Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A traditional home night

Last night, despite the absence of my brother in Singapore, was a traditional party night for our family when the Brownlow Medal was counted. Although for the past couple of month I have been under an awful daily rhythm whereby I get to bed at 2:00 and do not get up until 12:00, am often not washed and dressed before 13:00, am frequently not out to do basic jobs like checking my post office box or buying essential meal supplies until 16:00, and typically back home for dinner at 21:00 or three hours after my mother has cooked and eaten it.

The Brownlow count, like few other events, motivated me to do something to change this habit, so that after a stint in the State Library, I hurried quickly home with traditional party chips, pies and sausage rolls. An excellent Bolognese sauce was cooked for me - though I cooked the spaghetti myself since my mother prefers to have it on toast when I am not home at 17:00. After that, I rested for an hour and when I came down to cook the pies and sausage rolls the Brownlow count had already began.

When I sat down - rather awkwardly I will admit because of the angle I had to view the television at - I was disappointed at the early rounds because the long-familiar method of reading had been changed and the votes were being read at generally too fast a speed. There was also a somewhat erratic manner in showing this early footage and, as is so often the case with sports broadcasting these days, too much emphasis on overblown, noisy music to try to add drama to the skills of the players. With a clear eye I can see how this drama makes footy more appealing and exciting to casual fans, but it does the game discredit in my eyes since it tries to make the game more aggressive and violent when footy should be a game of skill above all else.

A result of this was that when people like myself became eager to see whether a player near the top had won votes after his team was announced, there was less suspense than in previous Brownlow counts. A lot of ridiculous and irrelevant time wasting about developing footy overseas - environmentally ludicrous given footy requires a surfeit of land only the southern and western states of Australia can provide - would have been better replaced by slow and more relaxed reading of the votes. An alternative was to provide more and better footage of the games where Brownlow votes were taken - the would have been enough space for nine games as we will have from next year with good footage if all irrelevant program material were deleted - even perhaps for slow motion highlights.

At first, I told my mother I was not enjoying the Brownlow count, but later, even as she politely declined more than one pie or any sausage roll as part of the party, I found it fascinating. As a number of rank outsiders like Andrew Swallow and Matthew Boyd obtained considerable numbers of votes, I noticed for the first time in watching Brownlow counts that North Melbourne have had the second-longest Brownlow drought in the VFL/AFL, not having won for twenty-eight years. Though Boyd and especially Swallow faded out, Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell attracted constant attention as he led the count for most of the night despite being ineligible due to a one-match suspension. there was no precedent apart from Chris Grant of the Western Bulldogs in 1997 for an ineligible player obtaining nearly so many votes as Mitchell did. Moreover, the highlights became better-broadcast and I came to enjoy watching it even if I was generally lolling about the fragile couch to get a good view.

Another twist that made the night fascinating was Gary Ablett junior reaching twenty votes for newcomers Gold Coast even though they received the wooden spoon. No player for a wooden spoon team had received twenty votes since Gary Hardeman of Melbourne in 1974, when votes for teams losing a game were much more frequent due to the lack of scrutiny during the count.

Then, when Mitchell finally faded there was the surprise of Nick Dal Santo winning 3-vote after 3-vote during St. Kilda's form recovery. My mother being a strong Saint fan, she was really excited at a Dal Santo Brownlow making up for a disappointing year for the Saints, but by Round Twenty, when I was really enjoying the count, it seemed clear that he had little chance as the familiar and expected name of Collingwood's Dane Swan received votes in most of the games he was predicted to. Moreover, the suspense returned as Collingwood's and swan's unbeatable form his a peak from the early August matches, and he received votes even when the Magpies got an expected scare from Brisbane.

As a finale to a day that delivered more than it promised, Swan received in the end more votes than any other player, and I, utterly tired, managed still to watch him receive the award. It was really exciting, though, to hear the discussion of Swan's record.

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