Who’s on top as underdog?

Peter Farago
If everybody is claiming to be the underdog, then who’s dog is on top?
That’s the question after the Independent polled the region’s major party candidates before the November 25 state election.
Almost all major party candidates in Geelong’s Lower House seats declared they were the underdogs.
Why is everyone so desperate to be seen as an underdog?
Do Australians like the underdog? Well, pretty much.
It’s an Australian trait to support the “battler” who takes on the odds.
Whether they win is not the point. Fighting above your weight, is more important.
There are some famous Australian groups that have been immortalised for underdog status.
Australia II’s win in the America’s Cup is probably this nation’s most famous example of a win against the odds, considering the New York Yacht Club’s traditional hold of the Auld Mug.
But over the years there are other examples.
Australia’s christening as a true nation was not January 1, 1901, but April 25, 1915, when the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli in the First World War.
More recently, Australia’s Socceroos were considered underdogs unfairly treated by world referees and Italian footballers at the 2006 World Cup of football.
Electorally, the Bracks Govern-ment’s rise to power in 1999 is also a tale of an underdog claiming victory.
But can Mr Bracks’s Geelong charges truly claim they’re underdogs on November 25?
Labor MPs Michael Crutch-field and John Eren and Liberal challengers Michael King, Scott Dixon, Angelo Kakouros and Don Gibson this week told the Independent they were underdogs.
Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville wouldn’t say she was an underdog but said she faced a “very tight contest” against Mr Gibson.
Only Member for Geelong Ian Trezise refused to speculate.
But looking at the results of the 2002 election sheds some light on the claims of underdog status.
Ms Neville was .25 per cent shy of an absolute majority at the last election, using Greens preferences to claim 58.25 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.
And if recent reports run true, the ALP don’t think Ms Neville is the underdog as her name has been mentioned as a candidate for cabinet.
If she wins, Ms Neville could be the city’s first minister since Neil Trezise.
Ian Trezise didn’t need preferences in 2002, attracting 50.6 per cent of voters ahead of Liberal candidate and former Geelong mayor Stretch Kontelj.
Mr Crutchfield could definitely claim he was the underdog prior to the 2002 vote when the former Geelong mayor faced history as his biggest foe in the Liberal stronghold of South Barwon.
But he claimed an eight per cent lead on Liberal incumbent Alister Paterson, stretched to 10 per cent after preferences.
However, the spotlight has been on the Labor MP after indiscrete comments about police on staffing issues and to constituents irate over the Government’s bypass decision.
Perhaps he’s right claiming his back is to the wall.
But Mr Eren’s claim is perhaps farthest from reality.
Mr Eren is standing for Labor in Lara after Peter Loney was elbowed into retirement in a party reshuffle in the region.
Mr Loney won nearly 65 per cent of votes at the last election against the Liberal’s candidate, then-Geelong councillor Linda Ristevski.
But while the electoral landscape shows the Liberal’s are a long way behind across the region, the reality is different courtesy of a concerted effort to win the hearts and minds of voters – especially in Bellarine and South Barwon.
However, the question remains: if everyone is the underdog, who is on top?

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