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“A Strategy of No Strategy”

On the longform website ‘Ribbonfarm’ in February this year, American academic Adam Elkus wrote:

“One possible, if depressing, conclusion to draw from the current state [of grand strategies], is that strategy is just an illusionary abstraction that we have invented to give meaning to that which has none. We use it as a retrospective framing device to explain a complex series of events (of our own making but mostly of external provenance) that we do not understand”.

Ultimately, Elkus suggests; ‘perhaps we need ‘strategy’ simply to impose order on the world and believe that someone, somewhere, knows what the hell is going on!”

Who knew that Locho the Coach was a student of such refactored perception? Like the greats Barrassi, Sheedy, Jeans or Parkin; Locho the Coach too, is willing to proffer unusual takes on familiar and new themes in coaching being content to throw out the rule book where winning a game of footy is concerned. As it was for our seventh intra-club match on Sunday 30th July, whereby Locho the Coach took the names of all those players present and, in a grand gesture of f^&k you to the universe, threw them in the air to see upon on which position they would land! How bloody else could one explain yours truly ending up in the ruck for three quarters, only to be given sweet reprieve by that other die-hard Blues fan (there’s a few of us), Big Stu?! Ponder this punters; it’s a little known fact that the perennially under rated 1992 movie; “White Men Can’t Jump” is, in fact a biography of the author’s life – just ask his fellow members of the Year 12 “Screamin’ Pygmies” basketball team!

Yet, whilst most players were more confused than a Greens’ Senator over citizenship status, there were some amongst us who handled the switch up well owning their new-found field position. In a see-sawing match (which, let’s be honest, finally sawed against the Cats in the last quarter), Pearl, Manny, Micky S (whom I’ll anoint here on in as, the ‘Terrier’), Pete T. (as distinct from Petey T for the Cockies), and Bowie had a red-hot dip. Squirters – whom last week I called Benjamin Button – looked, this week, so young and limber that he could make a passing living in a Gentleman’s club swinging around a pole. Jock featured heavily with a couple of great goals (a little easier out of the ruck, is it, hmm?) until we found him in a Gold jumper in the last quarter. Traitor! Ox, with the odd stride down the wing (yes, folks you read that here first!) was poetry in motion and so too was Kyro; or as much as his pesky hamstring would allow. Finally, for the Cats, mention must go to Dicko, who had more yap than Yapper (is that possible?) and more spunk than his idol Dusty; minus the neck tatts (carn’ the Tiges!). Great game up front with some well-timed marks, kicks and handballs... or was it down back? I’m not sure even he knew.

As for the Cockies, Lethal and Tony (I hate to say it), dominated the centre and not just during the bounces. Tony took a couple of strong grabs in the forward line and Lethal provided a welcome link through the centre – typically smart footy from one of our elder statesman – although not the oldest as he was quick to point out during the post-match interview. Tuany (nickname ‘Bounce’?) ran all day as he oft does – at one stage laying a tackle on Cav so quickly that Cav’s support crew (i.e. yours truly) could only offer a most unhelpful; “You’re ho…”. Didn’t even have time to finish the sentence. Thankfully, Tuany decided to change sides in the last quarter to give the Cats some hope of winning… but didn’t. Lockers helped with the Centre bounces, again jumping all over… someone… and took some great grabs, followed up with accurate kicking of a major or two. Up front, BG seemed to have the ball on a string with a couple of very fancy grabs and fin kicking. And of course, when he wasn’t introducing the back of his head to the ground, Tommy Wragg had another cracker. Perhaps most pleasing of all was seeing some of the new players join the Club with a bang – witness John Hasset kicking two majors for the day – a Rising Star nomination if ever there was one!

Of course, such stellar performances must be framed within the wider context of the match itself. After a slow start in the first quarter whereby the Cockies bagged a clutch of goals with the wind, the Cats balanced in the second with some fast-paced, accurate plays and unselfish handballing. However, accurate kicking was an issue from the start, impending the Cats’ hopes of being true contenders. Not so with the Cockies who, with the strong wind AND extra plater, were never troubled - even with Cav’s impassioned plea to the Cats at the third quarter break. But arguably, therein lies the rub – was Cav trying to impose command, direction and a sense of purpose (in other words; strategy) on a clutch of Masters’ players to whom such order is anathema? Carlton would have more chance of winning the ’17 Grand Final me thinks. So well done Cockies, a great win.

Yet before we conclude, one should always take an opportunity to pause and reflect on this great game of ours; to some it is an allegory, to some a tragedy, and to others a satire. And in doing so, one might arrive at an intriguing conclusion.

Consider this, at the beginning of it all, did Locho the Coach, in revealing to us mere mortals his ‘strategy of no strategy’, demonstrate that one cannot, and should not, try to ‘win big’? Did his teachings reveal that it’s only the true master who can adapt to the situation and extend his or her lead in a very gradual, but very consistent manner? An absorbing prospect, indeed. Donatello, the irrepressible, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, once had to wholly blank his mind and fight without thinking the psychic villain Falco - who could otherwise predict Donatello’s every move. In other words, Donnie had to execute a ‘strategy of no strategy’. Similarly, was this latest intra-club match the first opportunity for Locho the Coach, in preparing for the National Carnival, to employ the same? At the National Carnival, will Locho the Coach… win without thought?

Who the hell knows?

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