People, Places and Footy on ANZAC Day

by Andrew Starkie

North Melbourne versus Richmond

7.20pm, Saturday, April 25,

Etihad Stadium

This is primarily a match report for the North versus Richmond game, however, I do want to share some observations from earlier on ANZAC Day.

Earlier in the day…

A small group gathered around the cenotaph for the dawn service at Reservoir RSL. A chilly wind bounced up Edwardes Street while an appetising smell wafted across from the Vietnamese bakery. The ceremony was short. Veterans in berets placed poppies and wiped their eyes. Grandkids shivered and looked confused, but did as they were told.

Later in the morning, I walked around Reservoir listening on my walkman to the broadcast of the march in the city. Diggers with shaking, outback voices deflected the ‘hero’ tag with lines like …’Just doin’my job’…. One spoke of his troubles settling after returning from war. He drifted about the country for a while, before re-enlisting into the familiarity of army life.

Deputy PM, Julia Gillard was interviewed and spoke less guardedly than usual as she told of her family immigrating from Wales when she was two years old. Her parents still give thanks for what our Democratic nation has given.

At the top of the hour, the news announced North Korea had cancelled nuclear disarmament talks with Russia.

I bought a paper from Sam, a Muslim whose smile is never off his face. Sam’s corner shop is open every day of the year and his only late starts come on Good Friday and Christmas Day.

Up at West Preston/Lakeside, the Under 19s were under way. The full forward chatted to his opponent while the goal umpire leant against the post. Parents lined the fence, huddled over coffees and smokes.

I always attend the Essendon and Collingwood game on ANZAC Day. I love the respect for the occasion and celebration of Australia the event displays. This year, I was with my mate Russ on his buck’s party. The crowd rose and applauded the motorcade and at the commencement of official proceedings, a member of the crowd called out, ‘Hats off!’ A near full MCG fell into utter silence. Only the wind could be heard. For a nation embarrassed by reverence, this is one day we respect and honour.

The match was tense and close all day, yet lacked the aggressive atmosphere clashes between rivals can carry. Opposition fans smiled and patted each other on the back. When Russ’ crew pushed along the aisle to go for beers, no one grumbled.

Ryder, Lovett and Zaharakis ran the Bombers home. At the final siren, Magpies slumped to the ground as if they had lost a grand final. They know how special this game is.

I slipped quietly away from Russ and his lubricated crew and jumped on a Docklands bound train. Rain slid down the windows and Fitzroy Gardens looked relieved and revived.

Now to our game…

I gathered with a group of mates on the top deck. We made an interesting collection – an accountant, a grog seller, male nurse, muso, teacher, assorted kids. Allegiances were evenly split and the Tigers amongst us couldn’t remember the last win they personally witnessed.

ANZAC cookies were shared around the row in front. Kangaroo fans moved along for Tigers looking for seats.

I had worried about the wounded Tigers all week. The pressure was off Richmond after the loss last round to the Demons. This was bound to free them up. We were ordinary in beating the Bombers and were having problems kicking goals.

We lined up with three tall forwards, including Edwards, in for his first senior game for 2009 after a club-imposed suspension. Greenwood made his debut. Mark Coughlan was back for the Tigers after three injury plagued years. I wished him luck, but not that much.

We started well. Direct, long kicking resulted in three goals, all set up by Firrito, inside ten minutes. Warren was presenting himself and Ziebell was hard at the contest. It was business as usual for the Tiges – repeated turnovers and no accountability. When Richo soccered one out on the full, we looked set for a percentage booster.

How wrong I was. North kicked only four more goals for the game.

Midway through the first quarter, the course of the match started to change. With a winless, out of form opponent there for the taking, North went defensive with indirect, slow play. This brought the Tigers back into the game and they were allowed to settle.

Harvey went off with a dislocated elbow after a crude tackle from Jackson and Firrito left with an ankle injury. Richmond started to dominate possession and Coughlan received a cheer with his first touch. Two goals before quarter-time had the Tigers in the contest and building momentum.

The Tigers took confidence pills during the change of ends and came out running in the second quarter. Deledio and McMahon were setting up from defence and Nahas, Oakley-Nicholls and Riewoldt were dangerous up forward. The latter was on the end of crisp forward movement and kicked three for the term. The only negative came when Richo limped off early in the quarter with a hamstring injury.

North looked confused and indecisive. They over possessed and their skills suffered. Simpson and Swallow were keeping us in the contest. Firrito returned limping. Edwards kicked his first on the half-time siren and the Tigers led by seven points.

Richmond believed in the third quarter. Strong running and hard contested football saw the Tigers dominate. Richo returned and Jackson and Deledio accumulated possessions.

North continued to hesitate. Our delivery into the forward line was poor and Richmond rebounded easily.

Two goals in time-on stretched the lead to 27 points. Game over.

North’s performance deteriorated further in the last quarter. We missed four early set shots, only to see Bowden twice saunter forward to kick goals. Humiliation was total when Thomas, Power and Warren messed up an easy chance to goal when all three were unattended in the forward line. The reluctance by all to take the shot reflected the low confidence level of the team.

The Tigers eased away to a 36 point win and mobbed Coughlan on the final siren.

Lest we forget? I had another great ANZAC Day, however, for the Kangaroos, this is one worth forgetting.

North Melbourne

3.2 5.6 6.9 7.16 (58)


2.2 6.7 10.12 13.16 (94)


North Melbourne: Swallow 3; Edwards, Warren, Hale, Thomas.

Richmond: Riewoldt 3; Bowden 2; Collins, Deledio, Newman, Moore, Morton, White, Nahas, Tuck.


North Melbourne: Simpson, Swallow, Ziebell, Urquhart.

Richmond: Deledio, Riewoldt, Jackson, Tuck, Bowden, McMahon.


29,224 at Etihad Stadium

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