Round 7 – Carlton v Port Adelaide: We were so close

Carlton v Port Adelaide

1:05pm, Sunday July 19

The Gabba



Having moved to the Sunshine Coast four and a half years ago, I would never have guessed I would be driving south 100 km to watch a Round 7 game between Port Adelaide and the Blues. But here I am, driving from one of the most quintessentially “Aussie” places, evidenced through place names.


For starters, I’m driving on the Bruce highway, near the Aussie Zoo with the intention of meeting someone in Kangaroo Point at the Pineapple Hotel. Even better, on the Coast, your drive past a couple of beer towns (Beerburrum and Beerwah) where you obviously can have a few, before cruising through Burpengary (to exhale inappropriate toxins) as you start thinking about an imaginary altercation at Donnybrook. Ah, life is good; just don’t talk about the pandemic.


Anyway, from a Carlton perspective, things appear to be different. Even though I joke that it’s July and Carlton have won their mandatory three games already, you sense a change is in the making. My 18-year daughter even says to me, “Dad, I haven’t asked this question for about a decade because it was always meaningless, but where are Carlton on the ladder?” When you realise it has been over 2,500 days since we were last in the 8 in a home and away sense, you begin to consider this game against the top seeded team as potentially defining.


After getting diverted due to a protest march in the area, we eventually make it to the ground with only minutes to spare. We’re at the Vulture Street end in the very last row of seats in Bay 43. No one is wearing masks and my wife has her scarf wrapped around her face. I didn’t know how they would scatter the supporters but it’s straightforward, like a game of checkers, with gaps every second row and at least 2 seats between your party and the next one. We’re near an early-30s Port supporter who’s explaining to his novice friend that Carlton is a traditional club – apparently like Port! – and used to be good last century. Thanks very much.


As the ball bounces on this beautiful 24-degree winter’s day, the team in grey and white (like our former away uniform that we hate) kicks three goals in the first five minutes. It’s an avalanche from the middle. Are we going to do anything about this start?




Eddie Betts takes a great mark, and kicks it to Gibbons, who goals from the boundary (note for later in exactly the same spot as Gray in the fourth quarter). This is quickly followed by three goals to Walsh, the Big H (6’8″, two bounces and a run from 65 metres out…extraordinary) and the other Jack (Martin). Suddenly, the belief is back, the crowd is cheering loudly and you sense our competitive spirit is finally returning.


There’s a stalemate for another couple of quarters, with scores seemingly no more than a single goal the difference as we enter the final quarter. It’s great we’re competitive with a top side but you can’t wonder “will we concede or fight it out?” It’s answered fairly quickly. Sam Walsh kicks his second goal in the opening minute and scores are level. We attack hard and a couple of times we think we’re going to run into goal, only for the umps to give frees to Port (I’m sure they were there though!). Then out of nowhere, Newnes kicks a high snap goal and we’re seven points up midway through the quarter…before that behemoth, Charlie Dixon, kicks truly. He really could have and should have kicked six or seven, instead of just three. You know he will be the match winner in one way or another. Soon the ball is on the outer wing, and is kicked to the square where the Big H marks and kicks truly. Again a seven-point lead and again, the small crowd is very vocal and excited. Surely, the omens are good and we’re safe.




Port does what good teams do and takes over, they are completely dominant the next five or so minutes (I promise I won’t say aided by the umpires again. See? I said it) and incredibly kick four successive behinds from makeable set shots, including one from the edge of the goal square. The Port supporter next to me is almost having a pulmonary as he was cheering the goal that was really a minor. Looking across the ground I can see on the far side an official holding a big number one sign, so I know there’s only seconds left. Can we hang in there?


SPS kicks to Gibbons on the wing, who over kicks it to a pack of six or seven players and the ball is marked by Port. The ball stays along the boundary line and you swear its going to be knocked out – but it isn’t and ultimately a grubber kick is marked by Robbie Gray. As they say, cometh the hour, cometh the man. It’s the third time someone in this match has kicked after the siren and the score from the initial kicks has been two behinds. Gray isn’t going to let that stop him, and from the boundary line, he kicks truly after the final siren and it’s a three-point win to the Power. So close, once again for the Blues, who never seem to win at the Gabba. We leave with Carlton supporters in disbelief and the Port supporters jumping for joy. The contrast one kick can make to our emotions is extraordinary. It’s a long drive back but we’ll be here next time for the North game.


Go Blues!





CARLTON                    4.2      5.4      6.6      9.7 (61)
PORT ADELAIDE        4.1      6.4       7.6      9.10 (64)


McKay 3, Walsh 2, Betts, Gibbons, Martin, Newnes
Port Adelaide: Dixon 3, Farrell 2, Boak, Butters, Gray, Motlop


Walsh, Weitering, Cripps, Curnow, McKay
Port Adelaide: Dixon, Byrne-Jones, Jonas, Burton, Butters, Marshall, Ladhams 





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  1. John Butler says

    Yes Tony, we were so close.

    Your first para made me laugh. The finish didn’t. Not your fault.

    But signs are there. Next week is crucial.


  2. george smith says

    Well, another near miss for the Showponies. Must not show pity or remorso. The fact that they had a lucky win against the Essendon boo squad which caused the irritable ones to take out their frustration against the Magpies is neither here nor there…

    No they will hang around like a Shakespearian ghost, upsetting better teams and throwing a spanner or two into our season, leading up to the ultimate – Collingwood v Carlton, whenever that may be…

    In a weekend where our foes threw off their shackles and showed us the scribes favorite scenario, Richmond v Weagles grand final, there was a little ray of sunshine into Magpie hearts. Robbie Gray did what every Magpie has ever dreamed of.

  3. John Butler says

    I’m detecting a few signs of growing concern there, George. :)

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