Match Day Burger

Grassroots Sports Reportage, Grain-fed.

Match Day Burger Appearing At The Brisbane Writer’s Festival, TODAY (Hibernating Scribblers Go Half-Cocked Into Battle At Literary Chin-Wag In State Library)

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Going in blind – Match Day Burger, live and unedited…

Apologies to those of our loyal readers with shirtfronts drenched in Pavlovian drool for a big, tasty burger amid the sheer starvation rations of our off-season. This, sadly, is not a genuine MDB; instead, it is a bit of news, which we consider to be of reasonable public interest for those in receipt.

Match Day Burger will be appearing at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival – and on your radios – at 2pm TODAY! (Friday, 5th of September)

MDB will be sitting on a sportswriting panel called ‘IM YOUR FAN’, along with real-deal public entities, Geoff Woolcock, Lee McGowan, and Kelly Higgins-Devine. The panel endeavors to talk turkey about what it’s like to write on sport, the nature of being a fan, and how well these things go together. It’s a free event, as part of the annual Brisbane Writer’s Festival, and will also be broadcast live on ABC radio (612 AM).

We’ll be sending along our contributor, Nicholas Turner, to talk his way around the subject and harvest a healthy crop of dead air. So please do come along.

When: TODAY, 5th September

Where: State Library, Auditorium 1, South Brisbane

How Much: FREE

Broadcast: Live on 612 AM

 

Stay Hungry.

 

Masked Cowboys Hogtied As Hopping Hamburgers Impress At Brookfield (Of Meat and Men: The Secret In The Stool)

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National Rodeo Association Brookfield Show Bull Ride; Brookfield Showground; 16/5/2014 

“the rider…is about as influential over the bull as a grasshopper is over the truck to whose windscreen it has attached itself.”

Report by Nicholas Turner

Ozone is led into a roofless cage of about his own dimensions, and then a man climbs over the cage and lowers himself down onto Ozone’s back. The man is skinny, dirt-faced and stubbly. He smells of cigarettes and gum, and he wears glittery chaps and a tight checked shirt and one of those metal-grilled goalie masks they wear for ice hockey. Ozone does not like being sat upon. And now lots of faceless people make themselves busy helping the man fix himself onto Ozone’s back, their limbs working through the cage like robot arms making a Japanese car part. Ozone would prefer not to be touched at all, not by any of them. One of the helpers, a burly fellow with forearms like Christmas hams, is using a leather strap to fasten the man with the chaps’ hand flat onto Ozone’s back, right between the shoulder blades; the strap goes all the way around Ozone’s ribs and is so tight it needs someone with forearms like Christmas hams to hold it. And plus the guy that’s getting strapped to Ozone is starting to clamp his legs around Ozone’s ribs too in a way that says he plans to stay there for a while. Ozone finds this both disagreeable and ominous, and he gives a little shrug that’s more ‘point of interest’ than attempt to actually fix things – Ozone’s own version of an omen – though when you’re weighing in at just under a tonne even a shrug is enough to make your metal cage and all the metal cages attached to it shake like shrubs so that everyone perched on them clings for life as they sway in the night air for a few moments.  Now someone else is synching another strap around Ozone’s belly, just under his ribs. This strap is not the worst of Ozone’s issues but it’s annoying for sure, and the annoyances are really starting to stack up. Ozone’s eyes are slender and dopey, and amid all this the right one wanders out of the cage and to the big, floodlit expanse of dirt that’s all pocked and rippled and patterned with shadows like the surface of the moon, which Ozone, whose seriously disposed to the head-down comforts and general quiet of herd life, isn’t real keen on the ‘centre stage’ vibe of either.

Once they open the gate, Ozone troubleshoots all this with the efficacy of a high-priced consultant. First, he darts quickly right, buries his front legs in the ground, and then throws his head down at something invisible, like he’s head-butting a rat (to death, it probably goes without saying). The effect is that all of Ozone’s monstrous weight rocks forward and down and then shudders a little as he flicks his head just a little up and right (if you’re still following the imaginary rat, it’s landing in the next suburb by now) and stops dead, and the rider, who probably feels like he’s straddling a hi-speed train that’s just put on the emergency brakes, goes flinging forward and all but finds himself eye-to-eye with Ozone over the proverbial handlebars. Still, he clings on, uneasily, and so Ozone goes to the air, head first, and then the whole of him is suspended a metre off the ground. The rider’s thrown back and onto Ozone’s hind, which in turn kicks up and throws him forward again, and with a tiny rotation from Ozone he ends up slipping to the side this time, and once he’s off-centre, Ozone spins and kicks and finishes him off.

This all happens at the Brookfield Show Rodeo, in front of a small spectator’s hill with long runs of hardwood sleepers that sort the earth into tiers that make for rustic seating, behind which the woozy lumi-cocktail of sideshow alley throws a glow into an overcast sky of a morphing colour scheme best described as bubblegum rainbow. Experienced punters have brought along picnic rugs and arranged themselves in family pods on the grass, territory strewn with showbags and inflatable hammers and massive bears stuffed with squeaky Styrofoam balls. The suburb of Brookfield, nestled against a long, northward stretch of protected forestry, is surely the most convincingly semi-rural land within Brisbane’s sub-urban ring. It enjoys a glut of tall trees and clean air and windy, traffic-lightless roads, the kind you throw your high-beams across late at night while you flick the radio over to a mellower channel.  It’s not any real surprise that it acts a little like its own small town in matters of spirit, and has a society that puts on a cosy weekend show every year with rides and candy, and where horticulture and woodwork and baking and all sorts of arts and crafts compete for ‘best-in-show’ sashes.

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Moving down from the upper tiers toward the rodeo’s fenced arena, one first spots at its murky far end what looks like blood cells under a microscope – a sort of shifting huddle of pale, soft, ovalesque things that bump and move and spin. These turn out to be the near uniformly white cowboy hats upon the head of every rider, helper, gate-mover, prodder, wife and child of the good folk who’ve blown into town to put on the show. Though tonight will be a night on which the bulls do most of the impressing; by the time the emcee bids us adieu after two full rounds of competition, no rider in the adult classes of Novice or Open will have registered an eight second ride.

The ‘behind-the-scenes’ area is a labyrinth of tall fences and gates that somehow sort all the bulls into the places they need to be without anyone having the get in there and actually push them. When the cowboys (and possibly the cowgirls, though none was witnessed) climb over the fences they almost always balance a packet of cigarettes and sometimes a wallet on top of the fence while they straddle it, then pick them up again to jump back down. There’s a series of at least ten Australian flags raised at the opposite side of the arena and the emcee is a quick-talking funnybox of one-liners (e.g. “rodeo is all about thrills, spills and medical bills”, “he’s off like a five-day old hotdog”, “how about these hopping hamburgers”, “that bull’s got more moves than a King’s Cross pole dancer”, etc.) who’s both shamelessly partisan and seriously determined to spread the fairly implausible opinion that all the bulls are cranky tonight because of the recent federal budget’s general tight-assedness. Music over the loudspeakers ranges from AC/DC to country and back to AC/DC again. The country songs are thematically fairly one dimensional (e.g. ‘Ladies Love Country Boys’ and ‘Chicks Dig It’) and all songs, in terms of vocal delivery, lyrical dexterity and poetics, are largely Nickelbackian.

Like many capital cities in largely rural states, Brisbane is teeming with country folk who’ve made the move to the big smoke at some stage, and who tend to step out in boots and jeans and mingle with their own when these shows come to town. Your correspondent is fortunate to have tonight’s competition footnoted by one such farmer’s son who drifted in on the nor’ westerly for a decade of schooling from before the onset of puberty, and as yet has not returned. He’s a leggy blonde with big hands and a refined drawl, and though you’ll sometimes catch him in rolled-up chinos and suede loafers his preferred footwear is R.M. Williams and brown. He’s posted up in the bar area with a prime view of the bullring amid lots of real and current country folk with bull tags in their Akubras.

Which is helpful, because understanding what makes for a virtuous bull-ride is not something you can pick up by simply looking. It all happens so fast that your camera can barely get a still image, and there are virtually no clear moments at which one can analyse the decision-making of the rider, who really is about as influential over the bull as a grasshopper is over the truck to whose windscreen it has attached itself. According to the chaperone, a good rider will keep his eyes down on the bull’s head, reading and preparing for what its horns’ current direction says about the body’s next movement. And, of course, the rider must negotiate with gravity. Furthermore, he must keep his backside right down on the bull, because bulls have a lot of skin that’ll just roll around them like a loose sock unless the rider’s got his legs basically wrapped right around his belly and his heels digging back up at the guts.

When Ozone the bull finishes the first of his two rides tonight, a gate at the side of the arena is opened by a big fellow with a pink shirt, and since Ozone isn’t keen on the arena and its fishbowl atmosphere, he heads for the opening quick smart. There’s then another narrow passage through which he’d like to go, and since he’s got a clear run at it, he does. But suddenly a hidden gate slams in his face, and another right behind his rear, and now he’s got nothing to do but stand there and blow off steam in yet another enclosure that’s not big enough to turn around in. The wise, wily tricksters who managed to outwit Ozone here are around ten and twelve years old respectively, and they are wearing boots and cowboy outfits that one must constantly remind one’s self are not costumes.

It’s then, within spitting distance of your correspondent, that Ozone lets go an oozy stool about the colour of French mustard, which slides out of his anus and then cascades down the three or four metal bars of the gate behind him on its way to the ground. It’s at this very moment, and not before, that it becomes plausible to think of Ozone as a being rather than a bit of entertainment or a toy. To really actually admire the unfathomable physical display that this animal just smeared across three seconds of real time (the ride, that is, not the excrement). Because rodeo is one of those things that’s positively frozen in stereotype, and those (including your correspondent) who’ve seen it a thousand times on TV and movies probably think they know what it is. And even when you do sit in the stands and watch one jump and buck and throw a rider, it all seems to happen under a kind of anti-critical cinematic or televisual glass, and you really don’t allow yourself to be impressed the way you should be until you get up real close and just have a good old ogle at one of these things and a think about how unbelievable it is that they can move the way they do.

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Ozone’s a creamy, yellowy, white colour with a strange dark shape that runs across his side like a long, low cloud. His eyes are cool and timeless and patient, like some kind of wet, black, volcanic orb that’s so svelte and soft you couldn’t hold it in your hand. There’s a deadpan look on his face, as inextricably sorrowful as the blues, and his forehead is wide and flat and as big as an opened hand, the place you’d most want to pat him if you could. Inside his ears is a kind of long mohair that stretches right across the funnel-like opening, which turns like a satellite dish sometimes. It’s not so much that he’s big but that he embodies a sort of compressed, concentrated, brutal brand of bigness. It takes a while to register that he is basically a muscle with horns, and then to further realise that all manner of machines have been built and then sculpted in a way that shamelessly emulates this kind of purity of power. That there’s a reason people stick horns on their rear-view mirrors, and talk about the ‘grunt’ of their ride. And that a muscle car is basically a mechanical tribute to a bull.

The sight of Ozone’s stool dripping from one metal bar to the next also jolts one into thinking about just how much real energy he spent in the few seconds it takes him to shrug off the guy in chaps. Because it’s just as easy to forget how much weight a tonne is, and that Ozone is not some kind of machine that exerts energy without suffering for it. This is an animal that can toss about ten refrigerators (its own weight) plus whatever’s on top of it (let’s say, another two-thirds of a refrigerator) into the air and around in circles at heights and speeds that leave an iphone with nothing but blurry Francis Bacon-type images. Another way of looking at it is that Ozone takes about four times the heaviest ever clean-and-jerk weightlift achieved by a human being, and repeatedly leaps into the air with it, for as long as required. We’re talking about an animal that weighs as much as a car and jumps around like a squirrel in a panic. What really seems to occur at his rear end in the few seconds after Ozone exits the arena is that a kind of thick, liquid adrenalin passes out of his system.

When you get your meat under plastic and on pillows that spare you the sight of blood, it’s actually very difficult to reengage with the living beings that get slaughtered to allow that to happen. And the same thing applies to the use of bulls in rodeo, wherein, whatever the semantic flim-flam of the devotees and promoters, these animals are taunted (or else stressed, at very least) for entertainment. The chaperone’s mum sends his raw meat down in Eskys every month or so with a handful of kangaroos tails for his dog. If you’re ever with him near a cargo train line and he suddenly lifts his head and takes a big breath and smiles like he’s just figured something out, it’s because a cattle truck is passing within nostril-shot. And tonight he watches the rodeo with almost no attention to the rider and serious admiration for the animal, trying to put words to his marvelling because he knows your correspondent needs help. And when – after a long and compelling conversation about the head-shaking magnificence of the bull – he’s asked about what happens to them when they’re retired, he shrugs and says ‘probably sausages’ without the nature of his smile taking any perceptible turn.

But when a cattle-truck passes what your correspondent gets in his nostrils is shit and grass and hair. And when he looks at a bull like Ozone, his mind flicks radically between a sort of spiritual admiration and/or affinity and a cold recognition of it as food and/or entertainment. And the conceptual middle ground is a moral mess, productive mostly of pity and guilt, the kind of feeling you get in your gut when a mentally retarded thirty-something man wanders away from his mum and tries to take your hand at the supermarket. A feeling of not knowing how to feel, which you just know is some kind of indication that you’re living in a state of quite unbelievable naivety and/or embarrassing privilege.

Match Day Burger Score: (Satay House Special Plate; inc. satay chicken, vegetable curry & rice) 8/10

MDSHSP Service Atmosphere: 8/10

MDSHSP Price: $12.00

Results: Open Division (1st – David Kennedy, 86 points; Tied 2nd – Fraser Babbington, John Foster, David Mawhinney, 77 points); Novice (No scoring rides)

Enjoy it? You can follow us by entering your email in the ‘follow us’ box at the end of the page or by clicking on the black ‘follow’ tab in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.  You’ll then receive our reports fresh from the grill to your inbox.  Stay hungry. 

Colonel’s Men Go Fishing In Busted Deep-Fryer Derby (Woodchopper Gets Scaled As Spaniard Spends Chilly Night Feeding Skipper)

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Queensland Breakers v Brisbane Barracudas, National Water Polo League, Round 11; Valley Pool; 3/5/2014

“He’s on fire for the rest of the night, to the point of it becoming near impossible to drag your eyes away, and one begins to imagine that it’s infinitely hard to look anything but good dancing in a chicken suit.”

Report by Scott Gittoes

It’s just after 8pm and the good burghers of Brisbane hardly know what’s hit them.  A premature winter has descended without so much as an introduction; one can almost taste southern Australia’s virgin snowfalls in the carnivorous sou’westerly wind.  On an evening when most are dusting off their heaters and fireplaces and otherwise doing everything humanly possible to keep warm and bone dry, we’re at the Valley Pool with four hundred or so other spectators for a bit of water-sport, namely, the National Water Polo League’s final round game between the Queensland Breakers and the Brisbane Barracudas.  For the Breakers it’s a must-win, their finals prospects teetering on the outcome of this and other fixtures.  The Barracudas, on the other hand, have barely dropped a game all year.  Tonight though, in the context of a local derby, such mathematical calculations are merely academic; territorial bragging rights are the real bounty.

The pool itself is obscured from street-view behind a near century-old three story red brick façade signed in large lettering “Municipal Swimming Bath”.  From outside one imagines moustachioed men in striped cotton one-piece bathing costumes frolicking in the shallows and springing from the high-board.  In reality, a modern, Olympic-sized swimming pool lies beyond, shadowed along its southern length by a grandstand that meets the façade for height and has the effect of reducing the pool’s size and forming, in a word, a ‘cauldron’.  (The KFC sponsored Breakers, who are at pains to give their fast-food benefactor utmost coverage – even going as far as to remodel their logo this season from a breaking wave to a rooster – colloquially refer to this, their home venue, as “the Deep Fryer”, rather apt were the mercury not falling toward single digits this evening).  Ten or so metres from each end, the pool is bisected crossways by lane-ropes connected to a netted goal, ensuring the ‘playing field’ is centred for ideal viewing.

On the palm tree lined grassy verge opposite the stand a couple of preppy-dressed ‘disc-jockeys’ are reeling off samples from near every infectious, atmospheric chart-topping track released since charts first started to be topped.  The Breakers’ rooster-suited mascot is pacing the pool and at first appears somewhat uncomfortable, even shy, in his new skin, but as the contagious music and perhaps a few cans’ of Bundaberg’s finest kick in, the crowd is treated to a dance routine right out of the vintage Travolta textbook.  He’s on fire for the rest of the night, to the point of it becoming near impossible to drag your eyes away, and one begins to imagine that it’s infinitely hard to look anything but good dancing in a chicken suit.  The jiving cock is shadowed at all times by a younger, fresher version of Colonel Sanders replete with pony-tail and sneakers, whose crowd-pleasing go-to is to cast a fishing rod into the pool at the breaks and stamp on cardboard cut outs of Barracuda fish.  Three or four small, colourful onesie-wearing Barracudas’ supporters are full of beans, perhaps ‘magic’ beans judging by their relentless hyperactivity and proclivity to mob their players before and after the game (it must be said that none of their outfits in any way resemble the predatory fish).

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Nearby, players have commenced a land-based warm up with an almost single-minded focus on their throwing arms.  Some yank on elastic bands tied to trees or posts or else stretch against fences, others toss polo balls between themselves; at all times the emphasis remains on the operative muscles of just one upper limb.  Once in the water, they move with that graceful effortlessness universal among proficient swimmers; you know the ones – all but born with gills and fins who’ve thus spent a great deal of time immersed.  But unlike elite, competitive swimmers, who challenge calliper-wielding sports scientists to find but an ounce of body fat on their lean, shaven bodies, water polo players are not all clean-cut frames and corrugated abdominals; some are just plain big, burly, barrel-chested, fur-coated men carrying a little extra weight around the middle, recalling images of diesel-fitters and lumberjacks.  Most of them, invariably well over six feet in height, are not so much fast but strong in the water and for good reason; the rulebook is filled with minutiae on fouls of brutality and the match oft-cited as the most famous in history is simply known as “Blood in the Water”.  Water polo is quite obviously a physical contest, equal parts physical endurance and sheer physicality.  To describe it as ‘water rugby’ is doubtless a crude comparison, but there’s some truth in it, not least reflected in the fashions and dispositions of this evening’s crowd.

The best example of the classic diesel-fitter look tonight is the Barracudas’ number five, their centre-forward.  He contrasts sharply with their captain, a golden locked, pin-up with beady, ref-imploring eyes.  In the opening exchanges, they appear to form an ominous partnership, complemented by an ever reliable veteran who’s played at least a couple of hundred league games.  Evidently, the Breakers have done their homework and make a habit of frustrating these key playmakers.  Their centre-forward captain and wily, uncharacteristically short number ten are chief among the protagonists, engaging in what becomes a match-long and increasingly embittered battle with the diesel-fitter.  Their encounters often culminate in a boil-up of white-water, one of the combatants hooked like a big-game fish, body almost entirely out of the water, flailing and thrashing.

To an uninitiated correspondent, knowing what is and isn’t legal is pure guesswork, but with a rulebook that lists over forty types of fouls split into three sub-categories, I’m almost certain many sins go unpunished.  In fact, it’s an obvious but almost entirely unique aspect of this sport that spectators, and referees for that matter, simply cannot see the crimes that are being committed under the water.  Consequently, the following seems both inevitable and true: (a) a player is nothing without a good measure of rat-cunning to go with his requisite endurance and strength; (b) referees need to regularly make judgment calls; (c) further to (b), referee satisfaction rates – be it among players, coaches or spectators – must rank as the lowest of any sport, period; and (d) further again to (b), out-and-out dissent towards referees (and tolerance by referees thereof) – be it by players, coaches or spectators – must rank among the highest of any sport, period.  Tonight, as the contest becomes increasingly hostile, at the sound of the whistle not one, not two but most players look to the referee with guilty eyes, some with palms up in a vain attempt to protest their underwater innocence.  Which is frankly almost always doubtful.

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A couple of exclusion fouls called on the Barracudas’ captain in the first quarter prompt both he and his coach to share their disagreement with the referee; the coach receives a yellow card and it seems their understanding of human behaviour is either poor or, more likely, clouded by the emotional heat of the contest.  Between these early verbal stoushes and some vocal Barracudas’ supporters who aren’t afraid to call the officials out by name, to an impartial viewer it appears unlikely that this referee will give any favours to the Barracudas on the frequent fifty-fifty judgment calls that inherently form part of this sport.

The Breakers are too busy netting goals to get on the wrong side of the officials, their captain in centre-forward and their star Spanish import putting on a deft display of skill, the Spaniard repeatedly setting-up the former, whose own speed, aggression and vision opens space for multiple scores.  But perhaps the difference tonight is the Breakers’ goalkeeper, who leaves this correspondent with no doubt as to why he’s a triple Olympian.  Despite somewhat of a second half comeback by the visitors, the Breakers’ continue with enough niggle and drive to close it out, the Barracudas seemingly the victims of their own frustrations.

Match Day Burger Rating: 6/10

MDB Service Atmosphere: 7/10

MDB Cost: $6

Match Result: Queensland Breakers 11 def. Brisbane Barracudas 7

Enjoy it? You can follow us by entering your email in the ‘follow us’ box at the end of the page or by clicking on the black ‘follow’ tab in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.  You’ll then receive our reports fresh from the grill to your inbox.  Stay hungry. 

Undressed And Contemplating Dance As Sport Amid Blackjack And Craps At Jupiters (In Which Everyone Who Gets In Line May Be King For a Snap)

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2014 Dancesport National Championships; Pavillion Ballroom, Jupiters Casino, Gold Coast; 20/4/14

The woman folds herself right back, saved from toppling only by the man’s grip, as though he were attempting to feed her a spoonful of something that is fatal if ingested.

Report by Nicholas Turner

It’s just before morning-tea time on Easter Sunday and the Gold Coast’s Jupiters Casino is positively teeming. Beneath its infinite ceiling the foyer is jammed; smack in the middle, affecting a sieve of all human traffic, is a ten-foot depiction of Las Vegas with holes where the heads of Elvis and two showgirls would otherwise be. Tourists are queuing to be the King or one of his scantily dressed ladies, and the only way through is via the memory stick of some Chinese woman’s digital SLR, apologising.

Ignorant to the ways and means of national dancesport competition, and dressed still for an early morning dip at the beach that is not a potato-gun’s strike from the casino itself, your correspondent seeks out the little tucked-away room in this glittery, coin-clattering hive where a humble ballroom dancing comp should already be underway. The foyer and its full-chested guards are making his salty hair and shorts and loose t-shirt and sandals seem a little underdone. After inquiring at the box-office, he is directed to the Pavillion Ballroom, the name of which alone is enough to forewarn a monstrous faux pas that is very much nigh, and then well and truly upon him.

It only gets worse. The ‘Ballroom’ is exactly what it sounds like; replete with mirror-ball and black velvet curtained walls and galactic lighting, round tables for the VIPs, elegant table settings, stiff-backed waiters and Champagne. Already a few hundred are in attendance for an event whose finals will go well into the night, and not a male soul – not even the few restless sub ten year old boys about – is without long trousers and a coat. There is, by the looks of it, an unspoken zero-tolerance policy on round-necked t-shirts with team logos on the back. Reminded suddenly of a thick helping of Zinc still smeared across his nose, your correspondent feels approximately as though he has stepped out of a cold shower and – biblically naked – into the sacred chambers of…you get the drift – I feel like an asshole.

Naturally, your correspondent decides to be in and out of this comp like a cat burglar, as they say, focussing on the first decisive dancing contest that the program throws his way; incidentally, the Juvenile Open Latin final, which by the way the schedule is going is probably a couple of hours off.  This is time enough to catch some top-flight heat competition and peruse the dancer’s market, an integrated part of the event wherein all manner of dance-specific shoes and jewellery and couture and make-up and sticky tape and stitch-in breast cups and such and such are available for sale.  You might think dancing, an ancient ritual of that demands only a wealth of passion, would be a light-on sort of enterprise from a fiscal point of view. I can report, very much on the contrary, that a women’s dress (comprising >0.1m2 of actual material) fetches around $1200. And I don’t want to even guess how much money goes into the make-up and fake tans and teeth-whitening and hairspray and whatever else goes into making these dancing women (and, to a lesser extent but surely, men) look less like painted humans than animated dolls.

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Dancesport is curious to new eyes, and I think at least part of the confusion is what seems to be the antithetical strangeness of it as a ‘higher’ form of what we lay folk know to be dancing. By which I mean the bump and grind or hold and sway which is either a precept to or public adjunct to sex, or else just something nice to do with someone you care for enough to share breath. The salient point is that the dancing of social custom is something implicitly and explicitly intimate. But here, formalised as competition, it doesn’t really look like that. The ‘Standard’ dances (Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, and Quickstep), have in common the fact that the man and woman contrast the extreme proximity of their middle torsos with maximum separation of their heads. The woman folds herself right back, saved from toppling only by the man’s grip, as though he were attempting to feed her a spoonful of something that is fatal if ingested. In addition, each dancer, by means a despondent and distant facial expression (likened best to those sideshow clown heads that take ping-pong balls orally), makes it seem as though they don’t notice that they are actually dancing with a partner. In other words, competitive dancing disguises the emotion of the act, or else buries it in the technical prowess and the synchrony of the bodily movements. Which may well be the natural progress of dancing as competition, but it nonetheless leaves your novice viewer with a sense that it’s all a bit cold. That no one out there on the floor is getting any spiritually closer by dancing.

When the two pairs of Juvenile dancers eventually take the floor for the Latin final, a now routine hush floods the whopping room. In purple and black, the soft-faced Asian pair begin with a nightmare stutter; the little lady tumbles down the stage’s final step, face planting before the presenter’s nose. Nerves, one has to guess. Once she’s scooped up, the contending Caucasians in green and white descend without mishap. The latter pair is slightly taller perhaps. All four dancers are under thirteen years of age, and a certain ‘stiffness’ of the older competitors is biologically denied them. Whereas in the adult competition the near-comical frigidity seems to be a virtue of technique, here for obvious reasons the absence of it doesn’t register.

In the first few bars of the Samba, neither pair moves a muscle, and it briefly seems as though stage-fright has struck them all. But soon they count themselves into it and the colourful costumes paint the floor in broad, child-like strokes. The couple in purple are immediately more compelling, full of jittery reflections of the inner rhythms of the music. By contrast, the two in green think through their steps, counting a carefully contrived set of one, two, three, fours. You can almost see the boy mentally mapping a small section of the very big stage. In all four disciplines, this trend continues; the purple combination flow relatively freely, throwing themselves cheerfully into it. By the time the Cha Cha Cha is underway, they’re pretty clearly the superior pair.

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What really separates the winners, however, is that undeniable dynamism that results from a strong male lead. The Asian boy, kind-faced, slim and yet solid looking, upright in everything he does, really works his partner around the polished wood. His subtle, pillaresque domination of the dance creates a genuine sense of cat and mouse, of high and low, in and out, a sense of play in which male physicality is not there to squander but to highlight feminine finesse, to give it something to refract against.

Where these two pairs of dancers ultimately diverge is probably the point at which the inter-sexual nature of dancing becomes something truly relevant. The purple pair, clearly, have begun to ‘play’ – indeed, to dance – in a way that is at least a feint sketch of the world of adulthood.  A drama exists between them; it’s effect is creative. On the other hand, their competitors still dance as though the purpose of doing so were to perform perfectly as two distinct entities, to strive for excellence in parallel. In an odd sort of way, this exhibition says some compelling stuff about how grown-up couples really do become more than the sum of their parts.

 

Match Day Burger Rating: Deep-fried (!) burrito in casino bistro, 2/10

MD(D-F)B Price: $9.90

MD(D-F)B Service Atmosphere: 3/10

Results: Lucas Cheng & Ashley Huynh, 4 def Aiden Falzon & Hannah Smart, 8 (lowest score wins)

 

Enjoy it? You can follow us by entering your email in the ‘follow us’ box at the end of the page or by clicking on the black ‘follow’ tab in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.  You’ll then receive our reports fresh from the grill to your inbox.  Stay hungry.  

 

2014 Queensland Premier Rugby ‘Game of the Round'; Round 4 (‘Books Of The Beach Blitzed By Big-Smoke Counterparts In St Lucia’)

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UQ ‘Red Heavies’ vs. Bond University Gold Coast ‘Breakers'; St Lucia Oval 5A; 12/4/2014

“As they parade before the bustling coup of second-and-third-champagne-in young things, hysteria breaks loose; the ladies rush the fencing, hooting and hollering, pawing and grabbing beyond the confines at the passing pack of ultra-suitable mates in all their pre-picket-fence-and-two-point-five-kid glory.”

Report by Nicholas Turner

MDB descends on the lustrous turf of UQ Rugby’s home ground on an afternoon of occasional sunlight and a little overcast steaminess. The visitors are the Gold Coast Breakers, now Bond University’s team, meaning that it’s a city/surf student showdown; loosely, aspiring doctors v aspiring plastic surgeons. It’s also, incidentally and yet in no way disappointingly, Ladies Day. UQ’s is by far the most coveted ‘Ladies Day’ ticket on the Premier Rugby circuit; where other clubs summons at best a considerable handful of singles to amble free-range inside the sectioned-off space wherein paper bracelets denote free drinks, here at UQ they’re jammed in so tightly that they’ve hardly room to scratch themselves. Their pretty and much made-up little heads poke awkwardly through the temporary fencing in a way that recalls those horrifying ads that ask us to boycott battery farm eggs. The inside word is that this afternoon’s fundraiser sold out in just under 36 hours. By the looks of it, even that was overselling the space.

On a side note, the style of the season is fluorescent and shimmery; all the girls look a little like deep-sea fishing lures.

About five minutes before the opening whistle, the UQ side completes its warm up and heads for the dressing rooms. As they parade before the bustling coup of second-and-third-champagne-in young things, hysteria breaks loose; the ladies rush the fencing, hooting and hollering, pawing and grabbing beyond the confines at the passing pack of ultra-suitable mates in all their pre-picket-fence-and-two-point-five-kid glory. The players, somehow, retain their game-day Zen, keep their heads down and faces expressionless. I’m not terribly sure if I’m opening myself up to reverse, inverse or inverted sexism by suggesting that, for all their effort to block it out, the players probably don’t mind being on the butt end of out-and-out objectification today. I mean, if they’d like to be less interesting to women, they’d have chosen to play at Wests…Zing!

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The game kicks off with the usual technical quibbles and feet-finding of week-four play. In a first half that gives little away, UQ have the upper hand but not by much. While the Gold Coast team has clung tight, they’ve got some systemic issues that are as plain and unpleasant as warts. The first is that, despite at least a half dozen genuine early chances to swing it wide, they fail to shift the ball past the centres. And not because the defence is particularly brisk; simply because they drop it cold or else throw it wildly; it all just goes to the dogs far too repeatedly. I find myself wondering late in the half if they’ve managed to field an all-left-handed backline, since the first time they actually find the winger is the first time the assignment is right-tending.

Which brings me to the second issue that should well be on the Gold Coast whiteboard come Monday; their outside backs make terrible running decisions. Ball retention in counter-attack and near-sideline play is just crap, largely because isolated runners tend to decide to stop dead and flop to the earth in solitude. It’s a classic symptom of trusting neither back-up runners nor loose-forwards and/or being unpractised in effectively stalling play and/or just not being strong enough, and it completely bones any chance Gold Coast might have to steal a couple of tries; frustratingly enough, they’re outside runners are clearly quick enough to threaten.

The breakdown today is not nearly a thing of beauty. The game just doesn’t work out that way. UQ are, as usual, an across-the-board fit and physical side, organised above and beyond all else, clinical in the mould of Brothers and GPS. For the first half of the game they play OK but with a lack of sting, crossing over for a pair of tries that are more inevitable than exciting. But once the second half gets going, the true character of the game reveals itself. It’s a mismatch.

The second half goes; try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), try (UQ), give or take a try that can only be to UQ because I’m absolutely certain about how many points Gold Coast score and that’s none. There’s not really all that much to learn or single out except, yes, UQ have some great inside-back vision, and look like they’re going to do their scoring this season through the middle. Gold Coast, on the other hand, just get the bad end of it and they accept it pretty early on. Their big number four seems to play by his own rules once he reckons it’s all over, skulking behind the defensive line, waiting for a chance to step in and make at least one UQ player feel average at full time. It doesn’t work out quite like that; instead there’s one more gap for the city boys to score through.

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The inevitable result is sorted by about twenty to go, and attention wavers beyond the sidelines; even the pre-teen manning the scoreboard walks away from the monotonous job and starts making sand castles in the long jump pit. On the synthetic running track between us and the field, a match race between a five-year-old princess and a Ninja Turtle restarts every few minutes and it’s usually the turtle that wins. Around us in the stands fully grown men in mum’s-dressed-me-for-a-birthday-party combinations of tucked-in pastel and branded Ralph Lauren caps and leather sandals are pretty common.  Over in the eligible bachelorette enclosure, shirtless boys in bow-ties hand out trays of cheap champagne, their pants’ seats worn thin by pecking hands. And up in the sky a camera drone hovers as a near pitch-perfect symbol of something that’s too hard to describe here and now. In short, it’s by no means the most boring afternoon to endure a forty-point romp.

As for the outcome of Ladies Day; it is in a spirit of journalistic rigour that MDB stays abreast of social media feeds into the night as these frenzy-whipped women are served up and get to party with the victorious doctors’ sons in an after-match and all-night orgy (to use the word only in the PG-rated, ancient Roman sense of there being much food and drinks and whatnot to gobble up). Plenty in the way of solid records come over the interwebs into the early hours, but perhaps the soberest and most family friendly and exquisitely understated tribute comes from UQ Rugby’s own Twitter feed the following morning:

“A red UQ Rugby tour jacket with car keys in the pocket has gone missing at the Ladies Day event tonight… If you have taken the jacket please return it to the club house on Monday morning and no questions will be asked.”

If the beholder of said jacket is among MDB’s readership, let not shame withhold her from doing the right thing.

Match Day Burger Rating: 5.5

MDB Service Atmosphere: 4.5

MDB Cost: $5.00

Result: UQ 47, def. GC 5

Enjoy it? You can follow us by entering your email in the ‘follow us’ box at the end of the page or by clicking on the black ‘follow’ tab in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.  You’ll then receive our reports fresh from the grill to your inbox.  Stay hungry.  

2014 Queensland Premier Rugby ‘Game of the Round'; Round 3 (‘Local Swoopers Saddle Equine Guests In Finger-Biter on Chipsy Wood’)

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Souths Magpies  vs. GPS Gallopers; Chipsy Wood Oval, Yeronga Park; 5/4/2014

“GPS’ flyhalf is a practitioner of cross-bow like service, his flat, accurate passes open space for outside backs running exquisite, well-practised lines, most devastatingly a number thirteen who moves like a Basque bull and has a consistently threatening impact on the game.”

Report by Scott Gittoes

Chipsy Wood Oval is a special patch of earth.  The specialness I speak of here is not the hallowed turf, legends-of-yore type (though not to deny that quality, either) but rather of a far more plain and empirical nature; this oval is Souths Magpies’ solitary field.  It’s a modern day botanic miracle that the soil is capable of supporting any grass-life whatsoever, be it that nine separate tag-shoed teams train and host games on these scant few square-metres week after storm-addled, sunburnt Queensland week.  But today, owing to some favourable early season scheduling and, rumour has it, a new groundskeeper with a sixth sense for lawn nutrients, Chipsy Wood is in as good a state as one’s ever likely to find it; deep shamrock green, duck-down soft on top and firm and fast underneath, on what is yet another textbook autumn afternoon in Brisbane.

The curtains are drawn for a free-flowing contest and based on recent form – namely, GPS Gallopers’ tantalisingly close premiership bid last year and the Magpies as-yet undefeated start to the season – one suspects the protagonists will eagerly oblige.  After no more than ten minutes, it’s evident that today is bound to be a spectator’s delight; equal parts free-flowing, physical and impassioned.

It’s expansive across the park.  GPS’ flyhalf is a practitioner of cross-bow like service, his flat, accurate passes open space for outside backs running exquisite, well-practised lines, most devastatingly a number thirteen who moves like a Basque bull and has a consistently threatening impact on the game.  Only rigorous three-quarter defence prevents the visitors from collecting any material points from these incursions.  As it stands, Souths have crossed first on account of some deft hands and opportunistic support play from a skilful, mobile forward pack whose biggest are also amongst their quickest and most dexterous.  But for all their damaging size – the front row recalls images of Easter Island’s Rapa Nui – natural talent and clean set-pieces, the Magpie pack’s inferior discipline and structure at the defensive breakdown is their undoing. photo (1)

The Gallopers are far more calculating.  They choose their battles wisely, committing few to the rucks and mauls and so conserving health in defence and exploiting gaps that appear with increasing regularity at the fringes.  It’s from this platform that GPS establishes first-half ascendancy, scoring three unanswered tries, including a chip-chase one-two from flyhalf and inside centre that is a certainty for the season highlight reel.  To deepen their woes, the Magpies’ notoriously volatile flyhalf earns a late-half yellow card for a hit that is much more shoulder than arms.  At 25 – 8, if the writing’s not yet on the wall for the home side, the paintbrush is certainly wet.

Confidence: nigh on impossible to practise and bottle but easy enough to recognise – a whimsical, organic element that more or less floats on the wind. It’s directly proportional relationship to instinct is well acknowledged; ‘natural’ players are all but nothing without a gullet-full of the stuff.  Fifteen minutes into the second half, moving along a seemingly inevitable trajectory towards a GPS victory, the instinct-laden home side receives a telling shot of confidence in the arm.  A bullocking maul pushover is immediately followed by a stunning kick-off return from a fullback who has an utterly dependable (and, for the visitors, consistently annoying) habit of finding routes through barely-there gaps like water.

This dramatic shift in momentum is decelerated only by an engine-room fracas that results in a second Magpie in the bin and a local crowd baying for pounds of officialdom flesh.  Rendered largely impotent by preceding defensive phases, the Gallopers are unable to gain any relevant advantage against fourteen men.  Upon recovering their full suite, Souths execute an authoritative landslide scrum pushover.  GPS cling to the lead by a lonely point.

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The conspicuous absence of an official match-clock is part of the uncultivated beauty of rugby at this level.  The referee’s wrist is the sole arbiter of time.  Spectators are left guessing, pointing at watch-faces, blind to the seconds that remain.  In a game that has been a tale of discipline versus flair, both teams must now exercise the former.  The Magpies maintain their composure and, against historical form, prevail in this final test, repeated pick and drives drawing out a penalty within range.  The unpredictable wind on the Chipsy Wood plateau ensures silence until the flags are raised.  Souths scrape home for consecutive wins at the death against the best from last year.

Result: Souths 30, def. GPS 28

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2014 Queensland Premier Rugby ‘Game Of The Round’; Round 2 (Vegan Match Wrap; No Burger)

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Easts vs. Souths; David Wilson Field, C.P. Bottomley Park; 29/3/2014

“The subterranean mud stinks like a pig pen and the only thing missing is a swarm of what the Yankees call buzzards.”

Report by Nicholas Turner

Only a week ago C.T. Bottomley Park put on a feast for the senses; a nail-biting Championship game at dusk, the conditions between the sidelining native trees so poetry perfect you could just about snatch a handful of summer’s last leaves from the weightless autumnal air. Nigh on perfect conditions for rugby – both play and spectatorship.

Today it’s a markedly different aesthetic experience. After two days of non-stop rain that threatened to wipe-out the whole round, the turf of David Wilson has a distinctly fragile quality, that of a sheet of soggy cardboard resting on a pudding. It’s as humid as cling-wrapped hell in the stands and staying stock-still won’t save you from sweating. The subterranean mud stinks like a pig pen and the only thing missing is a swarm of what the Yankees call buzzards. And to top it all off, the sun’s taken to occasionally screaming from behind the clouds in a way that’s almost purely unpleasant, kicking just enough heat around to keep a simmer on the nasty brew throughout the afternoon.

Last week the East’s Tigers took on the interstate might of Sydney University and narrowly slipped off the Club Championship trophy in a noble pre-season scrap. Today their task is the much less predictable South’s Magpies, a club that has fairly reeked of talent in recent years without managing to play out a full season of appropriate standard.  In stark contrast, the Tigers have made a job of ultra-consistent rugby in any situation, culminating in a truly special grand final that brought last year’s flag to the clubhouse.

Predictably, in these oily conditions, the ball is as elusive to the hand as a greasy marble to chopsticks. Dropped, stripped, fumbled and/or blithely misthrown pills come at a rate of one every two minutes for much of the first half. Easts are keenest in early attack, their outside backs make repeat work of treating the defence like a sieve. But their two run-away efforts fail titillatingly close to the line. Flyhalf is an absolute stand-out for level-headedness and opportunism in difficult conditions. Not to mention watertight with the boot.

In the levelling conditions, the contrasting styles of the teams is somewhat depleted. But generally speaking, Souths adhere to a less formalised brand, sending mobile loose forwards and stocky inside-backs hard at the line. Their own flyhalf is brutal in head-down one-on-one defence, accelerating in a single-minded rage; one lowly Easts’ player that receives the pass of death learns this the hard way, spared utter physical reconstitution by a matter of degrees and pot luck. Late in the half, the Magpies move up the paddock and maul toward the line for an easy one-out-and-over. They’re blessed by some quality, running forwards and lightning outside backs of unusually rigorous defence.

By half time the ‘mugby’ quality of the game is largely writ. Loose forwards are having a busy day and for all the hoo-ha out wide, here at the coalface is where the big gears of the game have shifted. Defence has been the paramount narrative, and discipline in defence has become the increasingly relevant sub-plot; three penalties to Easts have kept the scores levelish at 10-9.

I should mention somewhere (like, here) too, perhaps by way of illustrating how these two teams philosophically differ, that while the Easts kicker is a picture of patience, routine and discipline, a product of emulating the style that trickles down from the contemporary professional ranks, Souths’ counterpart is today firing them through the posts with little fuss and (ask someone who was there if you like – none of us in the stand could quite get over it either) right off the ground. No tee, no Buddhist mind-emptying routine, no two-minute ass-out-hands-together pause to envision success. That both are eminently effective is as good an indication as any that whatever the means of attack from either side, today’s result will probably be close.

After many exchanged blows and changed leads in the second half, the Magpies gradually wriggle into a two score advantage. Which it turns out they’ll be desperately needing, because in the dying ten minutes of play (having already upset the ref in every ruck-related department, culminating in a first half sin-binning), Souths’ quickness to the defensive line falls under the sort of intense official rapid-fire that recalls Umpire Hair pinging Muralitharan, and they’re taken on a handful of consecutive backward strolls that have the captain looking skyward for answers and the Magpies’ sideline faithful howling murder, grievous and blue. The East’s crowd, fittingly, find this all to be very suitable, and make something of a game of helping the officiator in finding subsequent offenses. Meanwhile the Tigers on the field, exuding the kind of professionalism that wins flags, show no form of remorse; they make Souths pay for every infraction, and go over with a couple of plays still in the game. A home-side come back seems virtually inevitable, but in this game the clock is the truth.

So for two weeks in a row the home ground of Tigerland and it’s heaving spirit just aren’t quite enough; the Magpies grit their beaks and hold on.

Result: Souths 24, def Easts 21

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Students Endure Eighty Minutes In Bottomley Wildcat Enclosure, Live To Tell the Tale (Struggling Journalist Files Speculative Debt Claim Under Jungle Law)

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Easts vs. Sydney University; Australian Club Championship; David Wilson Field, C.P. Bottomley Park; 22/3/2014

“…to see the game unfold this evening is to witness one of the most intrusive, palpable examples of home-ground advantage one could hope to find at a modern day suburban club rugby match; a call to yesteryear.”

Report by Scott Gittoes

Tigers tend not to go hungry in their element.  But here’s one with a worried look, frisking for spare change inside his orange-and-black-striped, velvet-textured one-piece costume – presently unzipped down beyond his navel – his swaying tail the exaggerated tell of a few hours tilting cans and cups.  Fumbling through his wallet, he turns his bearded head toward me, revealing a glazed, reddened complexion and a corkscrew-smile, his eyes fading-out beyond my left shoulder, seemingly fixated on something distant. An outstretched hand reaching over the cash register is expecting dosh that this dishevelled feline apparently doesn’t have.  Without exchanging words, I hand him a few dollars and move on; it just seems wrong that the native cat should go hungry here at the place they call Tigerland.

We’re at Bottomley Park, home of Easts Rugby Union Club, for the Australian Club Championship, an ostensibly annual but historically irregular contest between the reigning first-grade premiers from Sydney and Brisbane.  Sydney University, with an imposing local record of eight titles from the last nine seasons, is here to contend with an Easts team and, perhaps more tellingly, a vehemently parochial home-crowd still very much buoyed from recent premiership success.  Far from descending into a hollow early-season trial, this evening’s fixture will end up attracting a few thousand spectators and turn out to be an utterly atmospheric grassroots rugby experience, equal parts memorable and memory-jerking and one that presents a compelling case for the relocation of Brisbane grade finals, at least in the preliminary stages, from Ballymore to suburban home-grounds.

It’s forty-odd minutes shy of dusk on a postcard early-autumn Saturday.  Players from both teams are warming up in front of the grandstand, hitting the pads in unison, stringing the ball through the hands or else pairing up for stretching drills.  Golden slivers of sunlight stretch out from a low hanging sun, finding gaps between the grand old trees that fringe all four sides of David Wilson Field and tower above the goalposts.  These mature botanic dames are testimony to the increasingly rarefied existence of such inner-city grounds; this field is a considerable patch of real estate set amidst one of Brisbane’s more exclusive enclaves.  (A neighbour sitting on the patio of her much-sought-after Queenslander would, in all likelihood, be closer to the action here than a patron in the front tier of any major stadium).  The playing surface, not yet beset by the rigours of the regular season, is invitingly crisp and fresh.  Juniors – as young as four and five years old – adorned in the stripes of the home club, are everywhere; some bounce around near the sideline absorbing the warm-up, throwing passes in emulation. Others play chase, flitting between and around adult legs near the barbeque-bar below the eastern end of the stand.  The adults too are overwhelmingly adorned in Easts’ colours, forming a continuous stream of blue and gold that graduates from the mellower groupings of family and friends near the barbeque-bar area into a dense and imposing wedge of old boys and lower-grade players who occupy close to a quarter of a near-overflowing grandstand.  The stand itself, within spitting distance of the northern touchline, runs ten to fifteen rows back and spans twenty or so metres either side of halfway.

What all of this amounts to – this idyllic suburban charm, this extended family of spectators, this vociferous block of clubmen – is what the Greeks probably called ‘atmos’.  And to see the game unfold this evening is to witness one of the most intrusive, palpable examples of home-ground advantage one could hope to find at a modern day suburban club rugby match; a call to yesteryear.  And the rugby Gods seem to be dancing to the local tune. After twenty-five minutes, almost every bounce of the ball, every counter-ruck, every clutch tackle – every low-percentage play – has gone the Tigers’ way.  Following some enterprising forays from their halves and a scything run from their debutant inside centre, Easts are up 14 to 5.  They’ve shown commitment but little in the way of consistent structure; the crowd is just ploughing them forward.  Conversely, despite obvious flashes of brilliance, the students appear burdened, simply flustered.  Their backline, in particular, has the feel of an expensive sportscar with the handbrake on.

Presently, the Sydney number five is feeling the weight of the crowd even more so than his colleagues.  A recipient of a yellow card for repeated breakdown infringements, he’s seated not much more than an arm’s length from the rabid crush of Easts’ supporters.  Led from the front by an erratic but unceasingly boisterous tiger (who now owes to your correspondent around 35% of a hamburger, a debt I’ll not even hope to call in), they’re chanting his name, raining down unpleasantries.  His cauliflowered ears simply cannot escape the torrent.  It seems almost every University line-out, scrum, penalty, fumbled-ball has occurred in front of this very same section of supporters, and now this lock-forward has to sit here, mere feet away,  simply wearing it; the location of the sin-bin is surely no coincidence.  But for a runaway try to their elusive and swift-heeled winger, University just can’t take a trick.  The half closes 14 – 12.

The break is a perfect opportunity to walk the outside of the field.  The golden beams and purpelish hues of late afternoon have now been replaced by floodlight, casting the lower sections of the fringing trees in imposing relief.  Light dew precipitated from the cooler night air has drawn out the scent of freshly cut grass, reminiscent of evening training sessions.  In the darkened shadows under the trees, in an almost continuous line, spectators lean or sit on the sponsorship-laden metre-high fence that runs the entire way around the field.  Some even sit in the trees, be it kids or a seventy-year-old man replete in a polo shirt and chinos who has found himself an ideal location in the fork of a Jacaranda.  Locals continue to wander down from neighbouring houses, bare-feet or bethonged, beer in one hand, son or daughter holding the other.  Couples and groups scoop beverages from small eskies and cooler bags.

Even amid the comparatively tame shadows of the southern touchline, it remains an unmistakeably impassioned crowd.  The banter, albeit subdued, is still relentless; the University winger is told to pull his socks up on more than one occasion.  Early in the second half the students score, again out wide; their centres and outside backs now moving freely, threatening the line at every step; young, brash, skilful and fast.  One gets the feeling that they’re used to carving up more hapless sides and are now starting to taste blood.  Easts, however, still buoyed by this most atmospheric of home amphitheatres, are defending stoically, committed and hard-hitting, camped as they are in their own half.  It remains this way for most of the rest of the game.  But five minutes from time, in what again appears to be largely supporter-induced fortune, the Tigers find themselves in a position to steal the fixture at the death.  The crowd is boiling, and short of scoring the winning try themselves, they will Easts’ mercurial fly-half within inches of the line.  The fairytale doesn’t read to script though and the students hang on, adding a little interstate silverware to their busy cabinet.

Match Day Burger (Tigerburger) Score: 7.0

MDB Service Atmosphere: 7.0

MDB Cost: $5.50

Match Score: Sydney University 19 def. Easts 14

Enjoy it? You can follow us by entering your email in the ‘follow us’ box at the end of the page or by clicking on the black ‘follow’ tab in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.  You’ll then receive our reports fresh from the grill to your inbox.  Stay hungry.

Viking Raid Ends Liquid Dynasty at Chandler (Top Anglers Disappointed After Targeting Apparent Boil-Up In Suburban Diving Pool)

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Queensland GPS Swimming Championships; Brisbane Aquatic Centre, Sleeman Sports Complex, Chandler; 7/3/2014

“Tales of impossible personal bests at these championships are almost mythical, growing each year as they’re passed down through the generations by teachers who’ve seen it all, coaches who once swam here, or former competitors who slink in to sit quietly in the stands, children and/or grandchildren on knees, reminiscing.”

Report by Scott Gittoes

In the glossy program for this afternoon’s GPS Swimming Championships, the record for each of the forty-two events is printed prominently above the starting list.  Headlining the first event, the all age four hundred metre freestyle, it reads:

GPS Record:     3:51.94     KJ Perkins     1991     BBC  

Despite having done pretty much everything that swimming can ask a man to do, Kieren Perkins, the former world-record holding and twice over Olympic gold medal-adorned Superfish, is rumoured to have singled-out this annual competition as the most atmospheric and parochial of his extraordinary career.

We find ourselves caught in a crush of teenage students, shirts half-tucked, ties awkwardly too short or else too long, earphones dangling from ears into bags or pockets. There’s hundreds of them on the move, each in theory with a destination in mind but in all likelihood merely tracing the steps of the kid in front.  They’re cascading into the Brisbane Aquatic Centre (more colloquially known as ‘Chandler’, the indoor Olympic pool built back in ’82 for the Commonwealth Games). The mail from a nearby teacher, with an unashamed dollop of bias, is that today’s championships are bound to be a two-horse race between Nudgee College and The Southport School. History too says it’s a safe bet; no other school has won the event for 23 years.

Chandler today is a sort of giant humidifier in which the energy of a couple of thousand mostly-teenage humans has churned the hazy waft of chlorine into something both thick and palpable and undoubtedly exhilarating.  Concrete tiers lined with metallic bench-seats rise up from the pool deck perhaps twenty-five rows or more, their ascent halted where the back rows meet the ceiling.  Masses of students are arranged in three-to-four hundred seat sections, the effect being giant sheets of uniformed humanity, clearly delineated in variations of blue, green, red, yellow, white and black, striped horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Ties are universal. These students fill the seats closest to the pool, swimmers and families the ones higher up.  Not surprisingly, the schools with the largest boarding houses are the best represented, and most organised.

Synchrony and enthusiasm are tested with opening war cries; across the pool the chants strike like rocks on corrugated iron, ricocheting and returning from innumerable directions, firing off the lines and angles of the building. Soon enough it’s all thundering white noise; the acoustics here are kind to amplification but not clarity.  But that’s of scant relevance; in establishing the ascendancy of support, it’s obvious that volume is valued above all else.  Amid all the commotion, the pool water remains impossibly still, glistening under lights.  It looks fast in that indefinable way of all great pools in the titillating moments before a championship.

On the western side of the pool deck, there’s a brightly lit catacomb that opens up and leads somewhere under the stand.  Right now, nine thirteen-year-old boys are waiting there, fidgeting nervously.  It’s hard to know precisely what they’re feeling, but peering out of that hallway – the concrete above them quaking under the combined stamping and screaming of close to one thousand students – they’d have a curious snapshot of the other thousand or so boys in the opposing stand, most bound together arm-in-arm, bowing, swaying, jumping, dancing to music between races, some yielding painted, oversized megaphones, others waving flags and a select few dressed as mascots: a tiger, a bear, a shark and a Spartan, to but survey.  It’s controlled chaos out there, all co-ordinated to achieve a very specific effect.  It’s fair to assume these nine prepubescents are feeling some of that effect.

Exiting the relative shelter of the marshalling area to take up their positions behind the starting blocks, the entire arena opens up before them, in all its utter madness, its utter ecstasy, and just plain utterness.  In comparison to the near-to-fully-grown muscle-bound swimmers who’ve just finished the all age individual medley race, these kids, indoctrinated into this order of heavily traditioned private schools only a few weeks ago, are mostly sinewy, five-foot-nothing whippets; boys among near-enough-to-men.  The whole scene must be grossly magnified for them. Overwhelming, to say the least.  At the sound of a whistle, silence washes over the crowd, and the competitors step up, almost climb, onto their blocks.  Leaning down to take their marks, the hush deepens.  I can’t see it from where I sit, but I’m quite sure their legs must be shaking, seized by fear and adrenalin.  At the gun, the spectators burst into voice as the boys hit the water for their first time at GPS; the thirteen and under fifty metre freestyle is underway.

In the cold, lonely light of an underslept, poolside weekday morning, it might be hard to nail down exactly what would drive schoolboys to follow that sub-aquatic black line, to train lap after waterlogged, lung-busting, lactic-acid-inducing, sometimes nauseating lap, three or five or ten times a week, week in and out. What could possibly inspire a teenager to crawl out of bed at dawn over the summer holidays and every morning of the first few weeks of the schooling year just to punish one’s saturated self in preparation for a single performance that on average lasts less than a minute? It might all be lost, in theory, to those of us long-ago out of the classroom. But as these thirteen-year olds have undoubtedly just been reassured, there is something about a few thousand concentrically facing peers ripping their throats to shreds in your name that any kid looking for his place in the world would understand in a microsecond. To be at the middle of all that, just for a moment, is probably worth just about any sacrifice.

The swimming here today is darn impressive.  Scholarships abound at these schools for boys with sporting ability and, in a region that’s arguably Australia’s if not the world’s breadbasket of swimming talent (cue honour roll of world champion and Olympic swimmers from Queensland), you’ll always find superlative underage swimmers in the water at GPS.  But it’s not the elite – among them a fourteen year-old from BBC who this afternoon wins three individual events and annihilates one record – that make this event what it is, rather the less talented but equally enthused boys who tirelessly turn up to every training session for that last solitary spot on the team.  Tales of impossible personal bests at these championships are almost mythical, growing each year as they’re passed down through the generations by teachers who’ve seen it all, coaches who once swam here, or former competitors who slink in to sit quietly in the stands, children and/or grandchildren on knees, reminiscing.

The square diving pool at the far, southern end of the arena is awash with splashing bodies, recalling an oceanic feeding frenzy.  The last ten events of the day – the medley and freestyle relays – are fast approaching and hundreds of competitors are warming up.  It’s often the relays, with swimmers emboldened by a common goal, shoulder-to-shoulder in the marshalling area, which provide the most compelling content for the viewer and induce many of those fabled personal-best and come-from-impossibly-far-behind performances. By the time the swimmers appear for the last event of the day, the open freestyle relay, with Churchie having broken the multi-generational Nudgee/Southport dominance and all but sown up its first title in 49 years on account of both sheer individual brilliance and consistent depth, it’s rather easy to see why Kieren Perkins said what he said.  The student hordes are exhausted, keeled over, hoarse, soaked through with sweat, but they haven’t been at more of a fever pitch all day.  They’re gripped by a kind of manic dehydrated delirium, carrying the anchor-leg swimmers home as if they’re walking on water.

Match Day Burger Score: N/A

MDB Service Atmosphere: N/A

MDB Cost: N/A

Results: 1st Anglican Church Grammar School, 257; 2nd The Southport School, 249.5; 3rd Brisbane Boys’ College, 222.5; 4th Brisbane Grammar School, 220; 5th Brisbane State High School, 216.5; 6th Nudgee College, 207; 7th Ipswich Grammar School, 200; 8th Gregory Terrace, 185.5; 9th Toowoomba Grammar School, 167.

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Pools, Stairs And Rails Shift Underfoot In State Sanctioned Shred At Capalaba (Survey Of Pubescent Males Finds Genital Punch Favored Over Extended Suburban Mosey)

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Saturday Afternoon Session; Redland Youth Plaza (Capalaba Skate Park); 22/2/2014

“…by appearances at least, skateboarding retains a punkish edge – it’s generally teenage, middle-finger-raised realisation that some parts of the life are blatantly contradictory and bullshit. And, more specifically, that lots of potentially fun places are deemed off limits and policed thus.”

Report by Nicholas Turner

K has something difficult to do, something difficult and also pretty dangerous, and his brain won’t let him do it. The thing he’s got to do is really something he’d like to do, rather than need to do, and he thinks that that’s why his brain is interjecting, stopping him right before he does it, telling him that he’s scared and that it’s not worth it. Every time he rides up to the precipice, his back foot kicks down and pulls his skateboard up short – and so he stands there, the scratched-into-oblivion print on the underside of his deck flashed to all of us down at the foot of the stairs. And he shakes his head;

Shit. Ok…ok…..ok…shit. Ok, I’m going again.”

K turns around and heads back to the top of his run-up. He takes a moment to square up the task, then comes toward the stairs again. But the outcome is the same as it has been the last dozen or so times. His back foot kicks down stubbornly. He halts at the top.

“Alright, alright,” says K, hands enmeshed on his flat-brim cap, elbows pointed skyward. The large, geometric graphic on his oversized white t-shirt stretches out like something three-dimensional unfolding. “Alright, man.  Pete, man, alright man. If I don’t do it this time. Pete, if I don’t do it this time, here man, you’ve got to punch me in the nuts.”

“Nah man,” says Pete, shaking his head. Pete’s prickly black moustache shrinks like an insect poisoned. He’s in the habit of scratching his wrist tattoo with a finger. “Nah man, I don’t want to man. I don’t want to punch you in the nuts.” Pete’s nursing a busted hip from a fall not ten minutes before. I think he’s kind of glad to have a reason not to be trying to do what K’s trying to do.

“Come on man. I’ll do it, man. I’ll do it but you’ve got to promise me you’ll punch me if I don’t. In the nuts.”

“Nah. Nah, I don’t want to man.  I’ve got it. I’ll tell you. Man, if you don’t do it this time, I’m not driving you home.”

“Oh man,” says K, nodding, maybe wincing.

“That’s it man. You’ve got to do it this time. Or you’re walking all night.”

“Yeah,” says W, who hasn’t said much for a while. W’s not injured, he just knows he’s not good enough to even attempt something like this. And he’s ok with that; he speaks softly and without any swearing and generally he’s kind of sweet. He’s got a soft face, a bit of straight hair on his lip, and a shiny brown pony-tail whose loose strands he directs back over his ear with one finger. He’d make for a convincing stage and/or screen Jesus.

“Ok, that’s it,” says K, taking a few deep breaths and heading back to his mark. “That’s it then, this is it.”

K gets going with three big kicks that are all business and no intellectual compromise. By the time he’s at the top of the stairs, it’s not a matter of if but how he’ll get to the bottom. On wheels or face or ass.

Your correspondent is at Capalaba skate park (officially, ‘Redlands Youth Plaza’), where for maybe the last hour or so K, M and Pete have been taking turns at the fairly shallow six-stair rail at the centre of the facility. For those outside the skateboard discourse (I’ll assume everyone knows at very least what a skateboard looks like, and its defining features), to ‘do a rail’ is to jump up and land the board on a (usually metal hand-) rail and slide down it and land on the ground at the bottom and skate away. Depending on how one’s board sits on the rail (on some part of the wooden deck, or on the metal trucks between the wheels, or some combination of these) and which direction one is facing and also if and how one is garnishing this manoeuvre with the flavour of ‘style’, the slide goes by a different name.

If you’ve never seen this happen, think about it now; if you’re standing on a smooth plank of wood or a couple of rounded bits of metal, sliding down a metal rail, you move like something smooth and hot falling down a wall of ice. Which is to say, awfully quickly. More or less solely in gravity’s tugging hands.  Skateboards from this position have no form of break and no kind of rudder or steering wheel and anyone less than very well practised would almost certainly go ass over tit and be mangled by or around the rail and/or stairs. What I’m trying to say is that it’s both tricky and dangerous, and that it requires all kinds of agility and subtlety of movement to nail. Not to mention guts, because you’ve got a hell of a lot of unforgivingly hard and awkward objects underneath you, and no way of avoiding them if things go even a little bit wrong.  As a group, K, M and Pete land around 65% or the 150 or so rail slides they attempt.  Of those not landed, around 10% result in evident pain. The wonder that bones are not broken and/or ankles and wrists not regularly dislocated never subsides. In fact it seems flat-out miraculous.

Right across from where the boys are doing rails, there is an even steeper and higher set of stairs, this one closer to sheer, basically 45 degrees.  Ultimately, only K has the gall to roll over to it and declare himself ‘ready’. Which brings us back to the apparent absurdity where we began; a sixteen-year-old boy handing his testicles over to his friends to be held again him as ransom. His demand; that his own stubborn sense of self-preservation not kick in where it naturally ought.

Capalaba skate park is pretty darn impressive, much more so that anything that was available at your correspondent’s home town when your correspondent was pubescent. There’s a nice looking bowl with lots of different gradients, oodles of metal-railed concrete boxes, a handful of ramps, stairs, rails, bumps, slopes and boxes all underlined by one very long run right through the middle that’s got to be a hundred meters and full of things to jump and grind and generally find skating use for. Word on the street is that it usually heaves here on the weekend, though today (it’s overcast, and rain has threatened constantly) K, M and Pete pretty much have the run of the place, except for a swarm of pre high-school kids on Razors (little metal scooters that went viral about ten years ago – you have seen then) who sometimes just stand there right in the way of where they boys are landing under the stairs and look into space in a way that really is infuriating. Generally, the boys exercise Zen patience.

Looking out over this collection of oddly misplaced urban objects – an empty pool, and staircases that ascend to and from nowhere in particular – one is reminded that skateboarders have always exercised a philosophical elasticity when it comes to utilitarian structures. They found a whole other use for waterways, gutters, ramps, park benches – indeed stairs and pools –  and basically any odd shape or bump or lip or edge or ripple in the man-made concrete world. In the beginning, as the potential use of the structures was discovered, skateboarding was by default a ratbag activity, outlaw stuff. It tore at the efficient fabric of busy urban scapes, jumped fences and drained and ruined pools. Indeed, by appearances at least, skateboarding retains a punkish edge – it’s generally teenage, middle-finger-raised realisation that some parts of the life are blatantly contradictory and bullshit. And, more specifically, that lots of potentially fun places are deemed off limits and policed thus.

If you accept the premise that skateboarding is at it’s heart a kind of physical graffiti, a ‘footloose’ dance all over the concrete and steel structures of the city, then skateparks are an attempt to confine all this to a sanctified zone, to drag the rebelliousness of skating out from under its wheels. Indeed, as governments integrate skateboarding facilities into the very structure of the city, it’s increasingly difficult to understand exactly what skateboarding represents politically, culturally, even artistically these days.

To which curiosity this report provides only fodder for thought, and no answer. By the looks on the faces of M, K and Pete, it doesn’t seem immediately necessary that skateboarding represent much more than its own tactile pleasures. Here, happily, three young men use an organic communal spirit to overwhelm the fear and self-doubt that are the ceiling of personal limitation. M, K and Pete take photos and video of each other on their iphones, and watch them play back between attempts. Indeed their constant showcasing and sharing and back-patting and cheering of their deft and daring interactions with these brutal structures, the brief moments of flying and sliding and freefall, and the incredibly elegant underfoot play – the board twisting and twirling, uniquely both mode of movement and baton of flourish – demonstrates how this activity is at very least a unique alloy of sport, performance art, play and just plain old kicking it.

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