Out of home and off to Darwin for some Suns
''I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.'' Maya Angelou
I'VE been thinking a fair bit about home this week, or the notion of what it means to find home. The main reason for that is because I've been kicked out of mine.
My humble abode has been in the throes of renovation for the past year or so, and this week it's the floors that have been put to work. My wife has taken the kids down to her mum's in Tynong, and I've been left to my own devices.
Well, that's not entirely true. Actually, I've moved in with our German exchange student, Will Minson.
If this amuses you, I'm not surprised - even the mere thought of living with Will has always amused me. If I had to describe our friendship, I would say that it's more like that of two brothers - we have long, in-depth chats about just about everything you could think of, and more often than not these chats end in a row.
And just like brothers, we dust ourselves off and start up again.
Put it this way: when you walk into my house one of the first things you see is a framed picture of Elvis. As you enter chateau Minson, you're greeted with a picture of Miles Davis, with a saxophone leaning against the wall underneath it.
This subtle difference in tastes perfectly encapsulates how the two of us are kinda the same, yet kinda different.
Jazz is just one of the things we don't agree on. Just the other night, as we sat up on the couch, I complained that I was still a bit hungry and was thinking about having a bowl of muesli. Will offered to cook up some fish he had in the freezer. It was 10pm. I told you he was different.
The Dogs head up to Darwin this week and, like our German ruckman, this trip is a unique experience. Playing interstate is just part of the caper at AFL level, but the preparation for Darwin is a little more delicate, and it's basically down to the heat.
When we fly to Darwin, there will be roughly 15 degrees difference in temperature from when we board the plane at Tullamarine to when we get off at Darwin airport. Throw in the humidity and it's a different ball game.
For the past few weeks our fitness staff, headed by Bill Davoren, have had us doing one or two training sessions a week in a room that's heated to simulate the conditions we'll encounter. As a pale-skinned Paddy with the mist of the rolling green hills of Ireland running through my veins, it's going to take a bit more than a heat chamber to have me completely acclimatised. I will melt, no two ways about it. But with the help of sports science, I'm hoping to get through the two hours before I start seeing stars.
Culturally, Darwin is a long way from Melbourne as well. Along with the welcome warmth, it provides a bit of a kick along for our players in what is a long year.
It's a funny kind of place in lots of ways. I call it the land of unswimmable beaches, the land where every geographical location - from the local shops to the Kimberley region - is ''20 minutes away''.
But the thing that sticks in my memory is that it's also the land of backflipping kids. If you ever want to see what pure joy looks like, you need to get out to the indigenous communities of the Top End to see these whippet-thin boys and girls run and flip, end-over-end-over-end, just because they can.
There's a bit of a serendipitous feel this week heading way north, because our visit falls during the indigenous round. I can think of no better place to be at this time.
A few years ago, my Bulldogs and I were in the territory on the same day Kevin Rudd gave his famous ''Sorry'' speech. As a team, we took a walk around the streets and parks of Darwin that morning, and I was kind of expecting to walk into a party atmosphere. But the streets were quiet, and perhaps that was more fitting.
On Saturday night we will come up against an opponent in Gold Coast, which will be bruised after last week's loss and ready for a rumble. After the inevitable frenetic opening, when the game finds its rhythm, it could come down to who feels most at home.