Round 17 – Brisbane v North Melbourne: The curse is dead; long live the curse.

The curse is dead – long live the curse

The weekend had a different feel to it.  It was all about Russ, as it usually is when he comes up.  I arranged for mates to share the joy, a double-header weekend.


It was Russ that made the difference.  He refused to talk about North losing.  He refused to discuss The Curse even though everyone else wanted to.


‘Don’t mention the C-word,’ he repeatedly said.


North had won just three times at the Gabba since 1993.  Russ had made five trips without a win.  He’d come to Brisbane with a negative mindset and money against the odds on the Lions.


This time, Russ backed North in defiance.


He spent Friday afternoon at the Breakfast Creek Hotel with Adam.  He spiked the fresh wooden keg the hotel is famous for.  In the public Adam offered wise counsel.


‘The Curse feeds on negative energy,’ he said.  ‘If you starve it, it dies.’


Russ’s performance at the Breakfast Creek was the inverse of last year.  He paced himself well and the night didn’t end early.


That night, Russ was surrounded by mates in the ASB.  Stevo was a late arrival due to my muck-up.  Andy was even later, coming off an overtime shift, still in uniform, in time for roast chicken.


He’d spent twelve hours in the Beaudesert region providing emergency care to people.  Unable to make the game on Saturday night, Andy drove an hour to see Russ.


‘The Curse will end this year,’ Andy said when he arrived.


Russ held his palm up.  ‘I’m not giving it airtime.’


The night ended in time with Hawthorn’s massive win.  Stevo left his Carlton hat in the bar.


By necessity, Russ slept on a mattress on the lounge floor.  It was either that or the divan in the garage.  He didn’t care, because it was different to last year’s bed.


Saturday – game day


When Simon arrived mid-afternoon, he was sure The Curse would die.


‘I’ve got money on Brisbane,’ he said.  ‘That means you’re a certainty.’


Simon’s outlay, $10, wasn’t laid in hope of victory.  That would’ve been a bonus.  He wanted The Curse to end.  It was worth ten bucks.



We had quiet beers before we went to the German Club and met the others.

Russ refused to talk about The Curse with people he hadn’t seen in a year.  Wanting to keep things different, he shunned the pork knuckle and selected the schnitzel.


We timed our arrival at the Gabba to the minute.  For the first time in 20-years, Russ watched North break the banner in Brisbane.


‘We’re usually still having beers,’ he said.  ‘This is something different too.’


The Pole wore his North Melbourne jumper with the VFL logo on the breast.  A North fan in his formative years but switched to Hawthorn in the late seventies.


Wearing a North jumper was courageous, but the Pole was among North fans and he wanted The Curse dead.


North dominated the first term.  At quarter time, our propensity to go missing for a quarter was a nagging doubt.


The game degenerated into the kind of scrap we’ve all succumbed to and been numbed by.  A maul with stoppages.  It wouldn’t be North without skill errors and fumbles.  It wouldn’t be North without moments where I hid my eyes and imagined I was in hell.


Unsurprisingly, Brisbane won the second quarter but a late goal left North 21-points up at half time.


At three-quarter-time, North led by six-goals.  Unlike other years, that lead seemed safe.  I wanted to win, not only for ladder position and possible finals but to bust The Curse.  Russ deserved a win.


Midway through the final quarter I relaxed and spread out on the vacant seat beside me.  I turned to Russ.


‘This is the first time I’ve enjoyed having you in Brisbane,’ I said.


Russ didn’t mention The Curse until the final siren went.  For the first time in a decade, North won at the Gabba.  It was a great moment for Russ.  His curse, which started out as a joke and manifested into reality, was over.


Long live the curse.


At game’s end, we went to the Champion’s Room and toasted Boomer before heading home for beers and a subdued celebration.  I put on last year’s elimination final against Essendon.


Simon wanted to know who won.


‘I’ll give you a hint,’ The Pole said.  ‘We’re at Matt’s place.  He hates watching North lose and he kept this game.’


‘Go North,’ Simon said.


Sunday morning, Russ and I made beer as Angus lay on the back stairs in a funk.

‘I want Russ to go home,’ he kept saying.


It was a nice day.  Russ wanted to dip his feet in the pool.  I told him to do it.  Angus couldn’t resist.  He ran downstairs and did the same.  They played for a while on the steps.  Angus got soaked.


Early afternoon, Russ asked me to have a few beers with him while we watched St Kilda play Melbourne.


‘If you have some beers I’ll get a cab to the airport.’


Adam turned up with his daughter.  We sat and talked and watched footy as Angus and Emmy played in the backyard.


No one mentioned The Curse.  That fable was restrained by limitations.  It might’ve given games between North and Brisbane an extra edge.  But it had to end.


After Angus had dinner, he wanted to hang out with Russ.  When I read Angus books in bed, he kept interrupting.


‘I don’t want Russ to go home,’ he kept saying.


I asked Russ to come in.


‘I want you to stay,’ Angus said.


‘I have to go home to my boys,’ Russ said.


I didn’t want Russ to go home either.  His elevated level of teenage enthusiasm is infectious.  When we shook hands to bid farewell, I grinned.


‘You’re not The Curse.’


‘We don’t need to talk about that anymore.’


An hour later, Russ flew home from Brisbane.  The Curse flew with him, on a one-way ticket…




BRISBANE LIONS         1.1  4.4   4.5      5.8 (38)

NORTH MELBOURNE   5.5  7.7   9.11 16.14 (110)



Brisbane Lions: Bewick 2, Aish, Martin, Taylor

North Melbourne: Petrie 4, Cunnington 3, Brown 3, Harvey 2, Ziebell, Turner, Gibson, Bastinac



Brisbane Lions: Robinson, Martin, Redden, Taylor

North Melbourne: Petrie, Harvey, Brown, Higgins, Dal Santo, Goldstein


Umpires: Foot, Fisher, Stephens


Official crowd: 15,563 at the Gabba



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…

Leave a Comment