AFL Round 17: I enjoy my Canberra trip even if the Dees fall short

By Steve Healy

Canberra is such a different place to Melbourne.
Nowhere near as many cars, or buildings, and when you cross the road you are given about five seconds to sprint across.
I arrived in Canberra with my brother on Saturday afternoon. I hopped off the small plane and the sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly. The airport is also much smaller. We took the bus into the city. There wasn’t much scenery from the window, but there were some signs that this was the home of the Melbourne Demons. There was a “Sylvia bridge” and we were in a suburb called Majura (Jurrah). We had lunch in the city, before walking across the bridge to our hotel, on the south side of Canberra.
I turned on the TV in the room and saw that the Hawks were beating Geelong by 12 points, on Southern Cross. We had a look at Parliament house, which wasn’t far away from our Hotel. It was about to close so we walked to Manuka and had dinner at an Italian Restaurant. I came back in time to watch Brisbane V North Melbourne. I almost forgot I was in Canberra to watch a footy game.
We had to be out of our Hotel by 11, so after watching AFL Game Day we walked towards Manuka Oval. About an hour later we were seated in the ground, in our seats on the wing, row three. It was a great little ground. The surface looked brilliant. Unfortunately we were next to the Sydney player race and their interchange bench. On Sydney’s banner, it said that Manuka was their “Home away from home”. I found this ridiculous because it was actually Melbourne’s home game.
The game got underway and it didn’t look like the under-manned Demons had come out to play. A free kick in a ruck contest saw Jolly kick the first for the Swans. The game unfolded slowly. Aaron Davey kicked it out of mid air straight to Jarred Moore, who ran into goal from 50. McVeigh, who was on fire, kicked another one for the Swans and the Dees weren’t even on the board yet. It seemed like the Demons had barely had any possession. Liam Jurrah started to heat up in front of the small crowd. He narrowly missed to make the Demons worry the scorers.
Speaking of scorers, the score board is great at Manuka Oval. It’s an old cricket scoreboard, which is something you’d think you wouldn’t see at the footy any more.
Davey missed any easy shot before Moloney finally got a goal late in the quarter, a brilliant goal off the ground. After a very short quarter, the Demons trailed 1.2 8 to 3.4 22. McVeigh led all comers on the ground with 12 possessions, and Davey and Bruce had nine ineffective ones each. My seats were in a great spot, because of the smaller atmosphere, I could easily hear players calling and interchange messages, and also Nathan Jones screaming for the ball.
The second quarter began with O’Keefe kicking a great goal on the run for the Swans. Miller marked but missed and then Newton missed as well. The highlight of the quarter was definitely Jurrah’s one- handed mark. He is unbelievable. He nailed the goal to bring Melbourne within 12 points. Mattner kicked the next goal for Sydney several minutes later and Jurrah nearly kicked another from an incredible run. His pace leaves you left for words. Former Demon Jolly kicked his second just before the siren to give the Swans a four goal lead in a low scoring game, 2.6 (18) to 6.6 (42). I had been impressed with the debut of Jordan McKenzie, who looked like a tough sort of player who could find the ball easily. He also wore No.49, which was the number James Hird wore in his first season way back in 1992. I don’t think Brock McLean will be delisted any time soon though.
The third quarter was a tight scrap. But then the Dees began to get on top. Miller missed the simplest of kicks from 20 metres out. The guy with the weird-coloured-hair Jesse White kicked one for the Swans at the other end. (I don’t know if the ends have names at Manuka Oval)
Miller kicked a goal for the Demons from a McKenzie kick and Davey kicked another from 30 out with his sublime kicking action. Could the Demons hit the front? They could have, but poor kicking on goal let them down. Miller missed again to give him 1.3 and Bate missed as well. It was three-quarter time and the Dees just trailed by 13, despite kicking 2.5 to 1.0 in the quarter. It was 4.11 (35) to 7.6 (48).
Darren Jolly kicked an incredible goal from the boundary line for his third which somehow wasn’t touched by Jared Rivers. McVeigh kicked the next one and it looked beyond doubt. Frustration was building in the small contingent of Melbourne faithful. Johnson missed. Bruce hit the post. Newton attacked the pack and received a free and somehow managed to kick a goal. We trailed by only three goals.
With just over six minutes left on the clock, Whelan marked inside 50 and kicked an unlikely goal. We could steal the game! It was Wheels’ first goal since Round 22 last year when he kicked their second against Richmond. Moore kicked a handy point for the Swans but there was still time. It was put beyond doubt when Jude Bolton courageously took a mark and kicked a goal. The unfamiliar siren sounded and Melbourne lost 6.14 (50) to 10.8 (68). Bad kicking had clearly costed them the match. Davey led Melbourne’s possession count with a low 22 and McVeigh led for the Swans with 31.
Despite the wet conditions, they still let the 7,311 on to the ground for a kick after the game. And how good was it, having not have kicked on a field since Round 7, 2008?
The highlight of my holiday was last night at the airport. More than half the Melbourne team were waiting for the plane with me and my brother. Liam Jurrah was on his mobile speaking in another language. A few of the players were playing cards.
I spoke to captain McDonald at Melbourne airport while he was waiting for someone to pick him up. He asked who my favourite player was and he said that we should have kicked straight. I asked him how many possessions he got, and he didn’t know.
But I was glad to be back in Melbourne, and now I could appreciate how good a “good” city is.

Melbourne 1.2 2.6 4.11  6.14 (50)
Sydney  3.4 6.6  7.6  10.8 (68)

GOALS – Melbourne: Davey, Miller, Newton, Whelan, Moloney, Jurrah.
Sydney: Jolly 3, McVeigh 2, J. Bolton, Moore, Mattner, White, O’Keefe.

BEST – Melbourne: Jurrah, Moloney, Davey, Martin, McDonald.
Sydney: Jolly, McVeigh, Grundy, Mattner, O’Keefe, Shaw.
My Votes: Liam Jurrah (Melb) 3, Darren Jolly (Syd) 2, Jarrad McVeigh (Syd) 1.
Umpires: Stevic, M. Nicholls, Mollison.            Crowd: 7,311 at Manuka Oval.

About Steve Healy

Steve Healy is an entity of a Melbourne supporter.


  1. pauldaffey says


    That scoreboard is actually the old MCG scoreboard. I’m not sure when it was taken to Canberra.

    And interesting that you mention James Hird as he actually grew up in Canberra. I think Ainslie is his home club.

    And I like James McDonald even more after reading that he had a chat to you at the airport. He’s a gentleman.

    Martin Flanagan wrote a great piece about McDonald earlier this year. Here’s the link.

  2. pauldaffey says


    One more trainspotty thing: your mention of James Hird’s No.49 reminded me of a recent article in The Age in which the high numbers were listed with the player who wore that number in the most AFL games.

    The article was prompted by Simon Goodwin taking over as the player to wear No.36 in more games than any other (even Ian Scrimshaw from Richmond in the 1970s). I remember that Briyan Cordy, father of Ayce, had the most games in No.49.

    Anyway, I googled and here’s the list for the high number-wearers.

    I actually played on Andrew Witts when he wore a stupidly high number for Old Melburnians in the Amateurs before going to Collingwood.

    37 — Adam Goodes (Sydney); 235 games
    38 — Leon Harris (Fitzroy); 186
    39 — Tony Liberatore (Western Bulldogs); 279
    40 — Ian Nankervis (Geelong); 325
    41 — Matthew Kennedy (Brisbane); 188
    42 — Robert Walls (Carlton); 218
    43 — Anthony Koutoufides (Carlton); 278
    44 — Justin Madden (Ess/Carl); 332, John Platten (Haw); 258
    45 — Cameron Ling (Geelong); 186
    46 — Chris Mew (Hawthorn); 77
    47 — Alan Jarrott (Melb/Nth Melb); 170
    48 — Mal Michael (Collingwood); 61
    49 — Brian Cordy (Western Bulldogs); 124
    50 — Ryan Turnbull (West Coast); 129
    51 — Michael McLean (Western Bulldogs); 95
    52 — Shaun Rehn (Adelaide/Hawthorn); 167
    53 — Barry Young (Richmond); 27
    54 — Brian Leys (Richmond); 17
    55 — Robert Wilkinson (Hawthorn), Ross Wright (Essendon); 9
    56 — Jason Croall (Collingwood); 17
    57 — Brad Gotch (Fitzroy); 20
    58 — Dean Notting (Richmond); 28
    59 — Robert Kerr (Nth Melb); 6
    60 — Robert Mace (St Kilda); 13
    65 — Andrew Witts (Collingwood); 7

  3. pauldaffey says

    Just noticed that Rob Kerr has got the most games in No.58.

    Rob is coming to our next Footy Almanac lunch, this Friday at the All Nations in Richmond.

  4. When I make my footy comeback (!), my plan is to sew the number eight on sideways, thus becoming the first player ever to wear number “infinity”.

  5. Steve Healy says

    I remember Steven Koops wore Number 51 when he went to the Bulldogs in 2004 from Fremantle.

    I think we need more high numbers in the game, too many players get lower numbers a couple of years after their debut. Players need to be famous for their number.

    I want Rhys Healey to debut for the Demons, and not just because of the surname, because he is number 50.

  6. Pamela Sherpa says

    Glad you enjoyed Manuka Steve.You are so close tO the players and action aren’t you? I was sitting in the front row near your interchange bench. Got a really good look at Jurruh. Isn’t it great how you can look through the glass of the warm up room and see the players before the game and at half time as well?.No excessive noise and nonsense from advertising either. Just the old fashioned announcer with the microphone out on the ground. Kick to kick afterwards is a treat isn’t it?

  7. Steve Healy says

    Thanks Pamela,

    Kick to kick on the ground always caps off a great day at the footy (especially if you kick a great goal from the boundary line like I did).

    I would happily go back to Manuka oval in the future, but unfortunately Melbourne’s 3 year deal at Canberra is now at an end, but hopefully it will be renewed next year.

    The rooms are great. Especially if you are seeing your team sing their song (or in my case, see them lie down and put bandages on).

  8. Damian Watson says

    I remember staying in Canberra last year right across the road from Manuka Oval and it is a nice little spot. I was attending a local cricket match at the ground and it has a little suburban feel to it with the Jack Smorgan scoreboard(I think)and the large trees behind the goals.

    By the way did you notice that Canberra has barely any roads and heaps of circles? It drove me crazy while I was over there.

  9. Steve Healy says

    Yea the roads are shocking in Canberra. I hate it how everything seems to appear out of no where.

    I also like the house that can be seen in the forward pocket at Manuka Oval.

  10. Damian Watson says

    It must have been great catching up with the Melbourne players, was the mood solemn at the airport?

    It would be great if they could build the game up in the nations capital as the only sport teams located their are the Canberra Raiders and ACT Brumbies and neither of those teams are really successful at the moment.

    They should think about creating a team up there in future years. I think Fitzroy were planning to make a move to canberra in the mid 90’s however that was scrapped just before they merged with Brisbane.

  11. Danielle says

    see them lie down and put bandages on?
    haha i would be on the case if it was my Collingwood boys. id love to be on bandage duty!!!!

  12. Steve Healy says

    Yea Damien, the mood was pretty solemn at the airport. Matthew Warnock was lying on the floor for the whole time. The plane was delayed to add to the fuss. And the toilets were closed for cleaning as well. Dean Bailey wasn’t there for some reason.

    Danielle, I’d love to imagine you putting bandages on Toovey.
    You’d probably wrap his whole body in bandages and throw him in a coffin!

  13. Danielle says

    …you know what??
    “OHHHH TOOVEYY!!!!!!!” :)

  14. Steve Healy says

    Danielle, what do you think about Nathan Buckley being signed as Assistant coach and senior coach in 2012?

  15. Danielle says MIXED
    happy, sad,confused!!
    i just wrote up an entry hopefully it will be up soon.

  16. Josh Barnstable says

    Steve: What is with that little house in the pocket? Everytime i see a match from Manuka i wonder about that house. It’d be great to live there. To sit in the kitchen drinking a cuppa while looking out the window to see Jurrah take a huge one-hander! :)

  17. Steve Healy says

    Not sure Josh.

    I would give anything to live in that house knowing I would see 2 live games a year out of my window.

  18. Josh Barnstable says

    Next time your there go knock on the door and see who answers. Haha, going to Manuka is definately on my to-do list. I’ve only ever been to Etihad, the MCG and Optus Oval

  19. Steve Healy says

    It’d take way longer to get to Manuka from where you live compared to Melbourne wouldn’t it?

    Unfortunately, there is talk about there not being any more games because of the “embarrassing” crowd.

  20. Josh Barnstable says

    Sydney is about 500km away from me while Melbourne is about 300km away but i have no idea how far away Canberra is. But when i’m older i’m going to go to each ground in the AFL and watch a match. And the AFL can’t really expect a big crowd to a Melbourne – Sydney game at a little-known venue in the freezing cold and rain. I think they were lucky to get 7,000.

  21. Steve Healy says

    Yea I know, just because they have gotten about 11,000 for the previous two Melbourne V Sydney’s. The ground only seats about 14,000 anyway. I remember last year the Roos got 6,000 against West Coast at Carrara.

  22. Damian Watson says

    Although the attendance was below par it will never be as bad as North Melbourne playing home games in Sydney (1999 & 2000). I remember a game against West Coast at the SCG only 4000 people turned up! Worst decision the AFL made.

  23. Steve Healy says

    I remember that. North Melbourne also played Sydney home games up until about 2003 I think, but against Sydney. It was like the Melbourne home games against Brisbane at the Gabba.

  24. As a Canberra local, I’m glad to be reading of the compliments for Manuka Oval, and even the city itself (well, mostly compliments!)

    Manuka’s a ripper of a ground – basically it’s an oversized ‘country’ showground, all open elements, wide spaces, everything in proportion to its surrounds. It has a grassy outer for those that want to sprawl while watching their favourite sport; there’s a bank of seats and grandstands for those that like a bit of elevation and comfort. And it doesn’t matter where you prop, every spot is right near the action.

    Hopefully there’ll be more games here in future but it’s not looking too promising – the AFL have doubled the asking price the ACT government have to pay to host matches here. According to the AFL, this reflects ‘market forces’. More like greed – Darwin and Tasmania are offering more dollars.

  25. Damian,
    Those “on-site” estimate closer to 3000 for the weekend’s attendance!

  26. Josh Barnstable says

    Adam: Seeing as your a Canberra local, do you have any idea who or what lives in the little house in the forward pocket of Manuka Oval? It intrigues me to the fullest!

  27. Pamela Sherpa says

    The low crowd is mostly bring blamed on the Rugby mob.There was talk about it all week- AFL draw being fixed ages ago so Rugby lot should have used their brains and scheduled their game on the Sat and both codes could have maximised attendences.

    As well as being really close to the action there is a lovely relaxed atmosphere and it’s an easy spot to catch up with footy friends.Plenty of room for kids to have a kick around at the back of the stands too.

  28. why is everyone talking about my house??
    :P haha
    me and Nathan will move into the house in Manuka after the wedding….its a bit small though!!


  29. Steve Healy says

    I’d love to try and kick goals from the top of the roof. I bet Daniel Motlop would be able to do that. Pamela does bring up a good point that there was a rugby game on. I didn’t see Canberra stadium when I was there though- it’s a fair way away.

    Anyway, does anyone know about another landmark in Canberra/ACT? It’s this huge tower sort of thing on top of a hill and me and my Brother were wondering what it was the whole time.

  30. Don’t worry Steve. Whatever it is, they’ll try to relocate it to West Sydney.

  31. Pamela Sherpa says

    Steve, the tower is the Telstra tower on Black Mountain. You can go up inside it for a great view out over Canberra.

  32. More on Manuka Oval:

    The old-style scoreboard happens to be a former MCG one, and was relocated to Canberra when the first electronic scoreboard was installed at the MCG sometime in the 1970s-80s. It’s named the ‘Jack Fingleton Scoreboard’ – he was a great Australian cricketer of the ’30s and an early Canberra-based political journalist (they like to celebrate local connections in this town). More on Jack here:

    There are three grandstands running along the western side of the ground – the centre one is named after Don Bradman and its flanked by the Bob Hawke Stand to the north and the Robert Menzies Stand to the south. Cricket-loving PMs of course, and politically ecumenical, as you’d expect here.

    As for that great 1920s house at the northern end of the ground, it appears to be a private residence but looks like it may have originally been part of the Manuka Pool complex right next to it, which is of similar vintage. It was Canberra’s first public pool. Perhaps it was the oval groundsmen’s / pool attendant’s residence originally????

  33. Steve Healy says

    “I don’t think Brock McLean will be delisted any time soon though”.

    That’s funny.

  34. Michael Crawford says

    Following today’s announcements about Melbourne’s misdemeanours in 2009, and the sanctions on Chris Connolly and Dean Bailey, it was mentioned that this is one of the games that Melbourne didn’t try to win! (As opposed to deliberately tried to lose!). Steve Healy had it picked in the 4th paragraph – “The game got underway and it didn’t look like the under-manned Demons had come out to play.”

    The AFL didn’t need an 8 month investigation!! They just needed to reread The Footy Almanac!!!

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