“Oh! Had enough, eh?” taunted the Black Knight while defending a feeble bridge in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, refusing to admit defeat after King Arthur rendered him armless and legless.

That’s how it was on the fair fields of Kardinia against the Suns as the Cats lost teammates instead of limbs, protected a vulnerable lead (minus the Python character’s delusional cockiness) and defended reputations.

The Suns are on their own quest for revered silverware and Kardinia Park is, to them, another battlefield, and Moggies another foe, en route to glory at the ‘G in September when victorious crusaders are crowned.

So, newly anointed King Rodney and his band of sun-drenched soldiers marched into town to storm a feline fortress not as formidable as recent legend decreed. But when Corio Bay stirs, Kardinia Park remained as bleak and uninviting as any unruly outpost.

I had journeyed south from Benalla, near barbarian border regions, and stopped in central parts of the dominion to watch the skirmish on the picture box. Though, it wasn’t just weather preventing me venturing further. Dark Ages threatened.

In recent times it often seemed like we were going through the motions, risk taking by rote. Was King Chris too measured? Was he a good people manager, but lacking in tactical nous? Was he in denial about the troops? Our best was often still good enough; we just had trouble sustaining battles for a whole campaign. Where was the spark? We weren’t as much fun to watch any more. We needed some Merlin magic.

Pre-season reports about new recruit, Mitch Clark adding attacking weapons, along with the young brigade being a year older gave hope we could cover the retirements of veterans, and those exiled, or deserting for greener pastures. Unfortunately, early encounters against Hawks and Dockers suggested our strategic plan was lost in that Sleepy Hollow forest where headless horsemen roam.

Today’s bitter forecast bode well for the boys, though viewing it from the comfort of a villa in bushy Alma, conditions appeared benign – the sun was out, but so was spearhead, Tom Hawkins. Balancing that, Sir Gazzahad, the golden child, sat in the stands to watch suitors fight it out.

The handkerchief hit the turf! The Cats advanced early. Old warhorse, Bartel, laid a strong tackle, and we gained first advantage courtesy of Lang and Walker’s youthful combine. The Suns were prepared for combat too – Garlett wounded us with a goal-of-the-year contender following a long, adrenalin-charged run, but Clark’s attempt to chase and harass impressed almost as much.

King Chris looked different – has he lost weight? Gone on a diet of grain and berries?

Sir Steve Johnson was a knight in rusty armor and couldn’t get into the fray; though attendants weren’t helpful – delivery often fell short.

Gold Coast gained territory early, but we held firm. An entertaining, first-quarter joust ended with Suns up by seven.

Then the Hawk and Dockers defeats returned to haunt. We became confused soldiers, made errors, missed targets, got in each other’s way and lost confidence quicker than warriors. We were crucified by adjudicators – a slight exaggeration, though, my fair sis, a neutral supporter who was also paying attention at the time, and without any prompting by me, made an aside comment to similar effect. The loyal subjects were also in no doubt and screamed for the men in lemon to be banished to the dungeons.

The war of attrition was in full swing.

The Suns parried – Bartel’s knee was head-butted into the Moorabool trenches.

They stormed – Lonergan’s head was pummeled by a knee.

They thrust – Stokesy hobbled off on one leg.

“You are, indeed, brave, sir knights, but the four points are ours,” they pronounced.

Captain Selwood used his head as a battering ram and drew blood. You could imagine him scoff like the Black Knight, “I’ve had worse.”

Skies darkened and lanterns were lit. We were on our knees.

“Stand aside worthy adversaries,” they ordered.

“Bugger off to your beaches,” was the reply. 

Though, we were more head-down and bum-up grit and determination than Black Knight-taunting.

But sublime breezes don’t toughen as much as Antarctic winds. Gold Coast, while talented, tall and agile weren’t battle-hardened enough to put us to the sword. So, Captain Selwood polished the shiner, rose from his slumber – and a ground-shaking collision that heralded precipitation and a goal by Clark – and marshaled troops; the faithful recovered from their lethargy to bellow and raise tankards; I shouted at the picture box. The Moggie mascot meowed its mock roar five times unanswered. Even King Chris came down from the war room to campaign at ground level. The sense of urgency was back like an old comrade.

Raw recruits and old campaigners united as one. Blicavs played his most important role, Stanley became motivated, Clark was eager, Gregson provided run and spark, Walker covered for Tomahawk, Taylor rediscovered his marking powers, but Sir Steve couldn’t get that bouncing oval ball to behave and pop up on the marshier ground, and seemingly weighed down by chainmail, medallions or too many banquets, couldn’t reach below his knees. He’ll be back.

When Blicavs nailed the sealer and the final siren sounded, Captain Sel, the one-eyed Cyclops, had the ball in his hands and speared it into the turf with defiant satisfaction.

The Vandals would be quiet tonight.

We won the contest but Gazza the Glorious was lost forever.

It was 6pm; Channel V11 dashed off to be town criers and allowed time for reflection,

The victory road to shiny silverware is paved with desire. We prevailed due to that attribute.

It was a win equal to many from our golden age – not as pretty to watch, but one of the finest bouts of perseverance from the greatest-team-of-all mob. I would have concluded similarly were we thwarted.

It doesn’t mean the renaissance is nigh, it might even be a dead-cat-bounce win, but it was something to build a plank on and had me accepting transition theory.

The Gold Coast could even be closer to the Holy Grail than us, but if the lads keep putting up that sort of effort, footy life in the Kingdom of Kardinia will be far from bleak.

Geelong          5.3       7.6       13.8     16.9     (105)

Gold Coast      6.5       8.12     9.15     13.18   (96)

GOALS Geelong: Walker 4; Caddy, Gregson, Motlop 2; Clark, Lang, Thurlow, Johnson, Selwood, Blicavs.
Gold Coast: Lynch, Martin 3; Matera 2; Rischitelli, Hall, Garlett, Day, Miller.

BEST    Geelong: Selwood, Kelly, Enright, Walker, Blicavs, Gregson.
Gold Coast: Rischitelli, McKenzie Lynch, Bennell, Prestia.

            UMPIRES          Bannister, Stephens, McInerney.       CROWD 20,813

            OUR VOTES      Selwood (G) 3, Rischitelli (GC) 2, Walker (G) 1.

The above piece appeared in the 2015 edition of the Footy Almanac, an eclectic collection of writing about Aussie Rules.