Is this the season for the drought to end?



I’ve hit record button on Foxtel for the Cats v Swans game and headed off to Port Melbourne to see if my VFL side can win 18 on the trot and remain undefeated in the main season.


Its been a while since I have not made the trip down Princes Highway for the big game, however my football partner in crime, Geoff has stood me up due to family commitments and I don’t fancy making the trip by myself, particularly as the Swans have not won at Geelong since 1999.  And the Cats have not lost at home since this round four years ago …. that makes 29 in a row at home.


While I keep an interested eye on the VFL and watch the occasional game on Saturday afternoons on ABC tv, I could not in all honesty say I’m a passionate fan.  However, as the Borough’s season has progressed and the wins have mounted I have gradually jumped on board the wagon. I’ve come down to Port over the last few weeks and pretty much now know who all the players are and who are those that are impacting games.


Its been a long drought of 29 years since Port’s last premiership in the old VFA, when they won three in a row from 1980 to 1982 under former Swans wingman Gary Brice.  What a period …. six premierships in nine years if my memory serves me well.  And great players too, Fred Cook, the Allan brothers, the Andersons and Vic Aanensen to name a few.  Last week just before half time I spotted Cooky in the crowd.  It was lovely to see him there looking fit and well after what he has been through since his great footy days.  Now there’s someone who should have played VFL/AFL.


As a stand alone VFL team there is still some sense of local ownership of this team. While the crowd is not big, it’s typically loud and parochial.  While this team does not directly feed an AFL team there are certainly quality players here who AFL scouts should be aware off.  Smart medium forwards Rose and Galea have kicked a swag of goals this year though both may be a little small or slow for AFL.  Others who look likely are Sandilands off a back flank and rover Dwyer, while ex-Demon Valenti gets a heap of the ball and looks like he might be worth another chance at the big time.


I also wonder about the coach, Gary Ayres.  I had previously thought he was no chance to coach AFL again after his long and relatively unsuccessful stints at Geelong and Adelaide.  However he has done a mighty job with this team and his quiet authority and the respect his players seem to have for him is highly impressive.  Maybe he is worth a crack at Melbourne or the Dogs, at least as a senior assistant.  For now I’m just hoping he can keep these boys on track for a premiership.


The Box Hill Hawks start well and get a few goals up.  This has been typical for Port in recent weeks coming from behind after slow starts.  Today they seem a bit flat and are fumbling and go in 2 goals down at the first break.  The game becomes a real slog in the second quarter.  Both sides fail to score a goal and the Hawks do an effective job of nullifying Ports usual run.  For Port, Valenti has been terrific though few others have contributed.


After the main break, Port lifts its intensity with Toby Pinwell, a basic hard at it type and ex Dogs player, Malcolm Lynch starting to assist Valenti around the packs.  Galea is dangerous up forward and his sure marking and kicking has Port back in the game.  Xavier Ellis is playing well for the Hawks, however I don’t have a Record, so don’t know who most of their players are.  Both teams trade goals and Port goes in to the break 5 points down.


Scores from around the grounds are coming over the public system, and the Swans seem to have made a good start at Geelong and are up by a few goals.  I resist the temptation to get the radio out of my bag, and I concentrate on the game at hand.  I am confident Port will run over the top of the Hawks, however a couple of early goals to Box Hill extends the lead to 17 points.  This will test the Borough.


Ayres has thrown big full back Dalton forward with veteran Corey McGrath.  Rover Chris Cain is prominent, along with Lynch.  Centre half back Sam Pleming and Sandilands are terrific and are mopping up everything down back.  Pleming looks like a really good player, though I’m not sure how old he is.  Goals to Cain and Galea peg the lead back and big forward Bonaddio is starting to impact after little contribution earlier.


All of a sudden Port is all over the Hawks and scoring at will, with the assistance of a few dubious frees, possibly due to the intimidation of the crowd!  Late goals to Cain contribute to a 7 goal quarter and a 20 point win.


Port looks like a really good fit team, with plenty of experience and some young talent. They need to get off to better starts though or risk a finals loss and potentially a dominant season not delivering the ultimate result.  A number of the younger players will certainly be looked at come the draft.


I hop in the car to head home and the ABC commentators inform me that a goal to McGlynn late in the 3rd quarter has extended the Swans’ lead to 17 points, which will make it hard for the Cats to come back.  Typically the Cats respond with 2 goals, but when Mumford scores from a free, we go in 11 points up.


I get home in time to catch the whole last quarter on Foxtel.  A goal to Spangher within the first 20 seconds has me hoping that we can hang on.  We are scrapping for everything and the Cats are not playing with their usual fluid confident style.  Ling and Johnson pull back goals, however in between impressive youngsters Parker and Reid score.  The latter after a great smother and kick forward from Rohan, who seems to have provided the spark and flair that we so desperately need.


The Cats like always are taking risks however today our pressure is converting them into chances for us.  Another goal to Parker then a soft free to Bolton for a fend off by young Christensen, provides another and takes the lead to 27 points.  We are home and hosed, despite a few late goals to the Cats.  Our drought and the Cats’ record breaking home run are collectively over.


I momentarily ponder whether I should have made the trip down to the Cattery, however I have had a terrific day and look on it as a classic win-win.  I’ll be trying to get to all the Port games over coming weeks and ride the wagon home to glory and an end to Port’s extended premiership drought.  While hopefully at least one win in the finals will keep me satisfied that the Bloods are heading in the right direction.  And I have the Foxtel recording to get to over the next few days.


About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. Alovesupreme says

    That’s a fine report, both of the footy and the atmospherics of the Borough.
    A couple of elaborations:
    Fred Cook did play briefly at Footscray, but it seems even in those times when clubs were more tolerant of players with idiosyncratic behaviour patterns, he wasn’t sufficiently conformist. He also had a brief interlude at Yarraville (then in VFA 1st Division) and won a Liston Trophy before crossing to Port and establishing a huge reputation.
    You’re correct in identifying Gary Brice as coaching Port after playing at South, but it’s probably worth noting that he spent a couple of productive years at Port before going to Lakeside. So his coaching stint at Port was a return home – I think that’s true in a literal sense, as he was(and apprently remains) very much a Port patriot.

  2. Yes, Bricey started his career at the Borough, played a decade at South, then returned to produce a trifecta of flags 1980-82. This was truly the tail end of a great era, with the years 1974-1982 producing 6 flags, and 3 preliminary finals. True, slim pickings since then. Well let’s hope the drought is over, 29 years, and 5 GF losses is to much to bear. A club whcih was the backbone of the old VFA, now standing alone in the corporatised VFL model, deserves a flag. The very fact of being the best side for 2011 does not guarantee a flag, but all factors cosidered it would be great for Port to once again celebrate being the premiers.

  3. On ya Keiran.

    Hope you made it down to North Port Oval yesterady afternoon. Port Melbourne’s second half was the best football they’ve played since the slashing 10 goal win at North Ballarat in mid June.

    Keep the faith, 29 years is a long wait.

    Too long.


  4. Yes Michael, for blokes like us there are memories of that halcyon period. For younger Port supporters a flag is the only way to be rewarded. Who knows if we break the ice this year, some one might grab a bottle of bubbly and do a lap after the players. Memories of the Captain at the district semi 79-80. No 29 years is a wait that needs to end.


  5. Keiran Croker says

    Thanks for the feedback. Yes I was aware that Cooky had played at Footscray and Yarraville pre Port, however was not sure if he had played seniors at the Dogs. I was also aware of Bricey’s pedigree. He was at this Saturdays game. My mate Chris went and had a chat with him, as he said he new him well when they were kids, because Bricey grew up next to his grandmothers in Port. I think there is another article in me for last Saturdays game.

  6. Glen – Whilst I’m teetotal these days, I’m willing to make an exception should the boys salute in 3 Sundays time.

    That pitch was extremely lively that Sunday morning. Luckily there weren’t any water restrictions at the Western Oval in March 1980.


Leave a Comment