AFL Round 15 – North Melbourne v Richmond: A rebuild falls apart

The gourmet chicken rolls that I made in the morning were stacking well. We were excited having lived overseas for some time, were of to the footy! It had been a long time since going to the footy with the family. The rolls had certain symmetry to them as I layered the chicken, mayo, spring onion, and avocado. The build was coming together I thought and I could not wait for main course, a resurgent Richmond roaming Etihad in a merciless search of their prey. Today the Kangaroos, another kill in our quest to the finals at last.

I had been generally satisfied with the Richmond rebuild. Structures were in place. Off the field Gary March and Benny Gale had provided the steelwork. Our supporters had kept the foundations of faith over successive catastrophic dynasties and broken hearts. Our coach and players were the architects of the army’s emerging smile. Yet I had enormous respect for North Melbourne, always had. Their tenacity under pressure always impressed me, as did their directness and workmanlike warrior type laboring and I knew this win would not come easy.

We were meeting Michael, Melbourne’s best estate agent and his boy young James in Albert Park. Lovely spot there, by the sea. Olivia was out injured due to a trampoline fall. Position, position, as I explained to Sasha our eldest boy, is the first rule of real estate. Sasha so dearly wanted his tigers to command today, a chance to grasp fourth spot and a time to sing the song. We met Don, Michael’s evergreen dad at the ground. We met Dave, my brother from Bright who I had brainwashed as a young boy to follow the tigers. I gave him a half of my paper round money on most Saturdays to follow the tigers. Poor kid.

I love the MCG but had grown to really like Ethiad. It’s wonderful lines had impressed me from early days, and no doubt Scotty would be happy the roof today was closed. Positions were made- a lovely vista on the forward flank.  I was disappointed to learn that the Lebanese flyer Houli would not take his place on the ground.

The game started with a smooth forward move by Richmond, who liked to run from the back in a similar way the shinboners do. The Roos looked much hungrier than us however. They were flooding back quickly and this made us go wide a lot. Dave kept saying these blokes love to run it from behind. I over catered in the gourmet rolls bracket and I did not have many takers, I reasoned with 8 of us going I should make 14 rolls. Only Don and Dave grazed on the rolls. By quarter time it was the Kangaroos who were looking at a tiger feast.

Just before the second stanza I whisked youngest son Jack of to the toilet for a pit stop. Jack had agreed to support the tigers today, and is regretfully a Carlton fan.  The brief conversations I overheard with guys took the form of “They don’t look good today mate” and ‘Bloody Hardwick” and  “Deledio and Martin better extract the digit”. To add matters to my concerns the trough was not that even to stand on, not solid at all, and Jack nearly slid into the urinal wall. I wondered if that was an omen. The tigers were totally unsteady, unsure and on shaky ground.

In the second quarter the Roo boys had came out to play. Our boys were static watchers as they moved forward with balance, precision and tenacity. They blew us away with their teamwork and link. Notable prime movers were Tarrant, Swallow and Bastinac. They had kicked 8.3 to a measly point to us and to me this just signaled an earth shattering loss. We were simply no match for them and we never looked like scoring. Not only did they re design Ethiad stadium as their own, they were polishing the windows and helping themselves to the mini bar fridge.  Our only smile for the quarter was when Hansen had a brain fade and somehow kicked into the point post for a kick out on the full.

I tried to reconcile this inevitable loss at half time with my family. All the adults agreed that Richmond simply were not angry enough. Sasha was really disappointed. He asked me what would the coach be saying to the players at half time? I said diplomatically that he would be asking for more effort from everyone. Sasha came straight to the point; he said I would be saying you had “bloody better have a go or you guys will be off”. I love it how kids are more honest than adults.

I know deep down I was seething about my emotional build up to the game; I so wanted a Richmond victory, having arrived from Indonesia a day before. Yet in a strange way I really admired North Melbourne taking us apart. If it was not for our kids maybe the adults could have got angry and demanded more of the players.  There was no way we were going to win this game and there was no way North was going to lose it. Despite their well documented fade-outs this year they continued on their way after half time with excellent design and tremendous accountability.

Our boys were simply not strong enough, hit by a North Melbourne earthquake that really suggested they were capable of a big run home for the remainder of the year. It floored most of the diehard punters at the game. Not many expected this demolition job. The so-called Richmond rebuild is still a way of for the true believers. We need more workers, more skills and more depth in our game plans.

Not only was our plumbing leaking, but also to me the joint had to be completely rewired and re-stumped.

We decided to go home to Michae’ls and grab a bottle of wine. Dave jumped in his car and went back to Bright. I was disappointed for him and for the women who had come down from Deniliquin to see the Tigers who sat next to us. At Michael’s the wine was good as were the reflections. The kids watched Sammy’s Adventures whilst Lynda, I and Michael and Michelle talked about re-designing the backyard, which was just a pile of dirt. What do you say to Melbourne’s best real state agent? “Look mate” I said, “It’s a blank canvas, anything’s possible”. We took our 7 rolls and kids home to John Boys and Sandringham and I contemplated another rebuild.

About Haje Halabi

Born in Bright Victoria, went overseas for 2 years and stayed 18. Tiger tragic, father of 2 fine young men, teacher and obsessed with sport and the good it can bring.


  1. Cheryl Critchley says

    Great summary Haje. Captures the disappointment perfectly. There’s still hope but you’ve gotta worry about the wheels falling off. Fingers crossed they’ll rebound.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good Summary I pose this question to Richmond Supporters is Deledio the biggest front runner Playing

  3. Haje Halabi says

    Thanks Cheryl- I just think we cant get ahead of ourselves, whilst we have improved I think there are things that our house needs to get into order- we need to win the games we should win, and surprise perhaps in the games we might not win- this year has been a mixed bag but I think most tigers will take 6th for the moment.

  4. Haje Halabi says

    Hi Malcolm- re delidio- certainly he is an important player and I know the coaching staff have to work out ways and so does Lids about how to beat tags- it used to be tag delidio, cut of jacks supply and force the boys to play wide- thats what nth did- and it is far too a predictable game plan. We need to find options and flexibility, and it was not just lids that was disappointing on the weekend.

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