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Still, dry conditions greeted the Senior Men for the clash between Fitzroy and Old Melburnians at Brunswick Street Oval. The Roys were yet to post a win so far in season 2024, but saw an opportunity against one-win OM’s.

A massive crowd was in attendance, a mix of past players from the lunch, the regular crew, chic trendoids, players from other Fitzroy games and a contrasting gathering from OMs: some more Menzies ministers who weren’t at Brighton last week, an AFL apparatchik, and sundry souls from South Yarra, looking strangely out of place in the inner north. I can’t get my hair to work the way they do.

Three changes for the Roys: Wilson, Turner and Holmes in for the hamstrung trio of Seakins, Hart and Davie. Logic would suggest the Roys would find it tough, but one thing the boys have revealed this year (and prior) is an amazing resilience and Die Hard mentality. We’d need 22 of the Bruce Willis variety.

As Charlie Faubel made his way to the rooms a minute before the opening bounce, I initially wondered why, then was reminded it was one of his unique habits. He had a spring in his step, and these were perfect Charlie conditions.

In the blink of an eye OMs were on the board, the Roys caught stargazing. Ramshaw and Turner were prominent early, opposite ends of the age spectrum.
Predictably, Faubel swooped on a pass from Ramshaw, swerved artfully and goaled. I wrote ‘Genius Guy’ in my notes. The pressure gauge was up, and Wright was superb up and down the ground, his kicking a delight.

Intense forward pressure by Faubel and Wilson freed up Turner to slot our second. Minahan was contesting fiercely and cleverly. OMs however kicked a couple. They were slicker than us and we had to find a way to de-slick them. Don’t think too hard about that last bit. Ellis was marvellous in defence, he’ll play till he’s 100, keep teaching kids, having kids and turning out for our club.

It was 17-15 our way at the first change. Laidlaw was denied a goal after the hooter because he moved in an arc off his line. Probably correct, but…

Coach Ronaldson itemised specifics at the huddle, one of which was to get tackles lower. Paying ‘over the shoulder’ is de rigueur these days. ‘Tish, that’s French.’

Clearly, OMs got a rocket at the break, and got on the board quickly. Lowrie was defending with aplomb, and lefty Ligris as lethal as ever with his left peg.
Faubel then transferred the play fantastically and found Harvey for his first. Constant tackling and pressure was causing turnovers from the Grammar boys, and McKay took advantage going forward.

Faubel then found the ball in the goal square after a super smart kick from Harvey. They replied, but Minahan was leading from the front in the middle, pack busting with punch in the mould of Bruce Willis. Die Hard with dare and dash.

Harvey then revealed his unique athleticism, a clever snap, and it was 42–29 at the main break. Wright was playing a spectacular game in defence, and I think it was his Mum who screamed encouragement and joy from the stand each time he touched the ball. Which was plenty. 

Harvey marked and goaled after a smart pass from Kewell. The kid, the ‘freak’, should share the same nickname as his namesake, a prodigiously talented Vic cricketer from the 80s. For reasons that only our game can provide, OMs kicked the next five, wiping out the Roys lead. There was an air of unsettled disquiet descending upon the faithful.

Never mind, Harvey kicked another pair, either side of an OM’s major. It was truly goal for goal, but we trailed 66–60 at the final break. A huge huddle, the main message being that the Roys needed to go up a gear.

After the opposition kicked the first of the last, McKay marked and goaled after the effervescent Faubel passed skilfully. Clayton to the ruck and McKay parked near Harvey was a real challenge for the opposition defence. Minahan then robustly and courageously took the ball forward from the centre, Faubel again, and Harvey soared above the pack for another. At this point the Roys lead by a point.

The last 10 minutes or so were total domination. Harvey, Turner and Laidlaw kicked some beauties, often on the end of tradesmanlike passes from the likes of Kewell.

I listen to the crowd screaming encouragement, "C’mon Roys", it’s a beautiful thing. I wonder to myself, "How deep is their love?" Then the song, playing non-stop on a loop.

It was a 17 point victory in the end, the players not really wanting to leave the ground that had delivered them so much joy, but then they were met with rapturous applause. Same in the rooms, the coach reiterating that we needed and wanted more of this.

The OM coach as very graceful after the game. Very complimentary. I don’t think he’d ever struck the level of passionate support provided by the Fitzroy army. Something to be proud of.

Keep working hard, rewards will come, we won’t die wondering. St Kevins next Saturday, somewhere south-east of the city. Let no one take the ‘Roy Joy’.

Guy Gorilla

Images courtesy Phyllis Quealy

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