AFL Round 12 – North Melbourne v Richmond: Sleeps with the Chickens

I trust North Melbourne as much as I trust Angus, my two-year-old son not to spill his soup.  He insists on feeding himself, so the Tyrannosaurus Rex on his jumper gets a feed too.


On Sunday, a lot of AFL aficionados believed North was a certainty against Richmond.  Most of those experts believe the Roos are on the cusp of something great.  Those experts trust North more than I trust those experts.


On Sunday night, my trust in North and Angus was tested in the most irrational way possible.  As North was relaxing during the second quarter, Angus was sleeping.  When the Tigers kicked a couple of goals clear, Angus must’ve given a couple of kicks in bed.


Having abdicated my parental responsibilities to entertain mates in the garage, I didn’t hear Angus stir.  We were drinking, playing pool and waiting for lamb roast.  Midway through the second term, Richmond extended their lead to 23-points.


‘This is the type of game North is expected to win,’ I said.  ‘And it’s the type of game North often lose.’

Thanks to the AFL, there was no Sunday night game on free-TV.  It is absurd that the broadcast deal doesn’t give us a live game in Brisbane the night before a public holiday.


The crew in the garage were all regulars, Simon, Andy, Adam G and Adam L, also known as AJ.  We were forced to watch an old game, Hawthorn v Geelong from 2009.


When the Tigers blew the lead out to 29-points, AJ asked me to turn the music off and put the footy on the radio.


I rejected that suggestion because we were losing.  Adam G seconded my motion.  Simon drank some beer.  Andy had a shot and sunk a ball.


It was half time when we were at dinner.  North trailed by 35-points.


The conversation was predictable.  Brad Scott is no good and he has to go.  I rang Russ, who was at the game.  He was too upset to offer much analysis.


‘Martin has got four,’ he said.  ‘They’re just not getting the ball.’


AJ sat at the table, looking at his phone as the third quarter started.  ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he said.  ‘The Tigers could lead by 45-points and still lose.’


‘They’re 35-points up,’ Adam G said.  ‘That’s pretty good.’


‘Yeah but this is Richmond,’ AJ said.  ‘Watch them crumble when North get a couple of goals.’


I frowned.  ‘I’d like to believe you AJ but I don’t.’


AJ shook his head.  ‘Richmond won’t win.  I guarantee it.’


He wasn’t bullshitting us.  AJ is much too brutal for that.  Had North trailed Geelong, Hawthorn or Sydney by 35-points at half time, he wouldn’t have been predicting victory.  He would’ve been on the tease.  He likes describing North as bunnies.


Ten minutes into the third quarter, the lead was 17-points.  North was on the loose.  Angus had cut loose too.  Kristine summonsed me inside.


Night terrors are dreadful.  I could only assume Angus had channelled my angst and woke up in a Kangaroo nightmare.  He was hysterical, the kind of tantrum that makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with your kid.  It was one of those nights when you know the howling is set in.


I did the responsible thing and left him to Kristine.


In the garage, AJ checked his phone.  North trailed by five points.  It was my shot.  Everyone had an empty glass.  Bon Scott was singing about a problem child.  Mine was upstairs howling at the back door as North took the lead.


A few minutes later Angus was on my hip in the garage, saying hi to the boys.  I carried him around for about ten minutes until he asked for mummy.  He was placed into her arms on the couch.  He was quiet.


Richmond was quiet.  North were eight points up.  AJ was shaking his head.


‘Richmond is the most mentally frail team in the AFL,’ he said.  It doesn’t matter how far in front they get.


Five minutes into the last quarter, North led by 15-points.  Andy mentioned an article written during the week, quoting Tony Jewell, Richmond’s last premiership coach.


‘Hardwick said Richmond need to play the Richmond way,’ Andy said.  ‘And Jewell asked what is the Richmond way.  They’ve been playing the Richmond way for the last 30-years. You can’t trust Richmond to do anything good.’


When North led by 22-points, Angus was howling at 22-decibels.  I went upstairs.  Andy, Adam G and AJ went home, leaving Simon alone in the garage.  He was sitting at the table, swivelling in half circles on a bar stool.


About fifteen minutes later it was clear Angus wasn’t going to sleep any time soon.  I went back to the garage.  Simon was still sitting at the table, swivelling on the bar stool.


‘You’ll have to sleep out here,’ I said, dumping pillows and a doona on the bed.




‘Sorry, Angus is going nuts.’


‘I can hear him.’

Kristine went to bed.  Angus and I sat on the couch.  I sung North Melbourne’s theme song.  The tears subsided.  ‘North won.  You don’t have to be sad anymore.’


I put highlights of the recent Ashes series on.  I’d rather have been watching North and Richmond.  Angus didn’t want to watch cricket.  He found the iPad and watched Fireman Sam.  Every time I tried turning it off he would snatch it back and whinge.  When I suggested it was bed time he would flee or cry, occasionally both.


He found the cordless drill and played Bob the Builder.  When I took the battery out, he cried.


I felt as helpless as Brad Scott did in the second term.  I was impotent as Damien Hardwick in the third term.


Eventually I just put Angus to bed.  He got up.  Kristine put him into bed.  He got up.  We tried him in our bed.  He wanted to get out.  We tried ignoring him as he played in the kitchen.  He defeated our resolve.


When I carried him back to bed, he was kicking.  When I put him down he was crying.  I was firm yet managed to speak in soothing tones.


‘You are a very lucky boy.  You’ve got your own big boy bed and a special blanket Nanna made.  You have to go to sleep now.  Mummy’s in bed, I’m going to bed and if you don’t go to sleep in your bed you can go outside and sleep with the chickens.’




I stared at him.  What the?


He let out a moan.


‘If you get up one more time you can go and sleep with the chickens.’


Silence.  I patted his back.  He sighed then fell silent.


I got into bed, trying not to make a sound.  Kristine asked me if North won.


‘Yep,’ I said.  I wasn’t thinking about Kangaroos or Tigers anymore.  My thoughts were on chickens, which I mentioned in pure desperation.  I didn’t know where that line came from.  Somehow it worked.  It was pure bluff though.  The chicken coop is too small for Angus to sleep in.


Before I drifted off to sleep, I imagined Brad Scott at half time, warning his men they would sleep with the chickens if they didn’t win.


About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great report Matt been there done that re , Angus I don’t think there’s a parent around who didn’t giggle re his behaviour . I also found , Hardwicks comment baffling get back to playing the , Richmond way say what ? While it wasn’t a boring cliche it was a bewildering comment . The Kangas are interesting lack a real 2nd forward but good ruckman , good key defenders and with , Wells back a dangerous midfield who knows ? Thanks Matt

  2. Matt

    Just imagining what the Godfather movie would have been like if Sonny opened the package and found Luca Brazzi’s jacket wrapped in a roast chook

    Sweet story, even if the Tigers had to lose for me to read it


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