Dees Bury Hoodoos & Become the New Gurus

October 17, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Grand Final – Melbourne V Western Bulldogs

(Even Norm Smith is Smiling)

Liam Chambers

First of all I’d like to thank the Melbourne Football Club for introducing me to a genuinely new experience; writing a report on a Grand Final. It’s a first for me but I’m very confident it won’t be the last. 

When Melbourne won their preliminary final against Geelong by 83 points, Demon fans had every right to be ecstatic. The echo of our defeat at the same stage three years ago faded and we finally dared to allow ourselves to dream the previously impossible dream. The “veil of negativity”, so long the bane of the club, began to slip and reveal a change in culture, a change in belief and a change in what it means to be part of a winning team.

The intervening two weeks saw Melbourne installed as the favourites to win and hold aloft their first Grand Final cup in fifty seven years. We were the sentimental favourites too; just as the Bulldogs were in 2016. Sentiment doesn’t win games though and the Dogs had firmly stamped their credentials as potential champions in the own prelim. They did it by demolishing Port Adelaide to the tune of 71 points, in front of an overwhelming partisan crowd, on the Power’s home turf.

With two such compelling victories, the commentators were predicting a close game on Grand Final day. Not many predicted a margin greater than 20 points for either side and most anticipated a win of two goals or less when the final siren sounded.

I was expecting a close game myself but most definitely a Melbourne victory. Ever since Max kicked the winner after the siren to secure the minor premiership, I’ve been convinced that this would be the Dees’ year. On the Friday before the game, the bookies were offering odds of 1.64 for a Melbourne win (close enough to 1964 for me). In numerology, the dates of the 1964 and 2021 final both add up to 3 (revered by the Greeks). Max Gawn made his debut in 2011 Round 11; this is his eleventh season as a player and he wears number 11. I don’t know much about numerology, but I’m sure Pythagoras would have barracked for the Dees.

Anyway, it was with this sense of destiny that I sat down to watch the final. As expected both sides started at a frenetic pace and both sides had their chances early on, but it was the Dees who looked the more likely to score first. It was fitting that two of the most consistent players all year would be involved in the opening goal. It was a case of one Christian to another with Salem placing the ball beautifully into Petracca’s path; the midfielder then scooped, turned and snapped from the 50m line. 

The second resulted from a impressive build up, starting with another great run by Ed Langdon, before culminating in a kick to Tom Sparrow who ran on and struck out towards goal where Bailey Fritsch was waiting to jump and mark the ball on the line.

Roarke Smith arrested the flow somewhat when he knocked the ball to the ground and collected it before running on and tapping in from the goal square.

The Dogs’ momentum was short lived though and a turnover from Bailey Williams was marked by a surprised Luke Jackson who didn’t hesitate in hand passing the ball to the perfectly placed Charlie Spargo. The small forward turned, coolly dropping the sherrin and casually dribbling it over the line.

The Demons were dominating and owning the game, forcing errors from the Bulldogs typified by James Harmes’ kick towards Bailey Fritsch who was running across to attempt a mark 25m from goal. He was beaten by the seemingly ill-fated Bailey Williams. However, the defender not only fumbled the mark but in doing so ensured that Fritsch caught the falling ball before spinning around to slot in his second goal.

Melbourne could not have asked for a better start but the Bulldogs didn’t get to the Final by shrugging their shoulders and muttering under their breath when their opponents were 20 points ahead. Luke Beveridge would have been rallying his troops to get out and strike quickly to take the wind out of the Dees’ sails.

They needed a great start to second term and they got it when Adam Treloar received a wayward ball from the pack in front of the goal square. Then he was able to execute the perfect snap to the get the Footscray faithful on their feet and cheering. Two minutes later and Treloar basically produced a carbon copy of his first goal to bring his side within 10 points of the Demons.

With less than five minutes gone in the second quarter, the Dogs had not only arrested Melbourne’s dominance but were playing the game on their own terms and the Dees were struggling to resist the turning tide. The subsequent centre bounce saw Marcus Bontempelli and Treloar combine to run the ball out of the middle, straight down the ground and deep inside 50 where Aaron Naughton collected the ground ball and kicked cleanly into the open goal.

It was back to a one goal game and the fans were being treated to a spectacle of the highest level.

The Demons were desperate to take some of the heat out of their opponents game and succeeded in slowing things down before launching their first offensive of the term. Luke Jackson took a superb mark from a Christian Salem kick and then spotted an opportunity from the middle of the ground. He launched a driving kick to inside 50 where the steady hands of Ben Brown plucked the ball out of the air. Brown took his usual measured run up before kicking perfectly from 30m out to restore the margin to 10 points.

When Max Gawn marked the ball in the pocket and kicked high through the posts, it appeared a Melbourne comeback was well and truly on the cards. The captain had every right to feel hard done by when the umpire ruled it a minor score. Not only that but the fact that the next run of play resulted in a Bontempelli goal only added insult to injury.

Suddenly nothing was going right for the Dees and when Lachie Hunter was awarded a free kick for an unfortunately technically correct high tackle, his ensuing set shot seemed to have a feeling of inevitability about it. With the seconds ticking down it appeared the teams would finish the first half only separated by a single point. However Bontempelli had other ideas, and his mark 25m in front of goal was easily converted, giving the Dogs all the momentum going into the break.

There’s a quote by the Irish writer Jonathon Swift. “I’ve always believed no matter how many shots I miss, I’m going to make the next one”

Things looked grim for the Demons at the start of the second half and for the first ten minutes, they didn’t get any less grim. However, at no time did I ever believe that we would not turn it around. I must admit though, to being surprised at the extent of the turnaround.

When Jason Johannisen grabbed the ball right on the line, it seemed that the Dogs had started the third quarter as they had finished the second. Johannisen’s confident conversion had the Melbourne fans feeling a tad edgy. The belief was there but faith was being tested. It was tested further when Marcus Bontempelli launched a high kick from 35m out that sailed above the middle of the uprights and stretched the Bulldogs’ lead to 19 points. Now the expectation was of a Western Bulldogs’ victory and a Norm Smith medal for their captain.

The Dees looked to be on the ropes and it seemed only a matter of time before the Dogs landed the blow that had pretenders out for the count. The symbolism of Caleb Daniel standing over a fallen Max Gawn evoked memories of the iconic Mohammed Ali standing over Sonny Liston. Game, set and match.

Then, seconds later, came the pivotal point of the match when the Demons began their comeback to end all comebacks (that’s been said more than once this season). Luke Jackson tapped the ball down from a throw in. Jack Viney got enough of the ball to push forward and ensure Bailey Smith was unable to connect cleanly as he ran through into the Dogs’ forward 50. James Harmes was able to pluck the loose ball from mid air and run on. Harmes’ kick towards the right of the goal was taken by Bailey Fritsch in a perfectly timed mark. Fritsch remained cool and focused to claim his hat trick for the night.

That was the catalyst and it fired up the Dees. The glimmer twins Oliver and Petracca sprang into action like demented duracell bunnies and the sherrin flew towards Fritsch again. This time he got a hand to it and turned in mid air taking the ball back on the bounce. Giving the Dogs’ defence no time to act, he ran on and tapped in another.

All doubt was extinguished in a frantic sixty seconds and the Dogs’ players were left stunned by the explosion.

Another centre bounce and Petracca again ran from the middle with the ball, leaving the Dogs in his wake. His massive kick seeking the big forward Ben Brown who duly marked the ball and held it aloft like Rafiki atop Pride Rock. His goal puts the Dees within a point of their rivals.

Angus Brayshaw has played his part all year; being solid on the wing. It’s a less glamorous role, as he admits himself, but he’s played it to perfection. When he dived for ball from a Jake Bowey kick, he demonstrated his skill and bravery as well as his love for the club. His subsequent set shot was never going to miss.

When I was watching the game in real time, I was aware that we scored three goals in quick succession. However, I thought it was over two to three minutes. When I watched the replay I was shocked that we were into the last minute of play and still no goal. Those three goals took a total of thirty one seconds of play to execute. Signed, sealed, delivered.

The first by Petracca initially looked lucky but apparently he scores those dribbling kicks in practice on a regular basis. Magnificent!

The second by Tom Sparrow was a mighty effort from 55m. The other Tom (McDonald) assisted by keeping Zaine Cordy busy on the goal line.

Then the trifecta was complete with Clayton Oliver’s streaming kick from 40m giving the Dees a four goal lead at three quarter time.

Melbourne had a 21 point lead at quarter break and the Dogs turned it around to lead by 7 points at half time. Could they do it again? The first minutes would prove crucial but there would be no canine renaissance this time.

Again Ben Brown took a crucial mark in front of goal and converted the set shot to notch up his third. The Dees had a 30 point lead and their momentum would now be very difficult to halt. Next Fritsch slotted number five to cement his place among the top all time Grand Final goal kickers.

After that it was just a goal fest for the Dees. Alex Neal-Bullen took a mark from another great run and kick involving Ed Langdon. It seemed like no Demon could miss. Langdon got one himself after taking a mark from Fritsch. Tom McDonald scored from 30m to add to the tally. The roaring crowd was ecstatic. Goals were coming from every direction.

The Bulldogs got one back when Adam Treloar, so instrumental in the second quarter fightback, snapped one in but it was all very hollow for the runners up.

Christian Salem scored almost as an after thought. He was in a position where it might go in so why not give it a go. Even with a lead of 55 points, the Dees weren’t slowing down. Luke Jackson, so brilliant in the ruck, marked the ball 40m out and kicked it comfortably through the big sticks. Bailey Fritsch got a sixth and Tom McDonald got another after the siren. It was almost surreal as the players began celebrating while T Mac was still lining up for his shot. He probably could have kicked it over his head and it would have still gone in.

Well, the drought is over. The curse is reversed. Every heart is beating true. The cup is coming home and will be staying with the red and the blue for a few more years.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

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The Premiership of 2021… as Grand as grand can be

October 10, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Premiership #13

Nigel Dawe

FOR someone who has spent pretty much their entire life putting pen to paper, trawling facts, and following the same football team; I don’t think I’ve ever had a more delightful conundrum, than the one regarding how I should best kick off this Melbourne Demons ‘premiership-winning’ segment.

Initially, I thought I’d lead with cloud 9, then I considered seventh heaven to be more apt, but I’ve decided to go with, albeit bask in the given – how about – Premiership #13… for the team we love, the team of the red and the blue!

For countless years, I’ve imagined how seeing and savouring a Dees premiership would feel, having seen so many other clubs ‘go all the way’ and break their respective droughts… to now be able to say, that I have finally seen us win ‘the big dance’, I have to further say – it was more sublime, unbelievable and transporting than anything I could have ever remotely imagined.

Above all, it’s not that we did it, it was ‘the way’ we did it, to come from 19 points down halfway through the ‘premiership quarter’ to finally win by 74 points (the eighth biggest win in grand final history) by booting 16 of the last 17 goals, was the most emphatic and enjoyable way to end our 57-year premiership drought.

Add in the record-equaling tally of 39 possessions in a grand final by one C. Petracca, and you have the makings of the most incredible chapter in our club’s history. ‘That goal’ by our deserved Norm Smith medalist, for mine, is perhaps the most iconic thing I’ve seen a Demons player do since Shaun Smith launched himself back in 1995, to take his ‘mark of the century’ against the Bears at the Gabba under lights.

Not to mention the moment Max Gawn and Simon Goodwin lifted the cup as euphoric one, amidst the fluttering, iridescent specks of red and blue tinsel; such moments become indelibly etched in your mind, it’ll be something I return to over and over again for the ‘rest’ of my days. I remember turning to a mate of mine, Chris after witnessing it, saying: “I don’t care if we win the wooden spoon every year from now to eternity, no one can ever take this realised dream off us now.’

For the Melbourne Football Club, the oldest football club in the world (and perhaps the only one that outright created the sport it plays) there was a sense of not just restored pride, but ‘radical’ deliverance: the meaning of the word radical, is to return something back to its roots or origins.

Thus, the entire sport of Australian Rules has been transported, and lifted directly back to the glorious sepia days of our club founder – Tom Wills, whose spirit is surely soaring, along with everyone remotely associated with the Melbourne Football Club, in response to such a grand old win.

Premiership celebrations in NSW
'That winning feeling: Chris Osborn and Nigel Dawe'

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Melbourne Lays Prelim Demons to Rest

September 24, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Preliminary Final – Melbourne V Geelong

Liam Chambers

After a sterling season where the Dees constantly confounded their critics and supporters alike, no one, not even the most wildly optimistic rusted on Demons fan, could have predicted the absolute rout that occurred at Optus Stadium. At the same venue in 2018, Melbourne failed to score a single goal in the entire first half. Melbourne supporters across the nation were left traumatised by the events of that Saturday afternoon and many carried that trauma into the game against the Cats.

When the kick off siren sounded, many expected a tight contest with the score potentially seesawing between the two oldest clubs in the competition and for the first 10 minutes, that’s more or less what happened. Jeremy Cameron kicked the first major for the Cats before a Christian Petracca kick sailed deep into the Dees’ forward 50 and was collected by the willing hands of Ben Brown putting Melbourne back in front.

James Harmes got the Dees’ second when he snapped a high kick from 45m in front. Alex Neal-Bullen made it three in a row when he collected the ground ball from a Brown free kick to send the Demon fans into a frenzy. Towards the end of the first quarter, Seven May suffered a hamstring injury which was a huge concern for one of the pivotal pillars in Melbourne’s defence. Fortunately it appears less serious than first though and May was even able to return to the field for the rest of the half.

The other players would have been concerned about their key defender but continued to preform at the highest level. Christian Petracca showed how dangerous he is by running rings around the Cat’s back line then tapping one in off the outside of his boot. Charlie Spargo kicked goal number five from a set shot, giving the Dees a very comfortable 25 point lead to take into the break.

The Cats have started badly more often than not this year so there was plenty of time to play catch up. Rhys Stanley got the sherrin rolling when his set shot in front of goal pulled one back for Geelong. Not for long though as the clearance bounce went Melbourne’s way and Clayton Oliver’s kick deep inside 50 was knocked to ground by Ben Brown. After a little fumble from Tom McDonald, Charlie Spargo collected the loose ball and snapped one round the corner from 30m out, making it back to back majors for the small forward.

It was goal for goal when Gyran Miers was awarded a free kick 30m directly in front and converted cleanly. Next Tom Sparrow converted at the other end from a difficult angle and the lead reverted back to 27 points in Melbourne’s favour.

When it comes to kicking goals, Max Gawn has done alright this season. However, the captain was as surprised as anyone when marking the ball from a Petracca free kick. Gawny saw the ball had been touched after it left Tracca’s boot, so he kept running, taking the Cats’ players by surprise and launching a mighty round the corner kick from 40m out. Superb! Give Kysaiah Pickett a hint of a chance and he’s going to take it. His low ball pick up and dribble straight through the uprights added to his impressive tally and stretched Melbourne’s lead to 38 points.

Towards the end of the half, Tom Hawkins gave the Cats a glimmer when his set shot 35m from the left of goal sailed though. Then Issac Smith did the same from the other side of the uprights to rein in the Dees lead and take some momentum into the second half.

As we all know Melbourne has played some outstanding football this year. The comeback to end all comebacks when they clawed back a 42 point deficit to claim the minor premiership has become the stuff of legend. However, the third quarter of the preliminary final must go down as one of the Dees’ finest moments in recent times.

From the first bounce, it was all Melbourne. The interaction between Petracca and Oliver which delivered the ball to Ben Brown inside 50, landed an early body blow against Geelong. Petracca was involved again when he got the ball to Bailey Fritsch just inside 50. Fritsch was gifted a 50m penalty after a Geelong infringement, giving Melbourne a 40 point lead. Everything was going the Demons’ way when Gawn took a Petracca handpass and launched a kick from 55m to claim his second of the night.

Tom McDonald decided to get in on the action when his turn and snap from 40m also sailed through and the Dees were 52 points in front. Max kicked his third when awarded a free kick from 20m out. After that conventional shot, his fourth was a little more unusual. As he was being tackled near the pocket, he was able to get a kick away and watch it find the target. Gawn almost looked embarrassed when he marked a Trent Rivers kick from 20m out. That soon turned to jubilation when he slotted his 5th for the night, cementing his place in Demon folklore.

With a 70 point lead Melbourne continued to dominate and Geelong had no answers. The Dees didn’t slow down and just kept attacking, eventually picking up another when Kossie Pickett marked and ran on to score from the goal square. Even when it looked like the Cats might have a whiff of a chance, Melbourne continued to pounce on every loose ball, not giving Geelong any leeway whatsoever.

After the totally dominant display of the third quarter, the final term seemed almost anticlimatic. However, Melbourne continued to prevent Geelong scoring any majors before adding a couple of late goals themselves. First Pickett snapped one through from 35m out to claim his hat trick, then Fritsch marked and converted from a similar position. Eventually, the Cats got a consolation when Jeremy Cameron marked just inside the goal square, preventing a totally goalless second half for Geelong.

Now there’s one more game to come. We know the Bulldogs won’t hold back. They’ll target Max. They’ll target Petracca and Oliver. Lever and May will be in the cross-hairs. Pickett and Spargo will be watched like hawks. With so much talent to spot, the Dogs won’t know where to look. Fortunately we have so many gifted determined players, no matter how many they target, it will always leave someone else to wreak havoc.

The whole squad is playing for the team now; which sounds obvious but wasn’t necessarily always the case in recent times. Also the games lost this season allowed the Dees to engage in some serious self-criticism. Even though each player now knows that they’re playing for the team; not being selfish but also knowing when to go for personal glory if it will benefit the final result.

We’ve come a long way and there’s no reason we can’t cross the finish line on Saturday with a performance that will echo through the ages. A great expectation rests on the collective shoulders of the boys in the red and the blue but if any group was born to win, it’s the Demon class of 2021!

Go the Mighty Dees!!!

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Premiership #13… it’s there for the taking.

September 24, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Nigel Dawe

I was inclined to write absolutely nada, more through not wanting to do this crystal moment in time a disservice, or some kind of reflective injustice – as we’re into a Grand Final, and on the very cusp of a Melbourne Demons premiership; something I’ve had pegged, for so long, as a life highlight ‘when that day’ finally arrived … well that day is incredibly, discernibly, and immaculately… very near upon us.

One of my favourite theorists, Roland Barthes once said: “The writer is the prey of an inner god that speaks at all times.” For mine, I’d never be audacious enough to ever reference being in possession of any such self-residing deity, however – I can’t say the same thing about that ever pacing, flame-eyed inner demon of mine, that speaks at all times.

After having seen our boys ascend the ‘mountaintop’ twice, only to come up heart-breakingly and engulfingly short (in ’88 and 2000) … 2021 feels different, much different. There are so many facets and fundamentally ‘pure’ footy things that are presenting and co-aligning for us, it almost feels like destiny. Just take Gawny’s after the siren goal to claim the minor premiership, which will surely be referenced and resurrected in discussion for as long as our code of footy is played!

But having reflected upon and observed every nuance of this sport and club for so long, I know there is no such thing as an ‘assured’ fairy tale, however the greatest fairy tales are the ones you earn, trust in, never let go of, deeply wish for, and yet are never quite able to foretell; because the great stories in life only ever become ‘realised’ fairy tales in the fantastic glow of hindsight, never in the expectant haze of hope.

On that note, absolutely rest assured (contrary to the witless static doing the rounds) THERE IS NO Norm Smith curse, and if he were still alive (having passed away in 1973) he’d be quick to correct such a ridiculous blasphemy; because no one – no one – bled, loved, felt, did, wished for, or thought more about this grand old club than he (having had involvement in 10 of our club’s 12 premierships, says it all).

And I’m certain, he’s looking down from that great MCG in the sky (with his red and blue scarf on) alongside the equally revered figures of Jimmy Stynes and Robbie Flower, all wishing us nothing but the best, and the ultimate success.

Similarly, all thoughts and deepest admiration for our other number 2 wearing warrior – Nathan Jones, his ‘larger than life’ example, playing career, love of club and graciousness is another of the stars that are aligning to make this season so special, and one that we’ll truly never forget. As such, I’ll be wearing my Melbourne guernsey with a bold number 2 on its back come Grand Final day, as a tribute to this unforgettable stalwart of the red and blue!

I could waffle on and parrot old stats and facts from bygone eras about this proud founding club of ours, but I won’t; it’s all about the right here and now… because claiming premiership number 13 (the devil’s number itself) is what it’s all about… and quite frankly, it’s all about our Demon players of 2021, and making their own history… after 57 long years between drinks… So just go out there boys and do as our finals slogan says: “Give ‘em Hell!!’

Or, as the greatest football coach in all of world sport – Vince Lombardi, once roared to his all-conquering Green Bay Packer troops:
“Want it; desire it; earn it; take it!”

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The man in the stand

September 23, 2021 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: NSW Demons 

By Geoff Cordner

There’s a man in the stand, and he’s looking at you
And he’s wanting to know if you’re feeling it too –
The pride in the guernsey that means so much more
When you wear it for all those who’ve worn it before.
There’s a duty that comes with the honour bestowed
To respect the ideals of the MFC code;
So with the passion and courage of teams of the past
Play each quarter, each minute, as if it’s your last.

There’s a man in the stand, and it shows in his face
He’d give anything just to be there in your place
To lace up your boots, and to feel what you feel
When you pull on the armour of red and blue steel,
To be able to tell the young boy on his knee
Of the day that the fans roared for him at the ‘G.
So one thing you must say as you walk from this shed
Is you’ll never let this privilege go to your head,
You’ll never take for granted what you’ve been allowed –
The chance to play footy in front of this crowd.

There’s a man in the stand, but he’s not on his own,
There are thousands beside, and behind, and at home
Those who wear the Club colours, and whose welfare depends
On whether their team is in front at the end.
And though between them they haven’t a stat to their names,
They are the very heart and the soul of this game,
And the question those people are asking of you
Is “If you get cut today, will you bleed red and blue?”

It’s a Grand Old Flag, but in this brave new world
If you want to see another flag being unfurled
Then don’t waste your time on the papers or news,
Because games aren’t determined by media views
Nor do crowds or the umpires decide who prevails,
It’s young men with big hearts just refusing to fail
With heads over the ball, and their bodies on the line
Who when knocked down get up again time after time
And who know that there’s always some more they can find
Even when the board says that they’re five goals behind

Winners don’t play three quarters, or give into fear
And they don’t play for money, or backslaps or beer
No, they play for each other, standing shoulder to shoulder,
When the other team’s brave, then you have to be bolder
And the thing you’ll reflect on one day, when you’re older
Is the man you became as a red and blue soldier.

There’s a man in the stand, and like those who surround him
He smiles as he turns to the faces around him
He smiles in the knowledge this team shares his pride
That this is a group who will not be denied
And he roars himself hoarse as he cheers for that team
He believes that these men can deliver that dream
And he knows that the prize they have sought all these years
Will be well worth the blood, and the sweat, and the tears.

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