Good Old-fashioned Footy Keeps The Long Room Rocking by Andrew Starkie



Western Bulldogs versus North Melbourne

2.10pm, Sunday, April 5

Melbourne Cricket Ground


I invited my mates, Adrian and Glen, into the Long Room for today’s game.  Adrian turns the big Four O soon and considers extended celebration necessary for such a milestone.  He’s a Yorkshireman right down to his Hull City FC membership.  With an unruffled exterior and Union Jack cufflinks, Adrian believes himself to be James Bond material.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t the hair for it.


Arriving in the colonies in the mid ‘90s, Adrian adopted the Bulldogs due to their colours and Glen’s influence.


Glen finished second in the Empire State Building run some years back.  He thinks he looks like actor Owen Wilson and apparently, any woman who glances at him sideways, thinks the same.  ‘There ya go, the Wilson factor’s kicked in,’ he is known to proudly declare.


Over a glass of MCC red and shepherds pie, conversation in the Long Room turned to SKA music, which evolved from Doc Martins and skinhead punk and mod rock in late ‘70s Britain.  Groups like Madness provided outlet and social commentary for a youth generation emerging from Thatcherite Conservatism.  The path was prepared for the new romantic sound of Ultravox and Duran Duran. 


I can’t believe I’ve mentioned Duran Duran in a footy report.


If nostalgia was the theme over lunch, the same can be said for today’s match.  A hard slog played in slippery and wet conditions, the contest resembled something from Channel 7’s The Big League.  You expected them all to run out in moustaches and mullets.


Laidley made only one change from the team that defeated Melbourne, with ruckman Goldstein replacing Josh Smith. 


Coming off an impressive away win over Fremantle, the Bulldogs selected Liam Picken, son of ‘70s Magpie, Billy, for his debut.  He was given the big task of minding Boomer.


With an eye on the weather, the Bulldogs lined up with a small, mobile forward line.  Gibson went to Johnson, which concerned me as I wondered if he had the smarts to handle Johno’s artfulness.


North, on the other hand, went tall, with Hale and Petrie up forward.  Firrito and Harding again started in the middle.


Gilbee picked up Wells.



The first quarter was played through a film of light drizzle.  The Bulldogs handled the conditions better with sure skills and well organised teamwork.  Quick ball movement from Griffen, Gilbee and Eagleton placed pressure on our defence.


Johnson slipped Gibbo to kick two and Giansiracusa drilled a beauty on the run. 


The Bulldogs settled into their zone, dropping players behind the ball.  North’s turnovers were mopped up easily.  Lake directed play from defence.


North employed a Barassi tactic and bombed long to the talls.  The wet ball came to ground often, however, opportunities were squandered, our skills suffering in the conditions.


Simpson, Firrito and Harding committed their bodies and the former captain brought up our first just before quarter-time.


Bulldogs by thirteen at the first change.


North settled in the second term, however, again couldn’t capitalise.  Despite Campbell’s early goal, the Bulldog zone was able to swallow our forward thrusts. 


Long bombs to Petrie and Hale weren’t working.  With numbers goalside of stoppages and packs, Bulldog defenders swept the ball away.


Gibson fell over and Johnson kicked his third. 


Well held by Gilbee, Wells broke free and shovelled one through just before half-time.


Despite their efforts, North had brought the margin only three points closer.


The weather cleared during the main break and the Bulldogs revelled kicking four early third term goals from quick, low movement and selfless teamwork.  Griffen’s snap from centre half-forward stretched the lead to five goals and we looked in trouble.


Many have said that about North to be proved incorrect.


Laidley’s tactics began to work.  Repeated attacks on the Bulldog bunker reaped rewards with three late goals.  Hale held a pack mark and converted and Thomas and Campbell reduced the margin to eleven points.


Game on!


North continued to attack in the last quarter and the Bulldogs raised the drawbridge.  Pratt and Hansen led the charge while Lake played Churchill, preparing to fight on the beaches.


Hill caught North on the rebound, the lead stretched again and we had to reload.  Lower toe-poked one through.  McIntosh marked Boomer’s torpedo and slotted the set shot. 


The margin was inside a goal and I thought I saw a bloodstained white flag rise from the smoky rubble of Fort Bulldog.


Alas, it was not to be.  Constant bombardment exposed our rear flank and the Bulldogs counter attacked.  Picken tackled Boomer and the ball landed with Aker who fed Hill for another.


Modern footy isn’t often played in the wet, however, old fashioned G and D saw the Bulldogs home.


Adrian’s celebrations have begun well and he went off to get sentimental over his record collection and report for duty in her majesty’s service.



Western Bulldogs

3.6       4.10     8.13     11.14   (80)

North Melbourne

1.5       3.6       7.8       9.11     (65)



Western Bulldogs: Johnson, Hill 3; Addison, Giansiracusa, Gilbee, Griffen, Minson.

North Melbourne: Campbell 2; Simpson, Swallow, Hale, Wells, Lower, McIntosh, Thomas.



Western Bulldogs: Griffen, Gilbee, Lake, Hill, Higgins, Boyd, Picken.

North Melbourne: Simpson, Pratt, Harding, Swallow, McIntosh.



34,466 at the MCG










































About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

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