Tough Thursday for Waaia and Melbourne

I remember just a couple of seasons ago, a game at the MCG late in the season between these two sides. The stands at the grand old stadium were basically stripped bare as two former great teams fought it out, trying to keep themselves furtherest away from rock bottom. The likes of Jack Watts and Nic Naitanui were battling it out against each other for the first time in what was seen as a dead-rubber contest, but the lingering thought of Jimmy Stynes’ cancer battle was deep in the back of every Melbourne player’s thoughts, which spurred them on to victory. Two years on, and these two teams meet on a Thursday night blockbuster in the west, battling it out in far different circumstances: trying to steal fifth position on the ladder.

Thursday’s are always a day I look forward to. They don’t have the same appeal and feeling that a Friday offers, but it is the feeling that you’re on the downhill part of the week, and footy starts taking 100% of everyone concerned with the AFL’s focus. It’s a bit different on this occasion though. Footy is on a Thursday night, even though Geelong fans are still soaking up the victory over Hawthorn on Tuesday. Wednesday was the only day without a slice of AFL action, it was as if ‘hump day’ was renamed ‘take a breath day’ by Andrew Demetriou and co. Round 5 quickly became Round 6, with a rare prime time game between the two cellar dwellers of the past few seasons.

Footy training came first though. It was a cold night, the ground at Waaia was in shocking condition, the tractor had been on it, the sprinklers had soaked the ground, causing dirty wet patches all around the field. The precipitation on the grass was surprisingly refreshing and chilling, and with the sun seeping behind the trees in the west, the conditions were icy at best. It hurt to kick the footy, I could feel the skin on my foot smarting where the ball comes into contact. I don’t envy Lindsay Thomas’ boot-less goal last year against the Brisbane Lions; I’m surprised he didn’t miss the week after with ‘foot soreness’. Now that I think of it, I’m super glad he didn’t miss the game (I hope you still remember, Carlton fans).

Two laps of the oval is the warm-up, 10 laps around the centre square is ‘extra warm-up’. I cut the corner on the very last lap, and the coach saw me. I swear he was looking the other way when I did it. Everyone was down for 20 push-ups. I went to finish the lap and swallowed a fly. I spent the next five minutes deciding whether or not to spew up everywhere on the cricket pitch. I held it in. The group’s kicking skills were well down, I didn’t know whether it was the excitement of the upcoming Royal Wedding or they were just flat coming off a bye (if it can happen to AFL clubs it can happen to us). I could see the coach’s brow furrowing even deeper as easy kicks were booted too far or too short, handballs were missed and marks were dropped. We got told to run a warm-down lap to finish off. As we came across the home stretch, two of the newer boys ducked off past the fence and into the bushes, probably for a smoke. I didn’t bother getting changed, straight in the car with Dad back home so I wouldn’t miss the start of the footy. I later learnt it was only 7:10. I watched the Biggest Loser, and played with the new family kitten. 8:30 soon came around, and it was quite a different sort of approach to a game by Channel 10. A break as soon as the introduction had started, and the bounce before the teams even flashed up on the screen. Yep, Thursday night footy is a bit weird.

West Coast Eagles and Melbourne, two of the struggler’s in recent times. The major, if only, beneficiary of that however, has been the acquisition of the star youngsters in the draft. And the opening few minutes showcased that for both sides. Dean Cox won the first tap, with Nic Naitanui (Pick 2, 2008) roving the ball. He sprinted away, but shanked the kick inside 50. Melbourne cleared, with Jack Watts (Pick 1, 2008) taking a good mark over a West Coast defender. The Demons turned it over in the midfield though, with Jack Darling (Pick 26, 2010) taking a strong grab over the top of Jack Grimes (Pick 14, 2007). Darling kicked the goal, giving the Eagles the perfect start. Cox won another hitout, with Daniel Kerr benefiting from the armchair ride out of the middle. A stoppage inside 50 for the Eagles saw Cox palm the ball down to Andrew Embley who waltzed into an easy goal, West Coast 2.2.14 and the Demons hadn’t gone inside 50 yet. Naitanui excited the crowd again with another daring run, but only to miss the goals. Mark Nicoski took a good juggling mark, touching the ball at every point around his body before controlling it in between his legs. He converted, before Josh Kennedy booted his first from a free kick. Melbourne were playing a woeful kind of football. Three inside 50’s for the opening quarter was worse than some of Waaia’s efforts over the years, and they were turning the ball over at least every three disposals. Brent Moloney tried hard for Melbourne though, as he does every weekend (or weekday, in this case). His bullocking style towards his football is outstanding, however he was beautifully wrapped up in a tackle at half back, forcing a loose ball. Embley received the handball deep in the pocket, and beautifully bent the ball through with the checkside kick, capping off a terrific first quarter by the Eagles.

The Demons had a dream start to the second quarter, which came about 40 minutes too late. Nathan Jones kicked a good, classy goal on the run from 50m out, but the Eagles replied with ease, James Frawley blindly handballing away straight into the hands of Brad Ebert, which set up the next goal to Embley from 10m out. It was Ebert again setting up a major, with his good eyes spotting Darling alone inside 50, and his good boot finding him. Last year he would’ve shanked the kick, guaranteed. Waaia needs to get a hold of the West Coast kicking trainer. Darling booted the goal, and I was starting to feel a bit uneasy about the Roos taking Shaun Atley at pick 18. Melbourne hit some sort of form late in the half though, with Colin Sylvia ramming home his first from 40m on the run, then straight from the clearance, Watts flicked it out to Aaron Davey who converted on the run, cutting the margin to 26 at the main break.

The shock injury to Mark LeCras in the opening round of the season against North Melbourne was quite bizarre; after kicking for goal across his body he went down like the proverbial. A groin tear. 10-12 week injury. Here he is making his return in Round 6. It was clear he was needing a goal to get back into the rhythm of things, he was taking every single chance he could get, regardless of whether his teammates were in better positions. The opening play of the third quarter highlighted this, after a loose ball went behind a pack, LeCras sprinted in and kicked the ball off the ground, not worrying about bending over and getting his fingernails dirty. He missed, but it was quickly back in the hands of Kennedy, who kicked his second. Moloney, who must visit the same tanning centre and get the same oil treatment before the game as Andrew Swallow, took an uncontested mark inside forward 50 and booted the goal, but the Eagles replied with LeCras again playing with fire, taking the advantage from a Nicoski free kick (not for the first time) but this time the result was different, with the Frenchman snapping the goal. Nicoski had a proper chance at goal from deep in the boundary line, but kicked it wide across the face, where Kennedy was gifted with a shot with an equally tough angle. He missed, but when the chance came from front and centre, Lynch took advantage, snapping a major after another superb Cox hitout. West Coast led by 40 points going into the final break.

The loose checking of the West Coast players would be deemed about the third worst problem for Melbourne, which is a worry because it was a bad problem. Loose Eagles could be found everywhere on the field, and Lynch found two of them, one being Nicoski free in the forward line, he hit him straight on the chest (from the wing), who in turn handballed to Embley in the goalsquare, and the Eagles’ favourite had his third goal from the paint in the goalsquare. From the next clearance, Melbourne won it forward and Watts, who impressed with his pressure, got his chance to kick a goal after shrugging a tackle deep in the forward line. West Coast hit back with Lynch and Darling kicking their third goals, while Naitanui and Kerr tussled up Lynden Dunn after being activated from his sub position. Dunn is the type of player you want to get stuck into on the field, so if the case goes to the tribunal, I think they should take that into account. Dunn got his own back, however, kicking a goal after some fancy play by Jamie Bennell. Rosa kicked a goal from the goal line after 50m penalty, and I was emphatic towards the blowing of the siren. The scoreline was 100-50. Perfect! I watched in horror as Nicoski again took an uncontested mark inside 50, and booted the goal to ruin the scoreline. Melbourne kicked a couple of behinds to rub it in my face as they lost by nine goals in a disappointing display.

Thursday night footy is a bit strange.

West Coast 5.3—7.8—10.12—15.16.106

Melbourne 0.2—3.6—4.8—6.16.52


West Coast-Darling 3, Lynch 3, Embley 3, Kennedy 2, Nicoski 2, LeCras

Melbourne-Dunn, Watts, Davey, Moloney, Jones, Sylvia


West Coast-Priddis, Cox, Darling, Embley, Nicoski, Mackenzie, Kerr, Ebert, Butler

Melbourne-Grimes, Jones, Garland


36,298 at Subiaco Oval


3: Matthew Priddis (WC)

2: Dean Cox (WC)

1: Jack Darling (WC)

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. Jake 'Cobba' Stevens says

    Footy training is such a chore when the condition and the team is like that.
    I hope Waaia can turn it around shortly :)

  2. John Butler says


    No Blues fan would forget Mr Thomas’ night out last season.

    I watched him play a similarly dominant game in a practice match against the Dogs. They couldn’t stop him.

    But he so often goes missing. It must frustrate Roos supporters.

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