AFL Round 19 – Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs: Under the Lash in Van Diemen’s Land

Hawthorn versus Western Bulldogs

3.20pm, Sunday, 3rd August

Aurora Stadium, Launceston

 

Neil Anderson

 

UNDER THE LASH IN VAN DIEMEN’S LAND

 

Two hundred years ago the English magistrates sentenced the poor and down-trodden to be transported to the other side of the world.

This was the out-of-sight and out of mind (literally for the transportees) solution to emptying the over-crowded gaols and prison hulks along the Thames.

In 2014 the AFL commissioners send the poorer clubs to places like Tasmania, Cairns and Canberra to play football matches. Not so much as punishment these days, but as a reminder that these clubs are still beholden to the AFL for financial assistance.

Gangsters and standover men refer to it as ‘calling in the favours’.

Their rationale and mantra is always the same. “We need to expand the game into these areas around Australia.” In the meantime they resist any proposals for Tasmania to have their own home-team and prefer the locals to watch two teams from the suburbs of Melbourne fight it out here in Launceston.

The smaller clubs survive to play another day but pay a heavy cost. They are removed from their supporter base and if it is one of their home-games, they lose even the dubious advantage they might have had with their ‘shared’ home-ground back home.

Today in Launceston the reigning premiers and equal-top of the ladder team confidently waits to deal with whatever team the AFL ‘transports’ south to be their opponent.

The Bulldogs is that team. A club still not financially secure with their home-ground decommissioned seventeen years ago. A club that had the temerity to fight and win against a merger proposal. Perfect cannon-fodder with their small-supporter base to be fixtured by the AFL to take on the premiers miles from home.

But the Bulldogs are a resilient mob of rebels regardless of being part of an uneven competition and they continue to ‘stick it to the man’.

Matt Zurbo articulated the essence of why he admires the Western Bulldogs after he had interviewed many of the former players:

“ I’ll always barrack for you Doggies, even though I don’t barrack for you. You’re very existence is an act of defiance.”

The Bulldogs enter the arena to the sound of silence because their supporters’ cheering can’t be heard from the Pound Café at the Whitten Oval in Footscray. They will have to endure that same silence if they manage to kick any goals today.

If ever there was an example of modern footy losing its soul it is seen when matches are played interstate and there are virtually no supporters to clap and cheer the goals and spectacular play. For television viewers they might as well be looking at holograms computer-generated in a studio.

The Bulldogs are lead out by the quiet but determined Ryan Griffin.

It doesn’t take long for the Hawthorn ‘overseers’ to take control of the match. Quick goals to McEvoy, Duryea, Gunston and Roughead set the tone of the match. With just a modicum of homework done on the Bulldogs, probably that morning, they stack their forward-line with talls. Alastair Clarkson keeping a straight face had earlier told a reporter that Mitchell won’t be playing because he has an upset tummy and neither will Smith because he has a sore boo-boo on his leg. Let the resting of players before the finals begin. A sort of antithesis to tanking.

The young Bulldog bodies have been given an early taste of the ‘cat’ until Higgins wanting to show any new club interested that ‘he’s still got it’ snags a goal and Dahlhaus keeps his average of one goal per match alive with another goal. Overseer Jarryd Roughead shows no mercy to his ‘transportee’ cousin Jordan and kicks the final goal of the quarter. Angry because they should be five goals in front if it wasn’t for those points kicked by Shiels and Gunston. I’m left wondering if Hawthorn has a Plan B if Gunston ever kicks a point. It’s such a rare event. Is there panic in the coach’s box? Does Clarko take it out on the plasterwork?

The second quarter and there is a feeling that the Bulldogs are at least stopping the dam bursting and hold Hawthorn to two more goals. In reality the Bulldogs did not kick a goal and kicked four points instead. As usual when a team is under the hammer (or the lash) you can see and almost feel the tenseness of the young players as they line up for goal. Quite often hitting the post and draining their confidence completely.

The third quarter and the Bulldogs still have their fingers in the dyke and add three goals of their own through Campbell and Crameri. Campbell gives the Bulldogs supporters a brief glimpse of a tall leading forward who can kick a goal. But then he’s shifted from that role for some reason and the ball is lobbed in for the undersized Dahlhaus and Stringer to try and take a mark.

The final quarter and the dam does burst. Five goals to one and the Hawthorn overseers apply the lash with orders coming from the Viceroy in the coach’s box, telling his men ‘not to hold back’ or they’ll feel a taste of it themselves. After all, percentage is important if they want to remain on top of the ladder.

The Bulldogs were not disgraced being beaten by the reigning premiers and top-of-the –ladder team. It does however show the widening gap between the top-four teams and the middle-of-the road teams, let alone the bottom four teams.

I never thought I would quote Bruce McAvaney or agree with one of his syrupy comments during the match, but here goes. After the Bulldogs got within seventeen points of Hawthorn and then got blown away in the last quarter he sighed and said, “ Well, you like to think that it takes a pretty good team to beat the Bulldogs, don’t you.”

A bit of an obvious statement from Bruce, but something for Bulldogs supporters to hang their hats and beanies on.

Hawthorn   5.2 7.6 11.7 16.11 107

W. Bulldogs 2.1 2.5 5.7 6.9   45

GOALS

Hawthorn: Roughead 6, Gunston 3, Lewis 2, McEvoy, Hale, Simpkin, Breust, Duryea.

W.Bulldogs: Campbell 2, Stringer, Dahlhaus, Crameri, Higgins.

Best

Hawthorn: Shiels, Roughead, Suckling, Lewis, Burgoyne, Birchall, Puopolo, Langford

W.Bulldogs: Griffen, Liberatore, Murphy, Campbell, Macrae

Umpires: Schmitt, Hosking, Burgess

Official crowd: 14,187

Our Votes: 3 Roughead (H) 2 Shiels (H) 1 Griffen (WB)

 

About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.

Comments

  1. Maintaining the faith. Well done Neil.
    Your reward will be in heaven. Is heaven the MCG on the last day in September?

  2. We’re currently over in wet, windy Welllington. Sat down last night, in the front bar of the Shepherds Arms, for a beer and a bite. Whilst partaking, was pleased to see a local sporting channel had a program with an hours package of highlights from the previous AFL round.

    Footy was played in Aorteora prior to WW 1. St Kilda have played matches in Wellington the last few seasons. It’d be nice if footy could take off over here again.

    Glen!

  3. Neil Anderson says

    Thank you Father Peter for your advice. I will try and keep the faith, but I confess I have evil thoughts sometimes towards the AFL and the ‘system’ and I might be punished.
    If I am absolved of my sins I know heaven for me will be walking through the Pearly Turnstile Gates at the MCG on the last Saturday in SeptembeR for a Doggy GF.
    Glen, living near windy and wet Warrnambool I feel your pain. I would be quite happy if Wellington had their own team that our teams had to visit and play against. It’s the neutral venues such as Launceston that don’t make sense to me.

  4. aussie80s says

    Beautifully written.

    Your release from the penal settlement will come. Hawthorn also nearly merged once but has fought back to try and match the Melbourne Establishment clubs of Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon and Richmond (aka the big four). It always feels like you have had to win a scholarship while the others bought their way in with old money and look down their noses at you.

    Footscray are my second team, they represent all that is good about football.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Good points Neil. I’m not convinced having teams fly in to play a few home games does much for the code in a football mad state like Tasmania. They deserve their own team and should have had one for many years already.

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