Round 9 – North Melbourne v Brisbane: Channelling W.C. Fields

Two weeks ago, I sat in the top level of Etihad Stadium wanting to go home. I didn’t want to be there. First quarter against the Gold Coast Suns, and we were trailing by six goals. How on earth we could go over to Perth and beat Fremantle on their own deck just a week earlier has me scratching my head.

Being a North supporter is hard. Extremely hard. If you’re not witnessing a Jared Petrenko goal out of mid-air in the dying stages of a game to give Adelaide the win or a Nic Naitanui pack mark and goal after the siren, you’re watching gutsy efforts away from home against the Swans and Dockers, then insipid performances against Collingwood and the Suns just a week later. I rock up to Etihad Stadium on an overcast Melbourne day hoping to see some sort of retribution. Hoping that I won’t feel like leaving not 30 minutes into the game.

I’m extremely early. It’s 3:10 and the game doesn’t start for another 90 minutes. I do like being early, but I think I mistimed this one. I trudge up the ramp to level 3, and find a nice spot on the half-forward flank. I’m a sole soul in this stadium almost. I flick through the AFL Record, which is starting to become less and less interesting as the years go by, and finally the clock starts ticking towards the first bounce. I receive a text off my best mate (and housemate). I left home this morning to his confident reassurance that his Tigers would do a number on the Demons in the memory of Tommy Hafey. His text reveals a change of tone.

‘Can’t handle this’.

I start watching the scores on my phone tick over with interest, hoping for a Melbourne win, even though I picked Richmond. I soon find it hard to keep concentration though. A large pack of middle-aged people decide to sit directly behind me. The lady behind me is so large that her foot bumps the plastic of my chair, irritating me. What’s even more irritating is the raft of questions that are being reeled off by the group, to what seems like the only one with half a clue about AFL. ‘Are we playing the Kangaroos today?’ ‘Nah, North Melbourne’. ‘Who’s Tom Hafey?’ ‘Isn’t this where the Melbourne Storm are based?’ I groan, just loud enough so that they might hear me. I don’t think they do. To make matters worse, a young Dad with two children sits next to me. The two little girls are extremely fidgety. They slam the seat next to me down, release, then slam it again, and repeat. The Dad does nothing. The girls constantly clamber over the row of seats in front of us to stand on the railing, obstructing my view and just annoying me in general. They scream for Josh Green at the top of their lungs when the Lions run out. The Dad does nothing. The girls go back to playing with the chair next to me.

Finally, the teams run out onto the field, and I can focus on some footy. Tom Rockliff and Joel Patfull are late outs for Brisbane, making an already depleted team even worse. I set the pass-mark for today at a 90+ margin. But I know this North Melbourne outfit too well. This is the exact type of game where we will dominate every facet of the game, and have a scoreline that has much more behinds than goals. It’s Andrew Swallow’s first game back. I, along with the majority of the crowd, cheer when he gets his first touch. But, to no surprise, we kick three behinds to start the game. Brent Harvey breaks the trend with a nice finish from 50m, before Majak Daw takes a strong mark and converts. Two quick goals to Aaron Black and Leigh Adams, before another to Black, and suddenly it’s 35 to zip. I upgrade the pass-mark to 120 points now. Green kicks Brisbane’s first late in the quarter, much to the ear-piercing applause of the young girls next to me, before quarter time comes. It’s deja-vu. One quarter gone, and I already want to leave. However, this time I would just settle for a new seat, a few aisles across. I pick a fairly vacant block of seats, where I assume I’ll be left alone. Nope. Five young kids all set up shop behind me, and all put their feet up, with the occasional chair kick for good measure. I last 10 minutes, seeing Thomas kick a couple but mostly North burn their chances, before trying to find another spot. I go right up the top of level 3, where there is absolutely no one, bar an old North supporter listening to the radio on his phone. We are playing terribly. Behind after behind is scored, before Levi Greenwood, one of the worst kicks in the team, slots one. Brisbane youngster Michael Close finishes the first half with two goals of his own, and it’s a 39 point margin at the half.

I make another seat change, this time to level 1. The outer wing has a huge vacancy in seats that I noted from the top, so I head there. Second row, right in the thick of the action, perfect. Nuh uh. The row in front of me consists of about six young kids, who think it’s more fun to race down the steps of the ground to their seat, back to the top of the steps, back to their seats, and so on, all the while forcing me to shuffle sideways in my chair to let them past. It happens at least 15 times in 15 minutes. I give up. I’m not usually one to swear or appear ticked off in general, but when the father of one of children tells them off for not staying in their seat, I throw my hands up and let out a bit of a hurrah. Anyway, back to the action. We continue to spray shots at goal, but the likes of Harvey, Adams and Black all find the opening when given the chance. Thomas kicks his fourth, and I wonder if he could end up with a big bag. Daw excites with big marks, however his radar is off as well, finishing with 1.4 to his name. We kick 5.7 for the quarter, and lead by 70 at the last change.

Swallow is subbed off, probably as a precautionary, as the final quarter gets underway. Sam Gibson, probably our most-improved player this year, misses an easy shot at goal, before both Thomas and Harvey, so reliable in front of goal, also manage to miss. Sam Wright, probably the most unreliable in the team, kicks one from 45m out, stunning me. Then all is returned to normal when he misses one straight after. Green kicks another for the Lions. He’s a pocket-rocket. Jack Ziebell slams one through thanks to some clever work by Petrie on the goal line, before he ends up kicking his first of the night after four behinds. Goldstein takes the margin beyond 90 points with a superb shot from deep in the pocket, but continuing a largely disappointing game, Green replies straight away, making the final winning margin 87 points. The siren sounds, and having had enough of today, I exit, not even bothering to sing the song with our supporters. 40 scoring shots to eight. We really should have won by 160 points.

I devise a new rule in my head that all children under the age of 10 should not be allowed through the gates of AFL games. On the train home, I find it almost fitting that I am annoyed by two young siblings running around my feet trying to catch each other and constantly bumping into me while the Dad sits on his phone, completely oblivious.


North Melbourne 5.5 – 8.11 – 13.18 – 17.23.125
Brisbane 1.1 – 3.2 – 4.2 – 6.2.38


North Melbourne: Thomas 4, Black 3, Adams, Harvey 2, Petrie, Daw, Wright, Goldstein, Ziebell, Greenwood.

Brisbane: Green 3, Close 2, Beams.


North Melbourne: Harvey, Gibson, Thomas, Dal Santo, Nahas, Greenwood, Goldstein, Cunnington

Brisbane: Green, Redden

Crowd: 21,152 at Etihad Stadium

Votes: 3 – Brent Harvey, 2 – Sam Gibson, 1 – Lindsay Thomas.

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Josh, we’re difficulto please, aren’t we. I found myself concentrating on the negatives instead of the positives yesterday. Our kicking into the fifty and obviously at goal, was pretty bad. Jack was one of the culprits. Under very little pressure we still managed to stuff things up at times. And there was too much handball in defence, which North usually do. Under intense pressure at the Cattery next week, they will be punished for that. Brisbane’s inability, or refusal, to take the game on was frustrating. I know AFL footy is a possession game these days – players hold onto the ball until having somewhere to go, usually short to a teammate under the pump – but they offered no run or overlap, or risk. With forwards sucked up the ground or double teamed in Brown’s case, Brisbane refused to kick long to space to create a chase and contest for the ball in their scoring area. I wish Leppitsch had ordered some dare and run efter half-time. But, as i said, that’s not how modern day footy is played. No risk allowed. Great piece, as usual. Excellent detail. Are you heading down to the Cattery?

  2. Josh Barnstable says

    It was definitely disappointing to see so many players chip the ball sideways or backwards yesterday. Almost makes me want to get my money back.

    Won’t be making the trip Andrew, the semester is over so I’ve gone home for the week to relax a bit. Will settle for watching it on the telly. We play like we did yesterday and we’ll lose by 50.

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