Eagles do eat Roo meat

September 28, 2015 by
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During the build up to the second preliminary final, a mate sent me a text questioning North Melbourne’s September victories.  Roos super lucky.  Tigers super soft.  Swans super depleted.  Eagles super spanking?


My response, perhaps affected by beer and the euphoria of victory over Sydney, was juvenile and incorrect.  Sshh.  Not super lucky.  Good enough to win.  Eagles don’t eat roo meat.

I lied.  Having worked on a farm in Rockhampton in my twenties, I watched plenty of magnificent eagles feasting on dead kangaroos.


That’s what happened in the second preliminary final.  The Eagles had a neat feast without gorging themselves.


North dominated the opening quarter.  But finishing eighth meant finals without a break.  North had enough stamina left to be competitive for two quarters and win one.


West Coast outscored North 10:18 to 4:9 after quarter time.  The final margin, 25 points, could’ve pushed out to fifty.  Mark Le Cras and Josh Kennedy missed gettable shots when the Eagles were on top.


Their inaccuracy kept North in it.  The umpires kept North out of it.


Now, I’ve long been called an umpire lover.  I don’t mind the moniker.  As a former umpire of junior and senior footy, and having played football across those age groups, I see things from both sides.


I’ve never blamed the umpires for a loss.  About their performance in the second preliminary final, I will say several decisions seemed to go against us.  There were two non-decisions inside I can remember, maybe three that could’ve resulted in free kicks to North.


I can remember a couple of soft free kicks West Coast received that led to goals.


So what…


It wasn’t the umpires that forced North to kick out on the full nine times during the game.  The umpires didn’t force turnovers or keep us outside 50 for long periods during the second and third quarters.


The umpires didn’t force Ben Brown to fluff a simple handpass to Shaun Higgins as he ran into an open goal in the third quarter.  Or force Jarrad Waite to kick a thirty metre pass direct to an unmarked Eagle at centre-half-back, who started a chain that led to a goal.


Forget the umpires.  North Melbourne wasn’t good enough.  West Coast deserved to win.


Six of us watched the game in the Arden Street Bar.  Hot dogs and chicken wings were dinner.  Beer dessert.  Only Simon supported West Coast, but he kept his eyes on the second television, watching the rugby league preliminary final.


The second television is smaller.  There was no volume.  In the bar, AFL rules.  Simon didn’t mind.


I had my first bet for the year, $37 on the line.  If North won or lost by less than 30-points, I would double that stake.


As the game wound down, my bet became a point of interest, the last thing worth barracking for.


I’m not your average gambler.  It was just my 30th bet since January 2012.  That’s an average of seven bets a year, and only one this year.  Of those 30 bets, I’ve won 17.


In 2010, I opened my account with a hundred bucks.  That stake has taken five years to double.  It’s hardly worth doing.


Like playing preliminary finals when you lose.


It was North’s lowest losing margin in a final since 1994, when we lost to Geelong by a goal after the siren.  Usually, when we lose a final, we get hammered.


Maybe a portent to a possible future.  Maybe not.


Before the game, I said if North lost it meant they haven’t improved on last year.  After the game, I asked the gathering to respond.


‘We won 14 games last year and finished sixth,’ Adam said.  ‘Then won two finals and got hammered in the preliminary final.  This year we won 13 games and finished eighth and did the same in the finals.’  He shook his head.


I looked at the television.  The final margin hadn’t changed.  By virtue of that margin, North has improved, but a team that improves doesn’t finish two rungs lower, regardless of finals wins.


Russ, who called from Melbourne, disagreed.


‘North was a better side this year,’ he said.


I couldn’t rid myself of the inconsistency and the beltings.  When North lost, they usually lost big and to teams they should’ve beaten.


‘Next week I’m going for Hawthorn,’ I said.


The Pole nodded.


Russ demurred.  ‘I’m going for West Coast,’ he said.  ‘Or should I say I’m not supporting Hawthorn.’


Adam was despondent when he went to bed.  My brother Nick hadn’t said much throughout the second half.  I called him a cab.  The Pole, who wanted a Hawthorn/North grand final, made his bed.


Simon was spinning on his stool.  West Coast was in the grand final.  The Broncos were too.  And to top it off, the Cowboys defeated the Storm in their preliminary final to set up an all Queensland league grand final.


Stevo wanted one more beer.  He was disappointed in Waite’s performance.  ‘You can see why we let him go to North,’ he said.


I felt like another beer.  Didn’t have it.  I called Stevo a cab and hauled my misery to bed.  If an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind, I stayed awake about an hour.  Thinking about footy.  Thinking about life.  Thinking about my bet.


I hate losing.  If North Melbourne won, the grand final would’ve been sentimental.  It was 40-years ago that North won their first grand final against Hawthorn.


I hate losing money too.  As I settled into the pillow, I thought about the bet.  Losing without getting blown away made me $37.


As Russ said, it’s easy money.


Easy money.  When you lose.  I call it blood money.


On Sunday morning, I picked up Angus.  I was wearing a blue shirt.  He couldn’t find North’s logo.


‘Is that a Roos shirt?’ he asked?


‘No Angus, we lost.’




‘We don’t play in the grand final.  It’s too soon to wear a North shirt.’


We went to the movies and watched the Minions film.  It’s about a group of creatures that strive to serve the most evil beings on the planet, and usually end up killing them.


Football fans are like minions.  We strive to serve our chosen gods, but quite often those gods end up evil and killing our psyche.


Next weekend I’ll be in Melbourne.  I was in the North Melbourne ballot for a grand final ticket.  Now I have to run the gauntlet to get a ticket.


Wise men have long argued that you’d rather lose a preliminary final than a grand final.  I tend to agree with that argument.


Wise men have also suggested you get what you deserve in footy…


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