Brisbane Lions a cinch to win

Forget about ladder positioning and form.  Forget about injuries and game plans and favouritism.  Forget about Brent Harvey’s milestone match.  Brisbane defeating North Melbourne on Saturday night is a dead set certainty.


The Curse is back in town.  His presence brings a dread I’ve not felt since the last time he was in Brisbane.  And the time before that, and every other time The Curse has been here.


Russ is The Curse.  He has never seen North Melbourne win in Brisbane.  Each time he’s been here North has been favoured to win.  Each time he’s flown home unhappy.


The superstitious curse has a powerful hold over his psyche.  It influences his thoughts and fears.  It sounds like folly, but he believes in his curse wholeheartedly, because it hasn’t been broken in 20-years of football.


I went to high school with Russ in Melbourne.  We probably would’ve been mates without our mutual love of North Melbourne.  That love helped solidify our friendship and maintain it across the decades and different states.


During footy season it’s unusual if we don’t chat three or four times a week.  Often it is more.  He’s an affable, talkative man with a deep understanding of football and the history of the game.


He can talk tactics and game plans and watch a game intelligently.  His analysis is thoughtful and accurate.


Russ has been a member of North since the eighties and spent his formative years in the cheer squad before graduating to the outer.  Now he’s an AFL member, with North Melbourne affiliation.


He has faith in the footy gods but that faith is shallow.  His faith in North Melbourne isn’t misplaced.  Russ occasionally lays small bets.  He doesn’t mind blood money, betting against North when form suggests the odds are inviting.


Russ is not prone to foolish statements based on unfortunate passion.  He doesn’t blame the umpires.  He doesn’t have a lucky pair of socks or a scarf he must wear or a North Melbourne coffee mug he uses only on game day.


And that makes his belief in his curse all the more puzzling.


He says it was born in 1996, when North, led by Wayne Carey and coached by Denis Pagan wilted in Brisbane’s humidity.  It was Russ’s first trip to the Gabba to watch North play.


Later at the Plough Inn, Russ clung onto his footy record and emptied his grief into a beer glass.


Since that fateful game, Russ has been back five times for the same result.  Those losses are blamed on his curse.


Last year, before North lost to Brisbane, I pointed out the limitations of The Curse.  It only exists when he’s at the Gabba watching Brisbane play North.


And North has beaten Brisbane at the Gabba when he hasn’t been here, though our last win was a decade ago.


Despite these limitations, Russ remains unequivocal.


‘Each time I’ve come up we’ve lost,’ he said.  ‘That’s all the proof I need.’


The match last year was predictable.  Brisbane dominated the second quarter, opening up an advantage North couldn’t rein in.


When we got home, Russ spent an hour inside as the rest of us drank beer in the garage and played pool.  It took about an hour before he joined in the commiserations.


On Sunday, Russ and I talked about the game and The Curse.


‘North lost to Gold Coast three weeks ago,’ he said.  ‘They were on the bottom.  Now Brisbane is last and we could lose to two bottom teams inside a month.’


I pointed out that Brisbane were awful against Melbourne, and the Demons aren’t much good.


‘It doesn’t matter,’ Russ said.  ‘I’m worried about The Curse.’


He asked if I had faith in The Curse.


‘It’s your curse Russ,’ I said.  ‘And I have faith in you.’


Russ mentioned a gambling advertisement he’d seen on television.  I reminded him that I hate ads and refuse to watch them, so I hadn’t seen it.


‘It’s about two mates watching football,’ Russ said.  ‘One mate has money on the game and his mate is known as The Curse, so he locks him outside as the game gets close to finishing.’


‘I haven’t had a bet all year,’ I said.


‘It’s a funny ad.’


‘Maybe someone who works for a betting agency read about you on The Footy Almanac.’ I said.


‘Do you reckon they got the idea for the ad from a story about The Curse?’


‘It could be an ad based on you.’


We laughed.


Russ arrives on Friday.  He says The Curse is flying free.  North Melbourne, once again, are heavy favourites.  Russ says The Curse should be favourites.

Brisbane won’t play finals.  If North loses, they probably won’t play finals either.


Interestingly, Brent Harvey has never lost a milestone match.  He’s played in victories in his first game, his 50th, his 100th, his 150th, his 200th and so on…


Russ is worried.


‘I hope it’s not my fault if Harvey loses his 400th,’ he said.


I didn’t know what to say.  It is clear Russ is bringing a heavy burden to the Gabba.  He shouldn’t shoulder this expected defeat alone.  So I’ve arranged for seventeen people to join him at the Gabba so he can prove the existence of The Curse.


I’m not sure if I can believe it.  Long ago I gave up on football superstitions.  That pair of socks I wore through the nineties have been thrown out.  I don’t have a special North Melbourne t-shirt or jumper to be worn on game day.  No longer do I blame myself if North loses.


I can’t influence the result because I’m not playing.  Russ believes he can alter the result just by being here.  He says The Curse means North loses, that it is real and true.


‘I believe in the curse,’ Russ said.


I believe in Russ.  It doesn’t mean I believe North will lose to Brisbane just because he’s here.


But every time Russ has been in Brisbane for a North game, I believed North would win…



About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Russ is sounding very much like a Bulldog supporter. If he wants to sink further into pessimism and despondency, he is welcome to join us and subscribe to the Bulldog Tragician web-site.
    It’s interesting how certain Clubs playing at their home-grounds and facing your team higher on the ladder can still put that fear of losing into you.
    Facing Geelong at home does that to us. Not only in the last ten years, but for decades. Ted Whitten could hardly remember winning there during the eighteen years he played.
    So why did I tip the Scrays on Saturday? Should’ve realized you just can’t beat some curses in football.

  2. Your story last year definitely made the game more gripping to watch last year. I’ll be sure to be closely following the scores again. I hope for Russ’ sake North get up but I worry it will leave a big hole in his life without The Curse around.

  3. I believe in The Curse. I remember when you revealed Russ’s Curse prior to last year’s game. I looked at the teams and the form, and logically concluded “well that’s the end of that curse”. Logic has no power and supernatural forces.
    Now I BELIEVE. In the Russ curse. In North’s eternal flakiness. Get on Brisbane.
    The Curse of the Bambino (now broken after 86 years); the Billy Goat Curse on the Chicago Cubs and the Black Sox Curse – all have nothing on the power of Russ North of the Tweed. The Witch Doctor curse on the Socceroos had overwhelming powers for 34 years. Never short change the Voodoo Man.
    Better fill the fridge Matt. You and Russ will have plenty of drunk and disconsolate mates on the weekend.
    For Boomer’s 400th we Eagles are renaming it the Priddis Curse (we don’t forget or forgive).

  4. Neil,
    I could’ve been a Footscray supporter. My dad followed Footscray but never took me to a game because I was too little. By 1977, I decided I was going to support North Melbourne.
    First game my dad took me to was North v Footscray at Arden Street.
    Footscray won…
    DJ, I remain sceptical. Russ might miss the curse but he he’ll be relieved if it’s over.
    Peter, great link. And great response. You made me laugh.
    If Brisbane win this week, I’ll submit the curse to wikipedia…
    Cheers to all.

  5. Below is a message from Russ…

    The curse is dead. I no longer want to feed this idea.
    I see that other people are starting to believe in the curse, which started a joke.
    My kids don’t want me travel this weekend because of the curse.
    I will not mention, discuss or entertain the any notion a curse until after Boomer’s 400th.
    I will put cash on the Shinboners to beat the Lions and select them in all footy tips. I am positive for a victory in Brisbane.

  6. Brin Paulsen says

    “I will put cash on the Shinboners to beat the Lions and select them in all footy tips. I am positive for a victory in Brisbane.”

    It’s like Russ doesn’t want the curse to be broken!

  7. Dave Brown says

    Reckon he should bet on Brisbane. That way he gets something out of the game, regardless. Add to this a milestone curse. It is something like in the last five years eight players have hit either 300 or 400 games. Only two of them have won that match (Boomer’s 300th being one of them – a win over West Coast who had already secured the wooden spoon). My theory (off an extremely small sample) is that big milestone games are an unwanted distraction for football clubs when it comes to winning on the weekend.

  8. A curse? Bollocks! If the Lions salute this weekend, I want a fully fledged stewards inquiry into Norf convened before anyone is allowed to leave the Gabba after the siren!!!

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