Round 15-North Melbourne v Geelong: A Lesson in Mortality

 

It’s hard to find many things in Perth that cater when it comes to multitasking but my ex boss Mike and I had managed to find a bar that in the Perth CBD on Saturday evening that would have enough screens to show the Cats game, cricket in Cardiff and the emotional vacuum that would be the Eagles v Crows with blue ruin immersing the greater SA footballing public in the past week or so.

 

It had been a great afternoon spent at Lathlain Park watching the mighty West Perth overcoming Earl Spalding’s Demons. Lathlain Park is still a ground that harks back to a better time for the WAFL and footy with the winding walk around old streets from the train station with the grandstand coming in to view as you get closer. There’s the pensioners running the entrance gate, the can bar with the concrete terracing and with a cosy members area full of free nibbles on the bar and suffering Demons fans still being able to crack a joke at the decades long ineptitude of the club. Our seats in the old stand were magnificent, West Perth’s kicking accuracy and the Demons decision making when in possession were not.

 

I had tipped North to beat the Cats. North had lost in humiliating circumstances the week before so going on their inconsistent and twisted logic they would roll us. There were also the unknown knowns of the Cats coming off a 20 day break and still not having anyone that could get close to limiting Goldstein in the ruck. Perhaps Tommy’s signing of a new mega deal would lift us. Perhaps the loss to Melbourne would sting us in to action. Perhaps the return of Brad Scott to the coaches’ box would help us. Above all else though perhaps we just weren’t that good this season for a few reasons.

 

The end for Geelong as a major player had come swiftly. Some fans are taking it in their stride with the maturity, dignity and some humour while others throw the toys from the pram, criticise slower moving club legends they once adored demanding they retire and make sure they get their point across to everyone to ‘play the kids’. ‘Play the kids’ is the desperate football fans’ answer to someone from an IT Department telling a fellow employee to turn it off and on again. It has to happen but it has to be smart. Melbourne in recent times is a prime example of trying to make boys in to men far too early.

 

I envy Mike for many things that I could probably never achieve. He can play a bass lines that John Entwhistle could only dream of. He was able to cut through even the thickest of amazon vine like red tape in WA Government Departments and above all else would never say a bad word about anyone which is a trait I’ve seen in only a small amount of people including my father; although Dad would sometimes tend to blame various protestants and Sir John Kerr for some bad luck in life. Mike had supported the Bears/Lions in the AFL and Demons in the WAFL over a long period was more a fan of applauding good players and seeing fair and entertaining contests rather than enduring the stress and tumultuous high and lows of gunning for a flag and winning being all. This is something I wish I could even by slightly similar too.

 

With the Cats heading down again I didn’t want to go back to a cursing, vitriolic pre-2007 football fan where losses hung over me for days and words said and things done in the heat of the moment would normally later result in an apology or the need for a dustpan and broom. I didn’t want to despair at losing un-loseable games against the Eagles at home, I wanted to accept and worry about more important things instead. I wanted to understand how you rest on your laurels, how to just admire great football and to be able to shed a poor performance within minutes of the final siren. With the game already on when we arrive at our destination I try to pick his brain on to cope, like he did, when a super team like my cats and his Lions were finally put in the long yard.

 

1st QUARTER AKA LESSON 1.

 

“Remember the good times. They can never be taken away.”

 

From the get go North are winning the hard ball but Geelong keep it goal for goal with Mackie answering the opener from Shaun Atley and then hit the front through Stokes after goals from Petrie and Murdoch. We’re in this thanks to the Roos’ mistakes and even despite the fact Stevie J is off with a busted head and Boomer is strangely the sub which Mike and I missed because of our tardiness. We play tough winning the contested possession count which I didn’t expect at all. The Cats lead by a point at quarter time after the Roos get a late one through Higgins.

 

I take the first lesson in. It’s one that should be the mainstay of any decent person. I think of the 2007 GF and the fact we were well in front by quarter time. I think of being in the Hyde Park Hotel carpark in North Perth in the final moments of the 09 GF unable to take the pressure when someone ran out saying Chappy had just snapped a goal. There’s the upset wins at Subi over the years and the Ronnie Burns snap against the Eagles in 2001. They will always stay in the memory.

 

2nd QUARTER AKA LESSON 2

 

“What goes around comes around. Nothing lasts for ever”

 

The strong bodywork shown by the Cats in the first quarter shrinks as soon as the second quarter starts with North back in front through a now fully fit Andrew Swallow. The game is played along the ground in rolling mauls and scrappy possession with Hawkins the only one seemingly making contested grabs stick. One of his marks has a resulting kick that results in another point that was easier to miss with North making us pay a minute later up the other end with another goal that started with a move from defence. Johnson pegs one back for the Cats but it’s all North with a lead of over five goals at half time and game seemingly killed as a contest with Geelong’s entry in to their 50 almost as bad as what I saw from the Demons that afternoon at Lathlain.

 

I think of all things must ending and what goes around that in fact come around. The fall of the Lions was swifter than this team. Australia look nothing like 2013/14 in the cricket. Governments are voted out. People leave our lives. Hell, they never did find that Russian in the Pine Barrens episode of ‘The Sopranos’. It is what it is.

 

3rd QUARTER AKA LESSON 3

 

“You cannot change what happens on the field yourself.”

 

The Cats start brightly in the third quarter winning clearances and Murdoch showing that he perhaps isn’t the spud I tell everyone I think he is goaling a mere 20 or 30 seconds in to the term. It doesn’t last though with Turner getting a quick reply and the game descending in to a turgid affair like many others in the recent rounds with the Cats with all the ball but failing to make any impact in their forward 50. It reminds me of their attacking in the dark days of the late 90s just before Bomber slowly brightened our corner of the the league where we blindly bombing the ball in to a tall forward.

 

Motlop has the body language of someone already for the off and every fiber in my being wants to yell at him to make the effort or back his bags and play the mercenary card but his actions are something I can’t control, it’s something you have to accept on the night just like Varcoe’s miss in 2013 or being the most in-form team in the league but not in finals in 1993. Selwood goals halfway through the term to make it at least interesting but everything the Cats do the Roos match with goals coming easy as the Cats struggle to get anything on the board. Late goals (again with one coming out of the Cats forward 50) kill the game as a contest.

 

4th QUARTER AKA LESSON 4

 

“It could be worse. Respect your opponent. Congratulate them”

 

The final quarter is a procession with the Roos comfortable for the first time against us at this stage of the game in quite a few years. Goldstein has dominated with the awe of Golden Gordon from the ‘Ripping Yarns’ series. I think of the Perth members I encountered at Lathlain who have seen one finals appearance in 38 years since their last flag in only an 8 or 9 team comp. There’s the Saints siblings I know who got close and while there is scar tissue they go on. As Tasmanians they also got over the fact parents chose to support the Saints instead of the Hawks with Tasmanian players at both clubs in the 60s. North are doing it tough this year after making the prelim and have been very disappointing in what is supposed to be their window so their fans would also be hurting. There is always someone doing it tougher.

 

The Cats get a couple in a row but then it’s just goal for goal as the game is ran out. I think it also could be worse if I had to listen to BT and the other pond life on Channel 7. Rivers injures himself and Selwood looks gone with Channel 7 it seems gleefully continually showing an incident that looks like a chicken wing tackle by the Cats struggling captain. It’s a 51 point loss in the end and another woeful performance. The cricket is starting to head south so we wait for the end to the Eagles and Crows game with the emotion of all and sundry on the big screen again showing that things can be worse and beyond what happens on a scoreboard. Mike and I wish each other well and go our separate ways feeling more enriched for another afternoon watching footy and waxing lyrical.

 

Cats fans are now having to swallow a very pill in 2015 and many will react differently. Gregson and Lang looked very sharp before in the lead up to the bye but now seem to be crumbling a little as the season wares on and the burden gets heavier. Bews scraps and learns while Guthrie had a strong game and is now showing more consistency but still doesn’t have anyone convinced he will be a leader. Then there’s Jimmy, sweet faithful Jimmy. Injuries have decimated what we have in our ruck and the vow by the club that they would always be competitive through great list work and we would be up for another flag in 2015 are seemingly now statements to be in the same archives as no children living in poverty by 1990 or Australia having a chance to host the 2022 World Cup.

 

Questions will be raised by fans and the press while self appointed tactical genius David King will sprout his usual shit about how we were cut open with charts and graphics on Foxtel but this comes with the territory of a team on the wane.

 

The Cats will be back next week. Here end the lesson for now on and off the field.

 

NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2 10.5 14.7 18.12 (120)
GEELONG 3.3 4.8 7.11 11.13 (79)

 

GOALS
North Melbourne: Higgins 3, Petrie 3, Garner 2, Waite 2, Swallow 2, Atley, Cunnington, Turner, Goldstein, Gibson, Macmillan
Geelong: Murdoch 2, Walker 2, Mackie 2, Johnson 2, Stokes, Selwood, Hawkins

 

BEST
North Melbourne: Goldstein, Higgins, Cunnington, Bastinac, Swallow, Dal Santo, Waite
Geelong: Bartel, Selwood, Guthrie, Caddy, Murdoch, Mackie

 

Reports: Nil

 

Umpires: Stevic, Hosking, McInerney

 

Crowd: 31,270 at Etihad Stadium

 

OUR VOTES
3-Goldstein
2-Cunnington
1-Swallow

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM presenter and Glory Guerrillas pod co-host. Cat, Cardie, Glory Bhoy and Socceroo by pain of death. Seen too many Geelong and Socceroos disasters to mention and worships the holy trinity of Larsson, Mifka and Senna.

Comments

  1. Nice wrap Dennis. Yes the Cats begin the cycle again, which sort of makes it exciting. This season the Cats have tried to do the same thing week in week out, expecting a different result. The definition of insanity. But it had to happen. It would be very difficult for the coaches to start giving club legends the flick. I don’t envy them.

  2. matt watson says:

    Well done Dennis,
    As a North fan, and despite our form, I picked us to win.
    I hate our inconsistency as much as you do.
    You’re right about the good times.
    No one can ever take away those premierships.
    And that’s why we forgive our clubs when they lose.
    I enjoyed your description of the WAFL.
    Cheers

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