AFL Round 14 – Melboune v North Melbourne: How to involve the Demons skipper in the conversion of a wayward son

MELBOURNE v NORTH MELBOURNE
4.40pm, Sunday, June 22, at the MCG

 

By MARK FREEMAN

 

Finally, it was time. The big push was on.

 

Young Rory, 12, was vacillating over his Brisbane Lions, anchored to the bottom of the table with five straight losses with what looked a bleak run ahead.

 

Normally the dad-talk runs as follows: “Don’t give up on ’em son, they’ll come good eventually. You have to stick with ’em.”

 

But this is the same boy who sniffed out early that his Old Man’s Dees were on the nose – and that was in a good year for us; finishing fifth in 2006.

Since then I’ve had nothing to argue with, the Dees having plumbed new depths of footballing mediocrity in recent seasons. No spiral punts; just a long spiral downwards since he made his (some might say wise) decision.

 

But this season the young pup cocked an ear when the Dees crossed the border and rolled Adelaide. In round 9 I made sure he was right across the Dees getting over the Tigers only hours before North pumped the Lions. And he was mightily impressed when Christian Salem put the Dees in front of ladder leader Port Adelaide midway through the last term in Alice Springs.

 

This week it was all coming together. The Dees were coming off a fabulous one-point win over the Bombers, while the Beaumaris Sharks U13 Div 1 fixture allowed us to get to the ‘G on this mild winter Sunday evening.

 

Best of all, I had an ace up my sleeve. In the week leading up to this match, I was lucky enough to be working at the launch of the Jim Stynes Bridge, a bike and pedestrian path linking Melbourne’s CBD with the Docklands named after the late, great Demons Brownlow-medal winning ruckman and former president.

 

Four Dees players attended – Nathan Jones, Jeremy Howe, Lynden Dunn and James Frawley – and immediately post event I struck up a conversation with Nat Jones, who was very forthcoming about new coach Paul Roos’ unique ability to bond the players and give them the confidence to back themselves.

 

He generously agreed to record a message on my video camera urging young Rory to get on board with the Dees. “We’re on the way up, exciting times ahead, so next time I see you Rory I want to see a Demons jumper on your back!”

 

This was pure gold, and with ‘Chip’ Frawley chipping in, I was able to cut a short video featuring these messages among some Dees action highlights. I could see Rory was pretty chuffed with the personal address stuff on game eve. Everything was now in place for the final coup.

It started out pretty well. Rory’s new friend Nat Jones set up Bernie Vince to answer an early Kangaroos goal, before big Chris Dawes took a towering grab four minutes later, kicking truly to give us the lead. The Dees were running hard, taking the game on – and the Dees fans were up and about.

 

Vince was inspirational in that first half, with 25 possessions and three goals to his name. It was the most complete performance I’d seen by a Redleg since James McDonald used to quietly tear sides apart.

 

He had plenty of friends too – Nat Jones bustled away, Dom Tyson was enterprising. Lynden Dunn showed off his new defensive footy smarts, while Jeremy Howe rose for two huge grabs in three minutes. We almost just expect that of him these days. If ever a coach puts to him the question “What are your legs?” he can reply with genuine conviction: “Steel springs”.

 

My buoyancy over the Demons’ form was continuously weighted down by the reality that North kept emphatically answering our challenge. With a pair of goals either side of the first break, they certainly looked more assured going forward. As our Roo-supporting companion on this evening Ben Cuthbertson regularly pointed out: “Too classy Boomer… too good Drew”.

 

Indeed, it is a pleasure watching Boomer Harvey weave his magic, little legs pumping, darting about as if in his own dimension.

 

But just as Harvey, Levi Greenwood and Lindsay Thomas looked like they would take the game away from us, the Dees again responded – Salem with courage set up Frawley for the Demon’s fourth, then Salem with composure set up Vince for another. He’s a real find, Salem.

 

Immediately after the long break Dawes won a holding the ball decision and a 50-metre penalty to gift him his second goal. The Demons were within 7 points! The Dees are coming Rory, get excited!

 

Sober reality kicked in again. North clicked up a gear and ran through our defences. Six Kangaroo goals in 12 minutes, bookended by Jack Ziebell and debutant Ben Brown, settled the contest in North’s favour. Too good. Too classy. Too much composure.

 

The Get Rory to the Dees campaign had fallen flat yet again. As I cradled a beer during a dull last quarter, I consoled myself with the thought that while the Dees will only continue to improve, Brisbane has a snowflake’s chance in hell of finding another Jonathan Brown.

 

 

 

MELBOURNE                    3.0    6.0    8.4     10.6     (66)

NORTH MELBOURNE     4.5   7.8   14.12   15.17 (107)

 

Goals—Melbourne: Vince, Dawes 3; Frawley, Bail, Pedersen, Riley. North Melbourne: Greenwood, Thomas, Mullett 2; Ziebell, Nahas, Harvey, Petrie, Cunnington, Atley, Swallow, Black, Brown.

 

Best–Melbourne: Vince, N. Jones, Cross, Dawes, Dunn, Watts. North Melbourne:Harvey, Greenwood, Thompson, Atley, Firrito, Ziebell.

 

Umpires: Fleer, Bannister, Rosebury. Crowd: 26,615.

 

Malarkey votes: Vince (Melbourne) 3, Harvey (North Melbourne) 2, Greenwood (North Melbourne) 1.

 

 

Comments

  1. matt watson says

    Hi Freeza,
    Love how you got a recorded, personal message for your son.
    Great that the players did that. Most clubs would want a fee for that.
    I hope your boy ditches Brisbane and does the responsible thing and picks up with the Demons.
    I’m doing all I can to brainwash my boy on the benefits of following North Melbourne…

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    12years old may be too late.

  3. Starkie, that’s why my two year old has a North Melbourne poster in his bedroom…
    He’s also a member.
    He’s not going to have a chance.

  4. Yep that’s what I thought – did much the same – but if the side’s going rubbish you’ll find kids will drift off. Kids love a winner, which is why when you get to Auskick with your two-year-old ironmike you’ll see very few bulldogs, demons, saints jumpers, and a shitload of Hawks, Pies etc. We had a kid in the U13s in southern Melb here who started showing up to training in a Port jumper this season! His Saints supporting old-man none too impressed – kid bought it out of his birthday cash apparently.
    Anyway you should be right with the Roos for a bit with the players you’ve got. When they’re really young as long as the kid gets to sing the song at a win a couple of times they should stick I’d have thought

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    mine was a member a few months after birth.

    My niece and nephew always hate footy colours day at school because they’re the only Roos in the playground.

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