As an injured Ben Griffiths was being loaded onto the little bus at Bellerive, a North supporter shouted “Make ‘im pay for the petrol!” It was the second trip out for the bus, having taken brave Steve Morris off about five minutes into the game. We were already two goals and two men down (Grimes was a late late late withdrawal) and the game did not get any better.
My elder son Marcus and I caught the free ferry over from the Brooke St Pier with a crowd that seemed predominantly Richmond. All the ferries in town including MONA’s were mobilised, a smart move – no pushing or dramas because they minimised waiting. It was already bloody cold but the passage was calm and scenic. We were surrounded by a lot of mainlanders who were charmed by the city lights, the stars, the little bar right there on board and the novel way of arriving at the footy. Arriving en masse at the footy is quite different to departing; anything is still possible. And few of the arrivals will have been smashing the mid-strength lagers for 3 hours, which is a factor on your way home.
On Bellerive Quay we looked for food but the queues were heavy. Friend of TTBB Ben Walker materialised to advise that the fish and chips wait was 40 minutes, so we went to a local hot chicken shop and outwitted the system by walking out moments later with salads. As we ate the clammy salads with plastic forks outdoors at 4° I felt like a real winner already.
We made our way to the Hill and found a patch of grass. I actually prefer to stand, but the good standing places were full; and we had brought rugs for sitting so we settled down. Shortly after Dugald stepped over us on his way to his family nest, just a Trent Cotchin kick away. There were 17,000 there. The outer was predominantly Tigers but the big stands were solid Shinboner territory. They managed to sway the umpires a number of times with their massed noise.
Now, that’s enough scene setting, lets cut to the game. It was a terrible performance. Just abysmal. We asked ourselves afterwards what highlights we could recall and honestly for me it was the classic Lindsay Thomas greedy moment in the 2nd quarter. Two mates on for a handball near the goalsquare and he went the Hollywood checkside instead for a behind.
Our kicking at goal was poor. Our chasing was poor. Hampson got good numbers but [my usual proviso that I don’t know anything about footy here] I thought Daw killed him. We were lucky to be just 25 points down at halftime. The conditions were very slippery and neither side was handling the ball well. North were smarter; they found alternative roads to goal. Waite is in a form slump and didn’t contribute much; although I did see him go out of his way to fetch the boundary ump the ball which was nice. Ben Brown got his hands on it at least but only kicked one. While Harvey, Wells and Thomas equalled our score between them.
There is a slim chance that with 22 fit we could have held our own and gone down by that half time margin, and that would have got a tick from me. I am charitable enough to say that injuries denied us that slim chance.
Cotchin, Miles, Grigg, Rance, Batchelor and Hunt all performed, and Rioli had his usual glimpses of brilliance. Dusty and Jack were disappointing. When Griffiths went down I took the opportunity to get us some hot food; they weren’t taking EFTPOS but fortunately I had $4 so we had two potato cakes each and I forgot to salt them. Unforced errors everywhere you look.
Despite the cold we were actually quite lucky with the weather. No wind and if there had been even a light shower there would be a pneumonia epidemic now.
The last quarter was poor football all round and fans of both sides made early departures. We stayed for the final bell in the hope of seeing some bit of magic from our boys that might light up the night. No luck.
Waiting for the ferry, there was a mystery group who chose not to queue. The ferries were coming and going frequently, and after a short wait the MONA ferry tied up beside us. Downstairs I could see a table laid with about 400 sausage rolls and bottles of sauce. You beauty David Walsh I thought, laying on a free ferry AND throwing in the sozzie rolls for the punters, what a man he is. Of course our queue didn’t move and in no time the mystery group had filed aboard and could clearly be seen helping themselves to said rolls. It was the one ticketed ferry in amongst the generally otherwise free fleet.
Live AFL is still a rarity for me so it wasn’t until the next day that the glow faded and I thought about how genuinely terrible it was to lose that by 70 points. We have the best possible 3 weeks to patch our wounds; Gold Coast, bye, Brisbane. We need 8 points, percentage boost, players to get form and confidence and the injury list to shorten in those 3 weeks.