The day North won the flag

I started going to the footy with my brothers and father  in 1974. My first memory was my brother screaming “Ball”. I was watching him  with a mixture of awe and fear. I think I thought he was suffering from some kind of  madness. We were at the Lake Oval. North was playing South. I couldn’t hardly see anything, but we  were a family together, so I’m sure I loved it. In time, I realised that my brother was not the only fan screaming.  I realised that this was normal footy fan behaviour. Certainly, my usually mild mannered brother was usually in control of his senses, but it seemed when he stood in the outer, he became a slightly deranged fan.

During the second quarter, my father gave me a dollar to buy something. There was a strange looking kid wearing a white coat and a weather-worn cap shouting as they did in those days, “Drinks, lollies, chocolates and potato chiipppss”.  Walking past me he got his tray stuck on my jumper. Then began a dumb show that lasted a few minutes but felt like hours. He and I spoke no words at all.  I think we were both a little bewildered by the situation.  It was like a scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie as he twisted one way and I the other without any result. I eventually extricated myself from the tray and he and I exchanged relieved and bewildered glances, neither one blaming the other.Eventually, I went back to watching the backs of people and seeing the ball occasionally through heads and when a player kicked it too high. Whilst I couldn’t see the game much, I felt it as I could feel the banter amongst my brothers. The more back slapping,cheering and horse-play amongst my brothers, I knew that North were winning. The more my eldest brother angrily shouted, “Ball”, I knew it was going the other way.  1974 was a great year for a seven year old to start going to the footy. North had recruited Barassi and winning was something I simply expected to happen. Luckily I wasn’t going in 1972, when the team won just one game for the year. I imagine my brother would have been hoarse at the end of each game from yelling “Ball” all day because we were beaten so often.

In 1972, my brother was at Puckapunyal serving in the army. A letter he sent late in that year said, ” I heard that North may finally be kicked out of the league soon”. It was like this every year. Everyone used to say, “Poor old North”. Later on whenever I heard someone patronise my beloved club in this way, I would get angry. I still do. Yet when North got Barassi, everything changed. When I went to church, it was “God bless mummy and daddy  and please make North win”. God really was listening to me in those days. It never occured to me that there may be other children praying for their clubs. While we were winning. I kept praying. It was working for me so I kept doing it. Anyway, maybe God really did feel sorry for North as they were the only club without a premiership at that time.

In 1972, my father suffered a bout of depression. The doctor asked him why he supported such a lowly club as North and would he consider changing clubs. He felt that if he supported a more successful club, the depression might disappear. For my father, this was out of the question. You were North for life. Like the North motto, “Victory Demands Dedication”. He, like all of us, were dedicated supporters of North. That doctor obviously had no interest or understanding of how people are devoted to their clubs.

In 1974, we used to go to Arden Street and I remember watching Keith Greig dance about the wing. He would always make his opponent seem stupid. He was simply too smart, too clever and too brilliant for any other player he was matched with. He was possibly the best player I have ever seen. Injuries stopped his brilliance a couple of years later and he was never the same player.

In 1974, we made the Grand Final, which I expected, but we got walloped by Richmond. I learnt from my family from their reactions that day that we don’t like Richmond in this house. Until this day, they were just another team to me, but I too, didn’t forgive Richmond for causing my family heartache on Grand Final Day.

In 1975, there was a real feeling around our house that it could be our year. It was. My grandfather and his son, my uncle came to our house that day. They both had a sense of occasion and my mother saw it a s a positive that they wanted to sit in the rooms of the expectant winners. We all sat in the lounge room listening to 3KZ call the game.

During the day,  the atmosphere was tense in our house. In the lounge room there were exhuberant cries in the last quarter as it was clear North were going to win. I was in the kitchen jumping sky high as each goal was kicked. The whole house was abuzz. Everyone was jubilant and screaming with delight. My mother quietly smiled.

At the end of the game, amid all the noise, my father went missing.  He was nowhere to be found in the house. Finally, we found him. He was outside leaning against the side of the house howling and howling with tears. My mother said he was crying drunk. But, no, it was more than that.

Finally, at long last, his patience, his suffering, his belief, his hope and above all his loyalty and dedication would be rewarded. All the suffering, the horrendous hidings we got at  Collingwood, or at St Kilda, or from Richmond or from Carlton or from Essendon would all be forgotten. We had finally won the flag.

My father’s dedication to North was his victory. As the North motto says, ‘Victory Demands Dedication’ . My father was a true dedicated North man. Go the Roos!  We were the Premiers in 1975. Hooray for us!


  1. It’s great that your Dad stuck with them and ignored the doctor Paul. You were lucky to be a kid in a great North era. My first GF was 1977 and we know how that turned out! (Phil D)

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