AFL Round 15: North should not have lost this one

Hawthorn versus North Melbourne
1.10pm, Sunday, 12 July
Aurora Stadium, Launceston
Andrew Starkie
My mate Dom and I are at the Walk for Harmony at the Carlton Gardens, an event organised in response to recent attacks against Indians in Melbourne.  Its goals are to recognise Victoria’s cultural diversity and promote racial harmony.

We are immersed in a gentle, swirling sea of flags, cultural costumes and music.  Community groups carry banners and small, left-wing political organisations hand out flyers and sell badges.   Chinese dragons bounce and twist through the crowd.  AFL footballers, high-ranking police, religious leaders and politicians are present.

The dark-skinned young woman in charge of proceedings is talking into a microphone from the back of a small truck.  She is wearing a cream, strapless formal dress with gold sequences down the front.  Massive peacock feathers stick out of her hair.

Dom’s late father, Con, was born in Palestine to a Sicilian father and Greek mother.  They were escaping World War Two-ravaged Europe and eventually found themselves in an internment camp in Tatura, country Victoria.  The family moved to Melbourne, where Con grew up, met Katie at the Surrey Hills YMCA and together reared a handful of creative and smiling children.

Dom and I became mates when the family moved to Warrnambool and he and his brothers enrolled in the local boys’ Catholic school.  He’s happy because the Bombers defeated Sydney yesterday.

The walk moves off towards the city and I have my trusty Walkman in my ear.  I’m confident about today’s game against the out-of-form reigning premiers.  Our losing form has been better then theirs and I feel an imminent win for the Roos under Caretaker Crocker.  Having said that, a loss for the Hawks would put them two games out of the eight and almost end their finals chances.

Rain that blew south, away from Melbourne, yesterday is falling on Launceston in Biblical proportions.  Hail is predicted.  The young ruckman Goldstein has been replaced by the smaller Greenwood.  This is a day requiring old-fashioned wet-weather tactics.  The hungrier team will win.

The first quarter is a messy slog.  Players are committing bodies and shovelling the ball forward.  Stoppages are common.  It’s one goal each and we lead by a point on the siren.  Dom and I are swallowed up by a band of Chinese drum players.

We turn down Swanston Street during the second quarter and spectators have gathered on the pavements.  The walk has a bit of Moomba about it.  North are handling the wet conditions better.  Our tackling is strong and we’re kicking long to Hale.  We’ve kicked three goals to one for the term – including a tricky snap from Anthony – and lead by nine points at the main break.

The walk reaches its destination at Federation Square and the speeches and dancing begin.  Dom and I decide it’s time for lunch.

By midway through the third quarter we’re back at Dom’s East Melbourne apartment.  The ’G is an imposing site through the glass balcony doors.  He turns on Foxtel.  The rain has stopped in Launceston and the game has opened up.  We’re using the ball better, with efficient kicking and minimal handball.  Our tackle count grows.

Spite has crept into the game and Buddy has his number taken for unduly rough play on Petrie.  It’s a soft report and shouldn’t make it to the tribunal.

Harding goals on the siren and we lead by fourteen points.  The Hawks’ season is on the line.

Buddy marks over Gibson in the goalsquare at the start of the last term and kicks his first.  Swallow bombs to Hale who does the same.  Quick reply. I’m still confident.

Hawthorn’s strong bodies are starting to dominate the clearances and contested ball.  Hodge, Mitchell and Sewell are willing their team on.  Buddy is the target.  He kicks two more.  The comeback is on.

Our intensity is still good, but we can’t put the Hawks away.   Simmo dribbles one along the ground and it brushes the inside of the padding on the goalpost.  Jones and Thomas miss goals they shouldn’t.

We lead by five points, but my confidence is waning.  I’m out of my chair and prowling the lounge room.  Dom reminds me to pace myself as there’s still plenty of time left.   He’s right.  I take a few deep breaths and sit down again.

Hawthorn are pressing and there’s a throw-in on their forward flank.  Hodge rucks against Hale, forces the ball forward, receives it back and goals on the run.  The Hawks lead by a point and the crowd behind the goals is jubilant.

Two minutes left, we’re still in this, but the Hawks have the momentum.  They attack again.  Buddy takes a two-grab mark and kicks his fourth for the quarter.  Hawthorn are home and I’m in the kitchen restraining myself from kicking chairs.

“Gotta hurt,” Dom says.

No shit.

The siren sounds and the Hawks celebrate like a team that is relieved. They have resurrected their season and Buddy has produced when needed most.  That should keep Jeff quiet for a week.

For North, well, we blew it.  That’s three “honourable” losses under Crocks.  Our application and attack are excellent, but skill errors continue to hurt.  We should not have lost this one.

I thank Dom for his hospitality and walk back to Carlton where I’ve parked the car. I pass smiling and flag-waving people on their way home from the Harmony Walk.  Their day may have ended better than mine. However, I can still appreciate what a beautiful city we live in.

HAWTHORN         1.3 2.6 5.9 10.13 (73)

NTH MELBOURNE     1.2 4.3 8.5 9.10 (64)


Hawthorn:  Franklin 4; Roughhead, Hodge 2;  Shiels, Osborne.

North Melbourne: Adams 2; Simpson, Harvey, Jones, Hale,  Anthony,  Harding, Thomas.



Hodge, Sewell, Mitchell, Franklin, Lewis.

North Melbourne:

Anthony, Swallow, Simpson, Hale, Harding.

CROWD: 15,080 at Aurora Stadium.


3 – Anthony
2 – Swallow
2 – Simpson

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