This was the game we really needed to win. Round 17, just outside the top eight on percentage (quite a bit) and a win over Essendon would see North Melbourne climb into the eight.
Providing that Carlton lost to the Eagles over in the west. For some reason, the AFL fixtured this game to be shown on free-to-air instead of the match at Etihad Stadium. The radio would be my friend for the next couple of hours. Tuning into the ABC, I listened for the familiar sound of the Etihad Stadium siren. But I heard the blaring from Subiaco Oval instead. Great, but at least they would cross to Melbourne for the scores.
I was very nervous about the game in Melbourne, the game in Perth, I couldn’t give a stuff about. Well, I really hoped Carlton would lose so North could get into the eight, but I know that the Roos won’t feature in September.
The ball was bounced at Subi and Andrew Strijk impressed after a Carlton turnover, kicking a goal across his body before Jarrad Waite got a free kick for reasons unknown to me after Eddie Betts missed from 50m out. It was quarter time at Etihad, Essendon led by a couple of goals. Back to Subiaco, Mark LeCras, fresh from a lazy 12 against Essendon, saved his best for the new week with a very impressive grubber goal in the forward pocket while outside the boundary line. Brad Ebert marked and goaled, before a late major to Jeff Garlett after the quarter time siren saw the Eagles lead by four points at quarter time, 3.3 to a wasteful Carlton 2.5.
The second quarter started with Ebert kicking his second on the run, before Waite again replied after Ashton Hams met Dennis Armfield in a contest, forcing the chunky forward to be reported and Armfield to be taken from the field. LeCras kicked a great goal on the run from 50m out, before a mark and 50m penalty saw him boot his third. Josh Kennedy marked uncontested in the forward line, played on and snapped dangerously across his body for goal, giving the Eagles a 23-point lead. Chris Yarran kicked his first just before half time, but it was Hams who kicked his first after the siren from a very tight angle, West Coast leading by 26 at the main break.
At half time I went on the Internet to check the stats from the game at Etihad. Essendon led by 22 points, but the Roos pegged a couple back and as I left the computer room to head back to watch the match on TV, I was quietly confident.
The third quarter at Subiaco saw Carlton kick the first four behinds before Betts marked in the goalsquare, played on and kicked the goal. I head on the radio that it was three quarter time in Melbourne, and Essendon were clinging onto the slender lead they had. Lachie Henderson actually did something, marking on the lead before converting, but LeCras almost bettered his previous goal in the first quarter with an effort from 50m out on the boundary, but the ball found Hams all alone in the goalsquare, he goaled, then Kennedy marked on his own and put through his second. West Coast were back out by 21 points, but again Carlton came, with Garlett kicking a goal on the run. I tuned into the radio and learnt that the Roos had taken the lead. Yes! Chris Judd took two bounces and kicked a captain’s goal from just inside 50. Chris Yarran goaled on the run to cut the deficit to two points, before Marc Murphy gathered at a stoppage and put it through to give his side the lead for the first time on the night. Then the ball went forward again, with Garlett missing the ball on the lead but leaving it for Murphy to mop up and kick the goal from the goalsquare. An extraordinary quarter from Carlton saw them take the lead at the last change, 11.16 to 10.11.
I decided to leave the warmth of my bedroom and go on the main computer to listen to the final moments unfold at Etihad. Essendon leading by 10 points at the 25th minute mark of the final quarter, my heart started beating harder as I heard the voice of Hamish McLachlan describing the play. Todd Goldstein drifted forward to mark but missed, but Levi Greenwood was able to kick his second goal to cut the margin to three points with 35 seconds left. Last time North played on Saturday night at Etihad, Greenwood was the hero against the Brisbane Lions with a goal from the boundary at the death. Tonight, he could have been a semi-hero. Brent Harvey won the ball forward for North as McLachlan started to shout what was happening. He was excited, North were going to win. Then I heard two ugly words that weren’t welcome. Dustin Fletcher. And with that, the siren went, Essendon had won by three points. I slumped in my chair, and took heart in the fact that North, who are a side that are continuously criticised for not scoring heavily enough, posted the highest losing score of the year. I was also pleased with Greenwood’s game, 22 touches, five tackles and two goals, while Ben Speight and Jamie Macmillan had debuts to remember.
Back to my bedroom, and Carlton had opened the game up even more with goals to Betts and Shaun Hampson. Yarran showed a ferocious attack on the ball, it spilt out to Betts who snagged his third to seal the game. Jeff Garlett kicked a long goal from outside 50, but things were soured when Jarrad Waite was reported yet again for a bump on Adam Selwood. The commentators thought he would get off though, so he’ll probably get two or three weeks. Andrew Embley snapped a very late goal on the run, and the siren sounded, officially ending North’s chance of making the finals and almost certainly sealing Carlton’s position in the top eight, 15.19.109 to 11.17.83.
As Carlton celebrated the unconvincing victory, my mind was elsewhere, thinking about my boys in blue and white. They would be so heartbroken. Like player, like supporter.
West Coast 3.3—8.9—10.11—11.17.83
West Coast-LeCras 3, Hams 2, Kennedy 2, Ebert 2, Strijk, Embley
Carlton-Betts 3, Garlett 3, Yarran 2, Waite 2, Murphy 2, Judd, Hampson, Henderson
West Coast-Embley, Waters, Rosa, Ebert, Strijk, LeCras
Carlton-Simpson, Grigg, Murphy, Judd, Scotland, Betts
35,925 at Subiaco Oval
3: Kade Simpson (CARL)
2: Shaun Grigg (CARL)
1: Marc Murphy (CARL)