Round 18 – Brisbane v Carlton: Remembering tales of yore and beating the Blues


Working as a senior secondary school teacher regularly makes you feel older than your years. I’ve tapped this ‘woe is me; I’m getting old’ well for another Almanac piece that I did in November last year after the U2 concert. But bear with me, because there is a footy edge to this story as well. This week I learnt that there are a generation of people, who will be voting soon, who have very different true norths in the way they measure their footy bearings. There are kids who will be drafted this year for whom the term ‘Ninth-mond’ means nothing. For them, Adelaide, Fremantle, Port Power and Gold Coast are just other teams in the fixture with the same historical propriety as Essendon, Melbourne or Collingwood. And on the Pies, that generational sense of polarising love and hate seems to have dissipated.


They ask me why I follow the Lions, when they hark so far away. In response, I tell of them days of old. Of being the only kid in my schoolyard in a Fitzroy jumper. I tell them tales of Garry Wilson, Matt Rendell, Robert Walls and David Parkin. I let them know that their very school was once Bernie Quinlan’s alma mater. ‘Who is Bernie Quinlan?’ they will say. And as their teacher, by both vocation and contract, I light a campfire in the middle of the classroom and regale them for hours about Superboot. We turn off the loudspeaker so that the school bell cannot interrupt us; due dates are extended or waived, and time stands still as they listen, spellbound by stories of the passage from Footscray to Fitzroy. ‘He’s like Moses,’ they say, for we are a Catholic school. I nod sagely and continue the tale.


I tell them about the ’81 Brownlow tie, the Coleman medals, the ’83 Qualifying Final and the injury that ended his career. ‘He sounds just like the great Achilles,’ they exclaim. For they are versed in Greek mythology, as David Malouf’s novel Ransom is studied by our year twelves.


‘Aye students,’ I say. ‘Aye, that he was.’ Because, for some inexplicable reason, I speak with a hybrid Scottish/Irish accent in this fictional panoramic that I have just created as context for this match report. ‘And did I tell ye all, that Doc Wheildon came from Newborough?’


I tell them this, because at the rising of sun of each day, many of them travel to school from the Moe region, not by chariot but by bus. ‘Was Wheildon really a doctor?’ they ask me entranced. I chuckle to myself at their literal reading to one of football’s great and oldest nicknames. And the story begins again, with the ’89 Reserves Grand Final being recreated in real time, sometimes with sock puppets. And so, they learn of the Fitzroy Football Club. And of the times before Instagram, GWS and the iPhone.


They don’t know Carlton; they’ve never known the real Carlton. The dormant, sleeping powerhouse. ‘Poor Carlton,’ one of them says sadly. John Worsfold reminded us all that the world has changed this week. He told the Essendon people that no club has any extra right to success anymore. He is right. This generation does not know that Carlton are not really middle of the road, not in terms of their identity. That they used to not just expect success but demand it. That they were once the gangsters of the VFL. If Carlton were a film in the 1980s, they would have been directed by Martin Scorsese.


The kids today, they don’t know that the Blues once crossed state borders with a sackful of unmarked one hundred-dollar notes and returned with Kernahan and Bradley in the car boot. There is a line in the movie ‘Goodfellas’ about the mob boss Paulie. ‘He moved slowly because he didn’t have to move for anybody.’ The Carlton theme song is a bit like that. It has a languid slow tempo compared to all the other songs, because they’re Carlton. They don’t have to sing quickly for anybody. We shouldn’t forget today, when listening to the affable David Teague, that he leads a club that were once the most ruthless in the land.


The millennials do remember a brief flicker, the Chris Judd era. Mark Twain travelled through Victoria in the late nineteenth century. He famously dubbed the beautiful goldfield town, Marborough, a ‘train station with a town attached to it.’ Even though they should have been, the town clearly wasn’t offended. In any other municipality it would be called ‘Station Street’ but in Maryborough it is ‘Mark Twain Drive.’ The millennials remember something similar. Like the Maryborough station, Carlton were once Chris Judd with a club attached. They climbed into the finals briefly. But it was fleeting.


It is Brisbane’s game to lose tonight. Carlton are farewelling their much-respected warrior Kade Simpson. For me, he is actually a personification of how much footy has changed, how much Carlton have changed. There was a time at the Blues when a games tally in even low triple figures would have included multiple flags. Not so for Simmo. But this makes him laudable in a way that Doull, Kernahan, Nicholls and Fitzpatrick can never be. Carlton now have their Robbie Flower; their Garry Wilson. The Blues are farewelling something intrinsically good tonight while the Lions are playing for a possible top spot.


The first quarter is fast and open. Both teams are attacking through the middle of the ground. Linc McCarthy goals early for the Lions. Rich takes a handball on the fifty-metre arc and launches a goal from outside fifty. It’s the sort of kick that gives one a sense of hope for the upcoming finals. Robbo crunches Eddie Betts in a tackle with the sort of intensity that only old mates and brothers understand. It’s pinging up and down the ground, space everywhere. Lachie Neale is caught one out against the mammoth Levi Casboult in the last line of defence and somehow inexplicably wrestles him out for a goal-saving mark. McKay is outpointing a valiant Jack Payne, Newnes and Murphy also find space in the Blues forward line for some easy goals. We are not the ‘Harris Andrews Football Club,’ but the Blues do seem to be tapping the very spots he normally intercepts like ranchers who have just found an oil deposit. Carlton have a four-point lead at quarter time.


The second quarter wins the match for Brisbane, we just don’t realise it yet. The rain starts to pour. Rayner finds an eye-catching mark and goal and thrusts his fists in the air. With the rain teeming around him he looks like something apocalyptic, or Keanu Reeves in the FBI training scenes in Point Break. Just like my students don’t know Carlton, the REAL Carlton, they probably don’t really know much about Keanu Reeves either.


Zorko marks in the goal square and then bizarrely kicks back away from our goals to find Robbo. I’m all for non-hierarchical, distributive leadership models, but I’m bewildered. Fortunately, Robbo kicks the goal. Rich takes a heavy knock to the head and then launches another long-range goal. The famous satellite dish in Parkes is still trying to track the signal from Big O’s thumping torpedo shot at goal from last week but Rich has a bit more accuracy tonight. It is hard to think of a current player you’d feel more comfortable lining up for goal from outside fifty than him. Just to be clear, by ‘him,’ I mean Richy, not Oscar. Oscar’s kick wild shot for goal against Sydney may well have ended up in inner city Auckland for all we know.


Charlie lands awkwardly and is limping a bit. My seven-year-old daughter looks crestfallen, ‘Will he still be able to dance and shake his groove thing?’ she asks. I choose to believe she is speaking with imagery and metaphor about his football and not referring to his dancing Tik-Tok memes.


The Lions have a four-goal lead, but Carlton start well in the third quarter. Kade Simpson gets a running goal with a classic 1-2 play. Our lead is still big enough for me to put parochialism aside and to smile. It will be a great memory for him. Then within minutes, Eddie Betts marks in their forward arc. Now I enjoy reruns of Dad’s Army as much as the next person, but there are limits to what I’m happy to see Carlton’s veterans do. Fortunately, Eddie misses. Robbo has his head over the footy at one point and Kade comes in a bit clumsily and collects Mitch’s head with his knee. Robbo rears up with initial indignance but then is muted, realising that it is his old mate. Cam Rayner gets another goal on the three-quarter time siren.


The Brisbane forwards have been drawing a lot of criticism this year. Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood have become such perennial whipping boys that it is too easy to overlook their good moments. Hipwood sharks a snap goal from the fifty-metre line that shows just how damaging he can be when he doesn’t have time to think. Charlie dribbles a goal from the boundary that must have found the goal post with little more than atmospheric pressure that only the goal umpire can see. Not to matter, aesthetically it was a great goal even if ‘actually’ it wasn’t. The game is technically alive with four minutes to play and Carlton needing three goals. McKay’s big marks and three goals in the forward line are an even more potent reminder that Harris has a hamstring injury than the vision of our All-Australian sitting in his polo top watching the game.


Sam Walsh is good all night. Carlton know more than most clubs that the pressure on number one picks can be unreasonably high. Walsh and Rayner are interesting contrasts and show how both clubs had very different philosophies when it came to their golden ticket draft selections. Walsh will not end up with a highlights tape like Rayner, but he will be a consistent and reliable ball winner for the next decade. They’d actually work well together as teammates. For mine, Martin gets to be Martin because Cotchin is Cotchin. Dangerfield and Selwood have a similar symbiotic chemistry.


It is a solid if not spectacular win. In terms of the Lions season, it gives us a chance to finish top for the very first time in Brisbane’s history. Over to you Collingwood to sort out the Power tomorrow night. Lachie may well have more Brownlow votes, but it is Daniel Rich who should get the three. It is another sign of my old age that Richy can be simultaneously a statesman of the club and the game and still look like he belongs on the set of ‘Home and Away.’ The finals await.



BRISBANE     3.2       8.5       9.7       11.12 (78)
CARLTON      4.0       4.1       6.1       10.1 (61)


McCarthy 2, Rayner 2, Robinson 2, Rich 2, Coleman, Cameron, Hipwood
Carlton: McKay 3, Casboult, Curnow, Gibbons, Murphy, Newnes, Simpson, Williamson


Rich, Neale, Ah Chee, Starcevich, Robinson, Zorko
Carlton: Walsh, Plowman, Williamson, Kennedy, McKay



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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. Brilliant as always,Shane entwining a history lesson for the students and a trip down memory lane in to the game well played indeed

  2. Really liked this, Shane.

    Some astute observations about Carlton, among many others. That REAL Carlton is a thing of history. We still struggle to reconcile it with the present.

    I like the way the Lions play their footy. But they need to get their Richmond monkey off their backs if they are to win it all.


  3. Phillip Hill says

    non-hierarchical, distributive leadership models

    What the f….?

    I’m not up with modern management talk.

    Good read once again

  4. Phillip Hill says

    I want my rovers hungry for goals. I want non-distributive, don’t touch him, head dropping, extroverted, small forwards that all opposition supporters hate

  5. Kevin Densley says

    Witty, astute and entertaining throughout, Shane – highly enjoyable stuff!

  6. Shane Reid says

    Sorry I’m late saying thanks to everyone who commented. Hectic couple of weeks. Thanks for the kind words, John, I think the return of the REAL Carlton is not too far away. Things look pretty promising in 2021 and 2022 for the Blues, I hope my Lions hang around the top enough for a rivalry to develop there. Too long between drinks for both clubs.

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