Round 18 – Melbourne v Brisbane: Keystone Cops





The Port Campbell pub was warm, with a real wood fire, great music playing for tired Friday work bones. The rain that will stay all weekend was starting to fall. But I decided to go home anyway to watch Brisbane play Melbourne on my laptop and be a dad.


There’s not enough reception at Moonlight Head, not with the bad weather rolling in. Melbourne get the first goal, then another, just plain clean out of the middle. Ed Langdon doing his thing on the wing. Then, the computer starts freezing every minute or so, for about fifteen seconds, before catching up in half a second, everybody waddling in FF, as if they were the Keystone Cops!


The ball comes in to Salem and Cameron, there it is, frozen in the air, two great players. Keystone Cops, Petty’s clearing to the wing. Nuts!


There are still things to learn.


Melbourne have a number of forwards that rely on good delivery. The Hyphen, Spargo, even Melksham, all handy on the lead and chest mark. While the Dees’ mids and backs are winning, they look a million. Chest mark, chest mark, chest mark. But then the Lions start playing Hunter’s wing. Hunter does a great job, is a good player, but just doesn’t have Langdon’s carry, or time to put it where it’s needed.


Big Lurch in the Ruck for the Lions starts doing much better, holding his own, though not winning. Then Brissie begin getting first touch, and look out! By Christ they can run through the middle! Backs, on ballers, everybody, everything, a sprinting zone into an open forward line.


Conor McKenna, 26 for the Lions, is a big Irish donk who runs from defence like Guy two decades earlier. He’s totally setting the tone, looking the goods, all of them are. Link, link, link. End-to end. Run it through the middle, run it through the middle.


Things are bleak for the Dees. When they do get it, they’re bombing it long from the wing, murdering their forwards, who aren’t as tall or strong, or, frankly, as good in the air as the Lions defenders. Brissie are running it THROUGH the wing, picking targets on the go from 60 to 30. That finishing chip.


The Dees need a circuit breaker, but Fritsch is out injured, Petracca, their only forward option, needs to get on the ball, because Oliver is missing and, with Hibbert out, Charlie is running amok down in the Lion’s forward zone.


Injuries. A part of footy. A factor before you make finals predictions. Collingwood and Port don’t have many at the moment. The Dees are down a bit of class. Honest on-ballers won’t beat Neale and co.


Daniher is the stand out. I like you Benny Brown, but you’re not him.


The ball comes in high, everything freezes, Keystone Cops, Joe is walking back from May or Petty for another shot at goal. Working his chewy, looking one-part comedy waiting to happen, ten parts elite forward. Hipwood can play around that beautifully.


The game rolls on. Brisbane have reeled in Melbourne’s early lead easily, with half a game to go. It could get ugly.


Melbourne are playing yesterday’s game. Bomb it long to a pack on the wing where Oliver or Pertacca will be front and centre. But one isn’t there, and the other is swamped by illegal tactics. The holding they’re doing to him makes me claustrophobic. I squirm and brush off tugs and grips and yell to ‘give him a go, ump’, and wake the kid. Sorry.


Freeze, Keystone Cops, Brisbane are running forward in insane numbers. It’s like there are thirty of them.


It’s great to see the Brisbane defenders, and even mids, put the double fist into the dustbin where it always belonged. The Dees bombing it long works a treat for the home team. They back themselves, get great numbers there, and as often as not, mark the thing. One up, lots of body protection. Huge discipline.


Really, it’s not Benny’s fault, the delivery, without Ed firing, is rushed. Up and under. The pressure from Brissie’s mids is just too sensational.


Every finals team has 6 or 7 quality players, but at the moment the Dees fall away after that. Their bottom six are holes, left all over the oval. Brisbane’s bottom six are stronger, better.


Gawn keeps winning the ruck, but obviously to Viney. Time and again Jack is swamped by four Brisbane players. He’s there at the bottom of every pack, holding up the world, like Atlas, but not free enough to do damage.


Down the home team’s end, an old stager is killing it. Gunston, how handy! Let’s just slip him into a wide open, well-oiled forward-line. Fancy having him as your fifth forward!


May touches Joe’s back. Joe joins the Olympic diving team. What a beauty! 9.8, easy. Keystone Cops. The Melbourne backs are trying to huddle after a goal, as team’s do, but May is still fuming. He doesn’t want a bar of it! I love that stuff! Emotion. Heart-on-sleeve reality. We haven’t had a real crack-the-shits player to barrack for since Brian Lake retired.


Half way through the last there’s that comfy buffer, four goals, going nowhere. The game’s patterns have been set. Both team’s structures executed. Everybody’s settling in for an energy-less 26-30 point Lions victory. Tomorrow’s sports reports are already being written.


Old Mate finally, finally, finally gets pinned for molesting Petracca. He should be in jail. It’s been so obvious it’s almost Trumpian. Old Mate gestures to the umpire. ‘What was that for?’ ‘Me?’ ‘What? Holding?’ ‘You’re joking!’


I wonder if this will help change things. Petracca being given a free run at the ball is frightening. But the game’s too far gone now.


Our kid needs to get up to piss. She takes forever. I wait as if frozen, then, finally, help her back up into her bunk, Keystone Cops style.


The ball freezes. There’s almost nine minutes left. I almost give up on it.


Harris continues to out-mark Benny, damn it. Ben, Joe sometimes gets it, sometimes not, but nobody out-marks him. For a forward with whippet-sharks like Kossie, Spargo and Petracca around, not being out marked is almost everything!


Neale does a pass inside 50, that will make it five goals up. The game’s cooked… but it falls an inch short. Then, on the rebound, Melksham leaps, out-marking two Lions on the wing!?


What? I pause.


That’s not him. An overhead? Against odds? Did the breeze change outside?


Sure enough, bang, the resulting kick goes to Kossie, who beats two Lions, just out-and-out pantses them, and kicks a goal, about seven minutes left. Hope lingers, for dreamers and die hards, teasing a real world going nowhere.


The computer freezes on Kossie’s smile. It’s a ripper. As if there’s only one point in it, not three goals. As if he knows something. The ball Keystones back to the middle.


Four minutes left, Melksham kicks a great pressure goal. Suddenly, the Dees are everywhere. Brayshaw slapping it forward from packs. Gawn, who’s marking has been down this year, senses the moment; a contest, a team better than his. He won’t have it! Force of will. Strength, timing, snap-like reflexes, he just stats plucking everything, driving it forward, driving it forward!


Two minute and two goals to go, Viney’s had enough! Still outnumbered, his just, purely, bulls the ball into his hands, ripping it clear of big Lurch’s grip 20 metres out, and makes a deck of cards out of a pack of Brisbane defenders. He WANTS a goal through! It’s impressive.


The computer pauses as he kicks. But I know where the ball’s heading. The fullback eventually makes a Keystone effort to stop it, but the pill beats him.


How do you coach things like that Viney? Gawn? Desire.


Two minutes, five points down. Momentum. From here on in, every kick, or miss kick, or dropped mark, or decision to back yourself, everything, is a sliding door moment.


Less than a minute in it, the game follows its new pattern. Brayshaw slaps it forward, the last roll of the dice. It sort feels like fate now, not fantasy. Melksham gets around two wrestling players, that get in Harris’s way. Melksham leaps. Another overhead!


He lines up, no confidence, ready for the tragedy. The ol’ ‘So close, yet…’


He kicks…


It goes short, it goes wide. A horrible kick, but, somehow, as if the ball doesn’t want Gawn and Viney to be angry at it, it just, sorta, barely stays the course, and somehow scrapes through. The Dees win!


They steal it. But there’s no stealing it. The team that wins is the one that is meant to. And they did, against all odds. With an unlikely hero who provided the sliding door moment of them all; out-marked two blokes on the wing. You can be nowhere for a whole game, and still turn it. Change things.


I hope he enjoys his moment.


The computer freezes on May shaking hands earnestly, saying; ‘Phew, what a game…’ to each Brisbane player. Absolutely.


When it fast forwards again, it makes it look like everybody shaking hands is line dancing.



MELBOURNE  6.2   8.3   12.4   16.9   (105)
BRISBANE     3.3   8.4   15.7   16.8   (104)


Melbourne: Petracca 4, Pickett 3, Melksham 2, Neal-Bullen, Brown, Spargo, Bowey, Woewodin, Gawn, Viney
Brisbane: Gunston 3, McCarthy, Bailey, Cameron, Daniher 2, McInerney, Ashcroft, Fletcher, Lyons, Hipwood


Melbourne: Petracca, Gawn, Brayshaw, Viney, Pickett, Melksham
Brisbane: Daniher, McCluggage, Neale, Ashcroft, Andrews, Bailey


Crowd: 38,030



Read more from Old Dog HERE.


Old Dog will play his 700th game of footy in the coming weeks. We will keep you posted on when that is.



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  1. A bizarre game – Brisbane when they decided to just try and hang on lacked structure and organization it was a hope we can win not a belief and seemingly lack of training what to do in the exact situation
    Agree re the Dee’s will and desire thanks and happy birthday,OD

  2. Matt Zurbo says

    Onya Mal. God insight… as always!

  3. E.regnans says

    Love it Old Dog.
    Who knows what is going on?
    Is it more desperation? Better preparation? Is it DNA? Luck?
    I was thinking recently of Martin Luther King and his often-quoted line: “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice” – MLK, Alabama, 1965
    What the heck does the arc of the footy universe bend towards?
    Happy birthday Old Dog.

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    Good question. I think, despite the trials and tribulations, it bends, simply, towards enjoyment.

    Cheers mate.

  5. Loved this, Old Dog.

    And I loved the “crack the shits player” line. A beauty!

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