Round 13 – North Melbourne v Hawthorn: You open your mouth one week

 

 

There’s a small pub in the nearest city where I know no-one, and no-one really cares about footy. It’s perfect for watching Friday night games without hype or mates wanting to talk, surrounded instead by noise and music, and, well, people being all Friday. Wearing the gentle push and shove of other people’s good times on my back like a jacket.

 

The game for me had ten minutes of glory – midway through the second quarter. The sort of intensity and desperation, the hard hitting and fearlessness, you get in the last ten minutes of a final. I’d never seen a home-and-away game better.

 

The first quarter was its foundation. Everybody cracking and smacking into each other. Some cheap shots and late hits and jumper punching, sure, but on the whole, just these solid attacks on the body, using the body, on the ball carrier, shepherds to hurt, marks attacked to do damage to those stuck under them, pointy landings. Two teams, barely half way through the year, vying for what felt like the one spot in the top four. Everything was on the line, and, more-so, hearts were on sleeves. They didn’t like each other, it was personal.

 

That fire, that anger, oh, it was good to see. Real emotion. Something more than cool heads and good or bad decisions. Last year Jade Rawlings, speaking for my book, told me, “We spend so much time practising set plays and structures, people would be underwhelmed at how little thunder goes into today’s pre-game speeches.”

 

Sometimes you can see that. Modern players, the game had never been better. I watch them, and bloody hell I’m envious! It barely resembles what us hacks play on Saturdays! No-longer do they train two, three times a week, like we do (but better). They train every day, they study their footy every day. That stuff on the oval is brilliant, breathtaking, another planet. I’d give my right arm, (ironically making handball impossible), to be able to be in a team that shares with and depends on and works for each other as much as AFL clubs do.

 

But to see the passion of that ten minutes… When North were 20 points up and looking to break away, and Hawthorn were hanging on. If the next goal went to the Hawks it would get them back in it. Make the game anybody’s. A goal at that stage to North, and you never say never, but felt damn well near almost.

 

There was no saving it for later. Both teams knew it. So, early in the second quarter there was that last-few-minutes-of-the-game desperation, mixed with early game spite, and legs still fresh enough to take players on, and to execute grudges.

 

North did their thing; the ball carrier chancing the odd tackle to hold the ball, and weave through packs to find a better target. No panic kicks, not even necessarily first options. In close they dared Hawthorn players to take them down, they drew two or three in with that daring. It was electric. Hawthorn countering by using their first options, then running hard forward. There were North defenders and their desperation, there was a high mark or two. Everything brilliant! The ball was pinging and ponging. Next goal wins.

 

Then Hawthorn got a free for I still have no idea what. A real clunker, right in front. A gimme. And it was game on, and, for that bit of magic, game over.

 

The umpires took the moment to reassert themselves. North got all the frees against them for that brief period, the niggle and intent went, and it became another game of something fast, electric, breathtaking, but without that extra layer of grit and emotion. It was no-longer personal.

 

The rest of the game had its highlights and strategies. Daw so good with the hustle and bustle at ground level, dropping overheads, missed key goals, looking great, awkward, great, awkward in turn. Winning hitouts or losing them decisively. Sicily killing it. Rioli electric. Hawthorn forwards always one out, North bombing deep to traffic jams. Drew Pertie trying so hard to rise to the occasion, twice almost… almost… taking mighty pack marks in the last few seconds. The old hand, he knew where he had to be, what had to be done, more than any other player on the oval. But heart and mind versus aging body, or simple bad luck, both times the pill just trickled out of his fingers.

 

Then the pub noise was back. I was in a bar, the band were doing the Motels, AC/DC, the Reels, covers that said – We’re 45 or 50, so should you be. There was chatter and good people and drunk aresholes and another Hawthorn victory. It was time for me to head home, up into the mist and drizzle, lit by a strong moon into bright grey lines filling the air across the road. To enjoy where I live, and go to bed for our own brand of footy in the morning.

 

No, I don’t want the biff back, or even the past back. Hurting someone in Aussie Rules is not a crime. It’s not a question of intent to hurt. Voss, Wanganeen, Carrazzo, Ablett, Stevie J, through to Tuck and his pointy bones, it’s a contact sport; all the champions, every era, every chance they get, make you feel it. What does matter is; if it was in the rules or not. Every time a Hawthorn player was hurt, fair or foul, they got a free, and often a 50. Not for the whole match, just for long enough to pull it back into being another game within the AFL brand.

 

It was disappointing. So it goes, but still a great game.

 

It’s funny, I don’t normally remember the Friday night matches when I’m playing, but, if only for that ten minutes, I do remember this one.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Rick Kane says:

    Oh come on MZ, are you seriously playing the ‘Hawks get the free kicks when it matters’ card? Whatever the heck that is.

    At that stage in the game the free kick count was 22/8 against the Hawks. For the game the Roos had more inside 50s, better efficiency inside 50, 15/8 marks inside 50 and more frees (29/20) and still lost. And you reckon what? That the Hawks were given special treatment by the umpires?

    It was a terrific game and the team that took its chances and held its nerve won. That’s how footy has been played and won for over 100 years. Across all divisions. Wherever it’s played.

    The Hawks won a tough, spirited and skilful encounter. That is all.

    Cheers

  2. theJudge says:

    North didn’t take their chances in the first half, should have been a couple of goals further in front.

    As Rick’s stated, North had a great run from the umpires in the first half too.

  3. Matt Zurbo says:

    G’day Judge, they did. I agree 100%. That wasn’t what this piece was talking about, though. I was talking about how special that ten minutes was, and sliding door moments.

  4. Malby Dangles says:

    I hate Hawthorn!
    My theory is that after the 2012 Grand Final the umps got a visit from Clarko at his incomprehensible impassioned best. He spent the time with the smashing himself in the head stating that he had to be good and be nice to umpires and that he had to make sure that Hodgey Jordan and Cyril were good boys because they had been wailing and gnashing their teeth stating that the umps weren’t their buddies and that they knew where they lived.
    So Hodge breaks peoples jaws and its in the spirit of the game, Cyril chicken wings and flops and is one of the games the great geniuses and Jordan is a dirty sniper and he’s one of the leagues best players and the Hawks win and get the rub of the green with the umpires and dammit I hate Hawthorn!!

  5. Thank you malby , join the queue, we are the most successful vfl/afl club in the last 50 years as they say winners are grinners and losers can please themselves. Aslo I never thought the alamanac would lower its level to bigfooty

  6. Rulebook says:

    Great article Old Dog and I understand exactly what you mean it was a awesome few minutes of footy and spot on re Daw strangely even tho they lost I rate the roos more of a chance to obtain the holy grail than I did before the game and only fools write off the hawks

  7. Matt Zurbo says:

    Haha! On ya Malby. Passionate Carlton supporter. Cheers Rulebook. I knew you’d get it.

  8. E.regnans says:

    That’s a fine scene you paint, Matt.

    For all the analysis and planning and training, a game of footy is still a flukey thing; a wild thing that can never be “controlled.”

  9. Matt Zurbo says:

    Good one, E. Cheers mate. Agreed.

  10. Daniel Flesch says:

    Good story , Matt, in a somewhat one-eyed vein ; but that’s the way we all see our footy. Including me.
    North was ever my “second team, ” until that game .
    The push and shove and biff you admired was silly and childish. And it didn’t work. Firrito started most of the incidents – he was lucky to get off with a fine , but we all know the MRP’s version of consistency.
    I used to umpire Juniors in our local league and paid frees against kids who copied the big boys with off-the-ball antics. (Mixed reaction from watching parents admittedly.)
    What i especially didn’t like was the targeting of Luke Breust by Firrito , Thompson and Tarrant . All of them taller than Breust ( Firrito not much ,Thompson 9cm, and Tarrant 12cm) and 9,12 and 13 kgs respectively heavier. Breust is not one of the unsociables they could have targeted . Those 3 Shinboners reminded me of the teachers telling the 10 year old bullying the 6 year old “Pick on someone your own size.”

  11. As a North fan, I am a little perplexed about all our injuries, I know they happen, but are the conditioning and fitness staff under notice down at North, if not they should be. No more injuries, please!! It’s getting to be a bit of a saga.

  12. Andrew Starkie says:

    North weren’t good enough. Simple.

    Good teams don’t have honourable losses.

    Nine players from last year’s finals out through injury, but it’s only the 22 out there on any night who matter.

    Liked the aggression, but obviously too much at times. Firrito has been over the top in this dept in recent weeks; maybe getting frustrated.

    Bad kicking cost us the game. Maj, Wood, Thomas, Brown missed straightforward set shots. Premiership teams don’t miss important goals in big games.

    Hawks were more composed, cleaner and better organised up forward. Sicily – first year player – was the difference. No coincidence he has come on so quickly. Good clubs teach their young players well and make them aware of requirements, expectations and responsibilities.

    Adelaide away this week after another six day. Crows fresh from a bye. Disgraceful fixturing. Nothing changes.

    We’re limping to the bye.

  13. Sorry I’m a week late Matty!

    Was up in far north Queensland for a week. Off the grid – you’d have loved it!

    So i missed the game, but can’t think of a better match-up for the Hawks midfield than the Roos (maybe Sydney).

    And now after the Crows last night, North Melbourne are definitely limping to the bye as Starkie says above.

    Will be interesting to see what happens after the bye for the kangaroos!

  14. John Butler says:

    I’m late to this one as well Matt. Great stuff.

    The effect of those 10 minutes was plain to see Thursday night in Adelaide.

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