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

Roys surge but can't land the telling blow


Back to the Melbourne Uni campus again in Round 9, this time to take on the well-heeled Uni cousins, the Blues.

Back at the Pav: surface a bit better than this time last year, but slippery still

This is a mob sponsored by a boutique advisory company that once had Andrew Demetriou and Hamish McLachlan in its ranks; a club that not only has high-profile Melburnians amongst its alumni and coterie, but a string of recently delisted AFL players who take the field each week.

A quick glance at the team sheet showed a quarter of the Uni team had about 300 recent games of AFL experience between them. I looked at their likely match-ups: Jack Hart, the Roys skipper who had captained half a dozen Fitzroy Junior teams; Darcy Lowrie, who was a gangly Colt and all long limbs and enthusiasm in the Juniors; Jock Green, who began his affiliation with Fitzroy as an AusKicker at Brunswick Street Oval.

There were names like Laird Ramshaw, one of three dyed-in-the-wool Fitzroy brothers who played Juniors while their mum and dad coached and team managed year after year. Matteo Bombardieri, a staple of many Fitzroy junior midfields and behind the counter at Piedemontes.

They are all origin stories that are repeated throughout the Fitzroy squad: Juniors who have made the journey via weekends at the Alfred Crescent postage stamp, the windy Ramsden Street slope, and the giddy thrill of Colts home matches at Victoria Park.

Under the VAFA’s equivalent of a salary cap – the Blues' players racked up 44 of an allowable 45 points on Saturday, the Roys 26.

The Blues might have worked their way into being A-section mainstays, but they would underestimate the Roys’ spirit and resolve at their peril.

The day began with the Reserves putting in a patchy performance: leading 10-1 at quarter time but then kicking one point to 30 in the second term to effectively determine the outcome of the match. Winstanley, Nelson and Johnstone had a crack throughout, while Hodgman, Vlassopoulos and McShane battled valiantly in an under-siege backline.

The Seniors took the field with two changes from the previous match: Harvey and Haward in for Grace (VFL) and McShane.

Within the opening four minutes the Blues had two goals on the board via set shots from 50 metres, and the challenge was on. But the Roys steadied and through a combination of run, physicality and tackling, worked their way back into the game.

The first goal came through some excellent forward pressure, with Faubel laying a tackle in the goal square and Hart capitalising.

Fitzroy’s second and third goals came when the boys moved the ball fluidly from coast to coast, and although they trailed by two points at the first change, it felt like they had all of the momentum.

That is how it seemed in the second quarter, when Fitzroy slammed on four goals during a five-minute burst to get out to a 16-point lead. But the Blues showed their class by responding with a streak of the next five - a problem that has hurt Fitzroy this season.

The Blues kicked the first goal of the second half and were pressing, but Fitzroy showed enormous character to produce some superb pressure acts that changed the flow of the contest: a Turner smother, a Wilson spoil, a Laidlaw hard-ball get, an Ellis tackle.

Trailing by five points at the final change, the Roys were urged by coach Ronaldson to “keep their attacking mindset’’, and that is how it played out early in the last quarter.

Fitzroy surged for the opening 10 minutes of the final term, but couldn’t capitalise on their dominance: a Seakins snap hit the post, a Harvey set shot from 30 metres drifted wide, a running shot by Wilson hit the post. Any would have put Fitzroy in front.

The Roys were making all of the play and the Blues looked rattled, but a costly turnover across half back put the ball into the hands of the Blues full forward and the resulting goal took a lot of air out of the Roys’ balloon.

As the coach observed later, Fitzroy was like a boxer who had the opponent on the ropes and covering up, but just failed to show the composure to land the knockout blow.

The Roys battled on, but a couple of late Blues' goals took the final margin out to 19 points.

Plenty of Roys could hold their heads high coming off the ground. Up forward Hart contested wonderfully and Faubel made a welcome return to form. Seakins was a great contributor on a wing, and Johnson and Wilson led the midfield. Lowrie was excellent coming off half back.

At the halfway point of the season, Fitzroy will feel that this was one of a handful of games that it let slip, but pleasingly the Roys have been competitive in every match.

They will need to lift to the next level in the second half of the season and win a few of these gettable games to avoid relegation. 

They should be helped by the fact that six of the remaining games are at their Brunswick Street Oval home, starting with Saturday’s fixture against Old Scotch.

Garry Gorilla

Get our Newsletter

Are you a Member?