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



Still, sunny conditions met the Roys at Pirañha Park Coburg for their Men’s Senior semi final against Old Haileybury. A slight breeze favoured the Bell Street end, Father’s Day celebrations the furthest thing from the collective mindset. A huge challenge confronted the playing and coaching group, the opposition had soundly whipped us in the previous two home and away meetings. A different psyche and structure were required. How would we deal with our first ever B Grade Men’s final?

Let’s get the cards on the table from the outset. Haileybury was loaded with talent from VFL lists. It is your correspondent’s belief that this loading up compromises the integrity of the VAFA competition, especially when it gets to the business end of the season. 

Sour grapes? Of course it is. Unreasonably so? No! We don’t want to play the martyr, but maybe we deserve a fair and reasonable shake. I won’t go into the community club versus old boys argument, this is meant to be a match report. You can draw your own conclusions, but to be certain, we are proud of what our players and staff bring.

The game. Lazzaro and Turner in for Megennis and Wotherspoon. It was important that we started well. We provided a heavy defensive intent. Toohey kicked our first from long range to the northern end, the opposition had multiple entries for behinds. They then kicked their first at the 30-minute mark. It was 11–10 at quarter time, but unsure of the breeze effect.

Coach Mahoney was positive and pleased at the huddle. “The pressure was super”, the players were instructed to use their pace, “own the ball” and “share the yellow” (a cycling analogy).

At the start of the second, Ted Clayton won a free and converted, and we were defending like our lives depended on it. Haileybury then kicked four goals in a row, their method a simple process of going long to the talls, then their crumbers hitting the packs. Lazzaro goaled after fierce forward pressure, but they responded with another couple of majors. It was certainly easier to score at the Bell Street end.

But we weren’t going away. Another forward thrust from Lazzaro got it to Ted Clayton for a goal, and then he did his brother Bill a favour, surging it to the grandstand end for the big boy to convert at the 33-minute mark. 50–36 at the half, their way. You could feel the Fitzroy spirit, it was tangible, the crowd support immense.

A question occurred to me early in the third quarter. “How would both sides react if the margin was roughly the same at the final change?” I reckon they’d be jumpy, and we could play with devil dare.

Lambert goaled after a smart kick out of defence from Toohey found Wrecking Ball Laidlaw, who duly passed it on. The tackling machine then laid a big one and converted. Beautiful clearance work from Ted Clayton, and Toohey got it to Big Bill who could only manage a point. But scores were level. Toohey’s disposal by foot was a delight, searing long range, low altitude passes. Defenders Ellis, Green, Ligris and Seakins stoutly defended any Haileybury attacks.

A chain of handballs got it to young gun Staples for a goal, our pressure gauge was through the roof. At 29 minutes, Toohey found Turner on the lead, the siren sounded, and the Co-Captain calmly found the middle of the big sticks. It was 66–50 our way.

The final huddle was electric. A huge mob encircled the playing and coaching group, feeding off each other’s emotions. Patient and clear decision making was the message, inspiration was everywhere.

There was a deathly hush in the opening minutes. Haileybury kicked four points with repeat entries. The extra rotations through their midfield were creating havoc, and they kicked three quick goals to take the lead. Fitzroy would not say die, pressing forward at every opportunity, until Ted Clayton took a huge pack mark, converted with mature composure, and levelled the scores. You know where this goes, they went forward, one of their AFL/VFL converts got his hands on it, and snapped a beautiful goal – not beautiful to watch, but very classy. 31 minutes, siren, 79–73 their way, despite the VAFA website having us 8 goal winners. Boy did I get some strange messages about that.

A summation? Their legs got us in the end, but only just. Our method, our drive, our love of each other was something to behold. Disappointment leaked out of every pore in the sheds. These boys will stay together, and build on a really strong foundation. If, if, we had snatched victory, the club would have been realistically staring at A Grade. Let’s embrace that challenge next year.

Thank you for the year. Let’s support the Ressies in their quest for a flag next weekend.

A passing thought. We are all just beggars on the street of love, and “I love yous all”. Paul Kelly meets Jeff Fenech.

Guy Gorilla

Images: Phyllis Quealy

Get our Newsletter

Are you a Member?