The Once And Future Kings
It should come as no surprise that coronation sensation is sweeping the nation here in the UK. It’s been almost 70 years to the day since the last one, so it makes sense that people are excited.
All the Union Jack bunting that was so carefully put away after last year’s Platinum Jubilee has been unfurled and strung up anywhere that’ll hold the weight, while the nation’s brass bands are no doubt assiduously practising the theme from “Charles in Charge” ready for a weekend of performances in every church hall from St Abakerazum to St Zephyrinus.
And while my views on the royal family are more aligned with Russia circa July 1918 - except for Edward VIII's reported grandchild Scott Chisholm of course - there is a King I'd happily bend the knee to: King Matthew II.
The King in the West
It seems unfair to write a man's eulogy before he's cold but I suspect we have seen Matt Taberner's last game in purple - and we fans are worse for it.
Tabs is a throwback to a simpler time in Freo history. There was no weight of expectation, and the team couldn't play slowly because there was no handbrake to pull. Entertainment was key, winning was an added bonus. And each week our 22 was littered with players who could make the difficult look mundane, and vice-versa.
At his best, Tabs could look like mid-1990s Wayne Carey on the footy field. At his worst, he could look like early 2020s Wayne Carey at the Burswood Casino. Capable of running his defender ragged and taking a huge contested grab on the wing, then nearly missing his foot with the kick. To his teammates he might be "The Duck" but to my mates and me, he's just "King".
Tabs will always be indelibly linked to my time living in London. In 2015, my Dockers-loving mates and I would gather at one of our houses at all hours to watch the games - and usually wash a stellar performance down with a full English at one of our local haunts.
Tabs quickly became a favourite, and we'd be on "Beavis Watch" - given the big man's passing resemblance to one half of Mike Judge's famous duo - to see if we'd be treated to "Graberner" or "Craberner" that week. Shouts of "here's your crown Your Majesty" and demanding Alexa play "King of Kings" by Mötörhead became part of the ritual over the following years.
I remember waking up early one morning after a date the night before and attempting to watch the game silently on my phone. Clearly, it wasn't silent enough, and we ended up watching The King tear Brisbane a new one. No doubt there's a woman somewhere in the UK who thinks the great man is the greatest of all time based on the one game of AFL football she half-watched and likely doesn't remember. There wasn't a subsequent date.
Against The Odds
We've all seen the statistics about what percentage of drafted AFL players hit certain milestones. That number is a lot smaller when you only factor in rookie-listed players. For Tabs to hit 120 career games in an outstanding achievement given where he started.
But I refuse to buy into the "well he was only a rookie - what else can we expect" narrative. No one bangs Fyfe as only a second-rounder when he misses a shot for goal. No one decried Tom Brady for being picked at 199 every time he threw an interception. Tabs is imperfect and frustrating, but he's also shown the quality of an elite AFL forward on more than one occasion. If nothing else, he's a win for our talent identification programme.
Saying a player has "got every ounce of their ability out of themselves" is the ultimate backhanded compliment in sports. Sadly, I think Tabs' body has stopped him from doing that and I think it's let him down one last time now. Sure, he's not yet 30 at the time of writing but it's a long way back - if you'll pardon the pun.
When it's not been his body, too often I believe he's been beaten before the ball is bounced. No one could give WAFL fullbacks nightmares like Tabs, nor has anyone teed off on the hapless Lions or Bombers other than Damien Barrett. He's always struck me as the sort of player who looks at his opponent and thinks "I'm going to give this bloke a bath today". Often he's done just that.
But often I think he's got suckered into playing the man as well. We're all guilty of watching him wrestle his opponent rather than push off and lead at the ball-carrier. Worse still are his back leads to the pocket. At least - for some reason - he's a better set shot from 45° than he is straight in front. Like a high school teacher watching that year's scallywag graduate, I'll miss getting frustrated by him not making the most of his ability.
Hopefully, we haven't seen the last of Tabs at the AFL level. At 29, there’s still plenty of time for a late-career resurgence ala Taylor Walker, and I believe he still has something to offer the team - even if that’s commanding the opposition’s number one defender. And besides, I’ll miss him when he takes off the purple and white for the last time.
The Heir Apparent
Like the family Windsor, we all know who's next in line for the throne. Prince Jye is the darling being groomed to take over, while Joshua, The Black Prince is less refined but offers a harder edge. And then there are sundry Earls and Dukes in Kuek, Benning and Draper all awaiting some Game ofhold for Dead Eye Jye.
On Saturday, while King Chuck is getting his shiny new hat, perhaps we'll see a new king of our crowned at Optus Stadium. The season may be slipping away but every game is a chance for one of our young forwards to pull the sword from the stone and announce that although the King may not yet be dead, they're ready to take the throne.
Thrones-style plotting to take their place.
It doesn't matter who it is for most Freo fans, as long as it's someone. Like John Cleese in The Life of Brian, we know a Messiah when we see one because we've followed a few.
I like what I've seen from Amiss so far, and am fairly sure that if he'd been doing what he's doing for a Victorian team he'd be drawing similar plaudits to the league's other emerging forwards. Down games are going to happen, but the flashes of brilliance outside his lead-mark-kick game get me excited about what the future may