Atlas Shrugged

What do you say about a game like that?  Eagles brilliant for 70 minutes.  Legless for 40.  Gutsy for 10.  We’ll take the 4 points, but otherwise hard to say what it means for September prospects.

The game came down to run and clearances.  The Eagles had it all until 10 minutes into the 3rd quarter.  Luke Shuey had ball poisoning in the first half.  He developed such a severe allergy that he never went near it in the second half.  The Eagles were wasteful winning by 8 points with 8 more scoring shots.  Seemed not to matter when we led by 6 or 7 goals for much of the game, but came back to bite us big time late in the game.  It is a consistent feature of a highly motivated, but not highly skilled Eagles team.

Robert Murphy is a joy to watch as a footballer.  Laconic and clever.  Seemingly untackleable – with unexpected accelerations or hip shimmies.  There was an ‘uh oh’ from my couch whenever he had the ball in his hands.  Shannon Hurn played well for the Eagles, but I will now concede that he is the second best kick in the AFL.  Murphy now joins Rioli and Fyfe on my ‘must watch’ list of most admired opposition footballers.

Matthew Boyd was a heroic captain for the Bullies, gathering 40 possessions but never seeming as threatening as Murphy.  BOG was no contest.  As a kid I remember gazing in awe at the size of Phar Lap’s heart in the Academy of Science in Canberra, and his red embalmed hide in the Museum of Victoria.  The Eagles won’t be able to put Dean Cox’s heart in a trophy cabinet.  They don’t have a glass case big enough.  37 hitouts; 27 disposals and 13 marks – how’s them apples!!!

Cox’s final 2 marks to decide the game were as courageous and memorable as anything since Leo Barry in 2005 and Waters/Embley in the dying minutes of the 2006 decider.  With 2 minutes to go he stood resolute to mark 15 metres out from the Dogs goal.  Then he charged downfield a minute later to provide the marking target for the Eagles final attack.  Atlas carried the world on his shoulders.  Cox carried 21 teammates and the fading hopes of thousands of Eagles supporters.

All through the last quarter all the run and play was with the Dogs.  Razor Ray and his mates decided that they wanted to be on the winning side, so late in the game they got on the bandwagon and awarding the Doggies 3 ‘charities’ in a row.  Culminating in a holding the ball against Adam Selwood in front of goals when Harry Houdini couldn’t have helped him release the ball from the clamp of 2 Bulldogs tacklers.  Scores were level and my blood boiled, but I kept saying my Buddhist mantra “don’t blame the umpires – we only have ourselves to blame; we only have ourselves…”.

Another Giansiracusa goal, and with 8 minutes to play the Dogs led by 6 points and a mountain of momentum.  Then the Razor decided that he had tormented Eagles fans enough, and he could now enrage the opposition.  Jack Darling tackled Liam Picken without the ball in front of the Eagles goal, and they both fell to the ground in a tangle.  In a perverse bit of ‘evening up’ the Razor decided that the falling Picken had somehow chosen to drag Darling down by the arm.  Goal to the Eagles and scores were level again.

The last 7 minutes were pure slog and bravery from 2 exhausted teams, and while I held my breath the Eagles held their nerve.  A point to Embley to edge us ahead.  Then Cox’s defensive game saver leading to an Eagles attack that resulted in another point to LeCras.  Things are desperate, so for the first time all game Rob Murphy bombs his kickout to the centre square instead of pinpointing a target.

Then another act of heroism from Matt Rosa, one of the unsung heroes of the Eagles season.  He is a tireless midfield worker, just lacking the couple of metres of pace that would make him a star.  The ball spills off the big men’s hands and Rosa leads a charge of 3 pursuing Bulldogs towards the right boundary at the Eagles forward 50 line.  He is pulled, tugged, pushed, and harassed.  But he will not go to ground or overrun the ball.  The 4 players run in lockstep for 40 metres, with Rosa never quite controlling possession or relinquishing it.  The umpires have remarkably decided to do what has always been the hallmark of good umpiring in a tight last quarter.  Put the whistle away unless the free kick is blatant or the infringement clearly unfair.  The umpire wisely refuses the first 4 free kicks to Rosa for Bulldog’s tugs and pushes, but after the fifth ‘enough is enough’.  Rosa runs 30 seconds off the clock while deciding his free kick options, then bombs to the top of the square for Atlas to mark and kick the deciding goal.

A minute later the siren blows and the Eagles have come back from the dead to win by 8 points, after the Dogs have come back from the comatose after trailing by 50 points early in the third quarter.  Heroic and exasperating – for both teams.

Some individual players not mentioned above.  For the Bulldogs – Barry Hall and Daniel Giansiracusa are both proud men and skilful footballers.  Clearly neither wants to end their career or season as losers.  In the second half they both goaled every time they got the ball in their hands.  Luke Dalhaus looks like Milli Vanilli reincarnated, but plays with the heart and hair of a young Johnnie Platten (high praise).  The Bulldogs were so young and inexperienced with all their injuries that they considered calling up Matt Zurbo to give the backline an added 502 games of experience!  He turned them down because the Penguin Reserves are making their finals run.

For the Eagles – Shuey and Ebert starred in the first half, but both consistently lack the body and motor to run out full games.  Worrying in the pressure of finals.  Priddis was a pack warrior and link man all game.  Ashley Smith and Shannon Hurn were both resilient across half back.  The Eagles have skillfully managed their first round draft pick in the young former Victorian, Andrew Gaff.  Played off the substitute bench early in the season to gain an awareness of the speed and pressure of AFL, he was then dropped to South Fremantle in the WAFL.  Masterful man management by the Eagles coaches, as it has allowed him to play full games and gain strength and endurance without the battering his young body would have copped at the higher level.  Since coming back to the league team, he has consistently been in the Eagles best.  Short and nimble more than quick, he has an awareness of what is happening around him and a telling left foot that made telling use of all 32 possessions that he gathered.

A final plea – Ray there is a great career for you in Vaudeville playing the villain with the moustache who ties maidens to railway tracks.  The train is coming and I hope it takes out you and ‘Giesch’ before you alienate more football lovers as you have so consistently done all year.  You are both symphony conductors with a ‘tin ear’ for the melody of the game.


Best Players:

Eagles: Cox (10); Gaff (8); Rosa (7); Hurn (7); Smith (6)

Bulldogs: Murphy (8); Boyd (8); Dahlhaus (7); Hall and Giansiracusa (6)



  1. Skip of Skipton says

    Gee they’ve been an astute and cunning club in their short history, the Weagles. Selecting the likely Gaff with pick 4, confident that their orchestrated slurring of Darling would have him still on the vine by the time their next pick came along. They don’t seem to like wallowing in mediocrity, do they? They’ve bottomed out twice, purely as a means to an end; then shot straight back up. Very well managed outfit. I may still be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome after the ’92 and ’94 grand finals, but I do respect that club. Having said that, Geelong will spank them frightfully in September should their paths cross, but in another 12 months I might not be so sure.

  2. I was listening to the game while attempting to locate some drainage pipes in the backyard.

    Early, I was travelling well and had found three different pipes. The Eagles were cruising and the young guns were up and about.

    Then disaster struck, in the rain I misjudged the shovel and stuck a hole in a pipe. Once the water started bubbling, the Bulldogs started to charge back.

    I then had to dig a trench drain about 20 metres across the backyard while the Bullies stormed back into the game.

    By the time the drain and the original hole met, Big Coxy plucked those two grabs and saved the game. Meanwhile, I saved the dog and garden from drowning.

    Meanwhile, just up the road, the Demons were wearing concrete boots at the bottom of the Barwon River.

  3. John Butler says


    Carlton folk are finding it annoying that your Weagles keep falling over the line.

    With a pretty cushy run home you are making life difficult for us. Most impolite.

  4. Spot on with Gaff- nimble not quick. ‘Nimbles’ often turn out to be the best players- though what about Judd, Cousins, Matera? OK, maybe quick can be good, but nimble is good too.

    Swift puzzles me- is he swift? He’s working on his kicking, but gee it’s an awkward kick.

  5. JB – Dunno why you’re worried about the double chance. You wouldn’t be at all nervous about playing the Dockers in Week 1 with Sandilands and Mundy back, would you? Trap door nerves? Just so long as we don’t have to play them over here.

    Mark S – I was going to make a comment on a couple of the Eagles lesser lights, but time escaped me. McGinnity is a poor kick, but has a lot of run and heart. He gave us the run we needed in the last quarter when all seemed lost. In a team that lacks leg speed, he should always be in the starting 21. Young Scott Lycett from Ceduna via Peel in the WAFL was a replacement for Natanui. Kicked 2 early goals when we were cruising, then understandably looked lost with the speed and pressure of the AFL. I thought he looked like a promising footballer for 2 years time when Cox is worn out. He moves well for a big lad, and has a good body size and shape. Not skinny like a lot of tall youngsters. Fingers crossed. As to your question about Swift – I decided to reserve all my scorn for the umpires. You can see the kid tries his heart out, but time and again he has come up short at AFL level. Short and definitely not swift. He runs all day, but not very quickly. Average right foot kick and shocking on his left. Every time he gets dropped back to the WAFL he gets 40 possessions and BOG. More than a lot of our fringe players, who seem to get discouraged when dropped. I hope he wins a WAFL premiership with Claremont (my team Swans are near bottom), and becomes a late bloomer like Priddis who won a Sandover Medal with Subiaco. But he is definitely on the ‘do not play again this year’ list.

  6. Good read. Heaven help us when the Eagles’ skills and fitness catch up with their endeavour. Its like watching Geelong circa 2004.

  7. Matt Zurbo says

    Peter, Haha! I would have done it!!! Ressies are done by 1.45. A Peake like chopter ride and a quarter time start!

    Every time I see Dahlhaus I go to the foyer to get my popcorn. And wonder why Johnny Depp is wearing a Doggies jumper in Pirates 4? And it’s not just him. Ben has the beard. Bob the sidies. Baz everything but the eye-patch.

  8. Great call on the pirate look. Remember Danny Southern? If ever there was a ‘pieces of eight’ Buccaneer Bulldog it was Danny (old Claremont boy). Now he’s a pretty thoughtful bloke and a devout Muslim I think. More power to him.

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