First, brunch with Lady Shinboner (Grigons & Orr – good choice). Then, footy at the Limerick Castle.
The Limerick is vintage North Melbourne. Just a few minutes walk from the gentrified island of Errol St, it takes me to an era before my time. A bustling TAB dominates the atmosphere of the front bar – the new smoking laws would’ve hit extra hard here. It also seems like one of the few places where workers, deros and latté drinkers all seem to get on. Just around the corner is a simple dining room with big screen. A group of about 15 people, mostly middle-aged women, finish off lunch. I’ve seen these people before – they know their footy, and they know their suburb. This is the heartland.
The picture of York Park is bleak. Half way through the first quarter, the rain turns to hail – old fashioned wet weather football is back, and I love it. Both teams work hard for limited results. Stoppages dominate. North look okay, but the Hawks clear it too easily. Buddy looks ferocious, but Gibbo ensures his impact is minimal. Just a point in it at quarter time.
Second quarter, and North pick up the pace. Hale roams freely across half forward, Swallow is in his element and Thomas is strutting again – the Roos kick a couple to be clear at half time. The Limerick’s friendly banter is tinged with optimism.
The momentum carries into the third quarter, and when Simmo kicks an unlikely goal, the room erupts. (“Helicopter punts go better into the wind.”) Then Dwayne Russell accuses Harding of playing for a free kick and the back-bar is aghast. Like an intelligent youngest child, North supporters don’t take well to patronising commentary – and Russell has got form. Michael Osborne pushes out Greenwood (“Hands in the back”) and goals to keep the Hawks in touch. Now the umpires were patronising us too. But Harding plucks an unlikely mark and goals right on the 3/4 bell. North by 14 points.
Then some sunshine comes through, and so does Buddy. A solitary Hawks supporter joins us in the back-bar. With 12 minutes to go, North cling to a 5 point lead. The tension is palpable, both teams missing their chances. North decide to play the clock rather than the goals, and wind it down to 3 mins. Then Hodge gets clear and steels the lead. Franklin, isolated at full-forward and on a roll, nails his fourth for the quarter and the game to-boot, and the solitary Hawks fan goes nuts. (“Shut-up.”)
The cautious optimism evaporates and the emptiness sets in … again. The banter moves away from football. Time to head to the Drunken Poet – I hear Ian Collard plays a good tune or two …