Round 4 – North Melbourne v Fremantle: The Transistor

My life-long footy companion Tucky has become a generous contributor to the Kangaroos, and as such he is rewarded with four seats, membership-tickets, and entry into a barn-sized area somewhat unimaginatively titled “the Premiership Room”. Adorning the walls are life-size photos of club legends such as Schimma, Denchy and the King. Tucky is at the game with his teenage daughter Jilly, a passionate Roo and admirer of Robbie Tarrant; all three of us are expecting North Melbourne to easily account for the struggling Dockers.

Over a pre-match beer and discussion about Fremantle’s sudden fall from grace and the mystery of Lindsay Thomas’ continual inclusion, Tucky casually mentions that his match-day seats are in an excellent position. But, he adds, there is one tiny issue which has been annoying him; soon enough I discover just what that is.

It is pleasing to see North Melbourne start energetically; goals to Thomas, Shaun Higgins (2) and Sam Gibson are marked in the Footy Record before the Dockers have time to settle into their defensive routines. But Fremantle are typically dogged and respond with goals through Pavlich and Fyfe. In the manner of Ross Lyon-coached teams, they won’t be laying down. North take a handy 15-point lead into quarter time, which is a fair reflection of the first quarter. As is inevitable when North are involved, the match tightens in the second quarter. Fremantle are dictating terms, constricting the Roos’ flow. The game is becoming scrappy, which would please Lyon more so than Brad Scott. North’s skill errors are increasing in number in the face of mounting defensive pressure, and the groans of the Kangaroos faithful – amongst whom we are seated – are noticeably louder and more frequent.

During a lull in play deep into the second quarter, I am startled by a sudden an awful buzzing in my ear. I turn to find an elderly couple in their eighties seated directly behind us, the gent with an old transistor perched precariously on his knee. Merely inches from Tucky’s left lug-hole and my right, the tranny is a distracting, distorted cacophony of static. Tucky nudges me, offers a weary glance, and I am left in no doubt as to the “tiny” issue regarding these seats. Fremantle boot their fifth for the term, the scores are level, and Tucky cannot take no more. “Can you please turn that thing down, mate?”

It is a simple and polite request, but the elderly woman takes umbrage. “How dare you! My husband has dementia!” Surprised at the woman’s anger, Tucky calmly tries to reason that he was merely asking for the device to be quietened or moved. But the woman is agitated: annoyed with North, upset with us, and above all, no doubt frustrated that her husband has been afflicted with such an insidious disease. We are stunned into silence when a couple of people in front of us get involved, and suggest that they might text the authorities to identify us as trouble-makers. This has the potential to get ridiculously out of hand. Until now, the elderly man has sat silently, but at that very moment he shifts awkwardly and the transistor topples from his knee and onto the concrete below our seats. Batteries are flung to all parts.

Jilly scrounges around beneath our seats, manages to piece together the tranny, and gently places it back on the old boy’s knee. The lady now sits quietly and, chastened, we head back into the Premiership Room at half time with the sound of the transistor ringing in our ears, wondering at what has just happened. We are also armed with the knowledge that if not for an inaccurate return of 7-12, the Dockers would be leading. After a half-time refreshment, we return to our seats in silence. The transistor plays on, blaring, an uncomfortable ear-worm so out of tune that I can’t even make out which radio station the old fellow is listening to. But we say nothing. North Melbourne, on the back of Jack Ziebell in the midfield and Jarrad Waite up-forward, and a few cameo performances, gradually pull away from the Dockers to win by 31 points. It is a margin which slightly flatters the Kangaroos.

During the last term the transistor falls silent. I turn to see the blue and white clad elderly couple, devoid of emotion, rise from their seats. I am overwhelmed by sadness, and the wonder that life can be so cruel and so unjust. Tomorrow, he probably will not even remember having been at Etihad to watch his team. This evening, having attempted to provide some normalcy despite their difficult circumstances, the woman gently takes her shuffling husband by the elbow. He is still clutching the transistor as she shepherds him past the portraits of the legends they once watched, out toward the elevator and back into the real world.

NORTH MELBOURNE 5.4 10.6 14.9 20.12 (132)
FREMANTLE 2.7 7.12 12.14 14.17 (101)

North Melbourne: Waite 4, Ziebell 3, Gibson 3, Brown 3, Higgins 2, Thomas, Cunnington, Macmillan, Harvey, Wood
Fremantle: Fyfe 4, Pavlich 2, Ballantyne 2, Walters 2, Barlow, Neale, Hill, Mayne

North Melbourne: Ziebell, Macmillan, Waite, Swallow, Gibson, Brown, Dal Santo, Firitto
Fremantle: Fyfe, Pavlich, Neale, Johnson, Hill, Walters

OUR VOTES: 3 J Ziebell (NM), 2 J Waite (NM), 1 N Fyfe (Fre)



About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Excellent piece Smokie. Dementia is always such a terrible thing, so horribly degrading. And so hard on everyone close to the person.
    Nice to see your favourite J.Waite in the Malarkey votes!!

Leave a Comment