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Fitzroy’s character speaks louder than words


It was one of those rainy, wintry football days at Brunswick St Oval on Saturday as Fitzroy hosted St Bernards.

That meant three things: getting to the game was going to mean dragging yourself away from the fireplace and soup, best to prepare for a scrappy contest, and expect to see plenty of St Bernards’ black puffer jackets in the crowd.

The rain was pretty relentless for the Reserves match, which was fairly even until three-quarter time before the Roys blew the game open.

Every player seemed to put in a decent contribution in the 34-point win - the Roys’ second of the season - with Vlassopoulos, McGrath, Davie, Kelly and Hodgman among those to catch the eye.

The Seniors ran out with one selection change from last week: 'Hammer’' McShane out, 'Buckets' Butler in.

The game did not begin well, with St Bernards clearing the footy out of the middle and jagging a crumbed goal inside the first 20 seconds. But there would be only one more goal for the quarter - when Harward collared a Snowdogs defender and converted the resultant tree kick - and scores were tied up 8-8 at the first change.

The first 15 minutes of the second quarter were an arm wrestle, until Harvey presented well just forward of centre and intelligently moved it on quickly to set up a clever goal to Turner, who is enjoying a nice patch of mid-season form.

Ramshaw added another lovely goal a few minutes later and the quarter ended with McKay - playing his 50th match - goaling after the siren from a free kick.

My main observation at half time was that if there was a gold medal on offer for whingeing, the black puffer brigade would be on a plane this week bound for the Paris Olympics.

I also got to thinking about how our flatter spells in this game had not cost us with a streak of opposition goals.

That would change in the third quarter. After a good five minutes of relentless forward pressure and tackling, Nelson coolly slotted the Roys’ fifth goal to get out to a 23-point lead, but then the backline was under siege for the rest of the quarter and did well to only conceded three goals.

Scores were level at the final change. A black puffer jacket marched towards the Snowdogs huddle yelling that ‘’these so-and-so’s are soft and are cracking under pressure’’. Actually his language was a lot saltier, but the Olympics are in Paris so I pardoned his French.

Coach Ronaldson urged the Roys to make a couple of tactical adjustments, and also reminded them that this was a super opportunity to show that they could close out a game - something they had failed to do in two or three recent matches.

For the next 15 minutes the atmosphere was tense and the footy seemed to live in a scrimmage. The Snowdogs eked out a two-point lead but the Roys held firm and put  the pressure back on with some extended time in their forward 50.

From a stoppage Faubel hoiked the footy to the top of the goal square where Harvey seemed to take a dead-set two-grab hanger of a mark. The umpires - who despite the rigourous discourse from black puffer jackets had seemed to have a good afternoon - mysteriously chose not to pay the mark.

The ball lived back in the packs for another five minutes until Seakins was tackled high - a forest of black puffy arms was raised and so was a chorus of robust Snowdogs voices - leading to a 50-metre penalty.

Seakins converted from the goal square, and deep into time-on added to his heroics by grabbing the footy from a stoppage and snapping a wobbly 50-metre floater to get the margin out to 10 points and effectively seal the result.

Against a Snowdogs team that prides itself on clearances, the Roys midfield led by Seakins, Wilson and Harward rose to the challenge. And on a day not suited to big men, McKay was the stand out in a Roys brigade of talls who competed fiercely throughout.

The backline unit was at its best, with Ellis and Lowrie formidable and Green back to his defensive best. The Roys kept St Bernards to its lowest score of the season, and goalless in the second and fourth quarters.

After the match coach Ronaldson proudly declared the victory "was all about effort and character’’ and the large contingent of home fans agreed.

Fitzroy now has two weeks off due to a double bye, but for those keen to see the players in action, Ligris and Harvey are in the Victorian team that will take on a Perth Football League rep team next Sunday in WA, with the match to be live streamed on the VAFA website.

Garry Gorilla

Images courtesy Phyllis Quealy

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