AFL Round 2 – Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne: A ‘Z’ Minus Match Classification if not the “Worst First Half Ever Played”


It was Sunday. I had seen a bit of footy on the box, done a bit of reading, some ‘riting but no arithmetic as per normal.

Then I went off to meet a friend, a northern suburbs but also Czech origin bloke, now a resident of Saarbrucken, who has just been organising some training sessions over there…a long way from big teams like the Berlin Crocodiles.

It was Western Bulldogs v North at Darklands at a time on Sunday when most of us are footied out, 4.40 pm, but he is a North supporter. Fortunately, although it was classified B, I could get into the top level on my AFL membership, without having to pay booking fees.

Walk-up is not yet dead, even if it is increasingly on the endangered list.

Except there was a shock in store. It would be a ‘Z’ minus game on the field, especially in the first half. Or perhaps we should call it a ‘Zee’ as the current ‘variable pricing’ comes from the good old USA, where its alternative name is ‘seat revenue maximisation’. As in a Patrick Cook cartoon of a little while ago, as the human stands over the chien and its uneaten food in the bowl, he shouts ‘American dogs eat it’. Indeed, let them eat it.

In the first half, something new happened. There were two stars when it came to statistics and performance. The leaders were the umpires who kept throwing the ball up after endless jumble sale-ricochet non-football moments, and I photographed a couple of ‘mauly moments’ with 26 players around the ball, and others with all players in one half. Rolling mauls, incompetence, you name it, both North and Bulldogs players managed to bring the boundary line to the centre of the stage. It starred.

By half time with a total of 2 goals kicked by each side, I felt I deserved a medal for staying. Perhaps a knighthood, Sir Stephen, or even a course at Fontainebleau (mais oui, un bon idée – I’ll have that – and I could drop back to nearby Paree to watch the Paris Cockerels play near the Chateau de Vincennes).

Some observers described it as the worst game they had ever seen. Although Melbourne supporters at the MCG earlier in the afternoon might disagree. And the first quarter at the Gabba saw only one goal, until a football match suddenly broke out later in the second quarter, especially from a team who play the game as it should be played (please excuse partisan moment!).

If the weekend had not been saved by the skill and excitement of the Essendon-Hawthorn match, or the creativity of Port Adelaide, some would have given up entirely. With Fremantle up to its usual tricks (total points in the first half at Subiaco,  35 Freo vs 23 Gold Coast), I could see the coming of the ideal state wanted by one Japanese baseball manager who declared that he wanted to leave his opposition scoreless. A game without home runs. A game without goals. Sounds a bit familiar.

Now there may have been worse first halves in the past. But they were probably played in the mud when the herculean struggle to get the ball at least had a kind of logic. When footy is played in the mud, we enjoy and appreciate sheer endeavour. On the concrete green carpet of Docklands, the rubbish that was turned on was a disaster.

Except, the North barracker can now go back to Germany with happy memories, including those Brent Harvey ‘goalden’ moments which almost redeemed that first half.

Best Players: Boundary Line, Umpies, Harvey, Murphy

Worst Players: most of the rest

Prediction for Next Week: A lot of the 28, 512 crowd might choose gardening, a film or shopping instead.


Steve Alomes writes about the game Ted Hopkins calls ‘Ugby’ (a cross between ugly and rugby) and solutions to the problem in his Australian Football The People’s Game 1958-2058 (available from

He also pursues the problem in ‘Poachers, Gamekeepers and Coaches’, in Ross Fitzgerald and Ken Spillman, eds, Australia’s Game (Slattery Media). Along with Leigh Matthews, he suggests that one solution amongst many is a restriction on the number of players clustered at one end of the ground, with a minimal number required inside the other half or the other 50 Metre line. To those who say ‘No No’ to something as ‘unfooty’ as an offside rule, he replies there is nothing more ‘unfooty’ than flooding, zoning, blocking, and the whole damn mess of today.



  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    There has been some diabolical shit football so far and the public are starting to object with crowds falling away with the pricing a major issue re entrance and food
    I am coming round re the idea of a certain number of layers having to stay in the front half . Good thought provoking article thanks , Salomes

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