AFL Round 17 – Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast: No Gazza No Cry (For the Pups at least)

It used to be the case that the northern city of choice for the Bulldogs when it came to banking a six figure cheque was a place where I called home for a year and a half. But following what was close to a decade, the dry humidity and sweat of Darwin has been exchanged for the relative warm comfort of Cairns which may or may not have offered extra dollars for similar terms. It would be the third time that the Bulldogs would take the dough in the warmth as opposed to turn the air conditioners on at the Docklands Kennel which would not have offered substantial respite from the reported cool weather, that of course assumes there is air conditioning at Docklands which I don’t think exists in the stadium itself.

Before I comment on the proceedings on ground, this is a good chance to at least comment on the city of Cairns. For those that want to know, travel time for me was about the same as it would have taken me to get to Melbourne, although the bulk of the travellers would have taken the long direct 3.5 hour flight from Tullamarine. It will cost you about $25 by cab to reach the city although shuttles are available if you know where to go and who to contact. Whilst time constraints meant that I was unable to explore the region as I would have liked and major attractions were missed (disappointingly so given this was the first time I had ventured outside of the departure lounge of Cairns airport), I can at least try to compare the city to others I have set foot in. The city itself felt a bigger version of Darwin with a little Brisbane thrown in thanks to the Esplanade Lagoon being filled with young, young at heart and tourists at lunchtime Saturday. Walking to and from the ground reminded me of the footy express trip to Footy Park in Adelaide with the wide open roads, a few residences and shop fronts aplenty. Walking around the city on game day some 3 hours before the bounce I made a conscious effort to look out for Bulldog and Suns paraphernalia, with the final total slightly favouring the designated home team.

There was a curtain raiser that would have at least made a certain former Broadmeadows based president at least take notice. The Gold Coast Suns set up their academy to nurture potential talent in the regions in North and Central Queensland. To be honest  though young Edward would not be worried about the Under 17 talent on display which provided a scrappy affair in reasonably windy conditions. The team wearing white won the day for those asking, despite a comeback from the red team based upon a lifting of pressure and intensity in the second half.

Cazaly’s Stadium itself is a lot like a country ground in some respects with the clubhouse (Cazaly’s Club) at one end, and the hill dominating the outer side. My vantage point was about 5 rows from the fence near the Bulldogs bench on the broadcast wing, partially shaded by the edge of the old Gabba stand formerly housed in the right forward pocket to the right of screen. On the negative side, their idea of a pre-match entertainment suite consisted of 2 crooners singing Michael Buble. I know some are worried about where the game is going, but the idea of any Michael Buble or any song that doesn’t pump the crowd into a frenzy must send shivers down the spines of the game’s hardcore fanatics. It didn’t help either that their backing tape took a while to activate (leading to a false start), nor did it help the Gold Coast “Sunscreamers” (that’s what was on the shirt of a couple of their cheer squad) organising their banner. It didn’t get much better with the support poles for their banner having trouble being connected to their attachments, with a young kid barely the minimum age to help trying desperately to keep one side in the ground without assistance and with limited success. By contrast the Bulldogs had their banner proclaiming an unbeaten record in Cairns supported by WOOD, so 1970’s!

The game itself saw the designated home team jump out of the blocks quicker than those at the athletic meet at nearby Barlow Park (which will be hosting an NRL match in a few weeks). A fast start in foreign conditions and territory is always an advantage, and to kick 5 goals to 1 into what appeared to be a relatively fresh breeze saw the Bulldogs supporters in dreamland. As usual this feeling was short-lived as the Suns took the lead at the long interval highlighted by a long intercept goal thanks to a botched Sam Darley handball, sadly the highpoint of Sam’s day before he was given Gia’s seat at the last break (Gia’s seat being warmed by others after a two week suspension and another week spent in the coaches box).

Speaking of Gia’s seat, the man who started his afternoon there 6 days earlier made a positive response to not only the demotion, but a rare spray from the coach. It was said in the press that McCartney actually regretted giving Jack Macrae his spray in the last couple of weeks, but based on his performance on Saturday it may take until he is Gia’s age to return to starting in the Kermit suit. Constant movement, consistent hitting of the target with the trusty left peg and a pair of crucial goals. He was far from alone with the smaller younger brigade coming to the fore, Nathan Hrovat often dangerous around goals and the recalled Jason Johannisen (replacing an ill captain, Ryan Griffen looked rather pale according to some onlookers) zipping around the wings and half back area. The older guys played their usual steady hand, and the negating players in Wallis and Picken virtually blanketed young starlets Martin and Prestia.

The final quarter was almost a facsimile of the last quarter I saw in Canberra. In a tight situation where the game could go either  way, the Bulldogs found a way to score frequently and quickly and to control the game as the opponent may have either become tired or succumbed to frustration (looking at you Tom Murphy, obviously borrowing Campbell Brown’s old shorts to fit his backside). With the wind having died to nothing more than a waft, several snap goals and decisive finishes on the run sealed the deal to give those who had travelled north true value for their money. Nothing could stop the fans showing their approval after the game, whether it was singing the song after the music was cut to accommodate Charlie Dixon’s after the siren goal (he didn’t do much else, and being a native he couldn’t blame homesickness either), nor did it halt the supporters behind the goals not bothering to wait for the second siren before the ground invasion though fortunately they kept their distance from the players who were about to exit the arena.

It is at this stage unclear if a premiership season game will return to the Far North for season 2015, with the contract yet to be renewed to my knowledge. But at least I can tick off another venue on the itinerary meaning there are only 7 active AFL venues yet to grace my presence, and I can also say the Dogs have improved to a 2-1 record in non-Victorian games that I have witnessed live this season.

 

MATCH DETAILS

WESTERN BULLDOGS 13.16.94
GOLD COAST 9.12.66

SCORERS
DOGS: Hunter 2.1, Macrae 2.0, Stringer 2.0, Dahlhaus 1.3, Hrovat 1.2, Bontempelli 1.1, Crameri 1.1, Redpath 1.0, Johannisen 1.0, Liberatore 1.0, Honeychurch 0.1, Picken 0.1, Boyd 0.1, RUSHED 0.5SUNS: Dixon 3.0, Lynch 2.2, O’Meara 2.1, Bennell 1.1, Martin 1.0, Smith 0.2, Broughton 0.1, Lonergan 0.1, Shaw 0.1, Sexton 0.1, RUSHED 0.2

BEST
DOGS: Macrae, Johannisen, Hrovat, Boyd, Picken, Wood, Wallis, Dahlhaus
SUNS: O’Meara, May, Stanley, Kolodjashnij

VOTES
3: Jackson MACRAE (DOGS)2: Jason JOHANNISEN (DOGS)
1: Jaeger O’MEARA (SUNS)

OFFICIALS
FIELD: Leigh FISHER, Tristan BURGESS, Robert FINDLAY (EM: Brent PAWLEY)
BOUNDARY: Mitchell LEFEVRE, Chris MORRISON, John MORRIS, Gerard LARGE
GOAL: David DIXON, Michael HAMMOND

CROWD: 9746

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

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