AFL Round 18 – Melbourne vs North Melbourne: The Lamentations of Veryhard Stadium

Would the Kangas finish? Would the Demons begin?

Why was it a Demons home game at Etihad?

Who was toiling up, and who down, Mt Disappointment?

The air was full of questions as I made my way alone to Veryhard Stadium.

North had been paying some Grade A football but with equally Grade A fadeouts. In contrast to the period BC (before Craig), the Dees had won a game and Showed Signs in the others.

Both of our futures hovered between hope and disappointment.

A fellow Demon had thoughtfully emailed me during the week an article, ‘What a woman feels when she is having a heart attack’. Maybe it did all boil down to ticker.

Despite its being a Melbourne home game, North supporters appear to be sprawled across the best seats. Those in red and blue are either squashed into the pockets or to be seen dotted about within swathes of blue and white. We haven’t won at this ground in six years.

Two of our Fab Four group are not present. One is busy fathering two-year-old and four-week-old sons; the other has felt the call of the sea air. Terlich is out, we hear, added now to Frawley and Garland. There goes the backline. Screwing my courage to the sticking place, I remind the Bloke from Williamstown that the Demons’ disposal efficiency and inside 50s to date this season have been about equal with North’s.

Off we go. Tapscott, emergency in the backline, goals – heartening us with ‘a helluva snap’. North start blasting away, and the Dees are trying to stem the tide. A strong mark from Gawn saves another. The Melbourne guy two rows in front has a set against Swallow: ‘Oh throw your head back, you’ve made a career out of it mate’. The ball seems to hit the back of the post, but Bastinac somehow procures a goal. A couple of rows of grim-faced children and adults to our right suddenly leave. We’re not doing that badly yet are we, I ask the woman next to me. She explains they’re the Auskickers.

Hansen as a loose man is picking up too much and as the clouds gather at the end of the first quarter and Mt Disappointment beckons, we realise we’ve had only two inside 50s.

Second quarter: Gawn is bleeding, Ziebell is down in front of us, four or five of our players are slipping over on the Smile SOLUTIONS wing. Davey passes to Cunnington in front of goal, Howe passes to someone in the stand. (‘Bloody Swallow!’) North continues to dominate first possessions for the first 15 minutes, then Melbourne goes man on man in the second half of the quarter.  Fitzy grabs the contested ball and runs into goal.  Minutes later, he’s kicking to Dawes who shrugs off his man and kicks another.

Are North fading, I wonder.

Probably not, as Wells breaks from the pack, kicks the ball once, twice, falls to the ground under pressure and somehow slings the ball on his boot for a goal. The child behind in blue and white asks has anyone kicked goal of the year in two different years.

‘Don’t touch Swallow’ shouts the guy in front.

Swallow, arguably best on ground in the first half, sustains what looks to be a season-ending injury eight minutes into the third quarter. Petrie and Adams have kicked very good goals thanks to North’s slick ball handling.

North are now scoring at will. Viney and McDonald both miss; Pedersen and Trengove appear confused. Cunnington is the beneficiary of what we agree is a soft free. There’s a pinpoint pass to Adams who goals, followed by Bastinac in play, then Bastinac twirling like a dervish, snaps close to goal.

There is a sequence which I would have savoured more had I known what was still to come: a lovely kick from Clisby, a Dawes handpass to Blease, then a goal from Byrnes. A string of hand passes finishes off an eight goal quarter for North: the Bloke and I are incredulous that Melbourne is ahead in marks.

Shortly after, I start to ponder the meaning of life and the problem of suffering. Oh I am weary of life. I will speak out, come what may; my soul is too embittered for silence (Lamentations of Job – without the ‘e’, 10). Etihad – a land whence there is no returning, a land of darkness, death’s shadow over it.

The fourth quarter begins and Melbourne is handballing on the backline like there’s no tomorrow. Here is grief words cannot assuage, nor silence banish; grief that bows me down till my whole frame is lifeless (Job, 16).

Black whips a goal over his head, Cunnington to Bastinac who kicks another. The anti-Swallow guy leaves. ‘I’ve had enough’ announces the Bloke from Willie, and leaves as well. Harvey prances around and pumps through another.

Helpless in the flood, driven in darkness before the storm … routed before the pitiless onslaught (Job, 27).

The crowd total is on the board and a wave of momentary excitement ripples through the crowd.

Like a flood they swept over me, trampled down my path, took me unawares and overcame me, when there was none to bring rescue (Job, 30). The ball zigzags across the ground without a Melbourne player touching it. Goal to Black.

And still I repine bitterly as ever, no groaning too heavy for the wounds I bear (Job, 23).

Petrie misses out on a free (‘Petrie – nothing goes his way’, says the child behind). And North still stand two games out of the eight.

Probably a bit disappointing.

On the scoreboard we are told to consume alcohol responsibly at all times. I’m not sure I can promise that for the whole of the evening ahead.

The boys in red and blue crawl off the arena; Jack Watts’ face is best described as grey.

*

Near the station a man in a Kermit mask and frog flippers is playing the North Melbourne song on a banjo.

Disappointing.

 

North Melbourne             3.5. 6.9 14.12 22.18 (150)
Melbourne    1.0  3.2  4.4  4.4 (28)

GOALS
North Melbourne: Black 4, Bastinac, 4 Mullett 2, Cunnington 2, Petrie 2, Wells 2, Adams 2, Goldstein 2, Harvey, Ziebell
Melbourne: Dawes, Fitzpatrick, Tapscott, Byrnes

Best

North Melbourne: Harvey, Bastinac, Goldstein, Cunnington, Hansen

Melbourne: Sylvia, N. Jones, Viney

Umpires: Findlay, Bannister, Burgess

Official crowd: 16, 959

Our Votes: 3 Harvey (N. Melb) Bastinac (N. Melb) Goldstein (N. Melb)

Comments

  1. Interesting that you couldn’t find a vote for Ben10, who was a clear best on ground for mine (I know, I should feel free to write my own damn report :-) ). Seems the rest of the league is a bit slow to catch on to how good he is, and is going to be. Probably a bit of a pattern — “pure” inside players like Ben, Andrew Swallow, Lenny, Luke Ball — take longer to get recognition?

    Anyway, chins up Dees. It’ll turn around when you least expect it!

  2. e.regnans says:

    Gee conditions are bleak there, Rosemary. I like your story.
    Over at the MCG for the concurrent Woods v GWS game, I also wondered why Melbourne was playing a home game at the Docklands. Who makes these decisions I wonder?
    But more pressingly for you, I guess, were Yazz and the Plastic Population right? Is the only way from here, indeed, UP?

  3. RosemaryC says:

    Thanks for the comments.
    Robc, they were all damn good – hard to leave any of them out of top three.

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