AFL Round 1 – Port Adelaide v North Melbourne: Kangaroos on the right path

By Andrew Starkie

 

12.40pm, Sunday, March 28

AAMI Stadium

I’m at the Rose Hotel, Fitzroy.  The magnificent 1899 Fitzroy team photo hangs on the wall while a few regulars sit at the bar.  I’m chatting to Sean, a fellow Roo, who I often see at games and exchange a ‘G’day’ with.  We shared a class or two twenty years ago at uni, so it’s great to finally become reacquainted.  Sean is disarming, smiley and softly spoken, works in state government and is the father of one.

The Grand Prix is on in the main bar, so we head out to the dining room where the game is being shown on a small, distant screen.  Such is life for Roos fans when our team is playing interstate: consigned to hidden back rooms and bars.  A few other footy fans have gathered for the game.  Several couples drift in, but I think they’re here for the food rather than the footy. 

Rain is falling in Adelaide.  Basttinac is our only debutant, while Port have four first gamers.  They also have Dean Laidley in the box, which is a bit weird.

Sean’s mates, Craig and Andrew, join us.  They get the beers in and flick through the Sunday papers.  Craig’s a Tiger and after Thursday night’s loss to Carlton is expecting the same-old this year.

My mate, Handsome Joe, arrives in time for the first bounce.  He looks like Kevin from The Wonder Years, which he combines with an apparent innocent disposition to produce an extremely consistent female strike-rate.  He considers it his duty to be perpetually single and available as required.  Joe works in the IT department of a Hong Kong school.

Alas, Joe isn’t looking his best today.  He’s suffering from a bone shuddering hangover after jetting in and attending Richie Vandenburg’s brother’s buck’s party.  His malaise is softened by the fact he and the boys won $3,000 at Caulfield.  I don’t know what three grand looks like, but it’s small change for the handsome one, Honkers wages being as inflated as they are.  After Easter, Joe is swinging by Singapore for a week of golf and cocktails by the pool.  It sounds like a scene from Entourage.  I’ll probably hang at home in Reservoir.

The talk all Summer from the club and new coach, Brad Scott, has been about the future and putting faith in young players.  When the games gets under away, I’m pleased to see Anthony and Ziebell amongst it early and the latter sets up Adams who kicks the first.  Good start.

Port settle and begin to handle the wet conditions better.  They’re minimising handball and kicking long.  Kain Cornes and Pearce are everywhere; Ebert and Tredrea are presenting up forward.  They start to dominate and kick several unanswered goals.  We’re over using handball and short kicks which leads to turnovers.  We’re in trouble and Joe calls for a headcount.

Warren cleans up Brogan with a solid hip-and-shoulder on the siren and Sean and I hope this will provide a lift.  Port by 21 at quarter-time.

Early in the second term, Hale marks strongly and goals and Boomer snaps one over his shoulder.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long.  Port continue to attack and goals to Cassisi and Tredrea stretch the lead.  Debutant Banner tackles Wells and converts the free kick.  Pearce goals from the boundary and Port lead by 44 at half-time.  This has rout written all over it.

Joe and I decide to head to Brunswick Street for a bite to eat.  As we leave, Sean flashes me a slight look of betrayal, so I suggest we may be back for the second half.  To be honest, the way this is going, I can’t see that happening. 

We sit in the window of a restaurant and Joe orders something light as he’s not convinced he’ll be able to keep down a solid meal.  The waitress is practising her calf lifts and is built like a ballet dancer.  A dreadlocked hippie sits opposite, rolling her own ciggies.  I check my walkman, Port are up by 50 points.

Joe is updating me on his private life.  However, I’m quickly lost.  He needs to write it down for me, or construct a concept map on a white board.  I’m sort of jealous, yet exhausted when his monologue finally ends.  Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit here.

We keep walking as Joe’s keen to find the Pies and Bulldogs on TV.  We settle into comfy red chairs in a bar on Johnston Street.  Joe’s concentrating on the Pies and I’ve put the walkman in.  North are having the better of play and have kicked three goals to one for the term.  Boomer has three and we’ve hit the post twice.  The deficit is 34 at three-quarter time.

Joe and I part, and halfway through the last quarter I’m in the car, heading north on St. Georges Road.  The momentum has shifted with Anthony, McIntosh and Basttinac leading the way.  We’re dominating like Port early on and the hometown commentators are getting worried.  We kick five goals to two, yet Port hold on and win by 14 points.

Despite a poor first half, encouraging performances from younger players give hope for the season.  We’re on the right path.

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