AFL Round 18 – GWS v Geelong: Don’t Mention the Game

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7:40 pm, 19 July 2014, Spotless Stadium

For the past several years I have been an absolute AFL tragic.  I would watch every televised game religiously, attend at least a dozen games per season in Sydney, make a couple of trips to Victoria in order to boost the local economy, and just coincidentally, see my own Victorian team (emphasis here: “Victorian”, not “Melburnian”) in its own wondrously navy blue and white hooped flesh.  And on the interweb, I was a active participant on two forums, and an avid addict of game replays on the AFL’s own site.

When Sydney gained a second AFL club, I attempted to set aside my devotion to all things Pivotonian and embraced the crusade to take our blessed game to the barbaric heathen wilderness of western Sydney (and the new club’s other, and far more refyned occasional environment of Canberra).  For various reasons that relationship didn’t quite gel, and within half a season I’d resumed my intense, if essentially one sided affair with all things Geelong.

But living as I do in the AFL outpost that is the Emerald City, I still attended Swans and Giants games as a hooped clad interloper, and made an annual pilgrimage to the shores of Corio Bay (and/ or the banks of the Yarra), there to (for at least once per season) meld seamlessly and anonymously into the joyously navy and white devotees worshipping at Kardinia Park.  I subverted my family’s annual vacation in 2011 so that, instead of being in the USA come late September, we had a brilliant time taking in Ballarat, the Great Ocean Road, and – quite by coincidence – being in Geelong on Grand Final Day (and were at Kardinia Park for the joyous victory party the next day).  I even participated in Sydney’s Grand Final victory parade down George Street in 2012, wearing my Geelong colours, and happily explaining to all and sundry that my own club had become a pretty dab hand at doing premiership celebrations.

That changed this year.

Before this game, I had not been to a single AFL game this season.  Geelong’s previous visit to Sydney had involved a Thursday night game, and even had I not had a function to attend at my son’s school that evening, an inevitable late return home from that game would have been unacceptably irresponsible within the context of my work.  And try as I might, the Swans and Giants have simply not enticed me out at all as they once so easily did.

Somewhat alienated by the inevitable cyclic repetition of the two footy internet sites, I had not bothered to return from my annual off-season sojourns away from each of them, and I have found games on the big square box to be unappealing to the point where I usually switch over (or off) by half time.  Point in case: Carlton dominate Friday night football broadcasts for the rest of the minor round.  Carlton?

Remembering my passion for the indigenous game from not-so-long-ago, my wife attempted to relight the fire by suggesting that we, as a family, go once more into the western wilderness to see my still cherished Cats front my heartwarming Giants.  As it transpired, neither she (a lurking throat lurgy) nor our son (who has long lost any faint interest in the game, and was not going looking for it in cold windy nights like this, tyvm!) went, and so it came to be that I, alone, was dropped off at the Homebush Showgrounds in an attempt to find the flame which had once so warmed the cockles of my footballing soul.

First shock: $30 just to get a General Admission ticket in!  Second shock: $20 for some pretty basic (if quite tasty) fish & chips!!  After I pay my mortgage and public transport costs to work, I have about $100 left each fortnight, and most of that actually goes on lunches.  I was thinking there and then that it’d want to be a bloody good game if I was going to get seduced back into the AFL fold.

As it turned out, it wasn’t.

In front of (supposedly) just over 7500 hardy souls, what we got was a low intensity, scrambling, mistake ridden shambles of a game.

Both teams kicked only two goals and a whole lot more points in the first quarter (the only entertainment being that it was ex-Cat Josh Hunt who kicked the game’s opening goal).  Then, to emphasise the fact that that was no fluke, both sides again kicked two lousy goals and many more points again in the second quarter.

Come the third stanza, and the Cats cut loose and, “play[ing] the game as it should be played”, belted in six goals (to two) in the first twenty minutes before having a nap for the last ten minutes.  They then came out and kicked another two goals in the first 1:47 minutes of the last quarter before mentally going on their bye week break thirty minutes too soon, allowing GWS to kick five out of the last six goals of the game and almost steal an unlikely, but within the context of the game, what would have been a quite deserved victory.  Almost.

The most surreal aspect of the game is that the Cats awful performance saw them rise to second on the premiership ladder as a consequence of the win.

Curiously, there appeared to be far more Catters at the ground than Giants’ supporters, and even the numbers of ‘neutrals’ seemed to be on a visually numerical par with the home fans.  My railway carriage on the way back to Central Station was choccers with Catters, while the sole Giant in it was even outnumbered by a pair of Hawks’ fans.

I think that GWS – and the AFL – have got some serious issues to face if so many more people than just me have obviously decided that paying so much for such ugly footy, with limited results to act as a balance, is not drawing us out to Homebush every second week.  The game as a whole is far less fluid and inspiring that it was even a couple of years ago, and the spiralling costs combined with an utter dearth of excitement will kill the game stony cold dead in this territory.  The game had only one memorable mark (GWS’s Tom Boyd’s one hander in the last quarter), and few breathtaking snaps.

It was fugly footy.

It is true that there is at least one thing worse than winning ugly, and Geelong just managed to avoid it.  Congrats to GWS for playing fully to their potential, but it was exactly the same standard to which the Cats played as well.  But I just can’t help feeling that a team with serious and legitimate title aspirations should be seeking to play at a far higher level than the still young and developing Giants.

My first AFL game for this year will also be my last.  When I finally arrived home (at 12:30am, Sunday), I simply told my wife, “Never again”.  Time will tell.


GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY   2.4   4.6      7.9    12.15 (87)

           GEELONG                              2.5   4.10  10.14  13.16 (94)



Greater Western Sydney: Patton 2, Boyd 2, Shiel 2, Palmer, Hunt, Kelly, Cameron, Hoskin-Elliott, Ward,

Geelong: Johnson 3, Hawkins 2, Caddy 2, Selwood, Murdoch, Duncan, Bartel, Guthrie, Simpson



Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Patton, Sheil, Mumford, Hunt, Palmer

Geelong: Selwood, Taylor, Caddy, Johnson, Hawkins, Rivers


Umpires: Hay, Findlay, Mitchell


Official crowd: 7,697


3 votes: Joel Selwood (Geelong)

2 votes: Callan Ward (GWS)

1 vote: Harry Taylor (Geelong)

About Richard Naco

We are Geelong.


  1. Cat from the Country says

    Good story.
    I was at the Sydney shellacking and have never been so disgusted with my team! I have never left a game before the finish, not even that horrible game at KP when the Brissy Lions did us!
    In Sydney the Cats were not a whole lot better than the gorgeous Little Leaguers. They at least had fun!

    If Cats want to be in the Finals they MUST put 4 good quarters together. When they do that they are AWESOME

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