Round 8 – Port Adelaide v St Kilda: A ten minute doorway to football heaven

I have no idea exactly when, but somewhere in the third, Port versus Saints went off!


It was that moment; next goal wins. -2 minutes to go, 118, whatever, even the worst blowouts have them. When the entirety of two teams knows one is about to get their backs broken. A moment or two you live in. You live through.


For eight minutes or ten, or whatever, the game existed on another plain, up and beyond.


The very best of football.


Bodies flew, all loose players were checked. Spoils were mighty. Players didn’t biff, but they flew and smashed and crashed and bashed. They landed on each other with knees and elbows, their tackles were brutal.


These players, these freaks, with all the skills in the world. The pressure was so intense, the moment became glorious for all its negatives.




Defenders were so d.e.s.p.e.r.a.t.e, barely a mark was taken.


The one-on-one so intense I’ve never, ever seen fewer drop punts.


Footy, at its worst, for me, was pre-modern Geelong. For a long time it was entirely about maintaining possession. Thanks to the Cats of ’07. ’09, ’11, and better defensive structures, the creed had become; keep it moving forward. The game’s motto has been speed.


This year it’s simply up several notches. And in this game, in those minutes, again, up 20! Forward, forward! Maintaining possession? Who needs it? If you’re checked, tap it down, tap it on, soccer, slap it on the boot.


In those live-or-die seconds that lasted minutes, every possession was under the pump! Every! Slap, slap! Get some leather on it. Move it forward, a few feet, ten metres, forty. Trust me, everyone’s manned, it will go to a contest.


I’ve never, in all my time watching ever seen more handballs go straight to the opposition. These men who can lace-out handballs to a drunken fly through a sea of arms, or swat a mozzie with the Sherrin, flying wide at 30.


How would you like that handball, Sir? Bending into your trajectory? Punched hard, so it cuts through defenders? Under legs, high a bit, low? Over the back of my head? As I’m being flung 360 in a tackle?


Have you ever gone as seen them train? These full-time athletes? With insanely fit, other planet reflexes? So much of it, time and again, is against each other in a ten-metre radius. Only now it was 5 metres, two, one. Don’t get pinned! Punch it and hope! Aim for the improbable, the impossible.


As players get fitter I worry for them. Eventually the tasks they give, their bodies will simply be incapable withstanding. Muscles and lungs, out-of-this-world, will hurl them where knees, ankles, hammies, heads simply weren’t built for.


But until then…


Arms, legs, bodies, Port and St Kilda threw them to the wind, they threw them over boots, and into walls. It was just electrifying! The desperation spoke of passion. Of identity.


They live for footy. For glory. A win is everything. This was the culmination of all their training.


Yet the game still spoke of both teams. And so did this moment from above. Yes, there were stars out there – Dixon; an old world brute! Butler – Milne without the baggage. But there was no cut above star to turn chaos into order. To take all that violence and shake it by the throat until it was tamed. If not owned.


Just the night before, there was a game of totally different blueprint. Just another of millions you’ll watch and forget, like the rest of Port and St Kilda, good entertainment, saved, and made something more, by the ridiculous ballet between Greene and Martin.


If I could have made a t-shirt to remember that match, or written a review of it, even, it would have been as simple as; 4 + 4 = 6 votes.


Hell, give them 6 each. It was phenomenal! The game see-ed, it sawed, on the back of two men. Greene obliterated two time premiership players. Dusty tore apart the game’s best defenders, and defensive structures.


Then, when the ball was no longer coming down to him, Dusty went on-ball and ripped the game up some more. He made things happen.


Then, when the ball was no longer coming down to him, Greene started leading as far down as half back.


Neither champion accepted their fate. Neither of them waited for the game to come to them. Or pass them by.


There you go, whingers, people who say the game lacks the characters of yore. Maybe it does.


Okay, it does.


But they’re not all gone. Love, hate, or both love and hate them, the two men that made Richmond/Giants their own have personality in spades.


It was almost ridiculous – a real tiger and a real giant roamed amongst mortals.


Either one of them would have destroyed that ten minutes of collisions between Port and the Saints, in one or two. Made it not exist at all.


The Power and St Kilda are Top 8. Their insane pressure, fitness, discipline under fire and desperation showed that. Richmond and Giants are Top 4. That have all that and a bit more.


Aussie Rules spins, it rolls, it grows. Supporters from the 50s, according to my dad, pissed and moaned about that namby-pamby game played in the 70s.


In the 80s and 90s, fans cried with yearning for the glory days of the 70s.


The fact is, it was our youth we were in love with, and always will be.


To the kids these days, watching my idols, Bourke, Croswell, Clay, Jess, Wilson, Schimma, Southby, Blight, Vanda must seem incredibly dull to them, slow.


Fortunately, I also love Buddy, Rampe, Gwan, Houli, Taylor, Gary Jr.


Any generation, the names roll on. The Sherrin keeps spinning.


On Saturday night, for eight minutes or ten, or whatever, there was the sort of intensity you only ever saw, back in the day, for a few minutes. Payers were just not fit enough back then.


And what a ten minutes it was!


A moment, that seemed to last forever.


That, somewhere in time, I am still in, watching as if living it. Basking in its football glory!



Eventually, somebody grubbed through a goal, the universe snapped back to normal. Everyday football resumed. Players ran wide, deliverers had time to deliver to them.


Wingers existed again.


Marks were taken, goals scored.


But, for those ten minutes or so, one hopes, I saw the future of football.




For more from Matt Zurbo, click here.


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  1. John Butler says

    Loved this, Matt.

    I agree, too much whining about the game.

    If the AFL media want to bemoan a lack of personalities, they need to look no further than a mirror.


  2. I admire your passion for the game, Old Dog.
    It is infectious.

  3. Err, no pun intended in the above comment.

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    Haha, on ya, Smokie! Yeah, imagine if this piece got picked up by mainstream media and went, y’know…

  5. Rulebook says

    Love you’re passion,Old dog you beat me I admit I’ve fallen out of love with the game combination of style,
    the umpiring instructions and positioning ( how,Hayden Kennedy is still in a high position has me beat ) for mine are just so wrong as a umpire I used to get so frustrated now days I’ve just given up.i did see the final,15 minutes or so of this game and the Saints were impressive

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