AFL Round 12 Geelong v Carlton: Not Winning Isn’t Losing

Geelong v Carlton. Etihad Stadium. We’re perched high up on level three. Kate is petrified by heights. She buries her head into her jumper. Four quarters later my whole family is burying their heads in their jumper as the Blues go 7 points up with three minutes on the clock. Bryce Gibbs has just kicked his fourth and the potential match winner. I thought he was a crap footballer? That’s all I’ve heard about him this whole season: soft, slack, disinterested. Well he’s not tonight. Obviously he’s playing hard for a five year contract.

The woman in front of me turns around. She’s an ashen faced Cats fan.

“How long to go?” she asks seeing the radio plugged into my ears.

“Two minutes and 54 seconds” I reply.

Carlton supporters growl “Daiseeee” every time Dale Thomas gets the ball. It’s a jocular, familiar growl; the type of growl reserved for your mate who arrives at the pub late: “Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-te”.

But a year or so back it was quite a different growl when Thomas was wearing the black and white guernsey. In those days Blues supporters growled at him like French revolutionaries baying for the head of an aristocrat.

How things change.

The Cats look shot. Mackie is falling over more often than a one legged kick boxer. Corey Enright keeps kicking it to Carlton players (he’s going in for scans during the week; scans testing for cataracts), and Johnno is wobbling around the ground, with a Carlton player perpetually clinging to his backside, like a sheep with a bad case of fly strike.

“How long to go?” I get asked again.

“Two minutes and 33 seconds” I reply.

We need to keep it away from Troy Menzel, who has all the polish of his brother, and two good knees as well.

The ball is pummelled into Geelong’s forward 50. Hawkins is dragged to the ground by the neck of his jumper.

“Play on” calls the maggot. It must be a new interpretation of the “dragging-the-full-forward-to-the-ground-by-the-neck-when-the-ball-is-15-metres-away” rule.

But never mind, The Hyphen swoops on the loose ball and curls one home. One point in it. The crowd is up and about. Kate takes a peek from under her jumper.

The Cats supporter in front of me glances back but I get in first,

“One minute 52” I say.

“If we can win it out of the centre…………………..” Her sentence trails off. It’s more of a prayer than a statement. The Cats haven’t won the ball out of the centre since the first quarter of the game against the Roos two weeks ago.

The ball is bounced and the Cats don’t win it out of the centre. But they do win it at half back. A kick and hope. Bodies fly in. Others fly out. As if by accident the ball is mongrelled to Geelong’s half forward flank where Hawkins is being held again.

“Play on” yells the maggot. “Bulltish” yells Hawkins watching the ball dribble over the boundary. He dances back to full forward like an angry bull in Pamplona.

The ball spins back into the field of play. Guthrie grabs it. His head is down and his backside up. In the traffic his captain calls for the ball. Selwood is goal side of his opponent. Fatal mistake by the Blues. The ball is flung from the pack of bodies. Selwood charges onto it, settles in the run, and nails a beauty from 45 out. Champion.

The Cats are in front by 5 points. It’s the worst margin of all. It’s got disastrous, opposition goal after the siren, agonising loss, written all over it. We must win it out of the centre.

We don’t. Again.

Defend! Everyone is in the Carlton 50, even the kid selling pies has jumped the fence to clog up the space. That bloke Menzel is in the thick of it again. He gets grabbed high. “Play on” yell the maggots. Stringer grabs it. He gets grabbed high. “Play on” yell the maggots. Geelong’s runner grabs it. He gets grabbed high. “Didn’t see that” yell the maggots. The tense Geelong supporter in front of me turns and grabs me high. “How long to go?” she squeals. Kate leans across and grabs Clare high. “Leave me alone” cries Clare, fixated on events. Liam is chewing his nails. Frances is squeezing her hands between her knees. Malthouse has gone red. No, purple. Chris Scott belts the bench in front of him. “Play on” is the call. The umpires have given themselves atomic wedgies. Their whistles are just a piece of forgotten bling around their necks. The crowd breaks the world record for consecutive screams of “BALL!!!” in the space of 36 seconds.

“How long to go?” shrieks the mad Cat fan. But she’s smiling. Manic even. Delirious. The end hasn’t registered. It’s that sort of game.

The Cats haven’t won, but they didn’t lose. The whole family is jumping up and down. Kate has forgotten that she’s about 500 feet above sea level. The woman in front of me is holding her Mum’s jumper like Jamieson held Hawkins. The scoreboard says we scored five more points than the Blues but it doesn’t feel like it.

Hang on, yes it does. We’re singing the club song. That must mean we won.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    You’ve done a great job here Dips.

    No free kick against Kate for grabbing Clare high I presume?

    Troy had LARS at 16ish from mammary.


  2. Still waiting for justice after Simon Wiggins touched Peter Riccardi’s kick after the siren in 2002…

  3. Great account Dips. Don’t think I’ve been as tense at the end of a Cats game since the 2009 Grand Final. That Carlton goal square scrimmage seemed to go on for about 10 minutes.

    Selwood and Hyphen (twice) produced clinch goals when it counted. At times Hawkins looked awesome, but Gibbs played the game of his life for the Blues. The late goal he kicked was a ripper.

    Carlton were stiff, but that’s footy.

    Hope the Cats still have a spare ‘get out of gaol free’ card somewhere. They certainly used one up on Friday night.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    Menzel lucky not to be cited for head-butting Rivers in the groin.

  5. The word “siren” got left out by the editors. I had it slotted in after the “36 seconds” bit. It sounded but no one stopped screaming, like they were addicted to yelling. Weird game.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff Dips as a neutral thought the umpiring dint favour either side there were several blatant free kicks not paid re both sides in the last q . Dips you nailed it re no one on the goal side re defensively on Selwood was criminal and that sort of thing is the difference between good sides and average sides . Rapt re Horlin Smith go the Pembroke Kings ! ( found a old school budget when I think he was in grade 6 geez he was blond ) thanks Dips

  7. matt watson says

    It was a great game – this is a great recollection.
    I sympathised with a Carlton fan when it was over. Yes the umpires made mistakes. Yes that bounce should’ve been called back. Yes they seemed to put the whistle away in the final minute.
    But the Blues kicked four points in a row across the third and last quarters.
    Hawkins was repeatedly held. He was called to play on in error, during a set shot.
    Players from both sides made mistakes.
    The coaches made mistakes.
    Nigel Lappin made a (deliberate) mistake.
    The umpires made mistakes.
    Hang on, what’s that? An umpire making a mistake??
    Ah, so its the umpires fault that Carlton lost.
    And that sentiment is what makes losing fans feel better.

  8. Gregor Lewis says

    Never enjoyed reading an account of my Hawkers’ nemesis winning as much as this one.

    Amen Dips. Scintillating bit of ‘moment captcha’ from you here.

    It also reminds me I’m both worried and complacent about Friday night. Worried coz Blues found some form. Complacent because Gibbs played a blinder ‘gainst us Hawks last season, but he rarely has two crackers in a row. Hopefully bodes well for a quiet night from him tomorrow.

    Really enjoyed the read. When the subject is my most hated, most feared, most respected, most anticipated footballing ‘enemies’, to laugh and get involved like I did reading that … Priceless!


  9. Scott Field says

    Ahh, love it, Dips!

    Only now 6 days later can I enjoy the recollection with the smug smirk of one who sang the team song. I walked away from the tele 20 minutes into the last with a mixture of contempt (for Carlton) and disgust (at losing to Carlton), to have a nervous one in the dunny. Thankfully a text from my brave daughter advising me of the Hyphen’s snap had me back watching the box for the Captain’s Goal.

    The rest was like the finish of the 2007 Prelim against the Pies – lots of effort, hearts in mouths, but the right result. God bless Brad Ottens.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Dips.
    I remeber when we Pies fans used to do the “Daiseeee” growl. He’s just ‘Dale’ to us now.

Leave a Comment