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Round 14 – Sydney v Essendon: It’s not over until the redhead sings

 

Can’t go yet.

 

There isn’t much more left in this one but for some it’s all over. They’re packing up and streaming out. Overrun in the last. Despite us controlling the second quarter and most of the third The Enemy has persisted with their fast game to devastating effect. Carving us up on the rebound, extracting the ball from the contest and running it up the guts unopposed.

 

How many of their bloody supporters are here? Sounds like their entire membership has come north to get them over the line. The only ones not cheering are the family in front of us. Polite clapping with every goal. Haven’t said boo the entire game. A physical embodiment of the British Stiff Upper Lip.

 

Seven goals to them in a row. Nineteen points down. Keiran Jack’s goal criminally disallowed. Fifty meter penalties for no reason. Their full forward’s twinkling ‘Nutcracker’ staging on the boundary line.

 

So, for some the game’s blown. Possibly the season too. Better to get out early. Leave this floodlit nightmare behind and find the cover of darkness. Mentally I’m half with them. Crossing South Dowling St. Jaywalking across Crown. Stop in at the Shakespeare Hotel for a consolation drink? Maybe better to just shamble despondently down to Railway Square and home.

 

But I won’t move. Always stick it out. Last week proved that.

 

And the boys are still fighting. Yet the clock’s ticking and all those little things that didn’t go right earlier have come back to bite. Buddy’s inaccuracy suffocating his confidence. Reid; so good with his hands, so bad with the set shots. Papley’s shocker of a sideways kick in the first quarter. Florent’s advantage play reeled back. Seventeen behinds. There’s Towers now, hitting The Enemy lace out. Head in hands time. The white-haired guy two rows down, never the calmest, has started booing the boys; arms flailing, heading for a date with a defibrillator. We’re yelling at him. Stiff Upper Lip are mildly amused.

 

Back in attack. Is that a pack mark to Rohan? No, touched. Ball up. Twenty-seven minutes on the board. Barely any stoppages. Can’t be long now.

 

The ball bounces forward. Florent sticks his foot out and….

GOAL!

 

Hang on now. Video review. Another chance for the bastards’ upstairs to break our hearts.

 

Wrong. It’s six points. The crowd lifts. We’re coming.

 

The Enemy get another free. Booing. Good on ya umpy, stick to the script, keep this year’s feel good story in it.

 

Heart hammering. Stiff Upper Lip haven’t moved. I resist poking them to see if they’re still alive.

 

Buddy lays a tackle, the ball spills free and he grabs it, turns and bangs it between the sticks from about forty out. Brings the crowd up as one.

 

Dear Christ another review. It drags on. Couldn’t be any clearer from where we’re sitting. The goal umpire would have to be blind not to pay it.

 

All eyes on the screen.

Spinning decision logo.

No. Bloody. Way.

A behind.

 

Crowd ready to jump the fence. Stiff Upper Lip unmoving, unsmiling.

 

Twenty-eight minutes. Nothing’s going right. Nothing can go wrong.

 

The ball is back with us. Another forward entry. Misses the target. Newman grabs holds of the pill near the far post, ducks, spins for a kick round the body.

 

And in.

 

The noise is deafening. Can we can win this?

 

Centre bounce. Heart in mouth. Naismith’s tap goes to The Enemy. They bang it forward into space but Grundy’s there to mark. Mills launches it forward. A big pack forms. Time slows as the ball tumbles towards the ground.

 

The Enemy pull it in with a strong mark. Collective groans.

 

That has to be the game.

 

Naismith picks off the forward sortie. Returns fire with a monster kick.

 

Buddy marks!

 

Wheels and goes.

 

Misses.

 

Thirty minutes on the clock. That’s it. I look down.

 

A big roar. I look up. Can’t see what’s going on. A ball in. Somehow, we’ve forced it over the line.

 

The SCG is a wall of noise.

 

A sea of players just off the goal square. The ball is thrown in. Hits the deck. A Swan’s player hacks it forward.

 

Straight to Rohan minding his own business on the goal line. It’s a Christmas miracle one-handed mark.

 

We’re going nuts. The siren blares. We’re going even more nuts.

 

Rohan goals. Players coming from everywhere.

 

I’m going to levitate out of the ground. Jumping up and down. Laughing. Yelling God knows what.

 

It takes an eternity for the club song to start. Like they had the wrong track cued up. Stiff Upper Lip finally looks round and with an ironically Victorian look of disapproval silently moves away.

 

Now no-one wants to go, not even the players. What are those early leavers thinking? They had to have heard the roar.

 

The stadium empties. We watch the boys sing the song in the rooms on the screen. There’s no sound and none required.

 

And now, now we can leave.

 

About Tom Bally

Born in 1834 Tom Bally was instrumental in establishing the rules of the modern game. It's a little known fact and the rare times he talks about it all he'll say is "that bloody Wills chap got me full of grape one night and the next thing I know he's peacocking around Richmond Paddock like he dreamt up the whole thing on his lonesome. Still I got the last laugh didn't I eh? Introducing the Umpire and all that."

Comments

  1. That’s just how it was, Tom.

    Still muttering “Cant believe it!” even though I’ve watched the replay over and over.

    Cheer cheer

  2. Keiran Croker says:

    That’s why you never, ever leave a game early! I’ve rewatched the last quarter twice and still can’t work out how that happened.

  3. Chris Bracher says:

    How did that happen??….
    ……..”the answer my friends is Rohan in the wind, the answer is Rohan in the wind”!
    (Dylan/Coodabeens)

  4. Daniel Saunders says:

    Gary Rohan once again the matchwinner!!!

    Still can’t wrap my head around how we managed to get it done. Our first after the siren victory since Barry Hall in Round 3, 2005, but this was way more miraculous and significant

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