AFL Round 13 – Western Bulldogs v Richmond: Father-Son? It is the family

Training night for the Williamstown Women’s Lacrosse Club (WWLC) is Wednesday. All teams, juniors and seniors, from under 11s through to State League, train on the one night. While the players work on their skills and their fitness out on the fields, the clubrooms are also vibrant as players and parents come and go throughout the evening. Most Wednesdays there is a food theme – it could be Mexican night or pasta night or curry night. This Wednesday coming it is American night as the club sends off Kristen Stone. Kristen is from the US and through a friendship with WWLC member Kate Splatt from their time together at Loyola University in Maryland, Kristen has migrated to Australia and is now representing her newly-adopted country at the World Championships in Canada. Volunteer parents and club members bring along theme food and for a small charge, you can feed the family. It means that instead of parents and players fleetingly passing on their way to and from the training night, they are encouraged to linger, to meet new people, to chat. It is this sort of club involvement which is attracting new players and a major factor in Williamstown being able to field three teams in the under 13 competition while other clubs struggle with the numbers for just one.

Colleen Hunter (nee McVeigh) is a club stalwart. At 53, she has been involved with WWLC for four decades. Colleen played last year in B-grade – the lowest senior level. As a former captain of the Australian team, it was a bit of a step-down from the standards she was used to, but it was a come-back season as part of her recovery from breast cancer. My two daughters Audrey and Ursula had the privilege of playing alongside Colleen last year – it was their introduction to seniors lacrosse as an element of their own development while they continued to play juniors. Colleen’s husband Mark is a regular in the group of parents who make their own contribution to the club atmosphere, and coffers, by hanging around and having a few drinks. I too am happy to do my bit.

On Thursday just gone I rang Mark to congratulate him on Lachlan’s selection and ask why he hadn’t told me the night before. “Couldn’t really. The team hadn’t been announced.” It was at the Thursday morning Western Bulldogs’ coach’s press conference that the news was made public that father-son selection Lachlan Hunter was to make his debut against Richmond. On the Wednesday evening I had asked Sue Clerke, one of Colleen’s long-term team-mates and friends if she would go to the Canberra game if Lachlan was selected for his first game in round 15 against GWS. “I was ready to go to Darwin.” referring to the game three weeks earlier when the Dogs played Port. I believed her. Two years ago Sue and a few others had made the trip with the Hunters to Hanover in Germany when Colleen and Mark’s oldest child Lauren represented Australia at the under 19 lacrosse world championships. In comparison, Darwin was virtually a local game. Docklands is walking distance.

Friday night, and Helen and I are back at the lacrosse club. It is trivia night and there are about 100 crowded around the tables. State League player Mel Roberts has compiled the questions and put together the multi-media. I am useless at trivia so volunteered the backroom role of correcting answers and recording the scores. I can report that there was only one question that was correctly answered by all teams: which player will make his debut for the Western Bulldogs this Saturday night? It was greeted by a hearty cheer. Colleen wanted a bonus point for knowing his middle name. In a brief speech at the end of the night, club president Sarah Nobbs thanked all the helpers, including Mark McVeigh for manning the bar. The actual barman, Michael McVeigh, hates being called Mark McVeigh. I have never called Michael McVeigh Mark, and I wouldn’t dare to refer to Michael as the “dud” cousin – but it is starting to become evident. Lachlan Hunter will be his third cousin to play AFL.

Helen has now bought her first ever player’s badge. On the way into the Docklands ground she stopped at the Bulldogs concession stand to purchase the Lachlan Hunter badge. A few minutes later we ran into Lauren who was wandering around waiting for the President’s Dinner to disperse so she could join her parents in the stands. Helen and I found our seats with John and Jo Jansen, two other Willy people whose son Robert, like our own son Bill, had played years of junior football with Lachie (which is the name on the badge). They had enjoyed a fair bit of success – due much to Lachie’s contribution and to Mark’s coaching. We sent a photo of Helen wearing the badge to Colleen. She was good enough to reply, which I think she did to the hundreds of goodwill messages she received throughout the evening. Looking down at your phone can be a distraction from the game.

After the initial pre-game warm-up, on their way back to the rooms, the Bulldogs players paused on the ground and Lachie was formally presented with his playing jumper. This was the beginning of his AFL career.

It was great that Lach’s first game was not a week earlier. I would have struggled to barrack for him against my team Collingwood. This one was against Richmond. I would have no trouble barracking against them. Lach started on the bench and was soon on the ground and into the play. His first touch was an effective handball; his first kick was from the half-back flank. His second kick came from a sloppy high tackle and was a shot for goal. As he went back Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt was heard to say “you won’t kick this you fuck’n midget.” But he did kick it. Colleen is grateful the TV cameras hadn’t yet located them in the crowd – they would have seen her tears.

Lach had two more goal opportunities which he missed. Richmond dominated the first half but were only 22 points up at half time. Dogs’ disposal was poor and they often struggled to get it out of the back half. Griffen was their best but even he made a couple of blunders, hanging onto the ball too long because the up-field options just did not exist. The second half saw Richmond extend the lead to eventually win by 60 points. Of the first years for the Dogs, Jake Stringer showed a lot of promise. In the stands, Mark was sitting next to John Hrovat, whose son Nathan was playing his third game. Having made a horrible turnover in the third quarter, Nathan was subbed for Gia. It was a bit flat amongst the parents so Mark and John went for a three-quarter-time beer, returning to watch the last.

Sunday morning and lacrosse is on at McIvor Reserve in Yarraville. Audrey and Ursula are there early for their under 18s game against Footscray and the players hang around and chat with their coach, Lauren. Lauren wants to talk about football. She cops the jibes about the half time television interview with Sam Lane – Sam wasn’t able to reach far-enough across so Lauren had been pictured and mentioned, but stayed mute. She wasn’t concerned – just happy that her brother had been able to do well. Sunday afternoon and we are at Greenwich Reserve Newport for my girls’ A-grade game against Eltham. Sue Clerke is there and also happy to talk about Saturday football. She and a few others had secured front row right beside the Bulldogs’ bench, which they found a bit embarrassing, if not a little creepy. Got their heads on the TV a bit – you might have seen all these women with their heads down as they desperately avoided making any eye-contact with Lachlan

Sunday evening and we are at the Steampacket Hotel in Williamstown. As a sponsor of the WWLC, the Hotel has offered some vouchers to be presented as mid-season awards. Each of the coaches gets up and makes a little speech and presents one award. Coach of the under 13 Pelicans gets up and says about her award recipient: “This girl has done it pretty hard because she comes from a family of such under-achievers. Congratulations Jemma Hunter.” Another Hunter on the sporting path. I caught up with Mark who is pleased with how Lachie went and confident he will keep his place for this Saturday night game against Melbourne on the MCG. We made initial plans for going to the game. One week at a time.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 5.9 5.11 8.13 (61)
RICHMOND 4.8 8.13 13.16 17.19 (121)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: Stringer 2, Cooney, Jones, Hunter, Giansiracusa, Murphy, Boyd
Richmond: Riewoldt 3, Conca 2, Vickery 2, A Edwards, Foley, Houli, Grigg, Martin, White, Jackson, Vlastuin, Cotchin

BEST
Western Bulldogs: Griffen, Boyd, Murphy, Macrae, Hunter, Stringer
Richmond: Martin, Conca, Houli, Jackson, Grigg, Riewoldt, Deledio

Umpires: Margetts, Stewart, Kamolins

Crowd: 29,788 at Etihad Stadium

Our Votes: 3 Martin (R) 2 Conca (R) 1 Hunter (WB)

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. Good stuff, Andrew.
    When I congratulated Lach on his selection, I told him that I would try to find a bar in Malta which was broadcasting the game.
    Alas, I could not find that bar, but I had a good time searching for it.

  2. Andrew Fithall says:

    Good on for trying . I imagine you had family at the game Smokie going along to watch their mate. Just as Lach had been at the CY’s under 19 game in the morning watching his mates.

  3. Cracking story Andrew. Obviously a great moment for the family, but gee, the bar is pretty high for that mob!

  4. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great stuff Andrew. The WWLC sounds as good a club as any. Was pleased to see L.Hunter make a solid contribution in his first game. Love the Father-Son rule.

  5. Prue O'Shannessy says:

    Good story Andrew!!! I was just as interested in the lacrosse goings on as the footy! It’s great how Melbourne suburbs become a bit like a country town especially in relation to sport… I would say my boys experience at Ashy was just as good becasue of all the people we met and who were involved! xx

  6. Andrew Fithall says:

    Thanks for the comments. Prue – careful with the public kisses. People might talk.

    A couple of corrections: Nathan Hrovat’s father’s name is Chris. And Sue Clerk is spelled just like that. Sue is a loyal Melbourne supporter. Last night at lacrosse training I witnessed her instructing Lachie (he had come to the club because with the rest of his family present, it was the only place he was going to get a feed) that he was not to get a kick this week. Or it could have been that he was allowed to go okay but Melbourne was going to win. Or something.

    AF

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