Round 10 – North Melbourne v West Coast: Not Bending With The Breeze

[First published 11 June 2015]

As some of you may know, one of my lifelong goals is to attend a North Melbourne game in every state and territory of Australia. With Etihad Stadium and the MCG well and truly ticked off my bucket list of stadiums, my venture began last season, with an eight hour pilgrimage by car to Canberra to watch the Kangas tackle the Giants at Manuka Oval. It was a successful trip, returning home with a 75 point victory. It was unofficially announced that night that the Adelaide Oval would be our next stop.

I thank my lucky stars that we avoided the Round 1 capitulation to the Crows. Due to my study workload, dedicating three hours of my time to watch the game on the TV, let alone travelling for it, made it almost impossible. With perhaps the most stressful and demanding period of my schooling life that made Year 12 seem like a breeze behind me, my parents floated the idea of paying for myself and my girlfriend Liz to go down to Hobart and watch the Roos take on West Coast. Keen to taste and feel the support North Melbourne have built in southern Tasmania, we gleefully accepted.

However, an hour before our flight, and I was starting to regret this decision. Having not flown since early 2008, my nerves were jangling. I made the most of the complementary alcohol courtesy of the Virgin Lounge, watching as the Adelaide Crows’ boys jostled for position at the salad bar after a win over Carlton. It was after a while that I noticed Dennis Cometti sitting near us, waiting to board the same flight.

Soon enough, we were buckled in our seats. We watched as the air hostess’ nonchalantly delivered the safety demonstration, and it was at this point that I realised the plane was actually moving. And then we were off. The feeling of take-off is of pure thrill, mixed with a slight amount of fear. A message from the cockpit alerted all passengers to prepare for a bumpy landing, which is always a nice thing to hear. And bumpy it was. But alas, we arrived safe and well.

I remember arriving at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast during my most previous flight and being hit by how humid the weather was. When we departed our Boeing 747, we were immediately hit by the brisk Tasmanian air. Naturally, our bags were among the last to be released onto the baggage carousel. We hitched a taxi to our accommodation in New Town, and witnessed Hobart in all its glory at 9:00pm. $57 later, and we arrived at our motel, finding our room with two single beds, which were quickly pushed together.

On our first morning, Liz and I decided to explore what the city had to offer in the little time we had before the game. We are both vastly different travellers. Liz likes to plan where we go with a map in hand, while I prefer to aimlessly wander, finding our way as we go, something I definitely developed from my parents. As expected, Hobart didn’t have too much to offer other than a nice view. Surprisingly, all of the locals seemed to have just the one head, when I was led to believe otherwise. It was clear that North Melbourne had built a large amount of support in the area, with blue and white flags adorning the CBD. As I followed Liz in and out of the many clothing and jewelry stores, I spotted Todd Goldstein going for a morning stroll. I had almost forgotten that there was a game of football to attend.

With our motel on the wrong side of the Derwent River to Blndstone Arena, another taxi was required. We were dropped off right next to the ground, and I was amazed by the sea of blue and white, with a dash of gold. This town was ready for a game of footy.
Our seats were in a fantastic spot in the David Boon stand, between the goals and the hill on the far side of the oval. It wasn’t long until the Hobart weather, which has been unexpectedly pleasant (our taxi driver described it as tropical), took a turn for the worse. First it was the occasional gush of wind. Then it was cold, cold rain. Then more wind. After spending the entire match last weekend against Collingwood at the MCG in the pouring rain, I felt prepared for what Hobart could throw at us. However, that quickly dissipated, and I was longing for the Etihad Stadium roof that I take for granted.

The crazy wind produced some of the oddest pieces of football I’ve ever witnessed. Sam Butler’s driving kick into the breeze was caught and carried almost parallel to where he booted it (and West Coast still marked it), the padding on the goalpost became loose and flapped uncontrollably, and Andrew Gaff used the grass trick patented by Matthew Lloyd to test the wind… from the back pocket. And that was all in the first quarter. Despite the Eagles getting off to the fast start with a goal to Jamie Cripps, North replied with four in a row, two of those through Tasmania’s own BBBBB (Big Bad Bustling Benny Brown).

However, with the Eagles kicking with the gale-force breeze in the second quarter, I expected their long-kicking midfielders to take full advantage. 4.7 to 1.0 had West Coast leading by seven points at the main break.

Back with the wind in the third quarter, North needed to make the most of it. It took until nearly the 10th minute for Shaun Higgins to nail a six pointer, before the Eagles replied with two to Liam Duggan and Josh Kennedy. With the quarter nearly over and trailing by six points, I was close to conceding defeat, knowing the Eagles had a huge advantage in the last term.
But then, something clicked. It was as if the whole North Melbourne team realised that their pride, their culture, their season, was all on the line. Ben Brown dribbled through a goal no big man should ever attempt, before Higgins goaled from a bizarre Andrew Swallow slip-up in the goalsquare. A final goal to Brent Harvey from outside 50 had Bellerive in raptures, and somehow the Kangas took a six point lead into the final change. Still, I felt pessimistic.

With the toilet line nearly reaching Launceston, I missed the first moments of the final quarter. What I did see, I liked. Drew Petrie flying high in the goalsquare to haul in an important grab, kicking North 12 points clear. It was quickly pegged back, with Shannon Hurn and Kennedy converting their chances. The Eagles continued to attack, but it was North’s lesser lights standing up. Jamie Macmillan, Sam Wright, even Scott McMahon, were all crucial in critical stages. Jack Ziebell made a mockery of the wind, dancing around two Eagles to slot a spiritual captain’s goal, before Goldstein split the middle with a ripper from the forward pocket. Sharrod Wellingham, in his best game since he was a Magpie, roosted a long 70 metre goal, and it was game on again.

The turning point came soon after. Having gotten separation from his man Scott Thompson, Kennedy looked set to take an easy mark 45 metres from goal. However, with players streaming into space ahead of him, he was too eager to move it on before he hauled in the grab. It spilled from his hands, North mopped it up, moved it downfield, and Higgins finished with a classy pass that accidentally became his fourth major.

I’ve always held a cautious opinion of North Melbourne’s venture into the Hobart market, having seen how we nearly became the Gold Coast Kangaroos in 2007. However, seeing the adoring Tasmanian crowd cheering on every kick, every handball, every goal, led by a local hero in Ben Brown, has led me to some rethinking. I’m quite happy to give up a few games in Melbourne each season to play down south, where we have built a genuine home ground advantage, having lost just twice from eight games since 2012. While most stadiums around Australia I plan on attending just once, Blundstone Arena is one I’d be happy to go back to again and again.

North Melbourne 4.4 – 5.4 – 9.6 – 13.7.85

West Coast 1.4 – 5.11 – 7.12 – 10.15.75

Goalkickers

North Melbourne – Higgins 4, Brown 3, Petrie, Goldstein, Ziebell, Harvey, Gibson, Thomas

West Coast – Kennedy 3, McInnes 2, Hurn, Wellingham, Duggan, Cripps, Gaff

Best

North Melbourne – Higgins, Ziebell, Petrie, Macmillan, Wright, Goldstein, Bastinac

West Coast – Wellingham, Gaff, Priddis, Naitanui, Hurn, Shuey

Votes

3: Shaun Higgins (NMFC) 2: Jack Ziebell (NMFC) 1: Sharrod Wellingham (WCE)

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.

Comments

  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Great read Josh. Should you tell mum you pushed the two beds together?

    it’s amazing how Ben Brown is able to kick early goals nearly every match. I love him.

    Goldy’s goal on the run was brilliant. How many ruckmen can do that?

    13 tackles from Swallow. He’s developing into a leader.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    If only we could find consistency.

  3. I am glad you had an enjoyable weekend, Josh.
    It really is a great ground at which to watch the footy.

    Also, you may not like to hear this, Josh, but the word is that the AFL’s plan is for North to play a minimum of 5 games per season in Hobart. I do not like that idea at all. The thin end of the wedge?

  4. Glad you enjoyed Hobart Josh. I reckon that a few of the Hobart Skeptics should try going to a game and then see how they feel about it. It’s a far cry from trying to sell Laidleyball to Canberra or Queensland.

    On the other hand If Smokie’s right though, I’d be concerned. 3 games feels right to me, and 4 the absolute max.

  5. Spread the joy around is what I say
    Hawks have four,Roos have three,Richmond and the Bullies both one this year
    Don’t let just four Vic sides have all the fun
    Two grounds in Tassie, 18 teams, let’s see nine games a year with all 18 teams as a preference – although I’m sure the Eagles Lions and Suns don’t want to be greedy and go there three years in a row

  6. Great to read this again ahead of this weekend’s Prelim, Josh.
    Must be worth a bit to North, knowing that they won their only meeting of 2015.

    Match-ups between footy teams are a strange thing.

    Only light winds are forecast for Perth on Friday. You going?

  7. Josh Barnstable says

    Thanks mate. It’s a good feeling that we’re the only team left that West Coast haven’t beaten this year. Hopefully that stays the same on Saturday night!

    I’m not going. I had a little look at the prices of flights after the game against Sydney, and a return flight to Melbourne had already inflated to around $800. Not worth it, unfortunately. Will cheer them on from home.

  8. Well done Josh,
    I had missed your story when it was originally posted.
    I watched this game from work. The breeze was manic.
    Like you, I expected North to lose.
    Like you, I was surprised at our last quarter.
    Winning in Perth will be extremely difficult…

  9. Kanga porn. I demand that the Almanac editors take it down immediately. All these child sex references will have us up before the Royal Commission.
    On a serious note, the Kangas won that game on their merits. We had you on toast at 3Q time and your last quarter run and pressure was too good. We panicked and bombed long with the gale behind us. I suspect that the Kangas match up well against us. Goldstein v NIcNait could tell the tale, and I am confident that our man will show who should have been the All Australian ruckman (why only one in the team in a year where these two plus Sandilands and Jacobs were so influential? All Australian midfield of the year as voted by dream team points?)
    My feeling is that the bookies have got the markets wrong this weekend (dangerous prediction). North and the Eagles will be the close one with the rest and home game getting us over the line by 2 or 3 goals.
    Waiting for the Dockers to get their early season mojo back is like leaving the light on for Harold Holt. Hawks by plenty. $1.60 is stealing money.

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