Before their arrival, the cat from next door had spent most of its days sunning itself in our garden, strolling insolently across fences, or perched in high spots as it patrolled our property with little respect for its boundaries. Maxi and Luka have been zealous in ensuring – or attempting to ensure - this unacceptable situation would not continue.
Every morning when I open the front door to retrieve the paper, they charge out past me as though shot out of a cannon. Yet quite often, as they prowl around sniffing for evidence of the cat’s whereabouts, I can see, on the other side of the garden, the cat curled up quietly, exuding contempt for their pitiful bravado.
One morning recently I opened the door to find the cat had left a ‘present’ for the two of them – an emphatic, smelly statement - on the doormat. Unfortunately the dynamic duo sped past the poo-ey offering, hurtling instead towards the rose bushes, where there was no evidence of the cat whatsoever.
There’s a footy metaphor there, and I’m not afraid to milk it.
Loyal, feisty, dedicated yet somehow hapless Dogs…versus supercilious, scornful, arrogant, haughty Cats.
It's Geelong’s theme song, boldly proclaiming that they’re ‘the greatest team of all’ … while the Dogs can only muster:‘We give our very best.’
It’s Joel Selwood, with his patented sneer and curled upper lip (adopted with considerable success by Toby Green), versus the noble pedigree of The Bont.
Gary Ablett, with his uncanny resemblance to Voldemort, versus the swashbuckling good looks of our captain Easton Wood.
The petulant Scott brother factor, vs our Plantaganet-lookalike coach with his endearingly cryptic utterances.
No, I don’t like the Cats, who’ve tormented us for so long, any more than Maxi and Luka do.
Dislike, and fear of them doing to us what they’ve done so consistently over the past decade and more, isn’t the reason, however, that I’m not in attendance on Saturday night. A nasty bug has me in its grip.
I sit on the couch, surrounded by tissues, while Our Boys take on our sworn enemies, currently, of course, top of the ladder and certainties to inflict on us the bi-annual dose of pain and humiliation.
I decide not to actually watch the game in real time… and it’s not just for fear of a relapse if the Dogs perform poorly. Lately I’ve come to the conclusion it’s just too horrible and stress-inducing to watch footy on TV, where the mistakes get magnified, the commentators are annoying and banal, and you’re divorced from your fellow supporters and their emotions, unable to share their moans, groans, gasps and cheers.
A few sneaky looks at how the match is progressing on Twitter confirm that things are unfolding according to the 2019 template. There are mentions of turnovers, appalling skills, inexplicable misses in what sounds like a lackluster contest. Laments about why we keep kicking it to Bloody Harry Taylor make me relieved I'm not there, though it's only too easy to picture how it's unfolding.
I let out a pitiful sigh, which may just be the virus, or perhaps the accumulation of too many matches like this, where the cast of characters may change, but the outcome has a painful familiarity.
But, seeing that we’re still technically within reach, trailing by ten points (mind you, a big enough lead considering our struggles to score), a few minutes into the last quarter, I think I might as well switch on, just see how Our Boys are travelling.
Almost instantly, perhaps galvanised by my sniffly and croaky support, our team begin peppering the goals, and unbelievable things start to occur. I’m not sure which is the more startling and unexpected event – that the Dogs, despite playing in such heavy conditions in Adelaide, are finding another gear, going forward relentlessly again and again, with the Astro-Naut grabbing marks at will – or that both Joel Selwood AND Gary Ablett are pinned for holding the ball. This is such a rarity that each of them is incredulous, while the words ‘Sooky-la-la’, quite unbecoming from one of my vintage, escape my lips. (Not to mention an undignified fist pump when younger Bulldog brigade members, Smith of the Bailey variety and 'Monica' Lipinski, get right into the face of Joel Selwood after we score one of four quick-fire goals).
Maxi and Luka hastily decamp from my lap, which is no longer warm, comfortable and safe. I enter a state of agitation. We’re sixteen points up, but the Dogs of 2019 have found such leads hard to defend. And this is Geelong after all.
The Cats send the ball into their forward line. You just know Bloody Tom Hawkins will take a strong mark; but instead Easton Wood swashbuckles his way into the contest, leaping over the top of him to send the ball away with a mighty punch.
There are scrambles of play in the backline, where you can just imagine Voldemort snapping a miracle goal; instead, forward-line hero Astro-Naut is among the knot of players just metres from their goal-line, safely squeezing out a handball to his team-mates, who sweep it from the danger zone.
There’s Gary Rohan, running towards an open goal; but the giant mitts of The Bont wrap around him and avert disaster.
There’s Jackson Trengove, taking a well-judged mark on the last line of defence, and…(#$@%) kicking it straight back to Bloody Tom Hawkins.
Will The Greatest Team of All find another way to break our hearts, even though we really have Given Our Very Best?
I can hear the chaotic bedlam at the stadium, the frantic din of my fellow fans trying to will Our Boys home, and, stranded helplessly on the couch, I feel even sicker than ever.
There’s a massive play in the centre of the ground. That frail-looking, elfin Toby McLean, wraps a Geelong player who is about to propel the ball forward in a crunching, match-winning tackle. JJ sets off on a run. The Dogs have held on. The Dogs have beaten the Cats!!
In the euphoria I don't even mind that the two teams provide a guard of honour (WHAT?) for Tragician Hall of Infamy Megastar: Umpire Shane McInerney who's apparently clocked up a milestone...which presumably isn't the one that instantly springs to my mind - a record number of critical and blatantly unjustified free kicks paid against the Western Bulldogs.
The next morning, as I open the front door, Maxi and Luka zoom out into the garden with renewed energy and enthusiasm for their pointless chase.
There’s an extra spring in the steps of Dogs and those that love them, and the Cat From Next Door is nowhere to be seen.