Round 18 – Melbourne v West Coast: AFL Footy in the Red Centre (Part 2)

Part 2 – It’s game time.

 

With a little over 90 mins until bouncedown, I set off on the 10 minute walk to TIO Traeger Park.  As the match was being touted a sellout, I expected to see a trail of spectators all heading in the same direction, although I realised that the magnitude of “sellout” here in Alice is somewhat different to one in Melbourne, so perhaps that was why it was only when I was within 1 block of the oval that the people seemed to appear.

 

It was refreshing to see how much gravitas Channel 7 were placing on the warm-up match between the Centralian Redtails and the Top End Storm as the match was being broadcast live (in Alice at least), however some of the commentary seemed a little condescending at times.  In the background to that match before I left my hotel, I could see the crowd was already starting to gather for the afternoon game.

 

Channel 7 even showed live footage of both teams arriving at the ground, and everything seemed to be in order for the Eagles, however by the time I had got to the ground, the radio commentators announced that Captain Hurn was a late withdrawal due to calf soreness – this is not a good omen, when only 30 mins before, I’d seen him get off the team bus with the rest of his boys.

 

On entering the venue, I found a shady spot on the grass and it was then that I realised that I’d never actually been to a footy match where grassy hills were the vast majority of the spectator seating.  The whole atmosphere was one of a relaxing Sunday afternoon family picnic, and it was refreshingly raw and down-to-earth.  Perhaps despite all the “innovations” and “improvements” in the large stadiums that AFL is generally played at today, we have somehow lost some of the grass-roots feel of the game.  These days it is hard to get so close to the on-field action, but today it was right in front of me.

 

There was a very beautiful “Welcome to Country” before the teams ran onto the ground, and by now I could finally see some red and blue Demons supporters, mainly congregated at the city end of the arena.

 

The first quarter started ominously as Melbourne got the first goal, but then we started to take the ascendancy and got our first 3 goals via Ryan, Pettrucelle and Waterman, all in general play.  Melbourne were very inaccurate for the quarter with only 1 goal from 6 set shots; by the first break we were in front by 20 points.  I was starting to feel relaxed and upbeat about the rest of the match.

 

The Dees found form in the 2nd quarter, and with more accurate kicking, began to draw back the margin as the quarter progressed.  With an after-the-siren goal to Fritsch, the deficit had been all but extinguished and we were only ahead by 1 point.  This match was starting to have shades of last week about it (1 point loss to the Pies), and I was getting nervous.

 

Fritsch began the 3rd quarter the way he ended the 2nd, with a goal, and now the Dees were in the lead for the first time since the beginning of the match.  We went goal for goal for the next 20 mins but then the Dees got 2 in a row so went into the final quarter with a 6 point lead.  Could the unthinkable happen and we lose another very winnable game???  I really hoped not!!!

 

In the first 10 mins of the final quarter we managed 3 goals thanks to Yeo (1) and Darling (2), but when McGovern limped off with potentially a serious ankle injury my heart was in my mouth.  We continued to slowly extend our lead with a series of points, which at this stage of the game become pretty important.  At the 21 min mark, the Dees did get one back off the boot of Petty, but exactly 4 mins later, our “fixer” Sheed sealed it with a goal to bring us back to what would be the final margin of 13 points.

 

I cheered loudly after the final siren and sang the song to celebrate with the boys.  The WCE supporters around me watched and waited to see if the boys would come across to our side of the ground, and we were rewarded handsomely.  I got to high-five none other than Flyin’ Liam Ryan!

 

After that, and as the sun began to set over the MacDonnell Ranges, I walked happily back to my accommodation and enjoyed the inner joy that comes from my team winning.  We didn’t quite get enough of a margin on the scoreboard to tip our percentage over that of the rejuvenated Brisbane Lions (who continue their surge up the AFL ladder), but the defeats of Collingwood and Geelong this round, have made the race for top 4 placings that bit more interesting.  At this stage of the season, I’ll take the win, and we can hope for an increase in percentage next week.

 

The win has also improved my personal travelling win-loss ratio to 38% (up from 37%).

 

It’s been a really enjoyable 4 days in Alice, and I will definitely be back the next time we have an AFL match here.

 

There will be a short Part 3 to this story as tomorrow morning I am heading to Uluru for 2 nights, so I’ll add a post-match travelogue after that, to round out my “AFL Footy in the Red Centre” series.

 

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series – you can find Part 1 HERE.

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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