Round 20 – Western Bulldogs v Melbourne: A tale of two TV screens

“Sorry, I can’t join you at the footy, I want to watch the netball”.

I don’t think I’d used that sentence until last week.  Having travelled to Sydney the week before to watch the preliminary rounds of the Netball World Cup, I wasn’t going to miss out on watching the final on TV this Sunday.  However, as the final between Australia and New Zealand started at the same time as the Bulldogs v Demons game, I would forgo the chance to travel to Etihad Stadium and instead head to a pub where I could watch both games on big screens in the same room.  Of course, we Dees fans don’t need too many excuses not to go to Etihad.  Our record there is deplorable.  When I attended a Dees/Dogs game at Telstra Dome on a Saturday night in 2007 (strangely enough – a Melbourne home game) I could not have foreseen that we would allow another eight years to pass and still not gather four points at that since-renamed venue.

There’s been lots of comparisons between men’s and women’s sport this week.  It’s fair to say those who erroneously lament the state of modern day football and compare it to “netball” had a bad day on Sunday, because there was one contest that was tough, entertaining, and meaningful and it sure as heck wasn’t the footy.  Admittedly – there were some similarities between the two matches.  Firstly, one team dominated the first quarter in each contest.  The pub was mainly filled with Melbourne supporters, so my fiancee’s excited clapping at each turnover and goal in the netball stood out in comparison to the moans that followed each Demon turnover and Bulldog goal in the footy.  I’m sure there were people who appreciated the speed and skill of the Doggies and consider my assertion that the contest wasn’t entertaining to be influenced by my red-and-blue biases.  But a quick check of Twitter showed neutral fans (or was it Richmond fans hoping to poach our half-decent players next season?) agreeing that Melbourne’s ineffectiveness was helping make the Dogs look even better.  The goals were flowing in both games but at least New Zealand were on the scoreboard.

By midway through the second quarter I’d turned my chair and was (almost) exclusively watching the netball.  When AFL fans use netball as a term to describe the supposed “softening” of the game, they demonstrate that they haven’t watched much netball. It’s a non-contact sport, only in the sense that certain contact is penalized. Crashing into each other while contesting for the ball happens regularly. The skill level is high, and some of the Laura Geitz intercepts coming out of defence were as spectacular as many of the leaps for high marks you see on a footy field.

If the talk about using zones to reduce congestion in AFL comes to pass, the coaches will probably study netball. In a sport which relies heavily on players only being allowed in certain territories on court, congestion and strong defence occurs all the time.  New Zealand’s zone defence had proved impenetrable for some of their earlier opponents, and at stages during the final Australia struggled too. It was in stark comparison to the huge open spaces in the Western Bulldogs forward line which they exploited with speed.

At half time, the Demons were down by 73, and the Diamonds led by 8.  It seemed that both leaders were cruising, but then things changed.

The third quarter in the footy seemed out of the ordinary. Unbelievably, the Bulldogs failed to score a goal in the quarter. Melbourne caught up five of the twelve goal deficit and for a brief moment I dared to dream of a monumental comeback. But on the other TV, things were not as easy for the Aussie netballers. The final quarter in the netball was tense, as New Zealand slowly chipped away at the lead. With a minute to go, NZ were within 3 and I had my back to the TV showing the footy. I was nervous! But keeping possession in the dying seconds in a manner that would have made Kevin Sheedy proud, the Diamonds held on for a 58-55 triumph.

As the confetti rained down on the Diamonds, with Laura Geitz clutching the trophy, I turned my attention back to the AFL.  Alas, things just got worse. The Dogs piled on ten goals to one and nearly racked up a 100 point lead. The Demons fans at the pub hung their heads and head off into the cold Sunday night.

After the World Cup win, some of the Diamonds players were now considering whether to retire from the international game on the ultimate high.  It was later revealed that Julie Corletto, who had recovered from a broken nose to play in the World Cup and had already announced her retirement post-tournament, had played the second half of the final with a broken foot – and still performed well.  Now that’s a performance worth writing about.  The Demons on the other hand need to back up next week against wooden-spoon favourites Carlton.  Some players will need to deliver strong performances there lest they find themselves being asked to “retire” rather than being given a choice.

About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.

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