I wake up on Sunday morning with a queasy feeling in the stomach.
No, it’s not from last-night’s over-indulgence……Worse…It’s Derby-Day, and I can’t see how my Hawks, who’ve been competitive this year, can be any match for a rampant Wangaratta.
I can only go on media reports and local scuttlebut, which indicate that they’re flag favourites, boasting a side chock-full of talent. Aside from an aberration up at Tigerland, they’ve swept all opposition aside with consummate ease.
To further aggravate matters, I’m working on the Gate, and will have to contend with chirpy Magpies filtering through – all with that look of smug satisfaction on their dials – their only irritation being that they have to begrudgingly hand over some of their ‘hard-earned to these Rovers pricks’………
Being on gate-duty once the siren blows, is like watching life unfold through the bars of a dingy prison cell. You peer across, and catch a glimpse of the scoreboard -if you can -through the heavily-populated bank to the right of the Hogan Stand.
And it’s not a happy tale……
The roar of the crowd is a sure-fire indicator. Sounds like it’s all one-way traffic, after a promising start. The Pies pile on the goals. To my surprise, one fan is departing, even though it’s only half-way through the second term….or maybe, he’s going out to fetch something from the car.
“Want a Pass-Out ?” …..”Nah. I’ve seen enough. They’re too slow……Keep turning the ball over. It’s gonna be a belting.”
Gee, that doesn’t sound promising. Am I seeing right ?…..Looks like it’s blown out past six goals.
To confirm this, I switch on the trannie, and pick up Gambie and Omo on OAK-FM. They’re full of praise for the Magpies, who are chopping up the Hawks through the mid-field. And big Josh Porter is causing headaches up forward……… Then they utter the words I didn’t want to hear : “……the Rovers are flat-out trying to keep tabs on their classy opponents, and seem to be losing control…….”
Just before the half-time siren blows, we start packing up, and see that there’s only four goals in it. Are the Rovers slowly creeping back into the game……or will the Pies run away with it? For verification, I consult a couple of knowledgeable experts in the rooms, and, though they’re usually ‘Glass Half-Full types’, they’re of the latter opinion.
Wang are too strong all over the ground, they tell me; they’re using the ball better, and have capitalised on the Rovers’ skill errors…………….
So I take up my usual position, leaning on the inter-change box in front of the rooms. From this vantage-spot you can also watch the ‘Crezza Show’. He’s in fine form today. Fully-animated…. gesticulating….arms waving….offering priceless morsels of advice to youngsters coming off…..and a blast to those of his players who’ve deviated from the game-plan.
He couldn’t be any closer to the action, and you can see by his body language, that he likes what he sees in the early stages of this third-quarter.
The Hawks are kicking to the ‘Gum-Tree End’. After hearing the prognostications of those at half-time, I’m staggered by what I’m seeing. Early on, diminutive Patty Hourigan takes possession of the pill deep in attack, and snaps a ripper, which enthuses the packed Rovers supporters on the balcony.
Then the ‘Brodie-Filo look-alike’, Matt Medcraft contemplatively takes a long-range shot from deep on the far flank. It evades flailing hands and bounces through. A miracle goal…..and what a team-lifter.
A change has certainly come over the game which, those around me say, has gone to another level. The tackling and ferocity is Ovens and Murray footy at its best from both sides.
But the momentum is certainly with the Hawks. When dashing Jack Gerrish bolts through the middle of the ground, bouncing and skilfully keeping control of the ball at full-pace, it illustrates what a game of inches it is.
Had he faltered, the ball would have been quickly rebounded to the other end. But he steadies, and it ends up in the hands of his 2018 Thirds team-mate, Sam Allen, who slots a major, mid-post high, through the big sticks.
Amazingly, the Hawks have drawn level, and there’s a buzz around the ground reminiscent of those fabled Derby clashes of days gone-by.
Minutes later, young Sammy pops another one through, once again demonstrating his forte – a lethal right foot – and proving that a footballer can be transformed. from a ‘turd to a camellia’ in a matter of twenty minutes.
The Rovers hold the ascendency by a goal at three quarter-time, and both camps are reasonably confident of their chances.
Will the Pies steady, and with their big-game experience, regain the upper-hand ? Or, with adrenalin pumping in their veins, and taking their chances, can the Hawks hold on?
Wang do most of the attacking in the early-to-mid stages of the final term, but can’t land the blow which would swing the game their way.
In one of the key moments, the big fellah, Ed Dayman, tackles and scores a free kick, then lines up a pressure shot for goal. This shot’ll test him surely, I surmise. No problems, it doesn’t deviate. He’s a gun, young Ed.
Matt Grossman, who has been thrust forward by the Pies, is free-kicked, and the 50-metre penalty which follows, aids him in nailing their first goal in a half.
They boot four successive behinds; the last of them a flying shot which causes the post to shake like most of the nervous fans. It reduces the margin to two points, but it’s only when Stuart Booth runs in to hammer a goal home with less than two minutes remaining, that the game is finally put to bed.
The siren, which brings finality to a contest and a half, prompts an overflowing of emotion, as the players congregate in mid-field.
Apparently one player gave a bit of lip, which prompted Maggie Daniel Boyle to react. Nothing wrong with that, I reckon. More to the point, it’s nice to know that the old home-town rivalry is alive and well.
What is worth a rap, though, is his effort to come into the Rovers rooms to apologise. That’s character for you……………..
Special thanks to Melissa Beattie of the Wang. Chronicle, for the photos.