Memoir: My best match

by Josh Barnstable

I’m happy to know that every AFL game I go to, I savour it. And I’ve been one of the lucky ones, with every match I’ve gone too; it’s been either a special occasion or a really good game. Due to living in country Victoria, I only get to go to about 2-3 games a year but each game I make sure I take in the ground and enjoy the surroundings, something the people who go to games once every week might forget to do. But after some thinking, I want to name the two best matches I have been to:

The best AFL game I have seen live is Carlton vs. Fremantle from the MCG, Round 16, 2005. I went to the match with a bus load of people from Waaia on our annual footy trip. Freo won by 35 points in a high-scoring match, 24.8.152 to 17.15.117. Matthew Pavlich kicked a career-high nine goals and that is what kick-started my liking of him as a player. His last goal was terrific; after us Waaia people decided it was time to fill out with a couple of minutes to go in the match, we stood in the forward pocket as Pavlich marked outside 50, outside the boundary line. He quickly played on, ran around and snapped a ripper goal that we could see curl straight through as the siren was sounding. After the siren, the MCG let all 16,076 fans onto the ground for a kick, and despite not having a footy to kick, I still had fun, collecting some grass off the hallow turf to put in my room later that night. We were also invited into the Dockers’ rooms after the game, and I met a lot of the players and even got Pav’s autograph, as well as meeting Aaron Sandilands. I had to crane my neck just to see his face!

The next best game was Round 13 of 2007. North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs. Celebrating Glenn Archer’s 300th match, the Roos gave out free signs and I bought an “Arch” hat, as well as looking at the new Sports Museum underneath the G’. Once the game had started, you could tell the Roos were on. They kicked eight goals in the first quarter, including an amazing six to Drew Petrie who also took a huge screamer. The next quarter saw Petrie kick his seventh but he remained on that tally for the rest of the match as the Dogs fought back. Fortunately some Brent Harvey heroics saw the Roos run out 26 point winners, 17.9.111 to 11.19.85. Arch got the celebration he deserved and it kick-started a massive run towards the finals for the Kangaroos.

There are many other brilliant games I’ve been too, but also some not so good, like Round 22 last year where Port Adelaide thumped North in Shannon Grant’s 300th match. That was definitely the worst game I’ve been too and I felt gutted afterwards, knowing it cost the Roos a second consecutive top-four berth.

I’d like to get your thoughts and stories on the favourite games you have been too, and even some games you didn’t enjoy so much.


  1. Steve Healy says

    How many games have you been to this year Josh?

    I’ve always thought about people who don’t get the chance to go to a game every week, I would find it wierd since I have never lived outside Melbourne before, well in fact ive only lived in one house. Going to see the footy every week is something I have always been able to do.

  2. Danielle says

    it takes about 20 mins to get to the footy from my house because we are right next to the Freeway!
    Yet ive only been to one game this year (my birthday round 17) and it was the worst game EVER!!
    im dying to go to a training session!!!
    Danni :)

  3. Danielle says

    opp what i meant to say was ROUND 7!!
    st.kilda game i was about ready to kill myself!! WORST GAME EVER

  4. Steve Healy says

    Oh yea, I actually forgot to say the best games i’ve been to.

    I didn’t used to go to that many games from about 2003-2006.

    But here are some:

    Round 7, 2008:
    Melbourne V Freo

    This game was a memorable one.
    Melbourne’s biggest comeback of all time saw them come back from 50 points down at Half Time.
    The crowd noise was incredible. There were only 19,423 people(and no one on the top level) there but it sounded more like 100,000.

    Round 11, 2006.
    Melbourne V Collingwood (QB)

    I sat high up in the new Olympic stand and saw Melbourne smash Collingwood to the tune of 47 points. Over 78,000 people were there. It was just a great performance from the Dees. And I remember some Collingwood supporters getting frustrated around me, which is always good to see.

    Round 5 2006
    Melbourne V North Melbourne

    It was a close match for the whole game. I sat behind the goals and saw a great 4 point win against the Roos.And James McDonald kicked the winning goal.

    There are some more, but those are the main 3.

    Worst games:
    Round 10 2008
    St.Kilda V Melbourne

    Melbourne never had a chance right from the start, and to add to the agony I was staring into the sun for the whole game at the (then) Telstra Dome. Robbo snapped his achilles heel as well.

    Round 15 2008
    Western Bulldogs V Melbourne

    Another game at the Dome. Shocking, boring game in front of a poor crowd. Melbourne didn’t get blown out of the water, but they were never gonna win.

    Round 11 2002

    Melbourne got smashed, and it was raining heavily. And I was sitting in the top level of the old olympic stand.

  5. Josh Barnstable says

    I’ve been to 3 games this year so far and i’ll be going to North vs Carlton on the Friday of Round 18. The games i’ve been to have been the first NAB Cup round against Carlton. North got done by 54 points. Then i attended North vs. Melbourne in Round 1 and the Kangas won by 34 points, i bet you know all about that Steve :D. And recently i went to North Melbourne vs. Western Bulldogs in Round 13.

  6. Damian Watson says

    Great Writing Josh,
    I remember going to the Carlton v Fremantle game in 2005, sitting in the Carlton cheer squad at the Punt Road End. The event I will always take out of that match was Shane Parker kicking a rare goal in his 200th game which was a delight to see. I remember running out onto the MCG as well, luckily I brought a footy and had great fun. Who knows, I might have bumped into you that day Josh.

    Best Games I have been to:

    R14 1999 Carlton v Hawthorn: My first game. I don’t remember too much of it but it was still a great day out. It only took my Dad and I 5 minutes to drive to Waverley Park and that is one of the thigs I miss about that ground.Nowadays it takes me almost an hour to get to the city when there is traffic on the Monash Fwy. I remember it was Craig bradley’s 300th game and the Blues defeated Hawthorn by 4 goals.

    R4 2004 Carlton v West Coast: I sat in the front row in the forward pocket at Princes Park as I always did in those days. Remember seeing Andrew Walker dominate in his first game and he almost took an absoulute screamer right in front of me. The Eagles were goaless by half time and we ended up accounting for the West Coast easily.

    R6 2009 Hawthorn v Carlton: Although the Blues tradgically lost in a cliffhanger it was an awesome atmosphere and the roar when Fev took that mark in the dying stages would make the roar at an FA Cup Final at Wembley seem like a whisper. I was sitting in the Great Southern Stand and from my angle Fev’s shot looked to be through but when the goal umpire waved just the one white flag, let me tell you my comments at that moment where something along the lines of “You are #&#*#%# kidding me!’

    Honourable Mention: R10 2005 Carlton v Melbourne: Although the game was over by Half Time I was still appreciative of attending the final game at Princes Park. Robbo was on fire that day and kicked a bag of goals. Carlton made a spirited fightback but still came up 3 goals short. You might remember Neale Daniher refusing his players to sing the song after the game.

    Worst Game R10 2004 St.Kilda v Carlton: As a Carlton supporter I have attended many matches that saw the Blues get absolutely walloped over recent times but this game takes the cake. Never understood Denis Pagan’s method of playing Fev at full back against a rampaging G Train who kicked 9 goals that day. We were smashed by 108 points the Saints made it ten in a row and I was back home by full time after leaving 5 minutes into the third term.

  7. Damian Watson says

    By the way was the James Hird exhibition good at the Sports Museum?

  8. Josh Barnstable says

    Everything in the Sports Museum was good! Unfortunately there was a match being played so i had to go watch that, otherwise i could have stayed in their all day. The thing i liked the most was the small TV screen which replayed various highlights of the previous Grand Finals, and also the cabinets with each team, former and current, with their accolades.

    I also remember Shane Parker’s goal against the Blues in 2005. I found it funny, as the previous year i went to North vs. Bulldogs in Round 21 which was former backman Matthew Croft’s last game for the Doggies. Despite hardly kicking a goal in a few years, Crofty booted 5 and was the difference in the match as the Dogs snuffed out the Roos chances of making the finals with a 30 point win. Each game i go to it seems a low-goalkicking backman scores a 6 pointer. Maybe i should go to a Collingwood game. Presti hasn’t goaled in a while.

  9. Josh Barnstable says

    By the way, i’ve been to 16 matches that i know of. That’s a good haul :)

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