Tough Going for Waaia, North and Suns

The long wait was finally over. Everyone was looking forward to this moment. This would shape the whole football season. Waaia v Katunga, the two biggest rivals in Picola District footy were going head to head in the season opener.

The routine of getting ready for the footy on a Saturday morning had come back to me easily. Getting my kit from the dryer, dusting my boots off, stretching my legs in the loungeroom, I was ready to go. I needed to get a massage on my left quad, which has been playing up for a couple of weeks now. It felt like I was dragging a big heavy log along the ground when it was at its worst.

After the most painful massage ever, I felt alright. Playing against Katunga is good because it’s the only team left that has all your mates from school in it. There’s a lot on the line, other than the four points. I donned my number 20 for the fourth year running. It had become my number. I was born on the 20th, my locker number is 20, and it was my jumper number. Running out on the field, it felt good to be playing again. Running towards me at the start of the first quarter was fellow Almanacker Jeff Paterson, who proceeded to put his arm around me and put himself between me and the waterboy whenever he ventured over. It made for an interesting contest. Waaia’s hopes of pulling off a huge upset win were dashed fairly quickly, with Katunga getting out to a big lead in the first half. As both teams broke out of their respective huddles, I ran to Jeff with his back turned to me and bumped into him, knocking him on the ground (that may not be entirely accurate) which was pretty much my only highlight of the match. Jeff was getting moved to the forward line, where we made a $3 bet that he wouldn’t kick a goal. He didn’t, but I never got my money. Katunga won 19.20.134 to 1.0.6.

The situation in the rooms after the game wasn’t good. Our best player was still injured after a knee reconstruction, one of our star recruits had broken his collarbone in the opening minutes and was awaiting an ambulance, and I was suffering to severe cramp in my quad. I had to leave quickly and go to work though, so I put the horror morning behind me.

Arriving at the radio station a few minutes late, I dived into my studio to commence my show. Collingwood and North Melbourne was on my mind, so I opened up a live-scoring website. The first thing I noticed was that Collingwood were winning, by a lot. Just as I expected. Work went by quickly, while the Magpies piled on the goals. I got to my sisters house just around the corner from the station to watch the second half, and it was a nighmare. But I wasn’t too unhappy, the same thing happened in 2010, and it was a fairly good year. My real focus was on the much-awaited Gold Coast v Carlton match.

Ever since North Melbourne rejected the AFL’s push for relocation, the Gold Coast Suns have been in the making. Finally, the machine would be unleashed for the very first time. They looked ordinary early on though. Jarrad Waite had kicked the first goal after getting past Jarrod Harbrow, before Bret Thornton took a surprise pack mark to convert his chance. Andrew Walker continued his game-change, marking and goaling with a great kick from 45m out, then Jeff Garlett nailed one from on the run outside 50. Thornton showed us tricks we didn’t know he had with a superb banana goal, and Carlton were five goals up against the future powerhouse. It was fitting that Gold Coast’s first goal came through an impressive link of some of their first-ever players. Michael Rischitelli passed to Jared Brennan, then to Brandon Matera, who kicked it into the path of Charlie Dixon. Dixon is a huge boy, he’ll be better than Jonathon Brown, and when you’ve got a 202cm, 105kg man mountain running straight at you, it was no surprise Jeremy Laidler had to leave the field to change his footy shorts. Dixon had the goal, but it was the Blues who put their foot to the accelerator again, with goals to Walker, Kade Simpson after a 50m penalty against Brennan, Robbie Warnock from a free kick and finally Garlett landed a long goal from outside 50 on the boundary line. Carlton had stunned many, but did what many expected they would do, leading by 52 points at quarter time.

It didn’t take long for it to be extended on, with Mitch Robinson snapping his first from the contentious new advantage rule, but Dixon replied quickly, snapping his second. David Swallow wasn’t doing much, I noticed. Chris Judd pushed forward and goaled in his 200th match, but the slick Harley Bennell split the middle from a tight angle in the forward pocket. Again the beneficiary of the advantage rule went to Carlton as Garlett kicked his third, then the exciting Ed Curnow snapped truly. I was nodding in approval at his game, I was quietly chuffed that I picked him in my Supercoach side instead of the fan favourites D Swallow, Andrew Krakouer and Nicholas Duigan. Walker finished the first half with back to back goals, one from a 50m penalty against the skillful Matera. Carlton led by a huge 74 points at the first half. Gary Ablett had had a stinker of a first half, and the million dollars he took to relocate started to look less attractive.

Curnow was at it again in the third quarter, passing to Marc Murphy, who in turn split the middle to break the ton for the Blues. The Suns hit a purple patch though, with Danny Stanley converting from a very hefty 50m penalty, then Matera showed flashes of brilliance his father and uncle showcased every weekend in the past, goaling on the run from 40m. Josh Fraser landed a big goal from 55m out, and Gold Coast were back within 63 points. Waite made Harbrow look silly as he danced past him to kick his second, then Eddie Betts got his name on the goalkickers list. Warnock moved gracefully towards the ball on a long lead, marking on the 50m line before going back and splitting the middle. Everything was working for Carlton. Seb Tape has a lot to learn about awareness as he was run down by Jordan Russell, which then resulted in a snap goal to Judd. Garlett booted his fourth, and in a flash the margin was out to 92 points. But it was still the Suns’ most productive quarter.

Thornton looked really good for Carlton, even though he was playing on teenagers, he still impressed me, especially with his high, unorthodox snap goal from the goalsquare to start the final quarter. Dixon missed a soda for the Suns, before it was whizzed down the other end, ending in a fifth goal to Garlett. Thornton took a great contested mark after Judd danced around a GC youngster, then Betts showed his impressive work rate, kicking the ball to a pack, then gathering the crumbs to run into an open goal. It was a complete nightmare for anyone involved with the Suns, but there were some bright lights. Dion Prestia is a Leigh Montagna in a making, while Harley Bennell can be everything Daniel Wells couldn’t be. The lowlights were easy to come across though. Brennan was at his lairising worst, making unrealistic attempts at speckies, while Campbell Brown failed to make an impression from the backline. One recruit did shine though. One of my old favourite players, Daniel Harris. Harshly treated at the Roos by Dean Laidley, he was cut in 2009, despite being one of North’s better performers all throughout the year and before that. But he’s really transformed himself from a slow clearance king to a running midfield machine. He showed his nous in front of goal too, splitting the middle from the boundary line after sharking a Zac Smith hitout. His passion for his new team who showed immense faith in him was obvious as he grabbed and kissed his guernsey. That’s why I like him, his passion. A final goal to Walker ended the horror night for the Gold Coast, losing by 20 goals.

Bigger losses will come, but the players will improve. They still have a huge array of talent on the sidelines, and they have one of the best players in the competition. But this won’t be the first time the Suns will be eclipsed.

Gold Coast Suns 1.1—3.5—6.8—7.10.52

Carlton 9.5—15.7—21.10—26.15.171


Gold Coast Suns-Dixon 2, Matera, Stanley, Fraser, Harris, Bennell

Carlton-Garlett 5, Walker 5, Thornton 4, Judd 2, Warnock 2, Betts 2, Waite 2, Curnow, Murphy, Robinson, Simpson


Gold Coast Suns-Harris, Dixon, Rischitelli, Matera, Smith

Carlton-Judd, Gibbs, Thornton, Murphy, Garlett, Walker, Carrazzo, Yarran, Curnow, Betts, Warnock


27,914 at the Gabba


3: Chris Judd (CARL)

2: Bryce Gibbs (CARL)

1: Bret Thornton (CARL)

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. Peter Schumacher says

    I thought that this was a really good balanced report all round. Indeed as I wasn’t able to get within earshot of any commentary it made this contribution all the more interesting for me.

    And go Waaia!

  2. johnharms says

    Josh, I see they have named a stadium after your mate Geoff. Some amusing lines in your piece. Hope all is well up there – better than it is at Arden St at the moment.


  3. Steve Healy says

    Another fine article from your mind, Josh.

    It’s nice to see you’ve followed the grain of the umpires and given Judd 3 votes. I look forward to seeing the Suns lose by even more in coming weeks, but I thought their gaping hole was the very ordinary performances of each of their uncontracted signings, except maybe Rischitelli. As for Karmichael Hunt, he looked completely lost on the footy field. it seemed all his possessions were smothered or ineffective.

Leave a Comment