Fitzroy Football Club: Great football, Great community, Great culture.

A few hard truths


First, an admission. There was a time when, as a young teenager, this Gorilla lived in Camberwell.

Having grown up on the rough streets of North Melbourne, playing street soccer and dodging ‘winos’, Camberwell came as a shock to the system. I had to get my head around the – how to describe it – unrelenting niceness.

There were distractions that prevented me from going into a vanilla coma: selling The Herald at Camberwell Junction, skateboarding in the forecourt at the Civic Centre, and ducking up the road to the local footy ground to watch VFA players like ‘Happy’ Hammond and ‘Squeaker’ Stevenson strut their stuff for the Cobras.

The only other time I’ve been to the Camberwell footy ground since was as a player, when I nearly came to blows with the Old Scotch captain in the after-match function, after he made some inappropriate comments in front of some young women (but that’s another story).

Anyway, my recollection of the ground was that it was compact, round and slightly heavy underfoot, and that to win there a team needed to do well in the clinches and control the play in the centre corridor.

The Reserves must have done alright on that front, getting to within a couple of kicks in the final quarter against last year’s grand finalist before going down by 20 points. It was good to see some familiar faces – B Clayton, Pyers, Megennis and J Butler – taking the field for the first time this season. Our talls seemed to be our best performers, which is encouraging.

Before the main game I overheard senior coach Travis Ronaldson urging the Roys to “take the game up to these blokes’’, and that’s exactly what they did in the first term.

Great tackling, harassing and physicality had the Scotch Finger Biscuits crumbling and fumbling under pressure early. It was never more evident than late in the first quarter, when Laidlaw produced my highlight of the day: he left his man to spoil, then chased down an opponent to lay a tackle, bounced to his feel to smother a kick, laid a bump and then tackled his opponent across the boundary line. Stirring repeat-effort stuff. 

Would have been great to see three or four teammates get over and pat him on the back or ruffle his hair. Nobody did. 

Fitzroy led 22–11 at the first change, let Scotch come back into the contest to dominate the second term, and then ramped up the pressure again in the third to have the game evenly poised at the final change.

The result hung in the balance for another 10 minutes until a crucial free kick went against the Roys just when it looked like we had taken a mark and would goal from 25 metres out.

This zapped momentum and not only led to a goal at the other end, but also opened the floodgates for Scotch to pile on a string of unanswered goals. The final margin blew out to 59 points.

The Roys backline, led by Lowry and Seakins, performed admirably, while McKay, Kewell and Davie tried hard through the midfield. Most encouragingly, our two best performers were probably our two youngest: Staples and Ramshaw.

Like last week, it was a brutal way to lose, albeit for a different reason.

This week it would be easy to say that Fitzroy got the rough end of the pineapple with marginal umpiring calls all day. Or that Fitzroy might have scraped over the line if it wasn’t missing a few important players. Or that the scoreboard didn’t tell the story.

The reality is that Fitzroy failed to win because of a lack of discipline. Because it conceded too many 50-metre penalties. Because it didn’t produce what was required for four quarters. Because it had too many quiet players and too many who played in patches. Because it is learning the composure and concentration required to play at Premier level.

So far we have had two games we could have won, but didn’t. Fixing those issues will give the Roys the best chance to open their account when they host Old Xaverians in the Anzac round match at Brunswick Street Oval on Saturday afternoon.

Garry Gorilla

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