One Day in Movember
Oxford has once again proved its superiority over the filthy Tabs, with a commanding 43-point victory in horrendous conditions at the new home of footy at Oxford: The Turf. Led by their hard-working and inspirational captain Sam Stranks with a best on ground performance, the Dark Blues won every quarter, before later continuing their dominance in the post-match boat race.
The day commenced with both sides arriving at New College sports ground to watch an exhibition of a sport unknown to many of its observers. The Oxford side appeared to be resuming its customary role of giving the Tabs a hiding, but with no-one having any idea on the rules, we couldn’t really be sure. The identity of this mysterious sport soon became apparent. This “sport” featured a round ball, was completely non-contact, and the majority of its participants were women. We decided to leave because none of us were really interested in watching Gaelic football.
At 12:30pm, the Oxford boys commenced the walk along muddy dirt roads towards the venue of our date with destiny. The filthy Tabs followed 100 metres behind, ensuring that they were downwind at all times. History would later show that this cross country trek to the ground was not to be the only garden path we would lead them up for the day.
But when we arrived at the ground, it was not to be the gale-force winds that blew us away. Instead, it was the sight of eight magnificent Australian Rules football posts on a perfectly shaped and perfectly-sized footy oval. The committee of Stranks, Nichols and Feddersen had delivered what the citizens of Oxford had been craving for so long. Finally, footy at Oxford had a home ground. We had our own turf. The Turf.
And this was to be the theme of Stranks’ inspirational pre-match address. “This is a special moment boys. Our first match at The Turf. And we don’t lose at The Turf.” Our game plan was simple (because it came from Charlie): win the first quarter, for the team that leads at quarter time wins the Varsity Cup. The scene was set from the first bounce with Clark decisively winning the first tap down to McLeod.
Kicking with a 3-4 goal wind, it was essential for the Dark Blues to get away to a flying start. Prozac took these instructions a little too literally, getting higher than Joe Cocker as he jumped on top of a hunch-backed Tab to go agonisingly close to pulling in the greatest Varsity grab of all time.
But with conditions wavering between atrocious and abysmal, it was not the match for glitzy skills and show boating. No, this was going to be won by adopting the same strategy that the boys attempted to adopt at Clem’s later in the evening: we had to go in hard, early and often. Bumping, tackling, shepherding and smothering had to be the focus of the day. Cometh the hour, cometh the midget. A Tab ring-in, rumoured to have been picked by the Brisbane Lions in the 2001 Super Draft, was prancing out of defence when Nichols came out of nowhere to crunch the filth in a ball-and-all tackle. The boys on the sidelines and the hundreds who had braved the conditions to watch the game roared as one. If a midget could do that, what could the rest of us do? The Tab never recovered; the Tabs never recovered.
Clearly inspired by his role model, Feddersen performed a similar feat, as he ran ten metres past the ball and jumped three feet in the air to sit a Tab on his arse. (Well, we think the Tab was sat on his arse. It may have been his face, but who can really tell the difference?) In fact, all the midgets were getting involved in the hard stuff in the wet conditions, with T. Foster and S. Shabala both posting Luke-Ball-like tackle counts.
For all their dominance, the Dark Blues were struggling to put the Tabs away on the scoreboard, with Nichols the major culprit up front. In the Almost Footy Legends moment of the day, he roved the pack in a fashion that would have made Cyril Rioli blush, only to then f*ck up an unmissible goal. Charging into an open goal from five metres out, he went on to hit the goalpost twice. The first with a sh*thouse kick, the second with a piss poor right hook.
What was needed to complement the hardness of the Dark Blues’ play was some quality finishing skills. As if on cue, Martin stood up and used that sweet left foot of his to give the Oxford boys some momentum. A clever kick off the ground from “Buckets” Wolgamot put us further in front, but more of a lead at quarter time was needed. A stroke of genius from forwards coach Molinari reaped immediate dividends, with super sub Pascoe taking a classic big man’s mark before providing a clinical finish. A 24-point quarter time lead was well deserved, but the key to winning the match was going to be in holding off the Tabs in the second quarter.
With a slimmed-down and super fit Ogg in defence, we were in safe hands. At centre-half-back, he resembled an Oggmeisterdon, the Greek mythological creature with 13 fists. Whenever the ball went into the Tabs’ forward line, it was met with an Ogg punch. Whenever the Tabs went into their forward line, they were met with an Ogg punch. But the Oggmeisterdon will be forever be remembered as winning the match for different reasons, as he completed not one but two inspirational smothers just as the Tabs were pressing hard. The end result: despite having a howling wind at their back for 30 minutes, the Tabs went into half time with a single point to their name.
The Dark Blues were finding the conditions tough, but continued to persevere. Kirby demonstrated the difficulty of the conditions by kicking a drop punt that got caught by the wind mid-flight and returned back to him. The Kirby boomerang was invented.
With Stranks dominating as a rebounding defender, McLeod picking up touches at will as a loose man in defence, and both Foster and clubman-of-the-year Hille well on top their opponents in the midfield, the Oxford forwards were provided with more scoring opportunities despite working into the wind. A deft handball from “King Midas” Ky in the forward 50 was well finished by Bellini for the only goal of the second quarter. With the Tabs goalless in the first half and Oxford with a 31-point lead, Stranks could not have asked for more from his time as they went in to load up on half-time oranges.
The third quarter continued the trend of the day, with Oxford dominating but struggling to put the filthy Tabs away on the scoreboard. Again, it was left to Martin to show the lads how to kick it through the big sticks as he finished off some good work from Stock to become the only multiple goal scorer on the ground. As the Tabs tired, Oxford had the luxury of bringing on some several quality players from the bench. Tully, Duff and Brown all produced some class and run during their stints in the midfield, and ensured that the Oxford forwards were provided with plenty of opportunities. As he had been doing all day, Draper provided the big target for the boys to kick to, marking kicks and smashing packs with his massive frame, even if it was occasionally at the expense of an unlucky and injury-prone Lodder.
Sensing that it was time to put this game beyond doubt, McLeod took it upon himself to inspire his team with one of the all-time great varsity moments. As a scrambled kick floated high into the Oxford forward line, he ran with the flight of the ball a la Jonathan Brown to take the mark of the day. The skill in taking this grab was outweighed only by the courage McLeod displayed in never taking his eye off the ball. A simple conversion from 20 metres out was all that was required for McLeod to cover himself in glory.
Then, the f*ck up. After a relaxed run-up and smooth kicking action, McLeod produced the worst shoe of the day, kicking the pill at right angles to his target. To call this kick a shank would be to disrespect all other shanks in the history of Australian rules football. In a feat that confused the physicists on the ground, McLeod had somehow managed to miss the behind post by at least 20 metres and the game was stopped for 10 minutes as the players were forced to trek cross country in search of the air conveyance. As the boys came off for three quarter time, McLeod was inconsolable. Not quite knowing what “inconsolable” means, Nichols went to console him:
Nichols: Head up mate, it can happen to any of us.
McLeod: Mate, at least the woodwork you hit was on the park, not in it.
But McLeod did not need to be so hard on himself, for the Oxford side had outplayed the Tabs in all facets of the game: kicking, marking, handballing, tackling, and sledging. The best that the Tabs could come up with in the latter category was to tell Martin how sexy he looked in his tight white shorts. The decision to focus on Martin’s behind was a rookie error, considering that by that stage of the match, Nichols had three of them. The Dark Blues were well led in the sledging department by Clark, a fellow in the Centre for Socio-Sledging Studies. After Oxford had kicked away to an early lead, Clark came up with the following pearl:
Filthy Tab: Mate, don’t be mad at the umpire, he’s just trying to even the game up.
Clark: Isn’t that your job?
Ever the professional, Clark worked hard at the sledging all day, putting in a solid four-quarter performance, to come up with this one in the final term:
Filthy Tab: You’re a really angry man, aren’t you?
Clark: Yeah? Well you’re a c*nt.
Despite the game being all but over, Oxford refused to show any love. That is, of course, with the exception of one bench player, who was able to spot the romance in sweaty, muddy men running around in wet and cold conditions, and proceeded to walk hand in hand around the boundary with the WAG he had brought with him. The forward-thinking Stranks was already thinking of picking up a new recruit under the father-son rule.
For the rest of the team, however, the focus was for the final term clear: to become only the second team in history to keep the Filth goalless. A lack of final quarter discipline, however, was to deny the Oxford Blues of 2009 a place in history.
In a team sport, an individual should never be singled out. But it was Feddersen’s fault. With the ball in the Tabs’ forward pocket, an into-the-breeze Guinness throw-in dropped short and finished up only 75cm inside the field of play. Clark attempted to tap it down to Feddersen, only for it to miss the midget and go out of bounds. A ridiculous umpiring decision gave the Tabs a free kick for deliberate out of bounds, but with the filthy bastard in the dead pocket and on a tight angle, he had no hope of scoring. That was, of course, until Feddersen decided to get involved. The mother of all sprays he gave to the umpire allowed the orange maggot to showboat by awarding a 50 metre penalty. The filthy Tab converted from the Nichols Memorial Goalsquare and the great ambition was over. For good measure, the umpire sent Feddersen off the ground. This turned out to be the only umpiring decision that went our way all day.
Feddersen’s lack of discipline and respect for team rules was endemic throughout the match. One cannot help but wonder why it was that he found himself so deep inside the Tabs’ forward line, given that he was playing back pocket at the time. Footy historians, mark this day down in history as the day that John Feddersen created a new position in Australian rules football: loose man in attack.
The Feddersen cancer was to spread throughout the team. A normally calm and reserved Rock displayed a totally-out-of-character aggressive streak to also be sent off the ground. The final siren couldn’t come quicker for a demoralised Tab team and a Feddersen-infected Oxford side. When it finally sounded, a comprehensive victory had been secured.
But the Dark Blues were still not satisfied, and continued to teach the filthy Tabs a lesson well into the fifth quarter. If the footy match was a shalacking, the boat race was an embarrassment. Oxford, which had assembled the greatest crew in its history, was always going to be tough to beat. The team of Stranks, Alexander, Wolgamot, Kirby, A. Shabala, Martin, Feddersen and McLeod was of Olympic standard and set a new all-comers record as they humiliated into a loss by more than half a boat length.
Glorious, victorious, Alexander led the boys into the victory song one last time.
Oxford 3. 6. (24) 4. 8 (32) 5. 11 (41) 6. 14 (50)
Filthy Tabs 0. 0. (0) 0. 1 (1) 0. 1 (1) 1. 1 (7)
Goals: Martin (2), Pascoe (2), Bellini, Wolgamot
Best: Stranks, McLeod, Ogg, Draper, Clark, Pascoe, Foster
Sledges: Clark (62)