It's Friday night and we're down in the hinterland of Tasmania, a Hobbesian jungle, to watch Kangaroos and Tigers in battle. Men have trekked over water and finally they leave the boat and enter this land of Cain. There's a strange atmosphere and a foreboding sense we shouldn't be here in the wilds. There's an explosion of fireworks and soon the smoke drifts across the face of a mad rock singer named Tim Rogers. Is this a civilising mission or… madness?
The game begins and Dennis Cometti is talking about a Tiger talisman. His name is Deledio. We see Martin in the dim light and his sleeve tattoos look like ballroom gloves. Jesus. Just then a cacophony of noise emanates from the Kangaroo race as they exit, ready to wipe out these Tasmanian Tigers. Christ. Already there's an injury. Grimes has gone down in a training drill and Chaplin has to stuff a pie in his mouth and put his smoke out into his cold can of Boags.
The men are barely out there for two minutes before Wells hits the scoreboard, followed by Atley. Some elaborate monkey business on the mark by Firitto puts Vickery off and soon a second disaster strikes the Tigers when Morris' knee gives out. It's a knee of portent that warns of horrors to come. The local funeral bier is wheeled out and Morris resists. Where's he being taken? 'The mainland. Take me. To the mainland.' Back on field Lloyd and Wright have a frank exchange but the architecture looks grave for the Tigers. Suddenly Riewoldt goals and keeps them in touch 20:8. Chaplin, still with pie crumbs on his unshaven face, spoils Wood. But when Petrie opens up a baulking account by clumsily side-stepping the Talisman Deledio, men recoil in horror.
Before you know it Thomas kicks two goals and calls are put into the Spirit of Tasmania—where the hell is it? Tigers start doing their own thing and Wright loses his mind, knocking the ball from captain Swallow's hands. In the crowd, beyond the wired fence, ghoulish masks are worn, sending frights through the visitors. Riewoldt runs himself into ever diminishing circles as the curly haired man from the mask spoke bears down on him and grabs the ball.
Dennis observes this is 'a strange game in many respects.' Clouds of smoke, voodoo masks, a wolverine boy, a talisman and a crowd that looks like the cast from The Cars That Ate Paris, yeah, it's strange alright. But just when it seemed that we were living inside a tigerish3 nightmare, Lloyd provided Tiger people with that most dangerous of commodities—hope. He kicks a goal and the score is 18:40. Llloyd was the singular hope, the one untrained jedi on the Death Star but this brutal landscape is where tiger hope comes to die.
Like captain Willard travelling down the Nung river every moment draws them closer to an unsettling moment of self-reckoning. When Ray Chamberlain inexplicably blows his whistle everyone realises this is the moment of truth, life has no meaning—it's illogical, arbitrary and brutal. Just like the ground clock and giant sculpture at Blundstone.
Cunnington baulks the talisman which heralds the end. Saigon is falling and it's time to call on the choppers and head for the Victorian embassy. Vlaustin is out of action, Vickery drops a monstrous bomb, Griffiths is laid out and Brown is just nonchalantly stepping over bodies now.
The temperature is getting so low by the final quarter Hardwick sends out a search party to gather in his men and return them to base.
This is the end.
On Saturday afternoon the Giants meet Geelong at Kardinia Park and some old Cats—notably Steve Johnson—have points to prove. And he gives them 6 in short order when he goals, does a plane celebration and rubs his head. I'm giving a ping-pong warning in advance, the whole game is an unending see-saw with goals and counter goals so I'll just deal with some of the more interesting encounters.
Lobb looks very much like a half-octopus but he's twice as smart, helping clear the ball from the centre after jumping. There's a passage of play where Greene burns off Ruggles, leading Dermott to conclude 'Ruggles just got lost'. It might have been the thunder that frightened Ruggles but he soon bounds back to his spot. Good Ruggles. There's discussion that Ruggles is alleged to have missed round 10 owing to an eye infection but all I know is that his coat looks super.
Dermott, like the Old Testament prophets, is sagely predicting things as they happen or have just happened. Scully this year is all of a sudden what he was meant to be 5 years ago. He's like a miracle coma patient. Happy awakenings GWS. Mumford in a telling moment attempts to snap Blicavs like kindling but he's more like cooked spaghetti so the enterprise ends in failure.
I'm not sure if it's Dwayne Russell's intention to drive me bonkers, only Freud knows for sure, but his ready to hand hyperbole is doing my nut in. At one point McCarthy is running toward goal and we get he "stops, props, goals, misses" when the correct designation would have been he runs at goal and misses. There was no stop, no prop and no goal! Then later "It'll bounce through! It's touched on the line." Actually neither. Merde!
Patfull is carrying over his dream state from last week and wouldn't have been out of place at Blundstone. He's the Geoff Hayward of the competition. And I don't know what Danger's been catching at Moggs Creek but he looks like he's eaten a stonefish. There's a strong physicality to the game with some crazy mismatched weight divisions.
Dwayne tells us both teams are wearing big boy pants and Steve Johnson checks to make sure Mackie's not wearing Dry Nights. He also takes time out to give his greetings to the new brunette Mr Dangerfield.
In the final quarter Bartel smashes into Hopper and Dermie gets all CSI/Rodney King PA on us to find ways to sprinkle fairy dust on this. There are two dubious 50 metres to Geelong but the game remains tight. Dwayne is getting guttural and zoological and I almost wish this was a blow-out. After Hawkins goals I hear an unexpected sound—Black Sabbath's Paranoid. What is this? Anyway, Johnson tears through a pack like the Blue Flame, Blicavs jumps off the top rope to check if Wilson's head is screwed on and Lonergan is sporting a non-ironic looking mo from the set of Halt and Catch Fire.
But the Giants stay waterlogged and get run over by 10 points in a thrilling thug match.
Follow David on Twitter