AFL Round 19: Time with my nephew is well-spent — even at a shocking game like this one

North Melbourne versus Melbourne
1.10pm, Sunday, August 9
Etihad Stadium

Like most footy fans, I look forward to some games more than others.  I love playing the Cats – the brilliant and whacky are guaranteed.  I relish trips to the Cattery for its suburban feel, big sky and deep outer.  You can watch the sun setting behind the Members’.

I look forward to clashes against Essendon and Carlton.  They are rich, hugely successful and powerful clubs – everything North isn’t.  Victory brings a David and Goliath sense of achievement.

Due to their infrequency, I appreciate North games at the MCG.  I feel like the country mouse let loose in the city.  Or the poor cousin invited to a wealthy relative’s mansion for Christmas.

I don’t enjoy footy at Docklands.Its exterior resembles an inhospitable concrete factory.  Inside, it’s murky.  The atmosphere is hollow and you can’t smell the grass.  Too much space is given to corporates and with the uniformity of the seating, it lacks character.  Even the siren has an empty sound.

When the roof is closed, Docklands is a cave that hides spectators.  Even when open, it gives a sense of separation from the rest of Melbourne.

Historically, our footy grounds have been vital components of our suburbs and towns.  Hubs connected to our people.  On game days, surrounding streets would hum with anticipation.  Think of the old Western Oval.

Docklands is on the far edge of the city, disconnected from the population.  With all due respect to those living in apartments in the area, most fans have to remove themselves from their city and suburbs to visit Docklands.

Docklands doesn’t feel like a footy ground because it’s not.  It’s a multi-purpose stadium better suited to soccer due to its smaller playing surface and close grandstands.  Footy will never be at home at Docklands.

Unfortunately, life as a Kangaroo means plenty of Docklands games.  Today we take on Melbourne – fourteenth versus sixteenth – and with the recent form of both teams, the journey to the match is filled with even less anticipation than usual.

Nephew Lukey and I take our seats in the top tier, Coventry end.  Ours is the only corner of the ground receiving warmth from a gentle winter sun and a small crowd sits in silence waiting for the bounce.  The atmosphere is true to form.

‘You excited?’ I ask Lukey.

‘Yep,’ he grins, punching the air with little clenched fists.

His childish innocence sends me wistful and I wrap an arm around him.

The match starts timidly with both teams saving physical contact for their end of season trips.  There is little intensity, yet turnovers come regularly. Players take turns kicking the ball out on the full.  Melbourne are indirect and North drop back waiting for errors.

The highlight of the quarter is a point kicked by Melbourne.  Moloney produces a rare one-percenter, a smother on the wing.  Davey collects and glides forward taking a few bounces.  His graceful left foot shot glances the inside of the padding on the goalpost.  This passage brings the loudest applause for the term.

The many mistakes lead to scoring opportunities.  It’s four goals to three and we lead by four points by quarter-time.

The calamity continues in the second quarter as the contest resembles a schoolyard game.  Groups of players chase the ball back and forth.  Our forward line is marginally more functional, with Hansen and Petrie on top.  We kick three for the term and Melbourne don’t look like scoring.

The crowd continues to be as noncommittal as the players.  Kids are swinging on the railings while an old lady is studying the form at Coleraine.  The sun is making me sleepy and Lukey is talking to himself.

This has been a truly terrible half of footy. North by 22 points.

The best action comes during the half-time Auskick game.  A young fella, a foot taller than everyone else, is doing a Kouta, grabbing the ball from the bounce, running the field and slotting it through.  No one notices when the two teams re-emerge for the second half.

Goldstein is leading the way and North kick four quick ones at the start of the third term.  Melbourne eventually realise where the goals are and kick a few late ones.  Jones and debutant McNamara are having a crack.  North by 40 points.

Meanwhile, a father is chasing his children around the top tier.  Lukey keeps asking what’s wrong with the players.  Melbourne fans are chatting among themselves.  When Gibbo gets bored, loses concentration and kicks the wrong way, it brings a laugh.

Melbourne go home at three-quarter time.  We manage five goals to one and Goldstein finishes off a good day with his fifth.  Gibbo trips over his feet and is done for holding the ball.  I’ve said it before: he hates Sunday games; they ruin his weekend.  Spencer drops the ball while walking in for a set shot.  The crowd are enjoying the laugh and stay until the end.  Final margin, 62 points.

We depart Docklands somewhat deflated by the experience, but happy with our first victory since round 9, and for Caretaker Crocks who has secured his first.  As we head for the train, I realise it doesn’t matter if we win or lose or where or whom we play, all that matters is spending the day with Lukey.


  1. I have said it once but ill say it again, your nephew sounds so CUTE!! :)
    Great win, if only they had played like that from the start of the year.

    Swan 4 Brownlow!

  2. So, are you happy with your new coach?
    i cannot believe you stole him from me!
    i am never going to talk to you again!!
    Hahaha..No I’m only joking!
    Congrats! Brad is a great guy who will make great things happen at North.
    He works well with young players (He spent most of his time with Beams at Collingwood)
    And of course was trained under Mick’s influence.
    We will miss him at Collingwood, and I wish him great success at your team.

    Danni :)

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