It’s 10.45 on a Sunday morning and I’m on holiday in Exmouth, a prawning and tourist town next to the Ningaloo Reef in WA. There seem to be more emus than people in town today – it’s probably because the Exmouth Eagles won the local grand final the day before. I walk into the Potshot Hotel.
Potshots, as the locals call it, looks the goods: plenty of screens, TAB and no grey nomads (just some grey punters). I ask the bartender if they’re showing the game.
“It’s on Fox. We don’t have Fox … as much as I’d like to see St Kilda fucking flog North.” The pained tone tells me he’s a North supporter. He suggests the Novotel.
“Walking distance?” The front bar chuckles. Perhaps not. I give Lady Shinboner a call – she’s kindly doing our grocery shopping – and she swings by in the campervan and takes me to the Novotel, a new hotel in the half-finished marina.
The Novotel bar doesn’t have any screens. I anxiously approach the reception desk.
“This might sound like a weird request, but … ” I explain my now-desperate situation. Would it be possible to ‘borrow’ a room for a few hours to watch the game? The receptionist goes to check with the manager.
“We’re happy to give you a room for half a day at half our nightly rate, which comes to $137.50.” Not even Docklands charges that much. Note to self: remember to slag off Novotel on Roo Beauty.
I jump back in the van, resigned to listening to the ABC radio coverage. I switch it on as Edwards is busy slotting the game’s first. Lady Shinboner continues on her errands with me as a mute passenger.
As we stop outside Bettsy’s Seafood, I think about our chances. The North of 2008 would’ve won a tough match like this one. But this year, they haven’t delivered. Can they salvage some pride today? Not if St Kilda bring their A-game …
“The Saints look lazy.” Mark Maclure gives me hope.
I start feeling the beat of the match. It’s easy to tell that North are hot – the crowd are near silent. By the time Lady Shinboner pulls up at IGA, North are 5.2 to nothing. I develop a smirk. Then I remember what happened when we last played the Saints and reel myself in a bit.
Predictably, Riewoldt scores two goals in a minute. Then Koschitzke gets in on the action. The margin is back to two goals and we’ve got a contest.
Early in the second quarter, Riewoldt marks but misses the shot. He sounds on. Hansen’s got the job on him – good, he needs a lesson in hard work. North steal a couple of goals against the flow of play, including a trademark swoop from ‘Flash’ Campbell. Greenwood is giving Dal Santo a bath.
The Saints wrestle back momentum, but poor kicking keeps the Roos in front. When St Kilda leaves the field at half-time, Goddard rips into his teammates. Things are looking good.
Lady Shinboner pulls up at the beach and decides to go for a walk. I couldn’t be less interested by the seascape.
By the time Riewoldt finally nails one, the Saints runner gives away a shocking free and hands back the ball to North. The commentary team call for his head. Swallow dutifully puts it through from 40m – gotta be a killer.
“Cruize Garlett must have the most unusual name in the history of the game,” says Drew Morphett. Big call, but I can’t think of a better one.
“Tate Pears?” Maclure’s onto it. North by six points at the last change.
In the final term, the Saints continue to attack and kick poorly, but North’s defence is holding up okay. Then McQualter jags one to put the Saints in front by a point. I remember Round 11 again.
Kosi slots another and it’s out to seven points in an armwrestle. Lady Shinboner looks across at me forlornly – Collingwood supporters are used to losing these ones.
Then Petrie marks and goals after some hard work from Josh Smith. It’s a one-point ballgame. Smith breaks the scrimmage to pull in a one-hander, 49m out. I don’t back him. He kicks a point. Scores are level.
Anthony gets the clearance up forward. The commentary team sound like they’re going for North. “Peeetttrriiee!!!” The Roos lead by six points at the 27-minute mark.
Three minutes of panic ensue. Then Riewoldt marks just outside 50m. I’m relatively calm – I’ve never rated Riewoldt in front of goal when it matters. Grima punches it through. North clear defensive 50. Siren!
Pride. The Shinboners are back. It’s a win for the ages.
Text messages begin to arrive. I must be the only North supporter my friends know. Time to head back to basecamp and crack a beer.
North Melbourne 5.2 7.2 8.3 10.4 (64)
St Kilda 3.0 4.4 6.9 8.11 (59)
North Melbourne: Petrie 4, Edwards 2, Campbell, Adams, Swallow, Goldstein
St Kilda: Riewoldt 4, Koschitzke 2, McQualter, Ray
North Melbourne: Swallow, Petrie, Rawlings, Anthony, Greenwood, Adams, Smith
St Kilda: Riewoldt, Jones