Almanac VFL Round 13 – Coburg v Footscray: Melbourne by foot, Part 1

The annual great weekend of footy starts off strangely. On Thursday night at the local footy club some bloke from Port Adelaide rocks up to read the sport. The lad gets his noggin on Channel 9 and does a dance for the camera as Warren Tredrea tells us whatever Nick Kyrgios did wrong that day.

Early next morning with the farting sparrows, flying to Melbourne from Adelaide is always a bit silly. No sooner have you got up in the air than you head back down again. Just enough time for them to throw a snack at you, lest you realise you’re in a metal tube thousands kilometres in the air defying some very serious gravity. Nonetheless it’s 30 minutes and 10 years… we’re happy to let the Victorians believe they know which way that decade is pointing.

The North Fitzroy Arms Odd Friday lunch is a pleasant enough interlude. It necessitates a stroll through the backstreets of Fitzroy, terrace house adjoining terrace house. There’s a pleasingly substantial evidence of the occupation of children in the suburb, clearly not gentrified in an Adelaide way. Plenty of love for the Greens candidate for Melbourne, too, judging by every second front fence.

Melbourne: Bandt (Green) 56.3% def Ismail (ALP) 43.7%

As a speaker Robert Walls is generous with his time and tells a more than decent story. The Carlton dominated audience laps up his recollections of Barassi, Doull and many others. I’m possibly the only one that smiles when he says Eddie Betts is the player he most regrets leaving the club. A pretty good deal for $35 including a three course meal. 22,000 steps and 18km under the belt, a good start to the weekend

Next morning it is time to do the democratic duty and vote. A Salvo hall in Thornbury does the trick for this interstate voter, though sadly no baking and craft stall. Would have loved a Victorian doily.

Makin: Zappia (ALP) 59.8% def Reynolds (Lib) 40.2%

I then meander through the electorate of Batman on my way to the afternoon’s football at Piranha Park in Coburg. This part of the electorate seems a relatively hip, diverse area. Front yards feature chook pens, veggie patches and mid restoration RX7s. The Greens candidate well supported here too I note.

Batman: Feeney (ALP) 51.5% probably def Bhathal (Green) 48.5%

Then a suspension bridge unhides itself from the back of a suburb and a market garden can be seen. A somewhat unexpected turn of events. The other end of the bridge takes me into Wills – even more diverse as heritage weatherboard on one side of the street competes with brick varying shades of red on the other. Again lots of love for the Greens candidate on fence frontings.

photo 1

A suspension bridge and a market garden in inner-ish north Melbourne. Who knew?

Wills: Khalil (ALP) 56.3% def Ratnam (Green) 43.7%

I arrive at Piranha Park to see the last bit of the reserves game. There’s a nice little gluepot in the centre square much to the disgust of the Bulldogs supporter behind me “What the f%^* is this mess? I thought we didn’t have to play in s£€t like this anymore. Let’s go”. His companion convinces him to stay.

Casey Reserves 12.10 82 def Coburg Reserves 7.14 56

Attending here is very much a niche activity. This feels more local than an SANFL match. The grandstand appears in need of restoration, a third of it boarded up and blocking the view of the southern goal square for half of the seats. Coburg confuse me – all of their Lions presence and merchandise suggests red, white and blue but they wear the Essendon strip. Mark Orr stands out as they warm up.

photo 2

The view from the grandstand


For the Bulldogs, Tom Boyd hulks alone in the Footscray forward line until Orr joins him. Coburg get the first clearance and hit Ahmed Saad on the chest. Three days later he misses his shot on goal. Again he marks the next inside 50. The new government is sworn in by the Governor General as he kicks the goal. He kicks a another, and now I have to go back to Thornbury to vote again.

For the Bulldogs, Bailey Dale drops his neck into tackle, earning a free kick. So very dangerous – just as well young men are bulletproof. Saad kicks a third on the run starting from 70 out and finishing in the goal square thereby avoiding the longest quarter in the history of football.

Quarter time: Coburg 5.3 33 lead Footscray 2.2 14

Someone in the grandstand goes to vote.

“Who are you voting for?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“Whatever you do, don’t vote for the Liberals for f#~k’s sake. I can’t afford to lose my penalty rates.”

There’s a few patch wearing bikies in the crowd and roaring past down Sydney Road. Two unions sponsor the Lions, too, we’re definitely in traditional working class territory. Early in the second Saad snaps one in open play – he’s dominating in lieu of a Footscray defender that can match him. Later, though, he selfishly tries and fails to kick one himself rather than pass to teammate free in goal square. That’s probably why he’s no longer on an AFL list.

Later in the quarter, Mitch Honeychurch unnecessarily inserts himself sideways into a marking contest and earns a ludicrous high contact free kick soon after a teammate does exactly the same thing. I hope I’m not right but it feels like this is coached.

Half-time: Coburg 9.4 58 lead Footscray 5.6 36

In the third quarter the Bulldogs get on top and manage to lock the ball in forward for significant periods of time. Boyd, on a wage that could fix the grandstand, kicks a goal and some of the Coburg faithful remind him why he’s there.

Against the run of play, Saad wins a free kick in forward 50. I take a quick nap and then he kicks it. Coburg are desperately using all the ground’s width as Footscray start to string its running fluency together. The Dogs miss too many, though. Boyd kicks one late in the quarter to bring it back to three points.

Three quarter time: Coburg 11.5 71 lead Footscray 9.14 68

Early in the last Footscray again look to lock the ball in but Coburg turn it over on the rebound. Saad gets it alone 20 metres out and milks several clocks before putting through his sixth. The Lions start holding the ball up which allows them to get numbers to the contest. Zak Wunhym takes an opportunist mark in forward 50 and floats it home to put them out by 15.

The match proceeds as previously – the Bulldogs trying to get the ball out in the open and the Lions trying to force a contest whenever they don’t have the ball. It’s amazing how many state league games between a local side and an AFL reserves side fit this pattern. Given the type of players used, state league sides will usually have the advantage when the ball is in tight and on the ground. The Lions entirely slow things down, ruckman Tom (son of Andy) Goodwin great filling a hole at centre half back as time runs thin.

Full time: Coburg 13.7 85 def Footscray 9.19 73

Coburg hang on to win by a creditable 12 points and it’s great to hear a different club song (sung to the tune of California Here I Come). A good afternoon’s footy – decent beer, good contest and a $1 million per year player on show. What more can you ask for?

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About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Just as Australia is made up of 6 different nations, Melbourne is made up of separate nations too. The Fitzroy nation is a fascinating place.
    Great you could make it over to visit us Victorians in 2006!

  2. bob.speechley says

    Embracing the inner North of Melbourne succinctly. Roads well travelled by me over the years – North Fitzroy Arms when it was a Blood-House with outstanding credentials. Fitzroy’s back streets, Thornbury, Coburg Footy Ground in my electorate of Wills. Pity Footscray didn’t get up for you BUT I expect $Boyd will make his mark in the big time sooner rather than later.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Any mention of ginger wine in the Coburg song?

  4. Love the minutiae of your writing. The profound mixed with the ridiculous. The observation and the exaggeration.
    Such is life – as Ben and Ned and Malcolm and Bill remind us. Bushrangers the lot of them.

  5. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments, folks.

    Indeed it is, Luke.

    The ease with which Boyd kicked his four no doubt points to bigger things, Bob. Clearly a class above.

    I don’t believe so, Swish. Given sponsorship maybe they could work a reference to Coburg Lager in.

    Thanks, PB

  6. Rulebook says

    Entertaining read Dave I enjoyed part 1 of the week end and also well done on being correctly dressed at pies v blues

  7. Tom Goodwin says

    Working class win for the Coburg boys. Good read mate! Especially the “3 days later he missed”haha

  8. Peter Fuller says

    Unless they have changed it, Coburg’s jumper is identical pattern to Essendon, but it’s dark blue, rather than black.

  9. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Rulebook, the new ISC wet weather jacket is certainly getting a workout.

    Very much enjoyed your game on the weekend, Tom. So much so I accidentally called you Andy in the first draft of this piece. The Lions are now officially my VFL team.

    Yeah, Peter, don’t know if they’ve changed it. Might be the new material and the dullness of the day (and my eyes) but that navy seems indistinguishable from black. I’ll have to come back and have a look on a sunny day. Their upcoming Indigenous round Guernsey (designed by Shelley Ware) is certainly blue and looks great.

  10. DB- that’s a good ‘un. Well played. RX7’s? Terrifying.

  11. Tom Goodwin says

    not the first or the last time it’ll be said I’m sure, it’s usually attached to a sledge coming over the fence! Glad to have you onboard! Up the burgers

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