Jonathan Sloan has been off the junk food for six months training for the Head of the River. His crew have a good day and he feels it will all be capped off by an unlikely Lions win.

AFL Round 1 – Hawthorn v Brisbane: Head of the River (and football or something)

Hawthorn versus Brisbane

4.40 PM, 22nd of March

Aurora Stadium, Launceston

Jonathan Sloan


4.00 PM

It’s not often in my life as a Year 11 schoolboy that my life seems to resemble that of an elite sportsman. But on the 22nd of March, it did. It’s the day of my beloved Lions’ first match for the season, and normally, that would be all I’m thinking about. But it doesn’t even cross my mind today. For while the football season is just beginning, my rowing season is drawing to a close. And the 22nd of March, 2014 means just one thing for APS Rowers: Head of the River.


While Brisbane is flying to Tasmania, full of nerves and anticipation, two minibuses depart from the St Kevins’ Boatshed in Toorak, destined for Nagambie, with similar emotions. St Kevin’s isn’t exactly known for its rowing prowess, but one thing we are known for is heart, a trait I deeply hope the Lions are able to embody. My seconds crew faces reigning premiers Scotch College in our initial heat, but this doesn’t intimidate us. Hopefully, the status of the Opposition doesn’t impede on the performance of Brisbane either. The waves are choppy, but St Kevin’s are able to do our job, placing second and making our A final. In the four hours between races, we do all we can to stay focused, which means any other sport is pushed firmly from my mind.


With only three senior crews making their respective A finals, the odds are really not in SKC’s favour. But we row out of our skins to get the result we want. We’ve gone from a barely making sixth three weeks ago to a podium finish at Head of the River. All those hours we’ve spent training have paid off. We couldn’t be happier with the way we’ve ended out season. As crew photos are taken and handshakes are exchanged, my mind finally thinks if the game in Launceston. Before our races today, I wouldn’t have given us a chance to knocking the Hawks off. But now. Now I’m not sure.


6.15 PM

I’m on the minibus back to Melbourne, and my lack of a smartphone has left me in the dark regarding the match. I could ask someone for the score, but for some reason I don’t want to. I think it’s because I’m content at the moment. I’ve had a phenomenal day, and in my mind’s eye I can picture the Lions pulling out a fantastic upset. For the moment at least, I’m satisfied. The radio is playing an assortment of INXS, Kanye West and Two Door Cinema Club. I certainly have no desire to change my mood now, for better or worse.


6.30 PM

We’ve stopped in Wallan for our annual post-HotR Macca’s run, and amidst 16 seventeen and eighteen year olds chowing down on the first junk food they’ve been allowed for near-on six months now, I happen to see a TV screen, where Trent West slots a goal late in the third quarter to put the Lions within two points. The happy balloon in my stomach is still there. The combination of a close margin and a stomach full of Mountain Dew has me seriously considering the possibility that today might be one of the better days I’ve had ever.


8.00 PM

So it turns out that the Cinderella story that I hoped for didn’t come true. The Hawks piled on eight goals in the final quarter to turn a narrow match into a seemingly one-sided 48 point win. But it’s in defeat that lessons are learnt, and I feel as though both Brisbane, and one of their supporters have really learnt something today. You may not be good enough to win, but by giving everything, you can even surprise yourself. That’s when the best results are obtained. The St Kevins 2nds gave it all, and got the best results they could. If Brisbane can continue to do this, we’re in for an exciting season.






21.13 (139)





13.13 (91)


Goals: Hawthorn: Roughead, Bruest 5, Gunston, Smith, Sheils 2, Lewis, Mitchell, O’Biren, McEvoy, Suckling.

Brisbane: Brown 4, West, Rockliff 3, Mayes 2, Green.


Best: Hawthorn: Lewis, Birchall, Bruest, Sheils, Roughead, Burgoyne

Brisbane: Zorko, Rockliff, Green, Lester, Brown


Umpires: Donlon, Hay, McInerney. Crowd 12,430.


Our Votes: Lewis (Haw) 3, Birchall (Haw) 2, Zorko (BL) 1




  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well done Jonathon a great personal report , well done you and St Kevins ! Spot on re giving your best . My interest in Brisbane is as a Norwood fan thru James Aish it is a mystery how he fell down to number 7 in the draft I eagerly look forward to following the progress of a quality young man from a great footy family
    Remarkably James until yest had played in two senior SANFL Premiership sides and in only 1 losing senior game
    Good luck in your rowing and in life in general Jonathon

  2. Jonathan, my best detective work suggests you may have a fine sporting heritage. But I may be wrong. Alex Sloan was skipper of Fitzroy’s premiership side in 1898 – and he rowed for Victoria. He went on to be a celebrated schoolboy rowing coach. Are you related? You share the same enthusiasms.

  3. John, that was some impressive detective work. Unfortunately, it’s all rendered irrelevant by the fact that it’s wrong. I’ve checked out the link with Alex myself previously – no relation unfortunately.

  4. Well, there you go. A happy coincidence of name then. Cheers.

  5. Geez Jonathan — Head of the River at Nagambie, eh?
    Shouldn’t that be “Head of the Lake”.

    Back in the day we rowed in the Head of the River on the Barwon River. The two Geelong APS schools had boat sheds on the Barwon’s banks. Probably still do.
    We would have rowed hundreds of bloody training miles up and down that rotten Barwon preparing for the heats on the Friday. And hopefully the finals on the Saturday.
    Come to think of it, one year we did row the Head of the River heats and finals on the Yarra. Can’t remember why, all these years on.

    And did you know St Kevins was only promoted from the Championship to the Premier League (sorry about English soccer reference) in the Sixties?
    The old six-club APS Premier League was MGS, GGS, Scotch, Wesley, Geelong College and Xavier.
    St Kevins, Carey, Brighton, Haileybury and Caulfield Grammar were given their leg-up quite a while after the original six had battled it out in rowing, footy, cricket, track and field.

  6. It’s up at Nagambie because it can accommodate a 2 kilometre course, rather than the 1.5 Barwon can.

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