January 2, 2008

Geoff Derwent, president of Horsham Demons footy club, was a man who could make things happen for you. He’d put on muscle when a man would murmur a needy story in his shell-like. Appearing distracted by efforts of the senior team, he’d interrupt once he got the gist of the tale and pointedly demand ‘Tell me, what is it you need to happen” and, if it aligned with his business and footy interests, he’d do what he could to affect that outcome.


Maddy wasn’t an administrator. He had pleaded with Geoff to handle Layla’s registration with the Victorian Athletic League and subsequent entrance into The Gift. Geoff had impressed Maddy with the dramatic recounting of how he had personally brought the registration to Olympic Park in Melbourne and had stood over the lady to ensure she had typed it all in and authorized it. Of course, it had been convenient for Geoff to do this. He had an already scheduled meeting nearby at the MCG. Additionally, not having fully filled out the registration form, he was able to concoct some acceptable responses to blank questions by harassing the clerk into believing he had more important things to attend to than this banal bureaucracy.


Things had gone well until Billy Vandenhoff, a Stawell handicapper had phoned the club. Billy had history with Maddy – they had faced each other on the footy field for a number of bloody battles in the late sixties and early seventies. Once, Billy had a bit of bed rest at Horsham Hospital due a broken jaw, courtesy of Maddy. Ouch.



“Ah g’day Maddy, how yez going. Billy Vandenhoff here.”



“Vandenhoff? You bastard. How yez traveling? How’s the jaw?”



“Ah good thanks Maddy, good. Now, Maddy, I’m calling you in connection with an entrant in The Gift. You have been put down as the contact. It’s a Layla Parkin. And, I must say, it explains a lot. I always thought your mob played like girls.”



“Aw you’re shitting me? Turn it up, surely it’s a conflict of interests for you to have anything to do with one of our mob?”


[Billy, gravely]:

“I assure you Mr Quigley I execute my duties in a most professional and disinterested fashion.”



“Alright then Billy, give it to me straight.”



“Yes, well I felt it important to let you know that Ms Parkin has been accepted to perform as a pedestrian at The Gift. She will start off scratch.”



“You rotten piece of …. On what basis would this young girl not get the maximum handicap? Go on, tell me Billy.”



“Of course, you will receive the full details of the handicap determination in the post but let me just give you a preview. First, she’s a new athlete; she hasn’t competed at any of our carnivals so the best I could give her is the Open novice mark. Then I considered her age. She had a reasonable time in the 100 metres underage Victorian championships last year. Now, young athletes tend to improve considerably so I felt I had to pull her back a bit for that. I have a few other points but all in all it’s just as well we don’t allow athletes to start behind scratch because that’s where I would have been forced to put her. She starts off scratch or not at all.”


[Maddy, fuming]:

“You know what. I won’t speak to you anymore. I’m putting the club president Mr Derwent on, he’ll rip you a new arse.”


Maddy got Geoff, explained the situation to him and led him to the phone where, surprisingly, Billy was still waiting.



“Mr Vandenhoff, Geoff Derwent here. How are you? I believe we met at a church outing some years ago.”



“Yes, indeed we did, indeed we did. Yeah look we’re good. And you? I seem to remember that your wife was with child.”



“Yeah, we’re good too, good. Little Arnold is five now. Anyhow Billy, Maddy here tells me that you are having trouble figuring out what mark to give Layla. She’s just a young girl you know, very popular at the club, we want to give her a day out you know. She won’t be in amongst them at the end but with a mark of ten metres at least she’ll be in touch for longer.”



“Would that I could Geoff, would that I could. You should have access to a copy of how we go about setting the handicaps. You’ll see it includes a very comprehensive set of guidelines. It’s a complicated calculation that a handicapper has to grapple with but we find we invariably achieve the best results for all concerned. Scratch it is and all the best to her as well.”



“I think you have probably miscalculated this time Billy. I’ll lodge an appeal.”



“By all means Geoff. You can get the appeal form from the internet. Although you should be aware that time is against you. First, you need to base your appeal on our official handicap determination. I will post it Monday but if you want to drive down Geoff then I’ll be sure to leave a copy under a brick outside the office. Once you’ve completed and lodged the appeal, it will be heard within seven days but of course that can be extended to fourteen days in certain circumstances, i.e. the busy time around Stawell. So get cracking Geoff and good luck with it.”



“A word of advice Billy. Be very careful.”



“Good advice Geoff.”



“Yes, you be very careful. I’m sure we’ll meet very soon.”



“I look forward to it. Maybe when you pose for the winning photographs.”



There were two very angry men in the office. They knew an appeal would have Buckley’s chance. This was just another attempt by those Stawell wankers to big note themselves. Geoff explained to Maddy that he shouldn’t have involved himself in the subtle process of negotiation. He should have put Vandenhoff straight through to him to be worked on before Vandenhoff declared his determination. It’s a negotiation, you have to think things through and not back people into a corner. People should stick to what they are good at. A couple of tinnies later, Geoff realized why he was where he was and all those other galahs were where they were. The way forward was revealed to him during quiet contemplation.



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