The other Suns



The Suns are playing the Demons at the G.


I would have been there but a freaky wall of the most horribly foul weather kept my plane from taking off.


So it’s for two reasons I’m thrilled to hear the Suns Reserves are taking on Mt Gravatt Vultures in an NEAFL semi-final.


The first is I get my weekend fix.


The second is I’ll be watching a game that actually means something.


The venue is neutral territory. Victoria Point. Home to the Redland Bombers. Frankly, they can keep it. A pavilion made of beige colourbond offcuts and a boggy, patchily mown ground with more swampy undulations and miry permutations than Craig Emerson’s list of excuses. Metricon’s gleaming newness and velvety green expanses have clearly spoiled me.


When I arrive the Suns have the jump. Nathan Krakouer has it on a string. Steven May, a thumping big lump from the Northern Territory who looks all at sea as a defender in the Seniors is absolutely owning a high full forward job and Cairns-raised forward Charlie Dixon, another not-quite-yetter at AFL level, is ripping an unfamiliar rucking role apart. At the first siren the Suns are up by three goals and looking good. Perhaps too good. Today’s winner goes to Darwin to play the Thunder in a Prelim. No one beats them there. You might play an extra game if you lose, but at least you keep it local.


My thongs suck into the mud as I walk to the huddle for a listen in to Suns coach and former Lions mighty mite Shaun Hart. His head’s surprisingly small without the headgear on and he still looks fit enough to play. As is the modern way, the minutiae are left to the assistants. Harty chimes in with a general pep up at the end. He’s rapt with the effort, he likes the tackling, he wants three more quarters of exactly the same thing. Oh, and lower eyes when they go forward. Lots of that. Now go get into ‘em.


Even though the Vultures manage the first couple after the change, Harty gets pretty much everything he asked for. The young Suns run to space. Bodies muck in when they have to. Attack on the ball is strong. The goals inevitably come. And all against a fierce opponent that is playing well. It’s good footy.


There’s an oddly fictitious element to the Suns at NEAFL level. They don’t have enough players of their own to fill out playing roster so they have to borrow a few from other clubs. Today they’ve got pimply kids from Southport, Labrador and Broadbeach having a run. The coaches don’t know their names, so they’re barked at as numbers. Johnno tell 21 to swap with 15 and get on 20. We don’t want him getting another touch. Who’s that one in 27? Isn’t he a defender? Didn’t I ask him to go to the wing? End result is a lot of blokes in temporary jumpers unsure of what to do and a heap of the hardest work being left to the fourteen or so listed guys. Still, they manage well surprisingly well all things considered and mostly through the efforts of May, Krakouer and one or two others the Suns edge out to a four goal break at the main change.


It’s getting a bit bleak outside the pavilion’s main bar in among the second hand smoke and fond and colourful talk of nocturnal conquests of long ago. For the second half I head for the sunny bank on the scoreboard side.


The boys trot out a tepid second half warm up. I fear the worst even if I hope for the opposite. The Suns list will be aggressively whittled at season end. Many of these blokes are playing for their footballing lives. Guys like Jack Stanlake and Marc Lock – the latter last year’s VFL captain – haven’t yet snagged an AFL game. They must be worried. And blokes who’ve had a taste at top level – Liam Patrick, Taylor Hine, and Hayden Jolly – are far from safe. These guys have been big fish in small ponds until now. Reputations count for little anymore.


Unfortunately what follows does no Sun any immediate favour. From the bounce the mid-field is lethargic and fumbly and as often happens the disease spreads rapidly. To the contrary the Vultures, led by ex-Lion Albert Proud, are a wrecking ball. They kick something like ten straight to the Suns bugger all and race away in a blink.


Behind me a middle-aged couple in Vulture’s club merchandise are whooping it up for their ‘Mounties’. But they don’t so much celebrate their team’s impressive vein of form as pillory the Suns’ inability to keep up. Patrick’s labelled a lazy flog. Lock’s spoken of as a son born of illegitimacy, and Alik Magin, a crafty flaxen topped goalsneak, is relentlessly  – and wholly undeservedly – demeaned for being something less than brave. Eventually I crack.


“Why are you so down on Magin?” I ask. “You don’t think you’re being just a bit, well, weird?”


The bloke waves me off with the back of his hand and asks that I, um, make love to myself. His partner suggests that seeing as I adore young Alik so much I should probably run onto the field and, um, make love specifically to him. At least then Magin would be getting a touch, she reasons.


Cue spat pre-mixed bourbon, uproarious cackly laughter and a celebratory durry.


Sometimes you can only sigh.


Anyway, the Vultures are far too motivated. Their roll-on is an impressive one, a showcase of tough, physical, in-front footy. They arse goals from everywhere, one a ridiculous blind side snap, another a hack off the deck from forty. The writing’s soon enough on the wall. The Suns pull back, rest the semi-hurt, teach a few blokes lessons by allocating a couple of late run-with roles and otherwise look ahead to their second chance next week.


When the hooter sounds out for the last time it’s the Vultures by sixty or so. The Suns camp looks a little leg-weary and sore but no one looks too worried. Perhaps missing that trip to the Top End really will be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps they’ll pip Morningside next week. And perhaps they’ll get a battle scarred and dehydrated Mt Gravatt for a return bout in a fortnight and I can come and in-your-eye those two drunk and spiteful Vultures hill-lurkers.


Go you Suns Reserves.


Oh. For those interested, down in Melbourne the Demons won. Five or so goals in the end. Suns threatened for a bit. Nathan Ablett kicked one. Rischitelli was good. Some Melbourne kid called Blease was the best of the kids playing on both sides. Pretty much no one went.















  1. Matt Webber says

    CORRECTION: Apologies to Marc Lock, his family and loyal band of supporters. Seems Locky played Round One v Carlton, a less than sparkling although typically lion-hearted eight touch effort. Long time ago, though. Still reckon he’d be worried….

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Matt, enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of why I miss the reserves and all that goes with following a whole club. I watched the Suns – Dees game on TV in NSW. Hope the Suns can notch up a few wins for you next year.

  3. Matt Webber says

    I’m a Sainter, Pamela. My Sunsianism is borne purely of geography and general curiosity about the game’s new frontier. Thanks for the note though! I love the Ressies. And up here in SE Queensland it’s just basic warts and all footy, simple strategies, and big boofy naturally gifted fellas who couldn’t give a rats about 2km time trials and skinfolds. I like that.

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