NAB Cup: Geelong v North v Bulldogs

This had been scheduled in for some months now. Even though I hadn’t asked Dad about it, my main means of transport to games, as soon as I saw Geelong v North Melbourne (and the Bulldogs) playing at Skilled Stadium on February 20 for the NAB Cup, I knew I’d be going. One, because it was my Dad’s birthday, and two, it was a failproof chance to finally meet Almanacker and fellow Fab 5 (which now has 7 people) member Susie Giese, a loyal Cats supporter. After speaking regularly with Susie since February 2010, it was exciting, and nerve-wracking, to finally meet her.

After giving my Dad his birthday present (A Keith Richards biography), we left at about 10:30am, estimating it would take us around three and a half hours to reach Geelong. I was also looking forward to catching up with good friends Steve and Michael who were also making the trek to the Cattery despite being of neutral alignment (yet still barracking against North). That is commitment to football, and commitment to the Fab 5.

After a very long drive, Dad and I were cruising through Geelong looking for Skilled Stadium. We got told that we couldn’t miss it, but it started to feel like we might. Soon enough though, I saw the seats in the horizon, and my heart started to skip a few beats. I guess for the nervousness of finally meeting Susie, and of course about seeing North Melbourne for the first time in quite a while.

Finding a convenient park in a backstreet across the road from Kardinia Park (and almost blocking off someone’s driveway, oh well, we’re from the country). We made our way to the Polly Farmer gate, and a huge queue confronted Dad and I. Luckily, it was only for people waiting to get in, the line to get tickets was non-existent. I got in as an under 14 year old, and we were soon in line, chatting to an old timer about North Melbourne’s 2011 chances. The line was now stretching onto the footpath, but when the gates opened we were all in soon enough.

The first thing that hit me about Skilled Stadium is how convenient it was. As soon as we got our tickets scanned, we were already in the ground standing at the Gary Ablett Terrace. The ground looked magnificent, and really tugged at the country footy heartstrings in me. The siren sounded while Dad and I walked around, and it reminded me of the buzzer back at the Waaia Football Ground. Dad and I did a tour of the Jack Jennings Pavilion, before settling in some seats a row back from the fence, right next to the interchange bench. I missed the old fold-out chairs of Etihad and the MCG. Susie had sent me a text to be outside the Cats Shop at 3:10, so at 3:05 I headed over there. I was standing on my own, before a girl approached me. I got a big fright, and turned to shake Susie’s hand. It was just a ground attendant offering me a Footy Record though. I politely said no. Looking around, I couldn’t find anyone that looked like a short girl, a tall homeless-looking teenager or a ranga. So, I sent a text to Susie. “I’ve no effing idea where I am, but I think I’m next to the cats shop, if there is only one of them..”

I got a call off Susie, and, to be truthful, I didn’t understand a word she said, but the general gist of it was that they weren’t there yet. So, I returned to my seat. I passed Brad Johnson on the way, and felt like I should’ve said hello to him. I settled into my seat next to Dad, and watched the North boys warm up right in front of us. Jack Ziebell and Ben McKinley were the closest to the fence, and were looking quite impressive in their kick-to-kick session, Ziebell especially. I hope he can stop playing in the midfield and become a stocky full forward-type player capable of taking a good mark in a contest. I couldn’t see Majak Daw anywhere, but I’m sure not many people would’ve anyway.

After 15 minutes and no word from Susie I decide to go to where I was earlier. As I walked along the back of the seats, my phone vibrated as a call from her came through. From what I could understand this time, she was outside the Cats Shop with Mikey and Steve. “Be there in two seconds.” I said. I carefully navigated my way down the steps, and walked towards where the gang where.

The odd thing was, I couldn’t find anyone fitting the description aforementioned. So, I walked into the Cats Shop, feeling a bit silly for browsing through a Geelong Store in my North Melbourne guernsey. I figured that they weren’t hiding from me in the store, so I went back out into the foyer, where I saw Steve at last! Hiding in a corner was Mikey and Susie. I got a hug off Susie (and an even bigger one off Steve) and we all walked back towards our seats that Dad was keeping free for us. We passed Anthony Hudson on the way back, but it seemed I was the only one to notice him.

Sitting in our seats (which, by the way, looked like this: Dad, Steve, Mikey, Susie, Me), we waited for the game(s) to start. Geelong and North Melbourne ran out on the field, and, as Dad noted, it had a Men v Boys feel about it, North being the boys. It showed from the beginning, with North breaking down as soon as they got past the centre square, with Geelong’s rolling defence sweeping the ball upfield and creating a lot of chances at goal. James Podsiadly had the first real shot, right in front of us, 50m out on the boundary line. He missed, much to Susie’s dismay. A highlight (which probably highlighted how fickle our teenage sense of humour is) was Susie constantly dropping her Footy Record and pen. She brought out her delicious brownies and cookies, which were definitely tasty. I gave her brownies an 8/10, but then again is a brownie ever perfect? The cookies were just as good. Halfway through the game, I noticed I was finding it extremely hard to concentrate on the match in such good company. But what I did notice was that the Roos were very ordinary. Drew Petrie hit Darren Milburn hard, right in front of us, and I felt better about my team, even though he’d later cop a one week suspension. The unknown number 32 for Geelong was zipping around the midfield, before I identified him as Steven Motlop. Gary Ablett with hair (Cameron Guthrie) was very good, while Dan Menzel and Mitch Duncan were clear favourites of Susie’s. Speaking of favourites, Mikey seemed to lose his mind everytime Kieran Harper did something, be it run onto the field, walk past on the boundary line or shoot out a perfect handpass to a teammate. You see, Harper and Mike were mates at school, which was clearly evident when Mikey shouted out “KIERAN!” when he walked past on the bench and Harper didn’t even acknowledge him. Cameron Richardson and Shaun Atley impressed me, while Robbie Tarrant was struggling a little but still found plenty of the ball in defence. Majak Daw was doing plenty, taking pack marks, jumping high in the ruck and covering the ground well.

Ziebell almost made me physically ill when he landed on his leg awkwardly, but he ran it off and seemed fine. Geelong rounded out the second half with a convincing victory by 18 points, and I knew North’s NAB Cup dreams for 2011 were as good as over. Mike and I went and visited the caravan which was selling food, and on our way back I got told off by a ground attendant for walking up the wrong side of the steps. Two more warnings and I was out, it seemed.

Back in our seats (minus Susie), Bulldogs and North kicked the second game off, and it was clear who the stronger side was. Pat Veszpremi kicked the first goal of the game, and the Bulldogs ran rings around their opponent. I started to feel very glum, I hadn’t experienced a loss at the footy since 2009, so it felt a bit surreal. Mitch Wallis and Shaun Higgins were impressive for the Bulldogs, as were Lindsay Gilbee and Jarrad Grant, who further stamped his authority on the AFL’s Ugliest Player category, just in front of Gavin ‘Afro’ Urquhart. Lingy came in at number three.

Susie returned, and saw Lindsay Thomas boot a super goal, but that was the only thing he did. None of the aboriginal players fired for the Roos, Daniel Wells gathered plenty of touches but didn’t do anything with the ball. He needs to be more selfish, he needs to run the ball to 55m out and bang it through from long range instead of passing short to Aaron Edwards or Ben McKinley, who were outplayed by their Geelong and Western Bulldog defenders. The siren sounded as Grant booted yet another goal, and the Roos had been comprehensively smashed in the two games combined.

As both teams milled around and left the ground, the Roos done for the day, we all sat around and chatted. A few Geelong ferals came in and sat behind us, I was glad to turn around and not see JTH as one of them. The Western Bulldogs and Geelong came out onto the field to start the marquee match, but the feeling of our group was that we couldn’t really care. Brad Ottens and his jumping at the ruck contest came under close scrutiny from our eyes, while Tom Hawkins was regularly bagged by Mikey. Susie did her best at knocking me out with a stray elbow while trying to explain something to Mike, but the Geelong ferals behind us had started to overtake the whole feeling. I could hear them talking about mine and Susie’s jumper, so at half time of the first game (I had no idea who was winning), we decided to move to the Terrace.

Sitting behind the goals, it became a bit easier to get involved with the game. Simpkin booted a superb snap goal, while Hawkins and Steve Johnson turned it on as Geelong skipped away to a comfortable lead. I was starting to find out why the Kardinia Park weather is held in such high regard, I was absolutely freezing. Dad announced that we better leave, and sadly we missed the chance to get a group photo (I did manage to pot several pictures of Majak Daw and Zephaniah Skinner as they walked the boundary line). I shook Susie’s hand; grasped Mikey’s and got another hug off Steve as Geelong booted the final goal of the game. Walking down the steps, out of the stadium, the siren went, and the 13,000-strong crowd, mostly Cat supporters, went off as they celebrated making it through to the second week of the NAB Cup.

A long drive was in store for Dad and I, and it amazed me at how much we had covered when we pulled into the garage at 10:40pm. 593km from Waaia to Geelong and back. All worth it though.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.

Comments

  1. Josh – nice report. You and your old man do more kilometres than the Leyland Brothers!!

  2. John Butler says:

    Dips, Josh may not be old enough to know who the Leyland brothers are.

    Nice choice of present for your Dad too Josh.

    Happy birthday Mr B.

  3. Steve Healy says:

    Good work Josh, sums up the day perfectly well lol. I was worried for a while that we’d never find you outside the cats shop

  4. Peter Flynn says:

    Steve or Josh,

    Can you still stand behind the goals at the Melbourne end (Gary Ablett Terrace)?

  5. Steve Healy says:

    Yes you can PF, there is still the standing room area but it was certainly useless on the day because you could sit in all the seats below it

  6. Jake 'Cobba' Stevens says:

    Nice report josh sounds like tons of fun. However, don’t be too upset, its only NAB cup. who cares? right? haha? (i still care whilst swans are in)

  7. Alovesupreme says:

    #2 John,
    It’s likely that Josh has been spared knowledge of either the original Leyland brothers or their Geelong incarnation when the Cats played herring-bone style out of defence.

  8. Great report, Joshy!!! Fantastic to finally meet you. Admit it: you just kept avoiding us to build the suspense!!! :P

    Glad to see the infamous seating arrangements made it in to the report, Adam will be so pleased :P

    Can’t wait for the next YA meet-up! :-D

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