Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot…

May 3, 2020 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Nigel Dawe

“Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot…” (There’s a First Time For Everything)

When I think back, I was perhaps unlucky, and yet very lucky at the same time. Unlucky, that I lived a long way away from Melbourne; so I had to wait some years before I saw my Demons play in person, but lucky that I was a little older so as to take it all in and fully appreciate the experience, when it finally came.

Thus, my first brush with our boys in the red and blue came in 1989, at a mud soaked mid-season game at Moorabbin Oval, against the Saints.

I’ll never forget seeing our team run out that day, after all, they were my grand final heroes from the season before, not to mention the drought-breakers of ‘87 the year before that (so to say that this ‘stampeding’ sight has now been retained in full mental hyper-slow motion, would be a massive understatement). It still sends a shiver of absolute glee and pure dee-light down my spine all these years later, when I replay it in my mind.

That whole day was everything and more for a young kid from Broken Hill, and the poet Bruce Dawe (who tragically passed away only a few weeks ago) was quite on song when he en-saged in his poem, albeit absolute hymn to footy – ‘Life-cycle’:
“Hoisted shoulder-high at their first League game/ they are like innocent monsters who have been years swimming/ towards the daylight’s roaring empyrean/ Until now, hearts shrapnelled with rapture/ they break surface and are forever lost/ their minds rippling out like streamers…”

And so, I’d be lying if I said I recall every subtle turn of event from that late 80s outing, though we won the game by around 8 points. Brian ‘Brownlow’ Wilson topped scored and our captain Greg Healy also played a blinder. But one dominant recollection was the loose-lipped Saints fan, who kept jeering our red headed ruckman every time he went near the ball: “Hey O’Dwyer, why don’t ya give Ronald McDonald his #ucking hair back!”

To this day, I remember thinking – I only wish I were a few years older, and I could then snipe back on behalf of Strawbs: “Hey mate, why don’t you just shut up – because Kylie Minogue wants her voice back!” More hilarious though, is the actual fact that history shows, and talk about last laugh – S. O’Dwyer, gained a grinning ‘3 votes’ in the Brownlow medal count for the match!

But how good were those late 80s and early 90s Melbourne sides? Probably the best Demon teams to not win a premiership; I remember reading in Garry Lyon’s book ‘Demon Within’ that he considered the 1990 squad the finest he had seen in his whole time at the club. Keeping in mind, we won the McClelland trophy that year (which was then awarded for highest points scored by senior, reserves and U/19 teams) for only the fourth time in the club’s history, the only other occasions were during our golden period of the ‘50s.

And when you think back (while it’s all by-gone and pales beyond relevance now), that year’s premier – Collingwood, we had the hands-down measure of, having bundled them out of the finals the previous two seasons in a row leading up to their eventual win. Not to mention we actually won seven out of the 10 games against them in the five years to 1990.

But history doesn’t broker with probabilities, possibilities, what-ifs or hypotheticals, it deals in the specific givens and actual results of cold hard outcomes. Though every now and then, I must confess, it is nice to ponder what might have been, and to celebrate the drive, effort and commitment required, and shown – to even get close to that elusive, penultimate goal of footy goals.


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