Bless ‘Em All – Eagles V Crows

Subiaco Oval – 5.10pm WST Saturday 3 September 2011

A final round game with nothing at stake. The Eagles are finals bound. The Crows are bound for Mad Monday with the aim of ‘drinking to forget’ a season of loss and disappointment. It is an odd feeling going to the match. None of the expectation and trepidation of going to a ‘real’ match. A 15 goal win means what (dunno ask Geelong supporters)? A 15 goal loss means what (dunno ask Collingwood supporters)?

This is the phony war – like the first 6 months of WW2 where the generals cautiously shuffled their pawns around, waiting for the right moment to unleash their blitzkrieg. As Eagles fans this is the game where we gather on the docks hurling streamers to honour our boys. Not for their deeds today, but for the pleasure they have given us so far and for the far greater challenges that we know lie ahead of them. We hope they will eventually return triumphant with captured Iron Crosses and Magpie feathers, but we privately fear the dangers ahead.

My parents both grew up on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. My father the only child of a wheat inspector born in the year of Federation and hence fortunate to be too young for the First War and too old for the Second. My mother’s family was not so lucky. Grandpa Oswald served in the trenches where he lost a brother, but was saved by being allocated a role as a Dispatch Rider because he knew how to ride a motorbike (a rarity in 1916). An original copy of the amazingly detailed, hand drawn map he delivered to start General John Monash’s breakthrough Hamel Offensive in 1918 has pride of place on our lounge room wall.

After the War to End All Wars a ‘grateful’ nation granted him and thousands of other returned men the deeds to Soldier Settler farms throughout the nation on land that the squattocracy had previously found too dry or infertile to farm. Grandpa Oswald’s farm was near Wudinna in the centre of Eyre Peninsula, and like most of them he eventually succumbed to drought and falling prices for their produce.

He was a man most at peace in a shed, working with his hands, firstly as a farm machinery mechanic and then in latter life polishing gemstones. He was always an educated man, who went to work in coat and tie as a bank clerk before the war. But on returning he felt that his presence in town was an unwelcome reminder (he said to other families but probably more so to him) of the mates who joined up together and never came home.

I remember Christmas Holidays spent with them in Port Lincoln where I was fascinated by their old phonograph, and the collection of exclusively 78rpm records. They were mostly the war tunes – “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” and the one going through my head as the Eagles run out on to Subiaco Oval:
“Bless ‘em all – bless ‘em all,
The long and the short and the tall,
There’ll be no promotion,
This side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads,
Bless ‘em all.”

Five minutes into the game the heavens open and there is a heavy downpour that sends the unfortunate souls in the trenches below us scampering for cover. For the rest of the quarter the ball is a bar of soap, but last week’s experience in the Pacific jungle (sorry I meant the Gabba) serves us well and we battle a couple of goals. At quarter time we are 2-5 while the Crows have neglected to bother the calico waver at their end.

The second quarter blows the game apart, and funnily we don’t play with great fluidity. It is just brutal front on assault of any Crow player silly enough to try to run the ball. Many times they have a 3 on 2 advantage as they attempt to clear from the backline. Our half forward line of Lynch, Darling and Nicoski is not brilliant but they are the most relentless and ferocious tackling combination in the AFL. Goal after goal came from turnovers and by half time the Eagles led by 54 points (10-6 to 2-0).

NicNat has a more spectacular highlight tape than Paris Hilton. This week’s addition came in the third quarter when he charged through a swarm of players scrimmaging over the ball in our left forward pocket. Channeling his inner Stephen Milne he played the ball in front of him until it bobbled to a tempting height and then switched to Wayne Rooney mode to hammer it through from 20 metres out on a 45 degree angle. I gave him BOG for the Eagles tonight. Cox had more hitouts but none of his were as artistic or sent the midfield scurrying in the way that NicNat’s do. Embley, Masten, Shuey, both Selwoods all had more possessions but theirs lacked the fearsome intent and opportunity creation of the big mans.

Reports from New Jersey indicate that the E Street Band will be reforming in November when NicNat can turn from footy for a couple of months to channel his inner Clarence Clemons on the saxophone for a couple of months. Woosha or Bruce Springsteen? Now that’s a tough choice of which man to call the Boss.

At the final change the lead was 65 points and in a final quarter celebration it blew out to over a hundred points before Woosha sent the runner out to remind the players to respect Collingwood’s 96 point margin of the night before. A final Crows goal reduced the final margin to 95 points (22-13 to 7-8).

The Crows were insipid. Only Scott Thompson stood tall and his 40 possessions were a monument to his strength and determination. I cannot have youth and inexperience as an excuse. A midfield of Van Berlo, Vince, Douglas, Dangerfield (sorry Bob) and Tambling should be ashamed to compare their efforts with those of Thompson and the Eagles midfield. Tippet and Walker were laconic to the point of comatose. While their opportunities were limited they fumbled and stumbled over those that were presented. To find a few bright spots I liked the look of young Rory Sloane who worked hard all night in the midfield and Shaun McKernan (brother of Corey) who moves well for a big man. The Crows have the talent to be a finals team, but it seems Mark Bickley is no more able than his predecessor to inspire the hardness and confidence to stand up to serious competition.

By comparison the Eagles fought for everything. Kennedy had a dirty night and Beau Waters disposal let him down too often. Apart from that we were brilliant to solid. A bright spot was Sam Butler’s return from repeated leg injuries. He provides a solid foil to Hurn’s brilliance and Glass and McKenzie’s strength on our backline.

Ashley Smith and Pat McGinnity may be the unlucky players to miss out with Kerr and Schofield returning from injury for the finals. Matt Rosa may still be unlucky even if recovered from his knee injury as Chris Masten has cemented a spot with his midfield effort in recent weeks. The other thing that will stand the Eagles in good stead in coming weeks is that half the team has considerable finals experience from 2005/6/7 and they will all be hungry after the disappointments of recent years.

Well Stainless, Eagle Dave and related believers – the Avenging Eagle is confident that we could not be going into finals any stronger, fitter or in better form. She is a firm believer in a strong border protection policy and spotted a boatload of illegal immigrants in Fremantle harbour on Saturday afternoon. Apparently their leader got away, but the suspected Al Qaeda terrorist Muhammad Bin Figjam was arrested later that evening at Subiaco Oval. He will be interred on Christmas Island for the next four weeks while the High Court and the Avenging Eagle determine the future of Collingwood terrorists.

She thinks that Australia does not have an illegal immigrant policy. Western Australia does. Have you ever heard of refugees in Port Phillip Bay, Sydney Harbour or Port Adelaide? Strong deterrents are needed, so the Avenging Eagle has instituted her Fortress Subiaco policy this year. Next week she extends her forward defences eastward.

“Bless ‘em all – bless ‘em all,
The long and the short and the tall….”


  1. I agree, we are heading into the finals in full flight. But, there is still a nagging worry in the back of my mind.

    Cats, Pies and Hawks are all contenders, but are we really that good?

    Hopefully, the wounded Pies might have levelled the playing field a little.

  2. Shaken – if you ever confess to feeling confident about the Eagles in this finals series I will come over to Melbourne and break both your legs with the 4×2 that JB used on Brett Thornton.
    Even the Lord needed 12 Apostles that included a Doubting Thomas. You are our lucky public doubter. The rest of us rely on hope and bravado.

  3. Shaken, it’s a pertinent question: “are we really that good?”

    It’s kind of strange that after 22 games, I still don’t really have a feel for how good we really are. A week ago (when we were outplayed early by the 3rd-bottom team before we surged home to overcome a 5-goal deficit in the wet), were we doing what great teams do in getting ourselves out of that hole, or were we an ordinary side for being in that predicament? When we were pipped by the Hawks early in the year after outplaying them for 3 quarters, I thought we were a pretender who had (almost) caught a good side unawares… or was it more that that, and do we actually belong…??

    Can’t wait to find out.

  4. Marija Erceg says

    Peter another superb wrap up of the game.

    Bruce will always be the BOSS for me. But Woosha is definitely right up there! As for Mr FIGJAM Buckley, this week you were caught spyping, here’s hoping that next week you will be crying! I

    Don’t worry Shaken…just think back to 2006, the Eagles can go all the way!

  5. PeterB, I am still shocked that we are one win away from a home preliminary final.

    It is a good predicament to be in. I am so happy with their season, that I really don’t mind what we do in these finals. Just as long as we avoid those dreaded words ….. straight sets.

    I also really like being the wildcard that no other team knows what to do about.

    Bring it on!

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