A family day out

North Melbourne versus West Coast Eagles

My sister, Anne, has taken the family down to Hobart for the weekend. It’s the Cadbury Factory in the morning and footy at Bellerive in the arvo. Brother-in-law, Dean, has pulled a few strings and they’ll be in the rooms after the game. Lukey’s been practising the theme song and Anne is praying North win to avoid the usual meltdown from the little fella.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Eloise Giulia became a paid-up-and-proud Roo Girl. Some people have suggested I allow her to make up her own mind about these things. Not in this house!

Today, the excitement continues with Eloise’s first outing – a day out down the Bellarine Peninsula.

We set off late morning under brilliant sunshine. Traffic is easy on the Geelong Road and my mind wanders to today’s game. North’s roller-coaster season has found an even track after impressive wins over the Crows and Saints. The team work and run shown have returned and we find ourselves in the Eight. I’m hoping the Eagles have gone down with food poisoning or airsickness on the long trip over.

We arrive in Portarlington for lunch. Linda feeds Eloise in the car while I queue for focaccias and lattes at the bakery. We sit on the foreshore and eat while the sun sparkles on the beautiful blue bay. The view of the city is as clear as I’ve ever seen it.

The Eagles have the best of it early, with Nik Nat (my favourite player in the comp) and Cox, featuring. With Hamish in the ABC box, Goldy will be up against these two all day. I wonder aloud why Cam Pedersen hasn’t been brought in to give him a hand but neither Linda nor Eloise can offer an answer.

After lunch, I strap Eloise into the baby bjorn and we go for a stroll. North slip into gear. Youngsters Atley, Anthony and Macmillan, join Campbell, Wells and Swallow and we roll forward in waves. Tarrant and Thomas are dangerous up forward and North kick eight unanswered goals either side of quarter-time.

The Eagles wrestle some control back. Priddis and 200 gamer Kerr, bob up. Darling goals after the siren and the deficit is 27 points. For our dominance, we should be further ahead. The whole thing has an ominous feel. I think of the ’98 GF. I always do.

Eloise grows tired of my close checking during the break so we load up and head to Queenscliff.

Two quick goals to the Eagles after the resumption narrow the margin further. North dig in as we drink mirky tea in a cafe on the main drag. Cox and Nik Nat are asserting themselves. We waste chances and I know they will come back to haunt us. My digital radio dies just on three-quarter time. North by fifteen points.

To calm my nerves, I pop into the old church on the corner, now a secondhand bookstore, and leave with a Hardy Boys Adventure and a fascinating looking Henry Cooper’s Sports Spectacular Annual (1975 ed.).

Linda and Eloise cruise the shops while I sit in the car for the last term (I’ve down that a lot in my life). It is pulsating. The Eagles chase the game; North hang on for dear life. Cox is everywhere. Goldy can’t go with him anymore. We’re out on our legs.

But, with the margin a point and Linda changing a nappie on the back seat, Boomer produces one of his Specials: gather near the boundary, break a tackle, think about giving it off, don’t, banana kick, goal. Bellerive explodes. I roar ‘Yes!’ scaring the life out of Eloise who gives me a stunned mullet look.

Linda plonks Eloise in my arms and heads off for another walk. A Priddis behind – handed to him by Cox – gives the Eagles the lead. Tarrant’s fourth puts North back in front. Cox – of course – takes the lead back.

Cox marks at CHB. Cox marks on the wing. Cox. Cox. Bloody Cox.

I’m trying to control myself – I have a baby in my arms. It’s not really working. I start moaning and rocking back and forth. Eloise, whose love for the royal blue and white hasn’t kicked in yet, drifts off to sleep.

Siren. Eagles by two points.

We head home into a setting sun. Eloise and Linda are dozing and I’m mulling over missed chances. Will this season be like the last two – a few close losses costing us eighth spot?

Next round we have the Evil Empire who found form against Collingwood. Every game is crucial now.

When we get home I text Anne: How’s Lukey? Response: There were tears.

Comments

  1. I hope the Roos selectors on Thursday night thought along your lines, Andrew.
    Asst coach: What if the Eagles go down with food poisoning or airsickness on the long trip over.
    Scott (after a long pause): Let’s take that into account.

  2. Andrew Starkie says:

    Yes, it’s called controlling the uncontrollables.

  3. Peter_B says:

    Nice piece of writing, Andrew. Here’s a few observations on the game from my armchair:
    It was like a very good game of rugby union. North got it out to their running backs in the first half and cut us to pieces. Our big ‘forwards’ held it in tight from late in the 2Q and rucked it up relentlessly. In the first half we were water buffaloes, in the second you were door mice.
    You are sprinters at the moment, we are stayers. Your guys just didn’t seem to be able to sustain their running to space, or put physical pressure on our ball carriers. I came away thinking it is just a matter of strength and physical maturity for your ‘boys’. They just need another preparation or two to become a seasoned performer at the top level, but Brad Scott has them on the right track. Don’t tinker. Be patient.
    Best ‘tell/predictor’ in footy is who dominates the last 5-10 minutes before half time. Last goals in first half ALWAYS tell who has fitness and belief, even if they are playing crap. I just had belief at half time.
    My optimism grew in the second half for 2 reasons. We had lost close ones to Lions and Pies recently. Our younger players had to lose these to know how to respond under pressure when it arose again like on Saturday. It is about knowledge, not just determination. Secondly, Priddis was running to space and driving us forward consistently after half time. He is our engine, and all your brilliant young midfielders need to look at the tape (as does Brad Scott) and ask “why did none of us have the guts, brains and strength to go with him?”
    North have a lot to look forward to, as Boomer seems the only one of your list getting to the end before the rewards are due. Whether you finish 8th or 10th this year, it is a matter of putting strength and endurance into young minds and bodies.
    Great game. Swannies in Perth will be awesome. Goodes is our nightmare, and he has a lot of buddies these days.

  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    Excellent observations, Peter.

    You’re spot on about the five minutes before half-time. Round 1 Ess v North was a classic example of that. We were on top but ran out of puff in tme-on and Ess kicked five unanswered goals. We had to chase the game for the rest of the day.

    I’m loving our run. Such a refreshing change from previous game styles. However, we don’t know how to reverse an opposition run on. It comes back to the belief and knowledge you were talkign about.

    look, we’re doing a lot right and think we;ll beat Carlton on Friday night. But Scott should’ve played a second ruck on Saty against the best big man duo in the comp. That’s what cost us in the end. That and missing crucial chances in the second and third terms.

    I tend to think the Eagles will win the flag because your strengths – ruck and big forwards – are Collingwood’s weaknesses at the moment.

  5. John Harms says:

    Andrew, we were at the Werribee zoo. Got back in the car just as Harvey was kicking that ripper goal. What a bummer after that for North supporters. You are having a crazy year of all over the place results. That would have been a good one. Big matches coming up.

    PB, your near half-time thesis works in many a Geelong game of the past coupe of years – especially last year’s GF.

  6. Andrew Starkie says:

    Yeah, that one hurt. They let it slip. We needed a second ruck to help Goldy.

    The game is so intense, teams are running out of puff for periods. They can get really hurt when that happens.

  7. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Thought you had them when Boomer kicked that one late. Cox’s last 5 minutes was incredible. Hope you kill Carlton this week.

  8. Brad Carr says:

    Andrew, I juggled fatherhood and football in a slightly different way. I took a day off work during the week to be home, so that I could justify abandonning my wife and bub for the day on Sat whilst I joined my mates and went to Hobart…!!

    From a West Coast perspective, my observations are very similar to Peter’s. My mates & I started to think we were still it in late in the 2nd. We openly started to talk about the day we had at Geelong in 2006 (54 point deficit in 3rd quarter – Matty Priddis’ debut incidentally). We felt a lot riding on Darling’s after-siren kick for momentum, and took some hope with us to the lengthy queues at the back of the Southern Stand at half-time (picturesque as it is, the place is built to handle Sheffield Shield crowds of 200; they’d even run out of pies by half-time).

    I also put a big emphasis on when sides have ascendency in general play and actually convert that into scores. For 10 minutes either side of quarter-time, North did this really well. The combination of North using the footy directly, West Coast’s attempted press perhaps meaning they pushed too far up, and the short ground meant that the Eagles’ defense looked completely open, and North were damaging at this time. For the next 10 or 15, North still had the play, but didn’t inflict it on the scoreboard, and you had the sense that West Coast had clamped down a bit and created the chance to work themselves back into the game. We also sensed that the Eagles started to adapt the conditions (eg. the hard cricket square vs the soft surrounds); the centre ball-ups on the wicket area consistently went into orbit, and Naitanui took a little while to time his leap to it.

    Will cheer for North this week, and probably for the remainder of the year, there’s a lot ot like about them, although suddenly your opponent this week looks a different proposition.

    And a final thought on Hobart: there are few (possibly no) more pleasant journeys to the footy than getting a ferry from Constitution Dock to Bellrieve. Highly recommended.

  9. DBalassone says:

    Nice work. Sounds like a big day for Eloise and you’ve done very well to not take a frustraing, nail-biting loss out on the family. I always make a goose out of myself on such occasions.

    A couple of thoughts:

    Cox is surely the best ruckman of the past 20 years or so (perhaps since Simon Madden).
    The ’98 Grand FInal haunts me too and I don’t even support the Kangas.

  10. We don’t need a second ruck. Goldstein thrives on playing as the lonely ruckman. Up against Kreuzer (no Warnock + Hampson), i’m looking forward to seeing the face of smug Carlton supporters when their number one draft pick is beaten comprehensively. Tarrant and/or Hansen can give a chop-out if needed.

    Really disappointing game this one, but if you had’ve told me that we would’ve got within two points of the Eagles, I would’ve taken it. Just as long as you didn’t tell me we were 35 points up at one stage..

    I’m so confident of thumping the scum this Friday night.

  11. AF,

    I watched the match from my hotel room in Hong Kong (God bless Australia Network);
    my kids even dragged themselves away from the hotel pool to watch the last quarter.
    I agree with Josh that Goldy is best suited to rucking 85% of a match (witness his
    improved form since H’s injury), but playing against Cox (still the #1 big man in the
    comp) and Natanui is a different matter entirely.

    Some random thoughts:
    # Is not the Utah pre-season camp a gigantic waste of money if North are continually
    spent by the end of each quarter…and game?
    # Lindsay Thomas (again) cost North big time in that final term: firstly, with North six
    points up, he boots the ball out on the full from 50 under minimal pressure (just a point
    makes it a two-score game); secondly, in the final minute he takes a Lloyd-like dive
    when leading for the ball…the umps have been on to him for ages and call play on.
    # B Scott really having a shocker of a year in the box…many of his moves appear
    reactionary rather than pro-active (ironically, not unlike a former Tasmanian Test
    skipper).

  12. Andrew Starkie says:

    Josh and Smokie,

    I usually prefer Todd on his own, and obviously he does too. His form at the beginning of the season while rucking with Hamish was poor, which lead to his axing. But, when you’re up against the two best ruckmen in the game, you need help. Cam P was an emergency (again) and should been brought in to make Coxy accountable around the ground. His last term was amazing, but he didn’t have an opponent. Goldy was gone. I don’t like Drew in the ruck because I always fear for his feet. Cam P should’ve played. Going in with one ruck cost us the game.

    Yes, Thomas continues to be a ‘give with one hand, take with the other’ type player. He drives me crazy with his inconsistency, but he does give us something. His dive was terrible.

    Smokie, what do you mean? Give me an example of Scott’s reactionary coaching?

    can’t wait for Friday night. F-ing hate ’em.

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