Round 13 – Brisbane v St Kilda: ‘O Captain! My Captain…’ a barbaric yawp from the virtual classroom to the coaches’ box



Brisbane v St Kilda

3:30pm, Sunday August 23

The Gabba



Leigh Matthews is famed for making the complicated simple. During one of the training sessions that he conducted for his Lions during one of the grand final weeks he simply lined up the players, fifteen metres out, directly in front of goal, and had them kick through. Under 10s stuff. When quizzed about the point of such a simple drill he responded that he wanted the “players to practise kicking goals rather than practise missing them.” There’s a trope that is often trotted out, that the real game is played above the shoulders and that sometimes teams have mentally lost before they even run out onto the ground. Last week, the Lions kicked four behinds before their first goal and the media chatter has all been of the foreboding, future past tense, type – about how their goal kicking accuracy will cost them the flag this year. I’m sure I speak for a lot of Lions fans in that part of me would like to see us in a preliminary final before we have to worry about that sort of white noise getting into the players’ heads.


I’ve been a senior secondary school teacher for just over twenty years now. I really feel for people in careers that can only offer them more muted rewards than what mine gives me. From the outside, there is a tendency to either to minimise my job ‘9-3.30 and all those holidays, I wouldn’t mind that!’ or overly romanticise its worth. You should be cautious around those who takes themselves too seriously or spend too long looking at themselves in mirrors, either actual or metaphorical. Having said that, technically, one of my classes did actually once stand on their tables and cry out ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ However, it was a for a satirical graduation video, not a spontaneous heartfelt celebration of my teaching.


These are difficult times. The graduating class of 2020 have learned a palpable but cruel life lesson this year that there is definitely more to life than their end of year exams and that there is a lot more than matters than just their ATAR. At a time of life when I’ve seen their contemporaries, each and every year, looking forward with fervour and unabashed optimism, this year’s group ask unanswerable questions and see nothing but uncertainty as they embark on their own great beyond.


I’ve been wondering about the Lions training sessions this week as I’ve been preparing my Year 12 classes for their final English assessment tasks. They need to write essays; Brisbane need to kick more goals and fewer behinds. We are in the ‘essay structure and style’ stage of their preparation – the ‘execution’ if you will. I hope I’m helping them. I’ve moved them to their metaphorical goal squares, directly in front and told them things like ‘start with a sentence like “Within both texts [make a comment about a theme or idea]”’ and then follow that up with a ‘however, it is also apparent…’ type of comment. I’m giving them tips like ‘don’t mention the name of a character in the first sentence of a paragraph, just focus on one of the big ideas.’ All of these things are reminders of what they already know, and hopefully remember to do. The subtext is ‘you know how to do this, just remember the basics.’


My goal square and bucket of footballs this week has been the Microsoft Teams meetings we are using to teach while we work remotely. The Lions have been training on the Gabba. I wonder if Fages has taken them to the forward line and pointed between the sticks, found a way to clear the minds of his charges and watched as ball after ball has sailed through the middle. I like the way our coach has handled the last few weeks. Like all good teachers, he has put himself between his students and the difficulties of what they face. He has used press conferences to focus on the goals that have been kicked by his team, both actual and symbolic, rather than those missed. He also quite masterfully suggested that due to our recent run of games at Metricon, it may actually be St Kilda that will hold the ‘home ground advantage’ at the Gabba today. It could be a masterstroke. For good coaches, the press conference is their classroom. In Grand Final week, 2002, Leigh Matthews was asked what he thought of the notion that Collingwood had ‘nothing to lose’ against the raging Lions machine. His response would no doubt have been heard, for good or bad, by the Magpie players. “It’s a cop-out, pure and simple. Just like us, they’ve got a premiership to lose.” And lose it they did. Whose head was Matthews – that great teacher – in the most in the last ten minutes of that grand final? Voss’s? Buckley’s? Rocca’s? Malthouse’s? Today, as Dan McStay, or Linc McCarthy lines up for goal; just as later this year when my students walk into their exams, I hope both Fages and I have done enough to have them hear the right voices and the messages in their heads.


The Lions have a debutant, Tom Fullarton, who we learn from the commentators on at least seventeen occasions was once the captain of the Australian Under 17 basketball team. He takes a mark close to goal early in the game that makes one wonder, for a brief glorious moment, if he could be the missing link in Brisbane’s forward line this year. But then he misses to the right; an easy miss…he should fit right in!


With Eric Hipwood, it is a case of which story should be told? He makes more contests today than I’ve seen in any other game this year and always looks dangerous. There is just that horrible moment after a great mark where we have to watch him line up for goal. Knowing that he, and our players are overthinking the issue with goalkicking doesn’t make it any easier to overcome. Any good teacher knows that a student’s perception is their reality. The behinds start compounding like credit-card interest. Rayner, McStay, Hipwood, McCarthy. Can I still be optimistic? If it wasn’t for our goal kicking, we’d be beating every team by ten goals this year and not just ten scoring shots.


As is typically the case it takes an unlikely goal from the boundary from who else but Charlie Cameron to momentarily give Brisbane a moment of ascendancy. He is the right man, right place, right time and gets a fortunate free kick, for out on the full, from the forward pocket. He does things like this on a weekly basis, but it would be nice for Lions fans if it didn’t take a miracle for us just to kick a goal. It got me thinking about how the gospels were written; did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John focus on the leper healing, storm calming and water into wine at the expense of all of the easy set shots that Jesus missed while playing in the forward line for Jerusalem? This is the second week in a row that Brisbane have won a game while scoring fewer goals than their opponents, should this continue there will be miracles aplenty to tell. If we can go on to take the flag this way, our tale will rival Steven Bradbury’s.


I tell my students that you need to experience writing some ordinary essays as part of learning how to write good ones. I’m also conscious that today was not the ‘final exam’ for Brisbane, so in the interests of being able to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive:


We won


Lachie Neale was well held, but Jarrod Berry filled the gap


Zac Bailey had probably his best game for the club


We won


We created more scoring opportunities than St Kilda


Harris Andrews was back to his best and most prolific (thank God; that is always the double edged sword of a full back being one of the best players, it arguably says a whole lot about the rest of the team!)


We won


And St. Kilda? They are a serious team. Easy misses for goal aside, there were also some misses that came as a result of the direct pressure from the Saints and the chaotic ball movement their defensive pressure caused. This is a team to be reckoned with come finals time. Jack Steele, Zak Jones and Bradley Hill were all too strong, too big, too quick and too good in too many contests.


If Brisbane’s goal kicking woes are fixed, and they are certainly fixable, this season is genuinely up for grabs. There was footage last week of Fages delivering a searing half-time address and his frustration today could be felt across multiple state borders. For mine, this has been a really good sign. It suggests that while he sees wins, like any good teacher he understands where improvement is needed. And like any good teacher, it makes his heart ache when he sees gaps between what is and what could be. Finals are now assured, probably with a double chance. There are worse things he could do this week than to walk his team to the forward line with a sack full of footballs, have them line up for goal and tell them to “seize the day.” In the pandemic age of face masks, social distancing and daily reports from sombre and weary politicians, it would be nice if Brisbane’s goal kicking accuracy, or lack thereof was all that ailed the world. In Fages we trust; we must.



BRISBANE     2.5       3.6       6.13     6.14 (50)
ST KILDA       1.0       3.2       6.3       7.6 (48)


Brisbane: Berry 2, Bailey, Cameron, Fullarton, McCarthy
St Kilda: Butler 2, Billings, Kent, Marshall, Membrey, Steele


Brisbane: Bailey, Berry, Andrews, Lester, Zorko, McCluggage
St Kilda: Steele, Jones, Marshall, Ross, Hill, Membrey



Read more Lions 2020 match reports from Shane Reid HERE



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About Shane Reid

Loving life as a husband, dad and teacher. I'm trying to develop enough skill as a writer so that one day Doc Wheildon's Newborough, Bernie Quinlan's Traralgon and Mick Conlon's 86 Eliminatiuon final goal will be considered contemporaneous with Twain's Mississippi, Hemingway's Cuba, Beethoven's 9th and Coltrane's Love Supreme.


  1. Great gift you have and keep up the good work,i was so impressed with your insight [probably being one who bags teachers holidays will never do it again].

  2. Michael Larke says

    A great read, thank you.

  3. Nice one, Shane! Loved it. And, go Lions!

  4. Excellent Shane ! You’re getting a lot of compliments on Facebook, wrapt that ex redleg,Zac Bailey is coming in to his own ( step son of Simon Neave ) amusing and bizarre re some lions supporters reactions and thoughts on Eric Hipwood he is vital,Brisbane are a chance mate thank you

  5. Would be nice if your report was read by team. No good having good markers if they can’t kick straight. Thought your report was excellent and very true though it is easy for us on outer to criticise but might be different aspect when actually playing out on field. Good luck with your students for their exams. I love Fages but maybe an added speech from Leigh Mathews to players may help as encouragement.

  6. Shane Reid says

    Thanks Henry, Michael and Jan. I’m definitely planning to see the season out with a weekly report – hopefully some finals wins to report on this year!

    Malcolm, thank you. Bailey was definitely the positive out of the game last week. I hope it happens for Hipwood. I’m old enough to remember a very inaccurate Fitzroy forward called Alastair Lynch who turned it around a bit.

    Maree, thanks for your comments. It does look easy from the outer (or from the couch) I agree. The little line from Matthews that I references here has always stayed with me and the psychology behind it is obviously significant. I like the story too about the famous “Predator line” game where he lined up career statistics of the Lions players vs their direct opponents to make the point that Essendon had no advantage but a perceived one

  7. Sue McDonald says

    A belated thank you for this article Shane. I am an original Bears member and flew down for all 4 Grand Finals .so appreciate your comments re Leigh Mathews, and Lynchy. I actually said Hi to Lynchy yesterday evening at local shopping centre.! Hoping we knock over the Swans on sunday in Cairns! Considered flying up for it!
    Really enjoying your rap ups of the games.

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