses part of Mawson’s career than the stamina bit, but there were 20 more Swans eager to plant their flag in the Harrow School’s hard unyielding soil.
But the Bintangs were there to smash through the just open window to the Finals.
Like a pack of ravenous huskies on a snow squirrel, the Bintangs surged into the first half tackling, shepherding and 1 percentering the wazoo all half. Gilsy to Vanders and then to Currie for a sterling goal and the Swan ripostes were swatted back by the ebullient Robert Prowler in a bucket hat. Goals were hard to come by even with the bulk of play to the Bintangs so it was game defining when the Swans best chance at goal was royally thwarted not once but twice by Dave O’Shea in the best second effort since 2 June 1965 when Mrs. Beverly Waugh delivered Stephen Rodger Waugh (168 Tests 10,927 runs 92 wickets) and then neatly followed up with the afterthought of Mark Edward Waugh (128 Tests 8,029 runs 59 wickets).
In a Halliday-like display of focused aggression, MJ cashed in the rage of a slew of missed frees to pass truly to Roscoe. Roscoe kept presenting all game, in front and around the zone, the culmination of many libertine to libertarian set plays. Hendo’s gutbusting smothers and recoveries predominated and Harris put on display more spoilers than a Latrobe Valley parking lot.
Quail and Harvey were invincible and in fact were not vinced the entire day. It just took Matt Jolly to dob through a goal for the icing on a tough fought win or die match and the Swans were back to the long cold winter in Mawson’s Hut and the Bintangs, if the cards fell right, if luck was to be a lady today and if circumstances mirrored merit, a chance for the finals.
British Columbia Ganton & Larson Prospect Merlot Icewine Moment: We’re on the half time siren and the margin is tighter than Dave O’Shea’s Hugo Boss Eraldo Pima cotton V-neck T-shirt, and the Eagles bomb it down towards two of their forwards in the clear and ripe for the old one-two running into the square and goal. Then with Gretsky-like grace and verve comes the mover from Vancouver, into the breach, dive, divestment and the ball slammed out of play to bring the ‘Tangs to the half time huddle with a one goal lead preserved like a Mammoth in Nunavut tundra. It counted.
Relevant Clint Eastwood Quote: “Ever notice how you come across someone once in a while you shouldn’t have messed with? That’s me.” (Gran Torino 2008)
Jakarta Bintangs 3.5.23
Viet Nam Swans 0.3.3
Goals: Currie 2, Jolly
Best: Jolly, Quail, Lyons, O’Shea, Bawden, Currie, Barnes, Harvey
Semi Final: Jakarta Bintangs vs. Hong Kong Dragons
At stake: A second chance. A second chance. And god knows they don’t grow on trees.
What transpired: In the Macquarie Online Dictionary definition of the term “bittersweet”, there is a clip of the Bintangs being told they had qualified for the Finals, forget the qualifiers, win this one and you are through to the Grand Final. A new season within a season. Next to this clip is a series of clips of Phillip Povey expressing that which is inexpressible and/or best left unexpressed. Povey had just announced his retirement. He cannot be replaced. If there ever was a mold, it has been broken.
Football pundits had long predicted that the Bintangs would take seasons to get over the loss of Povey. We had minutes.
This was now 15 minute halves and we had been out there for hours. Players had been hydrated both internally and externally by the Water Horse, one of the most feared water boys in Asian AFL football, but it’s Hong Kong and they’re pretty fit and accomplished.
The first notable play of the PPE (Post Povey Era) was David Bonecrusher Butcher taking out two Dragons fairly yet teethrattlingly on the forward pocket boundary. Harris too showed some style on the chalk knocking it out of reach of his fired up opponents more than once. Dillah spanked it half the length of the ground and with Boy Pasaribu and Michael Laehutu provided Jendral Sudirman-like valour to the team to mitigate the deep loss of Vincent.
Andy followed up his first DOS-fed goal with an absolute beaut of a tackle, free for Dragon dropping the ball, and conversion. It’s half time in the Semi and Bintangs 2.2 to Hong Kong 1.2. We can do this.
The second half dawns and blazes and van der Meer saves a certain goal with a Shawshank Redemption get out of jail play. Hong Kong know they are up against a threat and launch counterstrikes, goaling once and again. The Bintangs gave it a royal shake and struck fear in the hearts of 20 Smaugs.
But the Dragons roared and the bell tolled and the Bintangs were bloodied and beaten but not at all bowed in the Asian Champs 2015.
Champagne Moment: Dave O’Shea careering down the wing with Adam Treloar-like pace and awareness unleashes a perfectly weighted kick to a deft committed lead by full forward Andy Bawden. The type of play you’d stick in a museum if they had footy museums.
Relevant Clint Eastwood Quote: No words, just silence and staring with a fierce resolve and controlled anger into the middle distance with a thirst for vengeance that will be satiated at great cost and soon. (A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Play Misty for Me (1971), Magnum Force (1973)…every Clint Eastwood film)
Jakarta Bintangs 2.3.17
Hong Kong Dragons: 5.4.34
Goals: Bawden 2
Best: Quail, Jolly, Harvey, Henderson, Bawden, van Gils
One day in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One day in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
ALL ASIAN 2015: Simon quail
All Asian 2015: tom Harvey