Horses stop play at the WACA

TMG Digital


NOON was high and nary a soul stirred on Perth’s normally bustling streets, where all that was heard was the plaintive cry of crows blotched black in the bluegums.

It was the first Tuesday in November and every Australian worth their swagger, and regardless of colour, creed or footy club affiliation, had fixed their attention on faraway Flemington for the two or so minutes it takes to run “the race stop the nation” – the Melbourne Cup.

Almost every Aussie, that is.

“Couldn’t care less, mate,” one of them said as he swaggered past a couple of unknowing Saffers who had asked the time of the off.

Even at the WACA, that cathedral of cricket, all focus was on Flemington.

The pauseless excitement of the commentary on the race boomed from the stadium’s speakers and into the quiet beyond, and every screen in the ground – including one the size of a volleyball court perched above the stands – beamed the broadcast to throngs of children engaged in some kind of marketing-led activity on the outfield.

The kids, like the groundstaff and catering workers and everyone else involved in preparations for the first test between Australia and SA on Thursday, stood as still as time itself and watched.

Even the eye of the WACA’s vigilant security staff was off the ball.

Three of them were attached enough to the television in the guardhouse to almost not notice the two Saffers approach an entrance.

But hawks will be hawks, and one spotted them just as they were about to step through the gate.

“Ah, you can go in,” the guard said, having recognised them from the previous day.

Instead the visitors stopped to take in the rest of the race with the guards.

Nothing and no-one moved until Kerrin McEvoy, in bright red cap and dark blue silks, had cajoled No. 17, Almandin, just enough for him to get his nose ahead of Heartbreak City’s and win.

Then, slowly, the security guards, the groundstaff, the caterers, the kids on the outfield, the two Saffers and everyone else at the WACA eased themselves out of the capturing quicksand and back into the firmness of reality.

In the surrounding streets the silence was melted by the reluctant resumption of daily life.

Since it had been interrupted not five minutes had passed, and with them an age.


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