AFL Round 18 – Carlton v North Melbourne: I went in to Sin City

The drums were beating on the causeway at Docklands.  They’d been beating all day inside my head, during the flight to Melbourne, while I waited in the cold rain at the airport and in the Laurel on Mount Alexander Road before the game.


Russ wanted to know if the multicultural drums were beating for Mick Malthouse.  I wanted to know if the multicultural drums in my head were beating for sin.  I tried supplanting the drums with Sin City as a memory to childhood and bad black and white movies arose.


When the drums stop beating, the good guys get hunted.


North are the good guys.  Carlton is the bad guys, so let the drums beat for the bad guys.


Jarrad Waite came in for Brock McLean.  Russ and I attempted to dismiss the change, a tall hack for a short hack.  It made me uneasy.  At least Waite could take marks and kick goals.  North’s defence, for all their unaccountability, don’t like monster forwards.


Cameron Wood was playing his first game for Carlton.  Wood was sacked by two clubs because he didn’t have any mongrel.  His selection smacked of desperation.


The sound of multicultural drums, wood on stretched, dried skin, made my head ache.


The drums were still beating when my AFL pass scanned for the first time since I became a member in 2008.  I wondered if it would work.  Maybe next year, when I’ve paid the AFL about $3000 as a silver member, I’ll be upgraded will be able to get into grand finals with a legal ticket.


The drums were beating inside Docklands.  We followed the ramps to level three, the cheap seats at 20,000 feet, to avoid a $6 or $21 dollar booking fee for a seat on level one or two.


I felt the love as I longed for my glasses.  When I flew over Parkes earlier that day, it looked closer than the surface of Docklands.  The AFL really knows how to look after their members.


I thought about my tithe, about $400 a year to follow my faith.  It’s a lot of money.  It isn’t a lot of money.  It’s all relative and it depends on your perspective, because the dollar is everything.  The AFL wants the contents of my wallet.  For six years I’ve been giving it to them.  North Melbourne has been getting it for about twenty years.


The drums kept beating until the siren sounded them out.  The first ten minutes was played in silence but it set the tone for the game.


Chris Judd was actually getting possessions, which meant North was playing like clowns.  The ball was slipping through our fingers or rolling between feet like it was tunnel ball.  We fumbled in the absence of pressure, resembling a man trying to pick up 20 cents while getting his arse kicked.


Carlton was spreading swiftly.  Whenever they got the ball in defence, four outriders appeared on the boundary between half back and the wing.  It reminded me of Collingwood.


Brad Scott, despite being an assistant at Collingwood under Mick Malthouse, obviously didn’t pay much attention to his former boss’s methods.  North obviously weren’t paying attention to their opponents.


Russ and I could see loose men everywhere from 20,000 feet.  Somehow North’s coach couldn’t.  I’m sure he noticed the woeful skills, how we picked out Carlton defenders from the wing or half back.


With each Carlton goal, the drums sounded out.  North was being hunted.


Amazingly, Cameron Wood was taking marks, which meant the standards had slipped to a clapping contest and North was losing.


Carlton’s third goal killed the contest.  The margin was just 14-points but the crowd had been ignited.  The energy hit the players like a bitch-slap.  I looked at Russ and felt like a grumpy old man.


‘We are in trouble,’ I said.  ‘That goal has given their supporters hope.’


We never recovered.


At half time the drums kept beating.  Carlton had 16 scoring shots to eight.  They’d been inside 50 twice too many times.  North was fifteen points down because the Blues kept missing.  The margin should’ve been six goals.


Somehow North was three points down at three-quarter time.  The Blues had 23 scoring shots to 15.  The third term was one of missed opportunities.  Wood missed from 40 meters, as you’d expect.  Henderson missed from 35.  Curnow missed from 45, just because everyone else was missing.


Waite tried a short pass just before the siren that travelled about six metres and six inches above the ground.


North had four shots on goal for four goals.  I still felt like a grumpy old man.  AJ, that energetic Essendon fan was probably high on peptides. He was chirpy, like a budgie you want to throttle.  His text messages sent from Brisbane were predictable.  My responses were just as predictable.


My brother Nick called me a jinx.  I ignored Stevo.


Paul, another energetic Essendon fan, asked me why I was grumpy.  ‘Make some noise Wato,’ he said.


I told him he was a wanker.  That was noise enough.


Russ asked me if Carlton were gone.  Without any conviction I said they were.  Russ couldn’t hear me above the multicultural drums.  I could barely hear myself above the noise in my head that screamed for the first goal.


It didn’t happen.  The margin blew out to 35-points.  Carlton fans in the crowd found their voice, go, kick it, yeah, who is number 36?


On the concourse after the game, I felt like Rick from The Walking Dead as a herd of Carlton fans descended upon us.  I couldn’t make out what they were saying.  It sounded like ggooboozzcaarrnduhh.


Suddenly I was immersed in the herd of zombies.  I could make out a few words, which isn’t bad for Carlton fans.  Finals… win… all games… premiership… Malthouse… next… faarrguuaall.


I looked at Russ, who was standing beside his boys.  Paul was shaking his head.  Thankfully none of us had been bitten.


The herd stumbled on.  We stumbled back to the car.  Given the presence of Russ’s kids, I couldn’t articulate my thoughts with the correct qualifiers.  I had to use other four letter words like soft and poor.


‘It just ruins your weekend,’ Russ said.


Paul and I sat up into the morning, sipping a few beers.  When I went to bed it took about two hours to get to sleep.  I kept thinking about the loss and inconsistency and failure.


Sin City was my motto for the weekend.  I should’ve chosen Highway to Hell.


On Saturday night at Coburg Football Club, Paul hosted a trivia night for the super rules club.  It was a great event.  Thankfully St Kilda hammered Fremantle, which meant we had another club to make fun of.


After midnight, a bunch of us walked down Sydney Road to Bridie O’Rielly’s.


Alex was sledging Frank, who had recently turned 50 and is still playing footy.  Alex doesn’t have long to get to 50 and he’s still playing footy too.


‘When I get to fifty I’m gonna stand in front of a tram,’ Alex said.  ‘Let me tell you why.  I’m fu**ing sick of soap.  I’m fu**ing sick of petrol prices and I’m sick of planes getting shot out of the sky.  But the worst thing I’m fu**ing sick of is Carlton.  I wanna go to Princes Park and kick the fu*k outta Carlton.’


‘I’m sick of Carlton too,’ I said.  ‘Let’s go together.’


‘Okay, but you’re not a Carlton supporter,’ Alex said.  ‘I am.’


I didn’t say anything.  Football fans are always sick of something.  We all have our grievances, even in victory.  In defeat, those grievances are worse.

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great report , Matt can fill your pain the only thing about the , Roos at the moment is there consistency they are always inconsistent ! Thanks Matt

  2. Matt – don’t go to the Laurel without calling me!
    Losing at Docklands is such a soulless expeience. It’s an awful place. You’d have had a better time staying at Coburg. Your weekend was doomed when you chose a Blue and Bomber as company!

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