The Olympic Spirit – in a lone shade of Red & Blue

July 28, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons, Our history 

Nigel Dawe

Not that I’ve ever thought myself even remotely the philosopher, certainly philosophical, at times; but my favourite philosopher of all time – Friedrich Nietzsche, once said: “The philosopher knows not where to stand if not on the extended wings of all ages.”

And this comment somehow perfectly captures my fascination with historical events and entities like our grand old football club, and the Olympic Games, when it’s all said and done.

My earliest memory is actually the 1980 Moscow Olympics (and that haunting “Moscow, Moscow…” chant of a theme song that perhaps in hindsight, also doubled-up as a ploy to subconsciously convert the rest of the world to Russia’s form of Communism). Having also been born in the Montreal Olympic year of 1976, the Olympic spirit has certainly swept me up in its reaches (not so much these days) but every four years when it rolls around.

That said, one of the most forgotten, uniquely placed, albeit unheralded Olympians, was a former Melbourne Footballer called Corrie Gardiner, and if it wasn’t for him, then Australia could not now claim (as one of only five nations to be able to do so) to have had athletes attend each and every Summer Olympic Games.

To paint a picture of Corrie, then perhaps envisage a dark-haired bolter along the lines of Ed Langdon but with a dapper, Jake Lever moustache. Corrie was actually a wingman in Melbourne’s first VFL premiership-winning team of 1900.

Of the 18 games the side played that year, Gardiner featured in 16 of them, not to mention the Grand Final, that Melbourne won by 4 points, against the overwhelming favourites – Fitzroy (who actually had their horse carriages emblazoned with ‘Premiers 1900’ waiting outside the ground before the game had even commenced!)

In 1904, the Olympic Games were held in the American city of St Louis, for which our Corrie Gardiner was the sole athlete to represent Australia (there is a second representative who is often mentioned, but he was quick to head straight home without even kitting up when he caught sight of how athletes were actually staying in tents in a city park!) Thus, it would be an understatement to say the games of ‘04 were a far cry from the razzle and pampered dazzle of our more modern-day Olympic affairs.

Alongside the two Zulu tribesmen who attended the St Louis Games for the marathon, and the 92 ‘foreigners’ (41 of which were from neighbouring Canada) Corrie Gardiner seems to have acquitted himself well, indeed you could say he even showed a true ANZAC spirit, a full decade before there was even such a Gallipoli-forged thing.

And so, as it is with the gleaming essence of the spirit of ANZAC, there is a certain sacred, or undiminishable glory to the ‘give all you’ve got’ hard fought loss; Corrie ended up finishing fourth in the heat of his 110m hurdles event in St Louis and was also unplaced in the long jump.

But long may he be remembered, as the lone combatant of not just the country from Down Under – that never backs away from a fight, but the premiership-winning Melbourne footballer, who single-handedly flew the grand old flag on a truly world stage.

The Melbourne premiership-winning 'Olympian' - Corrie Gardiner

Both Sides Beaten To The Draw

July 24, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
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Round 18 – Melbourne V Hawthorn

Liam Chambers

There’s definitely a different mindset at Melbourne this season but sometimes complacency is the enemy of success. After last week’s sterling performance against the tough and talented Port Adelaide, victory over the seventeenth placed Hawks should have been a given. Unfortunately, someone forgot to send Hawthorn the memo and Alastair Clarkson’s boys came out swinging.

It shouldn’t be a cause for concern though, as the only top eight team Melbourne hasn’t beaten this year is the West Coast Eagles; because we haven’t played them yet. It is curious though why the Dees should continually struggle against the lower ranked sides.

They started well, mounting some good forward pressure but only racking up minor scores until Jayden Hunt kicked a beauty from the 50m line. The Hawks were proving dangerous when they got the ball to ground level inside 50 and Daniel Howe was able to finish with a snap kick from 35m. Melbourne was intercepting well, taking contested marks but Hawthorn was still getting quite a bit of the ball and making inroads to inside 50.

After soaking up the Hawks pressure, the Dees got forward and Charlie Spargo was able to score with a nice kick against the flow of play. Spargo was involve again when he kicked a ball to Ben Brown who marked to the right of goal but the big forward was unable to convert. Not so when Spargo’s set shot into the goal square allowed Brown to pick up the ball and score with a sideways kick through traffic. Alex Neal-Bullen made it four when he received the ball 45m out from an Aaron VandenBerg delivery.

With the Dees leading by 20 points at the start of the second, they would have expected to build on their lead, especially with the Hawks’ lack of accuracy in front of goal so far.
When Clayton Oliver got the ball to Bailey Fritsch, the Demon’s top scorer didn’t miss from his set shot. A 26 point lead looked very promising for the Dees and halfway through the quarter, they were comfortably in control.

Hawthorn finally had reason for optimism though when Ben McEvoy was awarded a penalty inside 50 and duly kicked the sherrin through the uprights. Bailey Fritsch restored the margin when he grabbed the ball from a VandenBerg kick, turning to snap another goal. Melbourne then launched an all out assault on their forward half but the Hawks survived and hit back.

First Jacob Koschitzke took a mark 30m directly in front. The goal prove inspirational and Tom Phillips made it back to back majors when he snapped one through after some good passing play by Hawthorn. Suddenly the Hawks were on fire and Luke Breust made it three in a row.

The last 5 minutes before half time was a goal fest for Hawthorn and they also kicked the first after the break when Max Gawn was pinged for an alleged infringement. The 50m penalty against the Dees’ Captain was a very tough call and gifted James Worpel a kick from point blank range. Max was fired up and won advantage from the centre bounce clearance before kicking it long to inside 50 where Tom McDonald collected on the bounce and and kicked it through the posts.

Almost immediately, Luke Breust got his second from a set shot after a high contact tackle. Later, Angus Brayshaw was awarded a 50m penalty when he was tackled after marking the ball and then Kysaiah Pickett continued the momentum for the Dees when he pounced on a loose ball to soccer kick it across the line.

None of this slowed the Hawks down though and Dylan Moore scored from a set shot after a good tackle before Mitch Lewis clawed the margin back to 5 points with his conversion directly in front of goal. By now Hawthorn was visibly growing in confidence and self belief, knowing they were in a position to cause a major upset. Melbourne fought back but could only manage a few minor scores on the board. Then Tom Mitchell got the Hawks to within a point with his flying shot from 45m.

With the scoreline so finally balanced, the Dees would need all their skills and experience to turn the brown and gold tide. Unfortunately Hawthorn’s Mitch Lewis opened the scoring and put Hawthorn ahead for the first time in the game. Melbourne was nervous now and the momentum was with the opposition. Luckily for the Dees there were a few shaky Hawks players as well and they were able to hang on.

Bailey Fritsch helped steady the ship and nailed his angled set shot from 35m to make it a one point game. When Kysaiah Pickett scored his second, it felt like the Dees would be able to claim back the game and win relatively comfortably. However, the last ten minutes made for a nail bitingly close contest where neither side could land the killer blow.

Then with less than a minute to go and the Melbourne faithful thinking their side had done enough to cling on for a one goal win, Luke Breust popped up again and scored his third of the night with a running kick to secure the draw.

We play the Western Bulldogs again in Round 19 and it would be a brave punter who’d predict the result of that clash. Of course I’m blindly betting that the lads will continue to confound their critics and make it back to back wins over the Doggies.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

From Slump To Pumped

July 16, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
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Round 17 – Port Adelaide V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

Our last trip to Adelaide Oval ended in a one point loss; with a little help from the Umpire. That time we were the firm favourite, this time, thanks to a recent slump in form, we were the underdogs.

The early signs were good for Melbourne. They were winning more of the stoppages and the players looked determined to take the game to the opposition. With more inside 50s, the Dees were setting themselves up to score but their first major proved elusive until Luke Jackson took a great grab from a Christian Salem kick. Ben Brown, back after a stint in the VFL, used his body effectively to assist with the mark. Jackson lined up and scored from 45m out.

The good omens continued with Steven May and Tom McDonald showing improvement. In fact both sides were playing well but it was Port Adelaide who scored next when Karl Amon found a way to turn in a tight space and snap a kick. Good finish. So far it was a close game with Melbourne’s back six looking very impressive and keeping Port at bay. Eventually though Ollie Wines found a way through when he collected the ball 25m in front of goal and kicked for home.

Charlie Spargo then evened up the score again after he was taken high and scored from a difficult angel. Following Spargo’s goal, Melbourne got the advantage from the centre bounce and Christian Petracca launched a bullet to inside 50 before Tom McDonald took a handpass from Luke Jackson to score from just outside the goal square.

After the Demons best first quarter in recent weeks, the players were looking motivated and inspired. However, Port was mounting some serious pressure and storming into the Dees’ defensive 50. There were chaotic scenes all round until Connor Rozee took control and kicked the ball cleanly to score the Power’s second.

Then the tide turned in Melbourne’s favour as the ball came out of their defensive 50 with Michael Hibbert getting it from the ground up to Angus Brayshaw who handed it on to Jackson. The ruckman’s controlled kick targeted McDonald who quickly spotted Petracca speeding towards goal. The kick was perfectly timed and fell into the midfielder’s hands. Tracca just kept going, with Aliir Aliir hot on his heels, before tapping it through for the finish.

Next goal came as Port tried to make a break but were cut off by Dees’ ring of steel on the 50m line. Bailey Fritsch lost the ball initially but got it back and passed it to Kysaiah Pickett. The small forward then showed why he’s so dangerous as he ran on, turned and kicked from 45m, watching the ball sail through the uprights. Petracca got another one when his brilliant pick up and follow on kick from the pocket bounced kindly across the line.

Suddenly the Dees were 20 points to the good. Tom McDonald showed he’s back to his focused best as he collected the bouncing ball and calmly kicked it towards Bailey Fritsch, even as several Port players were closing in behind him. Fritsch marked and played on, kicking towards goal. Another series of friendly bounces saw the ball crossed the line for the Dees’ seventh of the night.

Now Port Adelaide was ladling on the pressure, desperate to reduce the margin before half time. Melbourne were penned in but found a way our via Clayton Oliver who’s kick was superbly marked with one hand by McDonald. In turn, he picked out Fritsch who was running towards inside 50 but Aliir got to the mark first. All the pressure was bound to pay off for Port eventually and the goal finally came when Trent McKenzie launched a massive kick from 55m.

The home crowd’s joy was short lived as Pickett was awarded a 50m penalty and scored from point blank range inside the goal square. However in the interest fairness, Charlie Dixon was awarded a free kick when Steven May held on too long. Dixon scored from the set shot after the siren sounded.

After the break, Mitch Georgiades scored the opening goal of the second half with his set shot from the pocket. The goal fired up the Port fans and players but Melbourne held back the incursions into their territory and finally found a way out and up the pitch.

Ben Brown was putting in a workmanlike performance and making a valuable contribution. Even though Port was having the better part of the play, they couldn’t make it count and still trailed by 15 points at the three quarter point of the term. Then Georgiades got his second and the margin was down to single figures.

Melbourne’s response was immediate when they won the advantage from the centre bounce clearance. Alex Neal-Bullen’s kick to McDonald was perfect and the big forward converted impressively. T Mac has clearly been practicing keeping the ball in play as he again ran outside the boundary while holding the sherrin one handed on the inside. As he ran he launched the kick, bending it like Beckham. The ball curled and curled before finally slipping just inside the upright. Suddenly Tom was Port’s enemy number one with wanted posters going up all around Adelaide town.

With a 22 point lead, the Dees were looking good with Port needing the first goal of the last quarter to regain some momentum. It took some time but it was the Demons who got the first major when Petracca kicked his third. Melbourne was firing on all cylinders.

Tracca was also involved in the next goal when his long ball kick to the 50m line was slapped on by Fritsch to Pickett. The young gun launched the perfect kick from 50m and watched it float sublimely through the posts, effectively snuffing out Ports’ last hope of a comeback. In a carbon copy of his second quarter goal, Charlie Dixon again kicked after the siren but it was purely consolatory.

When the Dees start well, they’re pretty much unstoppable. Since the brilliant performance against the Dogs, Melbourne’s starts have been relatively disappointing. Round 17 showed that the Dees are back in town.

Next up Hawthorn. All three of Melbourne’s losses have been to teams outside the top eight. I don’t think we’ll be underestimating the Hawks though. Should be a good game.
Also, congratulations to Max Gawn on his 150th game as a Demon!

Go the Mighty Dee!!!

Dees Diffuse Bombers

July 2, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
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Round 15 – Essendon V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

Essendon have been playing some fast and furious footy lately and Melbourne needed to be in good form; especially after losing to Collingwood in their pre bye game. The Dees normally find a way to win though and are able to adjust their game to the circumstances. That may partly explain their success. The top sides are caught off guard by Melbourne’s intensity and the lower sides often look like they’re in with a chance (usually until the last quarter). No one can call our lads predictable.

To add to the mystery was how the Dees would perform after returning from their two week break, as most sides struggle a little to get back into the swing of things. Angus Brayshaw had the first opportunity with a 50m set shot, but missed to the near side. From there, Melbourne kept threatening the Bombers defensive 50 but failed to land a major until a clever kick from Brayshaw set up James Harmes 35m in front of goal.

Jake Stringer was always going to cause trouble and he almost landed Essendon’s first when his kick from 60m out saw the ball bounce the wrong way and hit the upright. However, his second attempt from 55m, a minute later, sailed through and the Bombers were on the board. Then Devon Smith’s set shot kick after the siren put Essendon in front.

Going into the second quarter ahead 15-11, Harrison Jones was able to stretch the lead to 10 points when he got a foot to the sherrin as it was crossing the line. A very fine line in my opinion but who am I to argue with ARC. The goal fired Essendon up and they took the game to Melbourne with renewed intensity. They maintained the pressure for a few minutes before the Dees were able break out and launch their own offensive. The Bombers kept threatening though and were also able to hold off Melbourne’s counter attacks.

With the Dees’ kicking efficiency not what it could have been and some of their hand passes missing the mark, they were struggling to hold off their opponents. For all that, Essendon was unable to find a way through Melbourne’s defence. The young side was well set up behind the ball and playing intelligently, thinking their way through the Demon’s mire, but Steven May and Jake Lever kept thwarting their best efforts.

The Dees were having the same problem at the other end where the Bombers’ defence was well up to the job and blocking Melbourne’s route to goal. Even when Tom McDonald was able to pick out Luke Jackson, the big forward inexplicably ran on after marking and tried to dribble the ball through but ended up hitting the upright. Happily though, a minute later a rare Essendon turnover gifted the ball to the Dees and a series of hand passes gave the sherrin back to Jackson. This time he didn’t miss.

Melbourne got the advantage from the centre bounce and James Harmes was able to launch a well targeted kick to the waiting pack in front of goal. Charlie Spargo ran around the back of the group and collected the ball before kicking it around the corner to put Melbourne in front. The advantage didn’t last long as Peter Wright took a contested mark in front of goal and just squeezed it through to reinstate Essendon’s lead.

In another swings and roundabouts moment, James Jordon was awarded a free kick after a high tackle (or possibly an arm chop). The home crowd made their feelings feel in no uncertain terms but the midfielder remained unfazed and kicked it straight through to give the Dees a 3 point lead at half time.

Melbourne has upped its their game during the third quarter in recent outings and Round 15 proved no exception. Tom McDonald took advantage when the ball landed in his hands on the goal line, producing an overhead kick and a six pointer. Essendon’s Nick Hind, who inadvertently turned the ball over to T Mac, added to his woes when he ran into the upright. Luckily he didn’t appear to have suffer too much injury, apart from his pride.

Also lucky was James Jordon, who was gifted a double 50m penalty to again kick directly in front of goal to score his second of the night. Again the Essendon faithful were in fine voice. Though the Dees were grinding away and had their share of luck, the next goal was pure skill. It started with a backwards overhead pass from Kysaiah Pickett to Ed Langdon. Langdon got the ball to McDonald and the key forward tapped it on to Christian Petracca in the pocket. The midfielder lined up the shot and kicked it perfectly to extend Melbourne’s lead to 21 points.

The Bombers were starting to look a bit deflated until Dyson Heppell got a Captain’s goal after taking a mark inside 50 then running across to snap it through from 30m out. Despite their lead, it was one of those nights when Melbourne struggled to hit the target. Both McDonald and Bailey Fritsch had a chance to add to the goal tally from set shots but their accuracy was off. Then James Harmes connected with the woodwork, keeping the Bomber’s hopes alive.

Essendon managed to salvage something more from the quarter when Harrison Jones was able to scoop up the ground ball and kick it through. But Petracca capped off a four goal quarter for Melbourne when he kicked his second from a set shot. Only leading by 17 points, the Dees knew they couldn’t relax against a side that would fight to the bitter end. In addition, the Bomber’s fans were very vocal in spurring on their team as their boos echoed around the Covid friendly stadium.

Melbourne were able to venture into their forward 50 but found scoring more goals elusive. With Essendon struggling to kick straight at the other end, the final term was proving to be a low scoring affair. Finally Tom Sparrow launched a beautiful placed kick from the 50m line to give the Dees a 22 point lead.

Ironically, that appeared to be the catalyst that galvanised the Bombers and suddenly they were pushing forward with renewed vigor culminating with Peter Wright claiming his second goal. Cale Hooker got another, reducing the margin to 11 points and the Melbourne faithful to the edge of their seats.

Sensing their opportunity, Essendon piled on the pressure but the Dees again held their nerve in defence. Melbourne used the clock wisely and were able to frustrate the Bombers valiant efforts. As the Grand Old Flag was almost drowned out by the home crowd booing, our players looked please to have got the job done in that volatile week after the bye.

Round 16 will be a rematch against the Giants. This time we’re top of the table and GWS is still in with a chance of playing finals so it will be another interesting game. Nobody knows how we’ll play but I’m hoping for our first 50 point plus win of the season.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

Dees Served Up Some Humble Pie

July 1, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 13 – Melbourne V Collingwood

Dees v Magpies

Liam Chambers

If any team was destined to break the Demons dream run, it was Collingwood. Of course Adelaide caused an upset in Round 10 by a single point but Melbourne never seriously looked like winning the Queen’s Birthday Clash. So many variables conspired to cause the upset of the season.

The fact that the Pies have been steadily improving their form over the last month. The resignation of Nathan Buckley was always going to inspire the troops for one last push for their fallen leader. The Dees would have been in wind down mode and looking forward to the Bye. Probably the most telling, I suspect, was Melbourne underestimating their opponents.

So far this year our lads have reserved their best performances for the top sides in the competition. The almost manic way they took on Richmond. The brilliant demolition of the Bulldogs and of course the superb come from behind win against the fancied Brisbane Lions. Not taking anything away from Collingwood (I won’t say that too often) but Melbourne played with the belief that they could run them down eventually and then ran out of time. Basically, the urgency was missing in Round 13.

It all started so promisingly when Kysaiah Pickett kept the ball alive on the boundary enabling Bailey Fritsch to kick towards goal where Alex Neal-Bullen marked and scored form the set shot. Darcy Cameron scored his first of the afternoon when he was awarded a free after being held. Neal-Bullen almost got his second but his kick to goal was deemed touched by Tom McDonald as he attempted to mark the ball. Eventually the Dees did get their second when James Harmes tapped it in from 35m after some good support play from Christian Petracca.

Again Melbourne got off to a good start in the second term after some good forward pressure culminated in a Clayton Oliver round the corner kick through the uprights. Then it started to head south for the Dees with Darcy Cameron taking an uncontested mark on the edge of the goal square, then snapping it through for a goal. Next Will Hoskin-Elliot took an uncontested mark and followed up with a conversion from 30m to the left of goal.

Melbourne was finding it difficult to get their hands on the ball. They did eventually get back some control but the Pies looked very comfortable going forward. Brody Mihocek scored the first of two goals when he had a shot from 30m out, then a set shot from 40m in front gave Collingwood a 15 point lead. The Dees looked flat after suffering a 25 point turnaround since the start of the quarter.

Luke Jackson gave his side a lift when he snapped a goal after receiving a Tom McDonald hand pass and clawed the lead back to singles figures. Clayton Oliver had a chance to further reduce the margin after being taken high inside 50 but unfortunately his shot missed to the near side. Beau McCreery made it five goals to two in the Pies’ favour and stretch the lead out to 14 points. Melbourne was looking hesitant and turning the ball over giving Collingwood the advantage and allowing them the luxury of going forward too easily.

True to form the Dees came out after the break with greater sense of urgency and kicked three unanswered goals. First, Captain Max Gawn scored from a set shot after taking an uncontested mark 35m out from the left of goal.

Then Gawn took another uncontested mark on the inside 50 line, before passing to Steven May, whose long kick fell into Christian Petracca’s hands 20m to the right of goal. Tracca ran on and launched a banana kick that sailed through the posts. Finally, Fritsch spun around in heavy traffic on the edge of the goal square to shoot and give the Dees single point lead.

The Pies were clearly rattled by the resurgent Melbourne but Darcy Cameron’s hat trick helped steady the ship. Cameron was awarded a dubious free kick after he took a contested mark that Steven May had clearly touched (with both hands!) prior to the key forward collecting the ball. Some days the footy gods just aren’t on your side (or the umpires either). Luke Jackson restored the balance somewhat with his chase down tackle and set shot form 20m. Unfortunately Brody Mihocek also had a set shot and restored Collingwood’s lead.

Only trailing by 5 points, Melbourne had everything to play for. They’d had a good third quarter but needed to maintain the rage. However, the Pies were hungrier on the day and Darcy Cameron got his fourth to stretch the margin to two goals. Collingwood was given more space and the Dees looked to be floundering. When Scott Pendlebury scored, the game slipped further from Melbourne’s grasp.

The Dees needed a miracle but one didn’t look like coming their way and the Pies continued to run over the top of them. Ed Langdon did snatch one back after collecting the bouncing ball in the goal square and tapping it through to give the fans a glimmer of hope but it was a little too late by then.

Just to rub some salt in the wounds, Steele Sidebottom scored after the siren to give Collingwood a 16 point victory. The Pies played well and tackled hard but the Dees were lackluster for a large part of the game. The Bye will give them a chance to reflect and reset. There will be lessons learned and we’ll be better than ever against Essendon.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

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