Round 14 – Gold Coast v North Melbourne: Unreasonable demands


No loss is tolerable.  We hate losing with sorrow and anger.  It is unreasonable to expect football fans to behave otherwise.  Losses, no matter if they’re described as honourable, losses we need to have or upsets, are never needed.


Losing to the bottom side ranks as the worst kind of loss.


I was working when North Melbourne played Gold Coast at Carrara.  During the first half I was too busy to listen to it or glance at one of the televisions.  But a text from Adam alerted me to trouble.


I’ll say it again.  If you’re gonna create a contest do it 50 metres down the ground.


Checking the scores was aggravating, three goals down.  Football fans are familiar with disbelief, anger and frustration.  I swore and sighed.  The knowledge that the year is being wasted was evident on the computer.


At half-time I was on the train, heading home.  I could’ve tuned into the ABC coverage on my phone.  Instead, I listened to music.  I didn’t bother checking the score but sent Adam a text.


Mate I haven’t seen a second of it.  Just leaving work now.  But if you asked me before the game if I thought we’d be down at half time I would’ve said yep.  Pathetic.  Seriously.  Gold Coast has one win for the year.


Another mate, Stevo was providing a running commentary via text.


And the first goal of the third to GC but Petrie just got it back.


I’m not gonna see any of it.  By the time I get home it’ll be three-quarter time then I have to make sure Angus is asleep.


GC another goal and really you won’t miss much.


I’m keeping my anger hidden.


Not looking pretty, 29 down.  Every time you get a goal GC get one back.


It was three quarter time when I walked inside.  The house was silent.  My three-year-old boy had fallen asleep despite his mother’s fears that I’d find him playing with cars in the lounge.


Kristine was nursing Jim to sleep.  I poured a beer and slumped into a chair, turning on the iPad and checking the score.


Stevo was filling in the gaps.


30 points not out of it yet.  Pretend you’re Richmond.


We’ve been doing that for years.


Are you watching this shit?


Haven’t watched a second.


Gold Coast was in a canter.  They had galvanised after a horror season and revelations of alleged drug use in a series of photos of Harley Bennell.  The Suns had been plunged into crisis.  And they were winning.


I sat at the kitchen table, ignoring the beer, reading Power Without Glory and trying to ignore the AFL website.


Gold Coast were supposed to be at rock bottom and the Kangaroos, obligingly, went belly up.


At three quarter time, my brother Nick sent a text – they better pull this one out!!


They won’t.  They’re playing with one hand tied around their balls.  Fu**ing pathetic.


I hope Suns kick the ton!!


I hope someone finds out what the hell is wrong with North.  I’ve got a few ideas…


Forlornly, I hoped for a miracle, a splurge of goals.  Those goals came, but they went to the Gold Coast.  North allowed the Suns to kick more than 100-points for the first time this season.


Charlie Dixon, heretofore inconsistent with form and injury, kicked a club record seven goals.  North was giving goals away.


Media reports directly after the game described North as dour.  Diabolical was the better word, along with any other negative adjective that could be conjured.


Later, in bed, I gave up the season, and next year too.  North has an aging list with several key players on the verge of retirement.  A top-up policy, the first in Brad Scott’s tenure as coach, hasn’t worked.  And a group of maturing players are unable to change the course of a game.


I’d been shielded from the game by work and by choice.  I hadn’t seen it.  It didn’t stop the analysis.


Why so meek?  Why so predictable?  Why so hopeless?  How, knowing the Gold Coast would give it all, could North surrender like that?  Is Gary Ablett really worth ten goals to his side?  Why doesn’t North have someone capable of influencing a game like that?  Why can’t they win games they’re expected to?  How did Darren Crocker stay calm in the press conference?




On Sunday I called a mate to download.  He didn’t call back.  I understood why.  Reviewing something I hadn’t seen wouldn’t have erased the despair I felt.  Given he’d watched it, recalling it would’ve been unnecessarily upsetting.


On Sunday, I was out on a job.  Over coffee, Sladey the cameraman read the newspaper from the back page first.  He was a few pages in before he broke the silence.


‘North lost to Gold Coast,’ Sladey said.


‘I don’t want to talk about it.’


‘They got thrashed,’ he said.  ‘Lost by 55-points.’


‘I don’t want to talk about it.’


‘Gold Coast is last on the ladder.’


‘I know, that’s why I don’t want to talk about it.’


‘How could North Melbourne lose to the Gold Coast?’


‘I don’t know.  I don’t want to talk about it.’


A woman sitting nearby interrupted us.  ‘Okay guys,’ she said.  ‘That’s enough.’


Sladey grinned and turned the page.  I smiled at the woman.  She went back to her food.


By the time I left work Fremantle was playing Brisbane in Perth.  I could’ve listened to the game on the train.  Any other weekend I would have, but I’d had a gutful of football.


I listened to music and read more of that famous novel written by Thomas Hardy.  Several times I had to reread paragraphs because I’d been distracted by football.  Eventually I shut the book and pondered the plight of sad supporters.


We demand victory as our right, but it is unreasonable.  All clubs lose.  All supporters are familiar with losing.  We know the devastation a loss has on our psyche, how it affects our mood at home and interaction with mates and colleagues.


We have all supported clubs that missed out on the finals, or lost a final or grand final, or finished last or near the bottom.  We have all debated the merits of the draft, the salary cap, free agency and extra funding some interstate clubs receive.


We know all this but our reptilian brains refuse to learn.  We don’t accept losses, ignoring the variables of sport where one team is on and can’t be stopped. We understand the limitations to our team but refuse to accept them.


We believe financial support and love of our club entitles us to victory.  We support, therefore we demand entitlement.  We demand victory and glory and premierships.


But nothing is certain in footy.  Uncertainty gives our game its glory.  Some clubs handle the uncertainty better than others.  Some supporters do, too.


North Melbourne has played a lot of finals and won four premierships in my life.  I can remember three of them.  I’ve watched our first plenty of times.  I was too little to remember the last time we finished last.  That’s a fair return.


But it doesn’t stop the craving for another premiership and fear of prolonged failure.  I fear Brad Scott won’t have his contract renewed, not because I think he’s a great coach, but because it will require another rebuild, another five years to wait for possible success after all those imminent retirements.


It doesn’t stop the disappointment that finals, after last year’s September foray, are unlikely.  It doesn’t stop the hate that Gold Coast ruined my weekend.


Football fans know how to deal with losses.  We are experienced, yet we can’t forgive those we love.


It is selfish, demanding victory like that.  But passion is infinite.  Those who can fake passion do not truly support.  Those with passion are selfish.


I can’t fake my passion, even if it seems North Melbourne can fake it occasionally.  I can’t stop the unreasonable demands that North win every week even though I know that can never happen.


The only thing that erases humiliation is victory.  Victory provides hope and that’s why I selfishly demand a victory next week.


And the week after.  And every week after that, damnit…



Gold Coast  19.11.125
North Melbourne  10.10.70


GC: Dixon 7, A.Hall 3, Ablett 3, Brooksby 2, Russell, Sexton, Hallahan, Kolodjashnij.
NM: Petrie 3, Higgins 2, Cunnington 2, Nahas, Ziebell, Waite.



For more articles on the Gold Coast v North Melbourne game click here

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Steve Hodder says

    … And then Wednesday comes around and you look at the fixture to see what time the next game is, even though you probably won’t watch. Then you tune in to Marngrook on Thurs, at 7.30 p.m; even though you don’t really care etc. By Friday, hope is eternal and you’re looking forward to the game.

    Footy barrackers are incorrigible, hey?

    Terrific read.


  2. The People's Elbow says

    …great read.

    Swap 2015 with 2012 and Scott with Ratten and it’s pretty much the same story for me.

  3. george smith says

    It’s Frank Hardy not Thomas who wrote Power without Glory. Thomas you would like at the moment, as he was the master of tragedy, in particular folks like Tess of the Durbervilles and the Mayor of Casterbridge, who were both the authors of their own destruction, in the manner of Hird, Carman, Malthouse, Bourke, Brad Scott and all the others.

  4. George,
    I can’t believe I got that wrong.
    I put it down to despair…
    Or just plain silliness.
    I’ll do what you suggest and check Thomas out.

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    Thankfully I don’t take footy seriously anymore. Watched first term – writing was on the wall. So slow.

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