AFL Round 10 – Geelong v North Melbourne: Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Barrelin’ down the highway
Wheelin’ right along
Hear the tyres hummin’
Hummin’ out a song.

Driving down from Melbourne to Kardinia Park with my mate Craig to see the slightly out of form Cats take on the inconsistent but dangerous Kangaroos, it occurs to me that I’m into my seventh decade of following the fortunes of the Geelong Football Club.

This is something of a shock. I can’t really be that old, can I?

Remembering the above lyrics proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am. They belong to a TV show which was one of my favourites around the time I started attending games regularly to see the Cats – way back in the 1950’s.

The show was called Cannonball and I loved it. It was about a couple of blokes who drove an enormous semi-trailer all over America. They got into various scrapes each week, but there was always a happy ending. Right then all I wanted to do when I grew up was be a truckie, just like my heroes.

I suspect the lyrics would win the approval of the great Tom Hafey. I wonder if he ever watched the show.

There really was a lot to be excited about as a kid growing up in the ’50’s. The Olympic Games, playing footy and cricket with my mates, riding billycarts down the middle of the street (there weren’t so many cars around in those days), following the fortunes of the Cats – mainly on the wireless, and the arrival of TV.

The emergence of rock ’n roll and transistor radios at about the same time was also noteworthy. But for me the world that TV opened up was better, more exciting than anything on radio. It was just so visual.

Not many families had TV receivers at the time of the Olympics. The sets were very expensive compared to the average wage and most households only had one income, generally dad’s. If you wanted to see a show on TV you either had to know a ‘rich’ family who had a set or find an electrical shop or milk bar where one or more TV’s would be left on to attract customers.

The only other alternative, unthinkable as far as mum was concerned, was to rent or buy a set on hire purchase (the never-never) from Wally Peterson’s Webb Radio or a somewhere similar for a ‘mere’ guinea or two a week. Dad and I might have been in favour, but mum outvoted us.

Stores like Myers and Vealls sometimes put TV’s in the windows with speakers outside, even at night, so you could see Graham Kennedy do his thing on In Melbourne Tonight. Dozens would turn up to watch, probably hundreds when the Olympics were on. We kids used to squeeze between peoples’ legs to get a prime spot up the front.

Happily within a few years the prices came down and it seemed everyone had a TV receiver, including us. The only question was whether it was a 17 inch Pye or 21 inch AWA Deep Image, the latter being preferred. Colour TV was still a couple of decades away, but that didn’t worry anyone.

As well as Cannonball we used to love all the westerns and cop shows that were on. Gunsmoke, Wanted Dead or Alive, Have Gun – Will Travel, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Dragnet, Peter Gunn and The Untouchables were among the best. How did we ever get our homework done?

Geelong and North have a bit of history too. Proud clubs that date from the 1850’s and 1860’s respectively, they always seem to have had a healthy respect for each other. From the Cats’ perspective this would have been reinforced by North’s apparent ‘casting vote’ backing Geelong’s readmission to the VFL after WW2. If this story is true, good on ’em I say.

The clubs have certainly had some memorable games over the years. North’s first VFL finals win was a 17 point victory over the Cats in the 1950 Preliminary Final. I don’t recall the details, being only a few weeks old at the time, but I’m sure not too many Geelong fans would have begrudged the Shinboners their first Grand Final appearance the following week. Sadly they lost to Essendon.

Decades later, in 1994, North and Geelong faced off in a cracking Preliminary Final, arguably one of the greatest ever witnessed on the MCG. Ablett’s goal after the siren broke North hearts that day. This time it was Geelong’s turn to lose the Big One the following week – a merciless thrashing at the hands of the Eagles.

Other personal memories include watching Farmer, Goggin, Wade and Polinelli take on Teasdale, Aylett, Dugdale and Dwyer in some terrific games in the sixties. Geelong fans rarely left Arden Street in a happy frame of mind, but we pinched the odd one there. North occasionally reciprocated at Kardinia Park.

The Blue in the Race (50 years ago this year), Wade’s 13 goals for the Cats in 1971 (still a Kardinia Park record), Bill Ryan’s astonishing one-handed mark in front of a small crowd at Coburg in 1965 (what were North thinking going there!), Card’s bump on Greig, the brilliance of the Krakouer brothers, Carey’s imperious style, Ablett’s demolition of Mick Martyn to slot 11 one day at the MCG (it never happened again) and the win by the Kangas in freezing, wet conditions at Geelong in 2001 also come to mind.

These teams played a couple of terrific games in 2013. Geelong came from a mile behind early in the year to pinch a narrow win courtesy of a Jimmy Bartel free and goal, while North deservedly got the chocolates in a high standard, fast encounter late in the season. Both games were at the Docklands, the roof surprisingly left open during steady rain in the first game.

Tonight it’s a new experience for both teams – the AFL’s first ever Friday night game at Kardinia Park. Which set of supporters would go home happy?

Geelong pull the first surprise by starting Bartel and Kelly in the middle and Selwood up forward. The Cats look good in the early stages but it’s North who get the first goal via Thomas who’s taken a free for Ziebell. Dal Santo and Ziebell are off the ground under the blood rule in the first few minutes and Lonergan cops a solid knock to the head soon after. It’s tough early but not dirty.

After Thomas’ goal the Cats begin to dominate, pretty much all over the ground. Selwood gets a goal after marking, the umpire ignoring a light shove in the back of his opponent. Kelly and Bartel are everywhere. They set up attack after attack and the Cats kick five in a row. Hawkins creates numerous opportunities up forward and looks in ominous form. By quarter time North appear shellshocked, though trailing by just 21 points. It could, and probably should have been much more.

Things don’t improve for North early in the second quarter. Murdoch finishes some great set-up work by Stokes and Guthrie with a good snapped goal and Enright sneaks down and manages to float a big up and under banana kick straight through the middle. He’s immediately swamped by happy teammates. They love this guy, and why not! Thomas soccers one through for North against the tide and Black slots a nice set shot from a fair way out. Hawkins responds with a couple and the Cats have a handy six goal lead at half time.

So far Geelong have won all over the ground with Kelly, Bartel, Guthrie and Hawkins dominant. Greenwood and Harvey have tried hard for North but have had minimal impact. The Cats’ tackling in particular has been outstanding. North must regroup quickly if a blowout is to be avoided.

In the third term things even up and it’s goal for goal. North look more settled and Greenwood, Harvey and Ziebell are busy. Bartel continues on his merry way and Hawkins is still rag-dolling the Roos defence. He’s a bit stiff not to be paid a powerful mark at the top of the goal square when the central umpire didn’t pay advantage, but Motlop kicks one of his trademark long running goals from an angle to restore Geelong equanimity.

In the last quarter Bartel just about buries the last of North’s chances by slotting two quick goals. What a game he’s played. Daw responds with a long shot from 50.

Daw has had a strange game. With Lonergan off the ground Blicavs has moved onto him and done well. Every now and then though Daw looks threatening and imposing, but follows up with something relatively inept, giving away a soft free kick or tapping the ball straight to the opposition. If he gets his act together he looks like he could be a champion. Let’s hope he makes it.

All of a sudden North seem to find another gear and rattle on three more quick goals to silence the Geelong crowd. At the other end Motlop runs and evades brilliantly and snaps truly, only he has forgotten to bounce the ball during a journey of about 30 metres. The goal is disallowed.

Cats fans are even more incensed when Hawkins isn’t paid what looks like a clear mark at the top of the square – in fact a dubious free is paid against him. The umpy isn’t popular, but this is not unusual at Kardinia Park.

The Geelong players become a bit more desperate and close up the contest to bring North’s late run to a stop. Blicavs wanders down and snaps truly for the Cats following yet another quality assist from Hawkins and the game’s over. North have fought back well and a 20 point loss could have been far worse.

Overall it’s been a good team effort from the Cats while North have left too much to too few until the last quarter. They didn’t deserve to pinch it.

In the words of another old TV theme you’d say the Cats and the Kangaroos are ‘hell bent for leather’ in their quest to make the finals. Geelong look a genuine top four contender while North have the wherewithal to make the eight, if they can just find some consistency.

Both teams appear to be rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ along in the right direction. What will they find at the end of their ride. A Premiership Cup? Unlikely perhaps, but you never know.

Geelong 5.5 10.9 13.14 16.15 (111)
North Melbourne 2.2 5.4 9.8 13.13 (91)

Goals Geelong: Hawkins 4; Bartel, Murdoch, Duncan 2; Horlin-Smith, Stringer, Blicavs, Selwood, Motlop, Enright

North Melbourne: Petrie, Thomas 3; Bastinac, Nahas 2; Black, Ziebell, Daw

Best Geelong: Bartel, Kelly, Hawkins, Stokes, Guthrie, Rivers

North Melbourne: Greenwood, Harvey, Ziebell, Dal Santo, Thomas

Crowd: 27,402

Umpires: Donlon, Stevic, Armstrong

Our Votes: Bartel (G) 3, Hawkins (G) 2, Kelly (G) 1


  1. Nice stroll down memory lane, Burkie. You don’t look a day over 69!

    Love the description of the “TV receiver”. My kids moan out loud when I say I’m going to look something up on the Google machine.

    This game had a real air of inevitability about it. Strange given that these teams have played some really close ones lately. Can’t figure North out. Never have.

  2. Paul Young says

    Enjoyed the article, despite the fact North lost.

    Watching it on the telly and getting highly frustrated at the lack of shinboner spirit, I was able to turn over to a movie early in the 2nd quarter (saved on IQ – one of the greatest inventions ever produced for footy tragics for the prevention of doing one’s head in). By the time the movie was over I got to see North putting some respectability on the scoreboard.

    I don’t recall being more devastated at a VFL/AFL game than the ’94 PF, when Leigh Tudor kicked the ball from the pocket and it somehow ended up in the hands of Gary Ablett.

    1994 was not a good year; apart from North’s gut-wrenching prelim loss……….my stable’s well backed 3’s on favourite ran last in the Stawell Gift final. Cost my wife a lounge suite.

    Yep, North v Geelong – a rivalry that doesn’t attract the same attention nor the crowds of a clash involving Carlton/Colingwood/Essendon, but it’s still one we shinboners look forward to.

  3. Dips. Thanks – and you don’t look a day over 59!

    Paul. North and Geelong mightn’t spruik themselves as much as the so-called blockbuster clubs, but they almost always give their fans a tough, hard, honest contest. Long may this continue.

    Cheers, Burkie

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