Sometimes all the planning fails. Sometimes no planning at all works out. We arrived at Wilpena Pound's formerly 'luxury' accommodation early on Friday afternoon. Tour planner, Mrs Thornton, has little interest in footy and did not plan for Henry's natural desire to watch the preliminary final games but had booked two nights at Wilpena.
We unpacked and got dressed for a walk into the Pound. The return walk is something over 6 KM, more if one wishes to look around. Henry's first visit to what has become a much loved place was more than 30 years ago. One recalls vast areas empty but for occasional massive trees that Hans Heyson would have enjoyed painting.
Since then every time Henry arrives the Pound is fuller than ever of trees, trees that Hans Heyson would not have appreciated. But we set out to walk the 3.something kilometres to take a look. The bush track is the only way into the pound and consists of massive gums, some split and dead as if killed by fire, trunks of others lying in different poses, some beautiful, others ugly.
Occasional pines fight for space but their more natural home is in the previously empty Pound.
Henry was bushed by the time we arrived at the abandoned settlers hut on the edge of the Pound proper. A tree in blossom, we thought apple, was one reminder of the brave settlers who fought to make a home in the Pound. Their story is told in large story boards and will bring a tear to the eyes of all but soleless capitalists. The settlers tried sheep, cattle and wheat at a time of great drought. They fought nature to build a road out of the pound and delivered small wheat crops to Hawker, where they were declared of high quality.
In the end they went elsewhere for Christmas when a great rainfall ruined their bridge and much of their painfully constructed road.
One member of the family scratched out a living in the Pound until the 21 year lease ran out. Now only tourists walk in, as we did, or get a shuttle bus, to look at scrubby pines, feral goats, a variety of birds and occasional wallabies. At the end of the return walk, in the gloaming, Henry's feet were hurting and he wished someone was keeping the Pound more cleared to provide more opportunities for fine paintings.
The game on Friday night was Geelong verses Adelaide. After Geelong's wonderful destruction of the Sydney Swans the previous week, optimists in Melbourne were backing Geelong. They had failed to take account of Adelaide's wonderful team of players, two of the best being Caaarlton! discards during the horrible era of Mick Malthouse, who Henrty is convinced was sent from Collingwood to Caaarlton! to ruin the Blues for a generation.
In the first few moments the game was over, with former Blues doing a lot of the damage. Eddie Betts kicked the first goal and had a second goal assist, and with Sam Jacobs dominating in the ruck it was clear sign of Mick's terrible judgment or malign intent. By quarter time it was 6 goals to one and Geelong's season was over, as emphasised as their great champion Dangerfield being knocked out by his former teammate in an incident that may be 'looked at' by the committee that looks at such events.
Saturday was another day. Henry read in the local paper that the game was due to start at '3 pm CST', which probably referred to the time that the occasional comment and endless stupid advertisements started. (At home we get far clearer information about starting times and ad free play time thanks to Fox Sport. Reverting to Channel 7's mindless coverage in which two or three ads often meant the bounces after a goal was missed.) This was especially annoying during the GSW vrs Richmond.
Mrs T however, feeling kindly because of Henry's bold purchase of a new car in Mildura, previously reported, said we'd start early investigating gorges and be back in time to see the game. We visited three gorges, Bunyeroo, Brachinia and Parachilna. On our previous visit it had been wet, the creeks to be forded were more tricky and the landscape was far redder. Now was after a long dry time, and the look and feel of the landscape was very different. Still loys of Hans Heyson gums to admire and geological landscapes, now more fully noted, especially in Brachina Gorge.
We arrived back at our previously 'luxury' accommodation well before 3 pm, and indeed had time to look at an excellent exhibition of local works of art. If all our walls were not fully filled by years of collection (and, Ahem!, Editor PJ's own work) there were several that we'd have loved to buy. But time was flying and it was time to settle down for the big game - Richmond vrs Greater Western Sydney.
Richmond started dramatically. Dusty Martin grabbed the ball in the centre, ran bouncing the ball, handballed to a player in the goal square and bingo, the first goal was on the board within 15 seconds or so. Ball was returned to the centre, we missed the bounce because of mindless ads and again Dusty gave a long handpass, resulting in another goal. Essentially, the game was over, although later in the quarter a young GWS player, surnamed Himmelberg, kicked two goals and raised some hopes in the three thousand GWS fans.
Dusty himself played his characteristic game, one senses being given largely free passage by GWS players not wanting to look like dills by being pushed off apparently effortlessly. Then young Rioli kicked 4 goals, showing just what indigenous players can do, and another young indigenous player kicked five goals if memory served.
Readers will imagine Henry's frustration. Between goals, no analysis or even commentary from the supposed experts. Instead, great repetition of adds for: mattresses with new 'Three wave' technology plus 'free' pillows; some sort of floor cleaning device, with two for the price of one and wait for it, 4 for the price of one if you order now, with a free aluminium handle making it easy to reach difficult spots; a bloke dressed as a rabbit reclining on a Persian rug, urging people to contact his organisation if loans were required; an ad for voting 'No' at half time; an ad urging people to apply for government jobs in disability management; cheap diamonds; a 'miracle new magnetic duster, buy one now and get a second one free, plus a long handle for ... you guessed it, difficult to reach dust.
Anyway, despite GWS being only one point down at the half time extended ad break, it seemed obvious that they were headed for the dustbin. Richmond plays as a team, swarming around the ball, fearlessly running through packs, obviously very keen to win. Next week's grand final should be one for the ages. The golden Adelaide lads vrs the tough team players from one of Melbourne's previously working class inner suburbs. Sadly Henry shall be at a goat farm in central Queensland whose new owner says she can 'sometimes' get the TV to work. But even if it is a shonky B&W set from the 1960s with Channel Seven's telecast very fuzzy, we'll be watching.
If Channel 7's management thinks endless repetition of cruddy ads helps their business, then so bad for that business.