Round 21- North Melbourne v Fremantle: A perfect Day

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North Melbourne v Fremantle
1.10pm, Sunday 23 August
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne


A Perfect Day


It’s the simple things about parenting I enjoy most. Like picking Eloise up from daycare. When I walk down the steps to the outdoor play area, she looks up, her face explodes into a smile and she races to me screaming Daddy! Daddy! before burying her head in my legs.

On the drive home, she demands Play our song, Daddy. Play our song. I turn on Springsteen’s The Rising, and we sing along to the La, La, La bit. By the time we arrive home, Eloise has usually dropped off to sleep and her head rests gently on my shoulder as I carry her inside.

Or, there’s Sunday arvo kick-to-kick at Coburg City Oval. Or, cuddle time in front of the television before Peppa Pig bedtime stories.

Everyday stuff, but priceless.

And then there’s today: Eloise’s first North Melbourne game. For many, this may mean nothing, however for me, it means the world.

Eloise and I are jumping out of our skin, practising our Go Roos! while Linda, her mum, a devoted non-football person, who’s coming along to ensure all goes well, and because she’s convinced I will focus more on the footy than my own three year old, is looking at us as if we’re crazy.

With a small crowd expected, we decide car is just as easy as train, and we find a park a handful of blocks away. Eloise has dozed on citylink, so we take turns lugging her and enough supplies to feed an army, under a gentle late winter sun.

We step into the shadows of the Dungeon a few minutes into the first quarter, arms and backs aching. Eloise races me up the ramp to the top level where we take our seats behind the northern end goals.

Freo is looking every bit the premiership contender – slicing through North with quick decision making, and clean delivery. Every move looks pre-determined. Sandilands and Goldy are running each other around like a couple of baby giraffes, however it’s the former who moves forward and bags two for the term. Mayne, Fyfe and Neale also start well.

By comparison, North looks ordinary; less skilled and not as smart with the ball. We’re missing the suspended Ziebell, but somehow manage three goals against the trend.

Freo leads by four goals at quarter-time and parental guilt kicks in. I’m wondering if I should subject my daughter to a lifetime of supporting this middle of the road mob.

Thankfully, Eloise has childish innocence on her side. Oblivious to the score, she’s getting into it, laughing at the players running around like colourful ants below and clapping when Waite slotted one through during time-on.

North holds its nerve and digs in for the battle in the second term. The tackle count increases, opposition run is blocked, and North’s defenders get on top with intercepting marks, as Freo’s forward entries become predictable. Swallow and Cunners commit their bodies at clearances, Boomer kicks his third and hits the post with another attempt. Two and a bit goals down at half-time and there’s a hint of a chance.

Eloise starts to sag during the break. I can’t convince her to join me for a kick in the walkway, when her colouring book, biscuits and mum’s lap hold more appeal.

Freo scores the first in the new half, however North’s pressure is causing errors and turn overs. A turning point comes midway through the term when Mayne misses a set shot and North transitions from the kick out for Higgins to goal from the angle. Waite grabs Swallow’s pass and goals and Nahas, playing like a bloke who can’t bear the thought of getting a real job, converts another end to end play. The margin is a goal.

Now, North is looking more skillful and without the injured Pavlich, Freo’s scoring options have dried up. We can win this.

Not that Eloise is fussed. She has spotted the club mascot on the boundary and is determined to get a closer look. We venture downstairs for the last quarter and find a spot in the standing room section in the pocket.

Linda chases Eloise around, leaving me (gratefully) to cheer North home. This match now resembles a final, every possession and passage of play crucial. Four out of five Kangaroo goals come from turnovers. Boomer scores his fourth, Waite his third, and Goldy kicks two to cancel out Sandilands’ goals, and complete another superb individual game.

There’s pandemonium at the final siren. I swing Eloise into the air and she squeals with delight.

We clap the boys off and join the crowd on the ground for kick-to-kick. It’s a beautiful sight; a sea of smiling royal blue and white faces savoring the sort of character filled victory we’ve been waiting for all season. And one that has as good as secured North Melbourne another invite to the September dance.

It’s a perfect way to end a perfect day and for Eloise to begin her journey as a Northerner.




NORTH MELBOURNE:  3.2  6.5  9.8  14.10 (94)
FREMANTLE:  7.2   8.6  10.8  12.11 (83)


North Melbourne: Harvey 4, Waite 3, Nahas 2, Brown 2, Goldstein 2, Higgins.
Fremantle: Sandilands 2, Griffin 2, Walters 2; Fyfe, Barlow, Mayne, Pearce, Johnson, Hill.

North Melbourne: Swallow, Harvey, Goldstein, Cunnington, Tarrant, Wright.
Fremantle: Walters, Neale, Johnson, Barlow.


Umpires: Rosebury, Hosking, Meredith.

Crowd: 23,857 at the Docklands

Our Votes: Swallow (NM) 3, Harvey (NM) 2, Goldstein (NM) 1.


NEXT: Old Mate Clem is on the road to recovery after a bad fall – not unlike his beloved ‘Bullydogs’ under Luke Beveridge. The recovery of both parties is going better than expected. [A fantastic read. – Ed]



  1. Brilliant stuff, Starks.
    I agree, with kids there is always that element of guilt:
    “Am I doing the right thing by subjecting them to a lifetime of this?”

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    If it’s goo enough for me, Smokie. Great day for the Roos. Standing on the wing, city side if you’re around Saty.

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Treasured memory Starkers. Eloise’s old man’s unbridled joy shines through. Great stuff and a handy win for your Roo boys.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Entertaining read,Starks at least on Brownlow night when 3 votes,L Starkie is read out the Knackery will appreciate,as a Norwood man I am a huge,Trent Dumont fan a update to how he is going ? Thank you

  5. Andrew Starkie says

    Malcolm, TD is one of a handful who needs to be given a chance next year. I like him. Emergency last week.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Cunning plan Andrew, as now you can justify going because “Eloise wants to go”.

    If my girls are any guide, this excuse works for at least 12 more years.

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    Swish, Already use it when heading up to watch the Burgers.

  8. Lovely piece Andrew. Had to give proper respect to my favourite line about North all year, that Nahas is “playing like a bloke who can’t bear the thought of getting a real job”. Perfect.

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