Round 11 – Brisbane v Western Bulldogs: The Fitzroy Bulldogs and a 1.21 gigawatt win

 

 

My eldest daughter will, pandemic pending of course, start secondary school next year. At the moment she is in that awkward purgatory period of life where she is either too old or too young for almost everything. The Disney princess films have been pushed to the side, for the time being at least. I’ve been a senior secondary teacher for a long time now – I know they will be reclaimed as she gets older for their soothing nostalgic properties. Sort of like a comfort food. You’d be surprised at how many VCE students would have missed James Merlino’s announcement about ATAR special consideration this week because they were watching ‘The Little Mermaid’ at the time. For now though, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Nemo and Buzz Lightyear are all on the ‘too babyish scrapheap’.

 

This week, as part of a remote learning curriculum that I may have had a hand in differentiating for her, she watched Back to the Future and Back to the Future II. Fortunately, the awkward oedipal story beats flew straight over her head, as they did for me when I watched it as a ten-year-old. I didn’t field any awkward questions about the scene where Lorraine and Marty “park” in the car, or even what the word “park” means when it is being used as an active verb. Instead, she is wandering around the house this week calling out things like “heavy,” or “one point twenty-one gigawatts”, exhorting “Great Scott” when something surprises her and pondering the repercussions that come when someone messes with the space time continuum. “Imagine if I hadn’t stopped netball to do those extra ballet troupes last year”, she ponders as we eat breakfast. Or, “what if I’d cheered louder when Brisbane lost to Carlton last year – do you think we would have won?” She meant that last one harmlessly, but it did give me pause to think about what may have been if Brisbane had been on the other side of the finals fixture to Richmond in 2019.

 

Games against the Bulldogs take me to a similar place of “what if” reflection. Twice in my life, I very nearly could have been a Doggies’ fan. 1989, of course. One night I went to sleep a little Lion and woke up with the Fitzroy Bulldogs. Ross Oakley, Dr Victor Frankenstein and other men in suits had created a, and I quote Oakley here – ‘new force in VFL football.’ People forget that Fitzroy fans of my age have lived through two mergers, it’s just that the Fitzroy Bulldogs one didn’t stick. Had a time travelling Delorean landed in Irene Chatfield’s driveway and waylaid her from meeting Peter Gordon in October 1989, who knows how the AFL may have unfolded. The Fitzroy Bulldogs and Brisbane Kangaroos may well have vied to be the team of the nineties.

 

July the fourth, 1996. Now there is a portentous date in the Lions space time continuum. After watching the clumsy announcement of the ‘Brisbane Lions’ that night, I also gave a little bit of thought to not sending my allegiances up north to Queensland. I pondered briefly finding another Melbourne based club to follow. The power clubs were out, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond and Collingwood. I couldn’t see myself being assimilated into a collective like that, disappearing forever. As a Fitzroy member, I got a letter inviting me to join ‘Carey and Corey for Friday Night Footy at North,’ but I’d just seen my battling club finally succumb. Even though North were on their way to a flag, there was something fragile and economically wonky about them. When major emotional investments fail, one understandable wants to seek out the equivalent of an industry super fund as a replacement.

 

The Doggies were a serious consideration though. I’d figured my public transport connections out to the Western Oval already as it had been the palliative care hospice for Fitzroy in its terminal years. Of all clubs, they seemed the most culturally similar to the Roys. There was some shared DNA – Bernie Quinlan, Simon Atkins, hell even Dougie Hawkins. In the end though, I followed the colours, the Lion, the theme song, Chris Johnson and Brad Boyd. It wasn’t the same, and I completely understand those Fitzroy fans who walked away. I sometimes do wonder though, what could have been, if I’d curiously crossed the Maribyrnong River to see the Doggies play in early ’97.

 

This week has become a must win for the Lions. Earlier this week, Richmond showed us last Tuesday that, may as well throw another eighties film reference in here, ‘while the force is strong with us, we are not Jedis yet.’ Lose to the Bulldogs and we become a part of the middling crowd. Something seems reassuringly normal about this game; Victoria is aching and isolating but the normality of what we see provides genuine escapism. It’s a Saturday night, there’s a crowd of twelve thousand at the Gabba, Daniel Rich is back, and the pizza has just been delivered. How will it feel if we actually win the flag this year? Is it selfish to enjoy this? I remember that the Lions won the flag in those fearful weeks after the World Trade Centre attacks.  Dayne Zorko fist bumps the umpire at the coin toss, I note this because in twenty years I may reread this match report and want to remember these small details of the difference this year. The face masks, the taped crosses in the supermarkets, the hand sanitizer in my classroom and letting the cleaners in to disinfect every table before the students can sit down.

 

I do get lost in the game again. Footy does that to me. The dreadlocked cult-figure Matty Eagles, whose contract at Brisbane came as a result of him winning the second season of Fox Footy’s ‘The Recruit,’ is also part of the team tonight. He throws himself into opponents and rucking contests with a snarling strength. Perhaps appropriately, given his TV history, his every act is applauded enthusiastically by the crowd as if they are a studio audience and ‘Kramer’ or ‘Fonzie’ has just entered the scene.

 

Brisbane games have all followed a similar pattern this year. They toil for forward entry after forward entry, goals seem almost accidental and their opponents are able to ease forward and score effortlessly and from their limited opportunities. If the game was just measured in possessions and control, not on the scoreboard, we would be the dominant side in the competition. Mitch Wallis finds some early space and goals in the first quarter. Achingly familiar.

 

There is something very Hollywood about Brisbane this year. All of our players seem to suddenly have a bit of showbiz about them. Even Hugh McCluggage, who looks like the sort of bloke you would happily have as your insurance broker, handballs a bounce bass through his opponent’s legs like a netballer. Ah Chee, a man who needs no nickname when he already sounds like he is from the planet Krypton, is making a compelling case to be left in the forward line. It is probably Cam Rayner’s absence that has moved him into the forward pocket, but he is kicking goals and takes a mark that he will be showing his grandchildren one day.

 

Dan McStay is back tonight and, despite his goal kicking inaccuracies and tendency to be a little inconsistent, the forward line looks better for his presence. He is the sort of player whose game shouldn’t be measured in the traditional manner of mere possessions but on the Richter scale. When he hits packs and brings the ball to ground, our forward line bubbles and froths like a pot on the boil. He hits packs harder than anyone else in our team can, but tonight he also has two more aesthetic moments that give a clear indication of why Fages is a believer in him – a tackle on Bontempelli that makes a mortal of the Bulldog champion and also a dribbled goal that Peter Daicos would be proud of.

 

Eric Hipwood has his best game for the year. He is becoming a whipping boy for Lions fans, but I sense it comes from a place of love, hope and optimism. His five goals tonight and the space he is able to create give us a sense of the talent he has and the player he could be. In some ways, he is a better footballer than he is a forward; when he is roaming around the flanks and the wings, he is a frightening prospect.

 

I think of the Delorean time machine again as Charlie Cameron lands awkwardly, grimaces and clutches at his knee. We are not a one-man team, but we can’t win it without him either. Doc Brown did wear a bulletproof vest the second time around and avoided death when the Libyans shot him as a result. Fortunately, the reports seem to suggest it is just a minor hyper extension. If it had been season ending, I’d happily have wasted 1.21 gigawatts to go back in time and ensure that he avoided that particular marking contest.

 

Lachie Neale is Lachie Neale. His only possible threat for another three Brownlow votes will come from Zorko – Jack Macrae from the Dogs also has some claims for votes of his own.

 

 

BRISBANE                                       3.4       9.8       13.10           14.12 (96)
WESTERN BULLDOGS                3.1       5.2       8.2                11.6 (72)

 

GOALS

Brisbane: Hipwood 5, Ah Chee 2, Bailey 2, McCluggage 2, McStay, Neale, Robinson

Western Bulldogs: Wallis 3, Lloyd 2, Bontempelli, Bruce, Dale, Lipinski, Macrae, Naughton

 

BEST

Brisbane: Neale, Zorko, Hipwood, Lyons, Bailey, McCluggage

Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Bontempelli, Wallis, Lipinski

 

 

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About Shane Reid

I’m a dad to two great girls, both of whom love the Lions like their dad. I’m also a secondary school teacher. It has been a lot of fun having a go at writing, I also really enjoy reading the great pieces on The Footy Almanac.

Comments

  1. Great write up again,Shane you nailed it re Matty Eagles totally agree in regard to Charlie Cameron whipping boy is putting it mildly re Eric Hipwood Win only marred by Daniel Rich poor tackle correct decision in regards to a suspension ( disgraceful inconsistency tho-Shaun Burgoyne ! ) thanks,Shane

  2. Len Rodwell says

    Shane your reasons for considering becoming a Doggies supporter upoon the demise of Fitzroy mirrored my own, but I actually made the switch. Lions certainly looking better than myt mob at the moment.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Great piece Shane, so many sliding doors moments over many years for Fitzroy. Showed my kids the Back to the Future trilogy during the first lockdown, they absolutely loved all three.

    The Lions are a fantastic team to watch compared to most right now, especially my team!

  4. I enjoyed this article and I like your writing style. It reminds me of a journo who wrote for The Age back in the day. His name is Trevor Grant. I don’t know if you are familiar with his work, but I assure you it is meant as a compliment

  5. Shane Reid says

    Malcolm, thanks for your support, I really do appreciate it. Hopefully Richie doesn’t miss any more for the rest of the year.

    Len, thanks for the comment. I’ve enjoyed the Brisbane ride. I think because I don’t live in Melbourne it’s easier to follow a team from afar.

    Thanks Luke, it’s one of the joys of parenthood no-one tells you about, revisiting some of these classics. Karate Kid is on the agenda now!

    Thanks Nick. I remember Trevor Grant, I really appreciate the kind words.I’m enjoying having a go at this. It’s a great excuse to make sure I watch the Lions every week anyway!

    Thanks all

  6. Great article, Shane. Oh you poor Fitzroy supporters! Just terrible, when you folded. At least South still had a team when sent up to Sydney.

    Pleased that you stuck with the maroons, and let’s hope the Lions now, can show even a fraction of the brilliance of the premiership teams of 2001-2003.

    Thanks
    Jan

  7. Shane Reid says

    Thank you Jan. However things play out for the rest of this season and the next few years for these Lions it is nice to see them playing well again. They were a pretty special team from 2001-2003. It occurred to me only recently that they were actually the only “Lion” flags. In 44, Fitzroy’s last premiership salute, they were still known as the Gorillas/Maroons

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