Round 21 – Western Bulldogs v GWS: Youth, teamwork and matching – My birthday extravaganza


When I played my Fixture Lotto last year, a date loomed on the calendar. August 11, Bulldogs v the Giants. Melbourne. Docklands. My birthday. Perfect, I thought, this will be one of the games of the year, it will be a Friday Night, and I could have an excuse to enjoy being in Melbourne. So it came to pass that I cashed in one of my long service leave days and we flew down early Friday morning. As it turned out, we were in for a feast of food, teamwork and youth.


This weekend wasn’t intended to be all about football – it was, as it usually is when we are in Melbourne, also about food. Our perfect Friday started with a late lunch at the newish restaurant in Melbourne called Oter. I thought the fact it was marked with an O perfect for such an indulgent day for me.



The food came in small courses, all beautifully prepared and presented – and our attendant insisted that we have a young French beaujolais to go with our mostly fish courses.



We were sceptical, but we went along with the suggestion and indeed, she was right. It matched all the courses, it all just worked together.


After this outstanding and rarely indulgent experience, we drifted into the NGV Ian Potter Centre, and saw the excellent Australia in the 30s exhibition. One of the elements that struck me was the stark juxtaposition between the poverty of the times, leading to great homemade furniture, mixed with an increasing cultural focus on the body and its connection to national identity. It was telling to me that the Victorian items were more domestic furniture and Gothic building and with Sydney items, it was more beaches and the body. We are both more Victorian in that respect.


This was all the entree to the main course of the game. We sat in the padded seats in Level 2 of Docklands – may as well continue the indulgence. Surrounded, predictably, by Dogs fans – almost all the Giants’ fans were clustered in the cheer squad bay. I was not confident going into the game – the Giants had only been really clicking together for short moments, such as the 4th Quarter against Freo, the 1st Quarter against the Dees. The Dogs had been steadily improving in past weeks.


The first half did not instil much more confidence in me (I was thinking that perhaps I should have had more beers during our pre-match meeting with the West’s King of Anagrams, Andrew Gigacz). Himmelberg and Kennedy stood out particularly for their mistakes, helping the Dogs to rain in more and more attacks into their Forward 50 in the 2nd quarter. The main glimpses of light for the Giants was Jonny Patton looming and taking mark after mark; Dylan Shiel never giving up; Nick Haynes’ vital intercept marks and Coniglio’s against the run of play goal in the 2nd quarter. There was also a part of that quarter where I had no problem with a Dogs’ goal – Bob Murphy’s spectacular effort and post goal celebration. I can never growl at anything Bob does.


Whilst a theme of the Giants’ season has seen them really come to play in the 4th quarter – at the Showground, Collingwood, Richmond and Freo, as well as the Hawks in Launceston, this time it was after half time. There was, just like at Oter, a coming together of youth and teamwork, where everything just worked. Josh Kelly came in to provide the goals to provide evidence of the domination.


This was also the time of the now notorious raised studs of Toby Greene, which happened below our Level 2 seats at the ground. My first instant thoughts were to first of all think that Greene was jumping awkwardly to compensate for his lack of height, but then ask why Dahlhaus was running towards Greene’s foot. The opinions around me were universally different – one Dogs loyalist in front of me was disgusted. Having seen it on replay a few times since, I can see why my first reaction wasn’t entirely the right one. I realise now that it was not an action that Greene – or indeed anyone else – should ever emulate. What it did create was one of the most vociferous and visceral boos I have ever experienced at a game, when soon after, Greene scored a goal.


From there on, the vocalisations from Dogs’ fans became less and less vigorous as the game slipped from their grasp. Hopper was showing more improvement, Lobb was taking more contested marks, Deledio showed a glimpse of his pace and smarts. And we knew the fire was out of the game when the boos for Toby Greene slackened off.


I was happy with the result, glad that the team seems to be finding their cohesion again. It was the topping off of a pretty fine day – one where we did the Melbourne thing of flying the scarf from our car, as well as the Melbourne thing of hearing the hot takes on SEN about the game. They may have been focused on the flying kung-fu of Greene, but I was exulting in the day – I was thinking of how chefs, artists and coaches can bring together youth, bodies, exuberance and other finely prepared elements to make a winning combination.

About Mark O'Sullivan

A teacher, musician and GWS Giants Foundation Member


  1. Note to caption writer: Mark barracks for the Giants.

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