AFL Round 2 – Western Bulldogs v Fremantle: Family and footy a constant joy

Two years ago, I boarded a plane to London. Over those two years I have criss-crossed Europe, covering over 100,000km working and playing in remote locations. I’ve worked with the inventor of Thorpie’s fast suit and through my work at the University, met students who will change the world.

I’ve seen meteor showers and the Northern Lights, ridden dogsleds in the Arctic Circle and Camels in the Sahara. I’ve sang karaoke with drunken Bulgarians, eaten pintxos with the Spanish and raised far too many glasses with Bavarians. In those two years, I have changed but it seems so has everything else.

Returning home for the first time, everything seemed the same but strangely different. Metcards are gone and Myki has replaced it. Prices seem to have risen astronomically, my favourite restaurant is gone and accents seem stronger and more ‘Australian’ than I remember.

The AFL has changed too. New stars jump out on the teamsheets and we’ve welcomed another new team to the competition. The rules have changed and umpires decisions seem more confusing than before. The only things that don’t seem to have changed are Hawthorn’s inability to beat Geelong and the Demons being a bigger basket case than before.

Following a brutal British winter, I have been drinking in the sunshine like a man who has crossed the desert and found an oasis. It would seem that not everything has changed. Trams still clatter past me on the street and a beer is served in a pot and is refreshingly cold. Some things are even better.

Getting back in touch with the city I call home is wonderful, but some reunions are more special than others and the most special of all was the reunion with my parents at Etihad Stadium for our first game together. It was fitting that it would be this one – My father the passionate Doggies man who proudly wears his hat throughout Central NSW and my mother the ex-Docker (and now a Blues supporter whose passion grows by the game) had flown down and would join me for my first game back.

Walking into Etihad Stadium triggered memories of my first family football experience. It was about 15 years ago in a pre-season game at Devonport Oval where thousands crammed in to watch a committed Tiger team roll my Hawks by a handful of points. The sun was beating down like today and as we sat in the forward pocket that day, my abiding memory is of the elderly fans in wheelchairs who were perched behind us with their care assistants there to bat away any wayward kicks towards goal (and with a young Matthew Richardson playing, this was a very real threat). Our seats today were on halfway in the top tier so this was an experience that would not be repeated.

The speed of things can sometimes surprise you. I had flown 24 hours for a visa appointment at the British consulate that had lasted approximately 90 seconds and my first game back was done and dusted in under a quarter. The Dockers got the jump on the Dogs and kicked out to a 6 goal lead. The Dockers had a structure and the Dogs had none and that was the difference. Commitment and sheer bloody mindedness kept the Dogs there and there abouts for the rest of the game but where the Dockers hunted in packs, the Dogs hunted alone. Dad’s head was in his hands and there it stayed for the best part of the remainder of the game.

Over a pie and a beer or two, discussion turned to player performances and there was consensus that for the Doggies, Dalhaus stood out as a likely sort for the future. Maybe it was his hair but he always seemed to pop up, whilst Liberatore shows the same tenacity his old man showed when he wore the red, white and blue. The Dogs however lacked a dominant presence in the forward line and that badly cost them. The days of Barry Hall threatening to lead the Dogs to the promise land are one other thing that appears to have gone in the past two years.

For the Dockers, Fyfe was a revelation constantly seeking the hardball get whilst the form of Pavlich is a concern. McPharlin has grown immeasurably in the back line since I last saw him play. The Dockers have a hardness and a structure under Lyon that should see them shrug off their reputation as also rans. It is only Round 2, but if the Dockers are to be a contender deep into September as opposed to first week speed bumps, then they need Pavlich to be the target that Riewoldt was for Lyon at St. Kilda.

The game itself was not particularly memorable, but the circumstances behind it was. Things change and I am sure they will change again in the coming 2 years, but one thing is certain. An afternoon at the Footy with your family is one joy that is eternal.

WESTERN BULLDOGS       1.1 5.5 7.7 11.12 (78)
FREMANTLE                         6.2 9.6 13.9 16.10 (106)

Western Bulldogs: 
Dahlhaus 3, Cross 2, Murphy 2, Cooney, Smith, Lower, Cordy
Fremantle: Walters 3, Bradley 2, Pavlich 2, Crozier 2, Fyfe, Mayne, Barlow, Mzungu, Hill, Sutcliffe, de Boer

Western Bulldogs:
 Liberatore, Cooney, Smith,  Dahlhaus
Fremantle: Fyfe, Crowley, Walters, McPharlin, Barlow

 Ray Chamberlain, Jason Armstrong, Andrew Mitchell

Official crowd: 19,210 at Etihad Stadium

Our Votes: 3. Fyfe (F), 2. McPharlin (F), 1. Liberatore (WB)


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Excellent report and great story of a family at the footy following different teams. To be still enthralled and fascinated by a game of AFL football in Melbourne after all your adventures overseas says a lot about our game.
    I have been saying for years that the Bulldogs need someone like Barry Hall to complement all the work done by the hard-working midfielders. Why they haven’t recruited a spearhead is beyond me. Cordy, a ruckman, hasn’t worked and if Jones is marking the ball he then can’t be relied on to kick straight.
    Although the Dogs lost, your Dad would have seen improvement on last year which I’m sure he told you about.

  2. Great stuff, Tim. Bloody hell! I was at the game – we could have met up for a beer! What was your favourite restaurant?

  3. Tim Ivins says

    Thanks Neil and Gigs.

    Neil, you are spot on. It is a special game. 6,000 people showed up to the friendly between the Dogs and Power in South London – 1/10th of the Australian population of London. The love for the game is universal once it’s seen. I have now got work colleagues into it as well.

    As for the Dogs recruiting a tall target, it pains me to say this, but how good would Franklin look in Red, White and Blue hoops? There’s definite improvement but without a spearhead, it’s not enough to bridge the gap.

    Gigs, very disappointed to miss you, I should’ve realised you’d be there. My favourite restaurant was Don Don on Swanston St. I’d go for lunch, grab a Chicken Katsu and eat it in the sunshine on the steps of the State Library of Victoria. Alas no longer

  4. Neil Belford says

    Great story Tim – I have had exactly your experience with the accent. I had forgotten the feeling of seeing and hearing the familiar from a new perspective (actually for the accent for me it was startling in that it was the voice of my own brother – who I had always thought of as being less uncouth / more civilised than me).

    I cant understand the recent slavish fashion here for drinking pints. Drinking beer that is not flat and not warm seems sensible, indeed desirable.

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