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A RUN THROUGH THE JUNGLE

21-Jul-2021

By Guy Gorilla

Back in the 70s, when I was a younger, fitter and more talented Gorilla, I played footy in the Amo’s for Elsternwick. One of the oldest clubs in the VAFA. We reserved our fiercest contests for games against Ajax, and, unfortunately, that rivalry was built on racial, religious and cultural grounds. I was reminded of this when I entered Gary Smorgan Oval, thankfully that sort of bitterness is no longer acceptable. That said, I'm informed that clashes between Fitzroy and Ajax still have a history of heat.

The Ressies marched to a 5-goal win in a committed, even performance. Weather conditions were not ideal, a strong wind favouring the St Kilda end, and a potential dead pocket on Canterbury Road. Bitter and bleak, but a happy crowd, looking forward to the game. Dalton, Hudson-Bevege and Symons were important, more mobile inclusions for the Roys.

We kicked with the wind, but spent most of the first quarter trapped in that dead pocket. Our competitive intent was obvious, and Darcy Bennett dominated the taps. Conversion was the issue, we had 15 minutes of constant attack for little reward. Wrecking Ball Laidlaw was pack busting as per normal, and kicked a goal. Nathan Ligris and Max Ellis were stellar defenders, as was the entire backline. But an 8–1 score line at the siren asked more questions than it provided answers.

Coach Mahoney was positive at the huddle, and didn't want us to go into a defensive mindset. My thinking was that we had to find a way to capitalise on Bennett's dominance. It came, in tandem with fellow ruck Jack McKay. Rory Patterson won a clearance and cleverly passed to the dangerous full forward Lachy Harris for a goal. He provides a mature target. Defence was stout, and Big Bill Clayton made the footy resemble a peanut when he marked regularly on his chest. Brother Ted was in every pack, and Will Symons was showing dash on the flanks. He snapped brilliantly at the 27-minute mark. Harrison Grace was demonstrating great familiarity with the southern suburbs, and Nino Lazzaro was a constant threat all over the ground. 21–8 at half time, not a great margin, but the scene was set.

The third was total dominance. Ajax were locked in their backline for the majority of the quarter with The Wrecking Ball, Max Davey and Toby H-B the pack crashers. Harris kicked a couple before pinging a high hammy, Grace and Lazzaro belted through long ones, and Jack McKay goaled beautifully from a forward pocket throw in. All the while, Bennett just continued to dominate, providing balls galore to our mids. Ajax kicked their only goal for the quarter at the 30-minute mark. 57–14 at the final change.

The last quarter provided no great highlights, captain Jack Hart snapped a ripper, Nino snuck one through, and despite our ball dominance, Ajax was able to kick some late consolation goals. A four-goal win, we'll take that. Pretty even performance commented the coach in the sheds after the game. Sausages and party pies served by the Wrecking Ball as the boys savoured the win with some supporters present. Novel that.

Our challenge now is to knock over a top-four side, and De La Salle is our target. With the mindset we took to Ajax, I'm confident.

Let's run through the jungle. Don't look back.

Guy Gorilla.

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