“We’ll be right”

by Andrew Starkie

Western Bulldogs versus North Melbourne

2.10pm, Sunday, August 1

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

During half-time, a craggy old Northerner wobbles up beside me and rests on the railing.    He’s wearing a Kangaroo beanie and needs a walking stick to stay upright.  We get to talking and his voice is like a firecracker as he offers his opinions on our team.  He doesn’t hold back. Rawlings has gotta go – turns it over too easy.  Firrito’s a goer.  Has a dip.  The new boys?  That Anthony’s a player – gotta get him fit and back out there.  Cunnington has a crack, but makes poor decisions.

He tells me he’s been a club member for 52 years.  Born and bred in working class North Melbourne, he went to games at Arden Street with the old man as a kid.  Stood on the terraces in the outer and walked home crying pretty often during the dark years when we hardly won a game.  He’s seen them all play. Carey’s the greatest ever Kangaroo.  Best to have played the game full stop.  Better than Ablett; more consistent.

He reminds me of a gnarly, old boxing trainer.  Somewhere between Johnny Lewis and Micky from Rocky.  I can see him holding the lumpy heavy bag for some busted up, tattooed brawler.  Both still hoping for their shot at glory.  Their yellow brick road; they’re Apollo Creed.

At three-quarter time, we trail by five goals and a long season is beginning to weigh on our young team.  The old fella silently disappears.  I don’t expect to see him again, but he reappears a few minutes later breathing darts all over me.  We’re standing on the flank, behind the Bulldogs members’ section, ground level, but it doesn’t stop him sharing his opinion about their team.  Been a bloody disappointment, this lot.  Soft.  A few Bullies give us a glare. He keeps going.  Hall’s a sniper; king-hitter.  Cooney’s alright.  When Gia kicks his fifth in the last term, he tells me his son used to play with him at St. Paul’s, Altona.  Dominated back then as well.  The Bulldogs are running over North, but he isn’t impressed.  The score line’s flattering.  Shut up! he yells, when Bulldog supporters rip into the umpires for giving us a dodgy free.

North wilt and the Bulldogs kick nine goals to two in the last quarter.  The final margin is 71 points – a behind greater than when the teams played in round 9.  Cross has worn Swallow down and collected 10 tackles.  Bazza finishes with seven.  We’ve received half a dozen thumpings to higher placed teams this season.  Give us a few years, the old fella says.  We’ll be right – we’ve got a good coach.  He wishes me all the best and wobbles off into the largely Bulldog throng and out into the cold and wet late afternoon.  I hope we meet again.  I’ll keep an eye out for him.

Earlier in the day, I arrived at the ground and bumped into cousin Nick and his boys.  They were up from Hamilton for the half-time Auskick game.  Nick had the job of goal umpire.  He and the other dads carried the look of flustered tour guides as they herded the boys to their reserved seats, so I took my leave and found my spot.  Nephew Lukey had pulled out so I was on my own.  He was too crook to go to school on Friday, so his mum said there was no way he was going to the footy.

In the first half, we started each quarter well.  Our pressure was good early in the first term and Wright pounced on turnovers to kick two goals.  However, as it’s been all season against the better teams, the Bulldogs’ run and forward targets took over.  Griffen and Cross won clearances and Jonno provided sparkle up forward.  He’s always been good to watch.  Jonno goaled and Gia and Hall kicked two each.  McIntosh was on the end of an attractive passage of play late in the term and brought the margin back to 17 points.

Boomer started the second term in a pocket and goaled twice to bring North to within a few points.  Murphy and Williams started to run from half-back.  The latter crept all the way in and goaled.  Gia and Hall scored again.  Much of the term was played between the half-forward lines until Adams kicked a late goal to have North within 15 points at half-time.

The second half was a debacle.  Thankfully I had someone to talk to.

On the walk back to the car after the game, I’m carried along by the river of Bulldog support.  I receive pats on the back and genuine good-lucks for next season.  I spot a young girl I taught a few years ago and she gives me a shy smile.  It’s good to see she’s still on the Bullies.

The Roos have lost again, but I’ve had a good day.  Like the old fella said, we’ll be right.

Bulldogs 6.2    9.3    13.7    22.11 (143)
North Melbourne 3.3    6.6    8.8      10.12 (72)

GOALS


Western Bulldogs:
Hall 7; Giansiracusa 5; Griffen 3; Higgins, Johnson, Higgins, Grant, Wood, Jones, Moles.
North Melbourne: Harvey 3; Wright Adams 2; McIntosh, Hansen, Edwards.

BEST


Western Bulldogs:
Boyd, Hall, Morris, Griffen, Williams, Picken
North Melbourne: Adams, Harvey, Wright, Lower

Official crowd: 28,038 at Etihad Stadium

The Jason Danilchenko Award

3 – Adams

2 – Harvey

1 – Wright

Comments

  1. Stephen George says:

    Andrew,

    Love the take on the game.

    The ‘craggy old’ Northerner’s opinion I think is shared by most of us supporters. Good kids, good coach who has worked with Matthews and Malthouse (can’t get much better) and he speaks well about where the club is heading.

    Couldn’t agree more that ‘we’ll be right’.

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