Round 12 – Carlton v Port Adelaide: The Fifty Shades of Robbie Gray

Carlton v Port Adelaide

Saturday 20 June 2015

The Carlton versus Port Adelaide game was the first me and my old man, Gez, had attended in almost two and a half years.  We had been loyal members during the Pagan years and had manfully cheered on the likes of Barnaby French, David Teague and Stephen O’Reilly but circumstances conspired so that I had to relinquish my membership.  Initially because of a new life as a chef, where Friday nights and weekends were spent behind a stove rather than in section QQ of the Southern; then more recently because of the arrival of two children, who often seem to be the most conspiratorial of all when it comes to keeping me from my football.

Finding a free park near the MCG is the first real contest of the day.  I had my foolproof secret spots but the advent of social media had likely revealed these and we were left circumnavigating the streets of East Melbourne.  Though a modest crowd was ultimately to attend, there seemed to be people everywhere, a dad with little kids darted across the road as though he were Chris Yarran burning past less fleet-footed opponents.

Our search for a free park proves fruitless and we relent to paying the $10 fee to enter the hallowed turf of the MCG carpark.  “Holding up pretty well despite all the rain”, I recall thinking to myself.  Gez lights up on the walk to the ground and the chilling breeze tempts me to ask for one, but then I remember smoking clogs your arteries, and I want to save space in my arteries for that meat pie.  Gez pays, as he always does.  I swiftly enter first, and true to form Gez holds up a queue six deep as he struggles to figure out how to insert his ticket into the turnstile.  I know that technology is anathema to his soul, but I still have no idea why he has such difficulty lining up the barcode with those little red beams.

Thankfully we make it just in time to witness the crucial first bounce – not to do so would have made the entire affair somehow more impure.  We are now Judd-less forever more and Cameron Wood, whose feeble leap reminds me of my one year old on the trampoline, battles with all his might against an altogether more talented Lobbe.

Two quick Port Adelaide goals take me straight back to the time when Pagan sent Fevola to full-back on Fraser Gehrig – “we need to do something drastic here”, I think to myself, “or at least do something to teach one of our boys a lesson.”  Justin Westhoff is looking as ominous as he does lanky and I continue to be struck by the fact that he was picked at 71 in his year’s draft.  While he was still available that year we picked up Mark Austin, Clinton Benjamin and Joe Anderson.  But never mind, had he made it onto our list we would have somehow found a way to trade him somewhere he would have played better anyway.

Through the will of our midfield brigade we draw level and then some.  Cripps, or “Patrick” as I like to call him, looks a star of the future.  Such a clean pair of hands, as clean as “Soapy” Vallance’s surely.  Murphy, or “Marc” as I like to call him, seems to have more time and space since the under-12s at Beverly Hills JFC and I am thankful that Kane Cornes decided to call it quits a few weeks earlier.

We take a 23 point lead late into first half, but “red-time” is where Port Adelaide excel and their famous “legs” run them all the way back to parity.  The younger brother of former Carlton star Adam Hartlett looks powerful in the square alongside Oliver “Spiky Hair” Wines, Travis “No Joke” Boak and Robbie “Fifty Shades of” Gray, and I have to remind myself to stop watching so much UFC as their silly monikers are creeping into my once expansive football vocabulary.

A pivotal moment comes late in the first half with Robbie Gray attempting to crash through a Bryce Gibbs tackle.  Gibbs, having yet to undertake a law degree, fails to show a “duty of care” to Player Gray, and suddenly the latter becomes fifty shades of knocked out.  “He had the ball!” I scream, but in hindsight I should have gone with “we’re not playing netball!”, notwithstanding its inherent sexism.  My dad thinks I’m being a bit harsh to the unconscious, but Gray is a good player and at the time he was giving it to us as good as his namesake did to Anastasia Steele.

It’s a genuine cracker of a game and I don’t think I’ve felt as alive since the 99 prelim final, or should I say, the birth of my two children.  Gez is getting sick of having his hair ruffled after each Carlton goal and each touch from Lachie Henderson fills me with equal parts hope and despair.  “Please stay, damn you!  At least to prove this club’s made at least one good trade in the last ten years”.

Mark of the day of course goes to umpire Brendan Hosking who clunked a Hamish Hartlett kick-in from the boundary, although to call it a mark is of course churlish as there’s no way it travelled the required fifteen.  The resulting ball up was followed by the handball heard round the world from Cripps to a rampaging Tom Bell who goaled.  Oh, did I laugh!

We stretch out our lead again in the third quarter, but the chiseled and immaculately conditioned Port Adelaide legs again make us look slow, unwilling and unable.  “They could run right past us”, I say to my dad, but somehow under Johnny Barker we have more fortitude and remain willing to fight.  “Unshackled” is the word he uses in his post-match presser, and suddenly the Malthouse days seem an eternity ago.

Defense holds strong.  Sam Rowe makes Jay Schulz look impotent, and the usually impotent Simon White may have just cemented himself as the sixth back in the 2016 line-up.  Menzel has a crack, for once, and Buckley gets a crack, for once.

Chad Wingard looms as the most likely to break my heart.  Midway through the last term, with Port Adelaide 22 points down, he marks on the fifty near the boundary – the quintessential right side for a left-footer – and drills the goal with ease, his fifth for the game.  I can’t stand Wingard – he’s right up there with Alan Didak and Darren Bewick as opposition players I’ve hated.  I’d probably respect him more if he didn’t smooth his hair back after each goal, and of course, if he were in a Navy Blue jumper.

Hinkley’s Port Adelaide are relentless and fight back to within 3 points.  When Henderson goals late in the last quarter to put us nine points ahead, I let myself think the unthinkable, believe the unbelievable.  Surely we can’t do this, can we?  Another Port Adelaide goal, this one to Boak, and all of a sudden it’s my own hair that’s ruffled.  The final moments pulsate, punctuated by Colquhoun’s mark that isn’t a mark in the Port Adelaide fifty.  Kade Simpson’s arms and fingers had extended like Inspector Gadget’s to touch the ball before it got there and the non-controlling umpire rushes in to reverse the decision.  Surely it’s Hosking again.

A few more nervous forays, a Docherty mark in defensive fifty and the siren sounds.  Carlton win by four points.  Talk of a rebuild may be premature.  Suddenly, we’re contenders again, and only four games out of the eight.  Exhilarating.  This is why we come to the footy, this is surely why we’re alive.  Hopefully it’s not so long between drinks next time.

About Elvin Ho

Elvin Ho is a lapsed comedian and freelance writer. He writes about raising and entertaining his two children in the humorous blog, The Adventures of T-Bone and Sea Bass ( A golf tragic and tragically a Carlton supporter, he hopes the "rebuild" doesn't involve re-drafting Mick Martyn.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    “This is why we come to the footy, this is surely why we’re alive.” – you nailed it Elvin.

  2. Elvin Ho says

    Thanks Mark – glad that line resonated with you!

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