Veterans go out on a high

“Corey Jones can he win it, or at least make it a tie. JONES! JONES’ GOAL!!”

That was the proudest, most exciting moment in the AFL career of Corey Jones, a stalwart of the North Melbourne footy club. A great goalkicker for the club, he ran out onto the MCG for just his second game in 2010, and his last in his career. Also retiring after the game, was a little bloke that defied the odds, fought back from some criticism and became one of the better performers in his rank. Yes, Scott McLaren was hanging the whistle up at games end. Oh, and also James McDonald was saying goodbye after 251 games.

Waking up early on a Sunday morning, I lamented the fact that I didn’t get a good sleep-in. How I’d much rather just roll back over and go to sleep, but I had no choice. I showered up, a painful thing to do at 9:00 in the morning, got dressed and hopped in the car as Dad and I embarked on our trip to Melbourne for the last time to see North Melbourne play. Could we keep our perfect record intact? Four wins from four games for Dad, five wins from five games for me.

We arrived at the MCG at 1:30pm, aiming to get inside the stadium and look in the National Sports Museum. Unfortunately, the gates weren’t opening until 3:00 so it was a painful wait for Dad and I as we found a bin and stood next to it. He read the paper, I watched the kids in front of me having a kick to kick. I mostly wanted to watch so I didn’t cop a stray footy to the back of the head. Finally, 3:00 hit. Dad got our tickets, one adult and one under 15. I tried to stifle a laugh when he asked for the under 15 ticket, I should’ve shaved for the occasion. We got the ticket though, and in we went.

The National Sports Museum is, in one word, amazing. I’d like my 21st birthday there, my wedding there, and my funeral there, with my ashes scattered on the ground. This is where I belonged. We spent a good 45 minutes having a look around, before we resurfaced and found our seats on the half forward flank, broadcast side.

Both teams ran out, with guards of honour formed by kids in the teams’ respective colours. The Demons were slight favourites, which made me feel a little better about our chances. The players went through their warm-ups, and I looked down in the front row and saw that Melbourne dude with the big Mohawk in Demon colours. I was hoping the boys would silence him fairly quickly.

They did, with Andrew Swallow pouncing onto a loose ball and ramming home the first of the evening, then Ben Warren received a free kick after Clint Bartram threw the ball away from the umpire. Warren goaled, before Matt Campbell beautifully snapped North’s third and they had a clear jump on the opposition. Melbourne’s magic man won the ball from a hit-out, ran his full distance and kicked a good goal to open the Dees’ account, then marked over youngster Jamie MacMillan to kick his second. Todd Goldstein received a good handball from Sam Wright and Toddy kicked the goal, but Brad Green replied, taking a great mark running with the flight of the ball into the unknown. Leigh Harding copped a hit in the ribs, and wasn’t seen again. Brent Harvey, playing game 301, marked 45m out on a tight angle. Dad said aloud that he would play-on around the man on the mark and kick the goal. He didn’t, he didn’t need to. Boomer slotted it straight over the goal umpires hat. Both teams continued with the exciting end-to-end footy, before the siren blared, North leading at quarter time by 13 points.

The second quarter began with some trademark Boomer: gathering the ball at half-forward, accelerating away, selling the dummy and kicking the checkside. But he missed from 10m out, a disappointing finish. A shoddy rebound from defence saw Green kick a major, before Levi Greenwood replied from close range, snapping through his third goal of his career. The Roos got another one through the young MacMillan, who’s major from tight in the pocket on the run wasn’t bad at all. Matthew Bate replied for Melbourne though, then Green kicked his third to cut the deficit back even more. Dad left to get a coffee, and was unlucky to miss one of the greatest goals I’ve seen. With the ball bouncing up to him 40m out from goal, Lynden Dunn swung his boot at it and it glided through the goals as if it was kicked from a set-shot, an absolute beauty. Even I was forced to applaud it. Michael Firrito must’ve been upset with Dunn’s little, poxy moustache though, because he decked him, giving Dunn another shot at goal. Thankfully he misses, but the behind gives Melbourne the lead. He doesn’t make the same mistake moments later though, kicking a very nice goal from 50m out, and all the momentum was with Melbourne. The key word in that sentence is ‘was’. Jones marked and kicked a good goal for the Roos, then Campbell impressed, taking a great one-handed mark against Bartram right in front of us. He kicked the goal, then Swallow booted his second, and I started to feel the way Danni does towards him. He’s such a magnificent player. Of course, Danni likes him for other, obvious reasons. The siren blared for half time, North led by pretty much the same margin as they did at quarter time, a good effort considering Melbourne owned much of the quarter.

The night sky started to appear, and I was witnessing my first night  game at the MCG. What a sight. Not a good sight is Jurrah marking and kicking his third goal. Harvey marked outside 50, directly he front. He looked to dummy past a couple of players, but steadied, and decided to have the shot. He set sail for goals, and Boomer continued his up and down day with his second goal. Sam Wright got onto some good play from the older Roo boys, finishing it off with a terrific goal from the forward pocket on the run, and I was in full voice now. Jurrah shut me up however, kicking his fourth goal, then booting number five as Melbourne took charge. It wasn’t the only thing they took, with Dunn taking the lead after a high snap floated and floated, landing on the right side of the goal-line, and at three quarter time they led by a couple of points.

I made a quick dash to the toilets, dodging and weaving my way through the big pack of people walking around me. I made it back for the start of the final quarter, Cale Morton taking a good mark just outside the goalsquare to start things off. He booted the checkside, and got the goal as Melbourne led by eight. I felt nervous. Brent Moloney and Morton missed shots at goal. Champions stand up when they need to though, even if it’s their last game. Jones was awarded a free inside 50, and went back and coolly slotted the goal. From the next clearance, the Roos won the ball forward, Jones marked on the boundary line, played on around his opponents and waltzed in to an open goal, giving North back the lead. Not a bad couple of minutes in your last game. Green replied with his fourth however, but the person most unlikely to be any sort of hero took a strong grab and gave North back the lead. Aaron Edwards, useless for most of the night, was starting to present and take marks. North missed a few shots, but Wright showed experience beyond his age, nudging out Cam Bruce in a marking contest to grab the ball and kick his second as a tirade of abuse from behind me was hurled at Bruce. He doesn’t deserve any of it, I thought so anyway. The Roos were leading by 11 points with not long left in the game, it was going to be a tight finish. But the man who just loves to break other teams down did it again. Boomer gathered the ball from the next centre clearance, took a bounce, ran inside 50 and was celebrating before the ball even left his boot. The Roos’ faithful roared, 17 point leaders and the four points was surely ours. Green tried to start something with his fifth goal from the goalsquare, but to no avail, the siren preventing any sort of comeback from the Demons as the Kangaroos won a classic struggle by 10 points.

As both sides formed guards of honour for McDonald and Jones, we all stood and clapped the two retiring champions. They deserved it, especially Jones, who turned it on in the last quarter and effectively won the game for us. As Dad and I made our way outside the MCG, we headed along the path, past the bronzed statues of the sporting greats, through the hallow fields and walkways. We kept walking, debating about where the car is.

Melbourne 3.3—8.7—12.10—15.13.103

North Melbourne 5.4—10.7—12.8—17.11.113

Goalkickers:

Melbourne-Jurrah 5, Green 5, Dunn 3, Bate, Morton

North Melbourne-Harvey 3, Jones 3, Wright 2, Campbell 2, Swallow 2, MacMillan, Greenwood, Warren, Goldstein, Edwards

Best:

Melbourne-McDonald, Jurrah, Scully, Sylvia, Bruce, Green, Morton

North Melbourne-Greenwood, Harvey, Swallow, Thompson, Wells, Jones, Firrito, Rawlings

Crowd:

31,064 at the MCG

Votes:

3: Levi Greenwood (NM)

2: Brent Harvey (NM)

1: James McDonald (M)

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. Andrew Starkie says:

    Josh, was that you wearing a NMFC hoodie in the sports museum while your dad was mentioning to two NSM volunteers that Tests was spelt ‘Tetst’ in the Pakistan window of the cricket section? And then your dad started talking about Roland Perry’s book, ‘The Changi Brownlow’? Was that you? I was one of the volunteers. The unbearded one. Small world.

    Don’t tell your dad this, but when you walked away, James and I chuckled to ourselves and suggested your dad didn’t look hard enough. There are plenty of other spelling errors in the museum. We, or customers, pick them up occasionally.

    It’s a damn fine museum, isn’t it? To do it justice, you need half a day and the audio tour which is brilliant. I’ll let you know when I’m in there next and if possible, you’ll have to come in.

    Andrew

  2. Wow, what are the odds?

    That’s funny, I joked to Danni during the week that I would keep an eye out for you at the game, and I actually ended up chatting to you without knowing! I remember looking at the nametags you guys were wearing too.

    I didn’t end up seeing the Shane Warne video, we were going to but wanted to get out and find our seats. It looked good though, I stuck my head in for a peek while it was playing.

    The AFL section is just awesome. Loved the individual sections for each of the 16 clubs. Some great memorabilia there.

    Josh.

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