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I’LL GIVE THEE A WIND by Whispering Jack



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The football world was reminded this week about the last time Melbourne opened a season with six wins or more in a row. That was in 1965 when Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was Prime Minister of Australia and the country was fighting a war in faraway Vietnam. It was before Jack Viney’s father, Todd, was born — a time when the game was played almost exclusively on Saturdays and when Demon fans used to wake up in the morning mostly safe in the knowledge that there was not even the remotest possibility that their team would lose that day.

And so it was when the final siren blared over the MCG on Saturday 22 May, 1965. The scoreboard bore witness to a narrow victory for the Demons over their bitter rivals, the Magpies — a total of 6.13.49 was enough to better their opponents’ 7.5.47 for a sixth consecutive victory. However, not a single member of the crowd of 56,808 who attended was aware of the ill wind building overhead preparing to descend upon the Melbourne Football Club carrying with it a curse of monumental proportion. The Norm Smith Curse was to take its time (the Dees won another two before the losses began) and a further two months would elapse before the zephyr rose in strength to reach force 12 hurricane magnitude. By then it was a vicious, destructive and deadly wind.

On a dark and gloomy Saturday 24 July, 1965, Demon supporters woke to the news that their coach had been sacked and replaced by old war horse Frank V “Checker” Hughes. A small number trekked out to a windswept City of Coburg Oval (the day’s crowd was 8,312) to watch Melbourne fall on its sword by 21 points. Coach Norm Smith was reinstated a week later but the damage was done. The one thing that was clear from the experience was that the Demons were no longer a cohesive unit with everyone on the same page. They missed the finals for the first time since 1953 and the curse remained in the hearts and minds of the Melbourne faithful for years to come, constantly returning to the memory of that fateful day in July, 1965 when a brood of witches sat in a windstorm under thundery skies and cast a spell over them:-

“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”

Some 5½ decades passed until 2020 when a plague came and brought with it a massive dislocation to our normal lives. We stayed at home, businesses closed down, the old and infirm died. Our sport stopped dead in its tracks until respite came in the country’s north. Football teams were taken into hubs and games were played in exotic locations like tropical Cairns where, one day, the Demons landed in the eye of a storm. They lost both of their eminently winnable games played over a four day span in oppressive conditions but something magical occurred up there. The damned spot was removed and the Norm Smith Curse suddenly evaporated. 


Melbourne has not lost a game since that visit to the stormy tropics. From out of the experience of defeat came a steely resolve to play selfless football. The players gelled together as one and this has carried through the pre season and into the opening rounds of 2021.

It helps that there’s a fair bit of hardness, class, determination and natural improvement among the playing group starting from the top with the leadership. Max Gawn and his young sidekick Luke Jackson are not only winning plenty of ruck duels but winning the ball both in the air and on the ground. They give the team a virtual extra player. They have at their feet an elite midfield with Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver performing ball- winning feats in perfect harmony along with a magnificent support cast in Angus Brayshaw and Jack Viney. Around them gather wingers and half back flankers who run like the wind and accumulate the footy. The key defenders won’t even let the wind through — Steven May, Jake Lever and Adam Tomlinson are about as miserly as you can get. Then there’s a forward line where selectors have struggled to date to fit in the likes of Ben Brown and Sam Weideman!

Against them this week is a team in a state of disarray. North Melbourne is a young side that’s been kicked around the park in all of its games this year and last week ended up in quarantine playing the Dockers in an otherwise empty stadium. They spent the best part of the week not even knowing whether they would be playing on their home away from home, Blundstone Arena. Some might argue that this forced bonding will advantage them and that they are a chance to cause an upset against a cocky opponent at a place where they have triumphed over them three times in the recent past by 5, 4 and 5 points respectively.

I have news for them. Blundstone Arena in 2021 is not the the City of Coburg Oval of 1965 and unlike then, the Melbourne team is playing as one, with steely determination whether in fine and sunny weather or in thunder, lightning, or in rain. Those things no longer matter. The curse is over and the Demons will be too good for the hapless Kangaroos.

Melbourne will win by 63 points.

THE GAME

North Melbourne v Melbourne on Sunday 2 May, 2021 at Blundstone Arena, Hobart at 1.10pm   

HEAD TO HEAD    

Overall North Melbourne 82 wins Melbourne 85 wins 1 draw

At Blundstone Arena North Melbourne 3 wins Melbourne 0 wins

Last five times North Melbourne 3 wins Melbourne 2 wins

The coaches Noble 0 wins Goodwin 0 wins

MEDIA

TV live and on demand on Kayo and live on Foxtel. Check your local guides.

Radio - check your local guides.

THE LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 13.14.92 defeated North Melbourne 5.5.35 at Adelaide Oval, Round 11, 2020

After a relatively even first half caused by some wastefulness in front of goal, Melbourne careered away thanks to the dominance of midfielders Petracca, Oliver and Brayshaw.

THE TEAMS

NORTH MELBOURNE

B:  A. Bonar 16 B McKay 23 S. Atley 18

HB: J. Ziebell 7 J. Walker 19 A. Hall 43 

C: L. Young 17 J. Simpkin 12 J. Stephenson 2

HF: K. Turner 28 C. Taylor 5 C. Zurhaar 44

F: Jack Mahony 1 N. Larkey 20 T. Thomas 26

Foll T. Goldstein 22 B. Cunnington 10 T. Powell 24

I/C: A. Bosenavulagi 15 T. Campbell 42 C. Lazzaro W. Phillips 29

Sub: C. Menadue 31 Emerg: E. Ford 40 B. Scott 8 D. Tyson 21

In: A. Hall C. Lazzaro 

Out: L. Davies-Uniacke (personal reasons) C. Menadue (omitted)

MELBOURNE

B: J. Lever 8 S. May 1 M. Hibberd 14

HB: C. Salem 3 A. Tomlinson 20 J. Hunt 29

C: O. Baker 33 C. Petracca 5 E Langdon 15

HF: J. Jordon 23 T. McDonald 25 J. Melksham 18 

F: C. Spargo 9 B. Brown 50 B. Fritsch 31

Foll: M. Gawn 11 A. Brayshaw 10 C. Oliver 13

I/C L. Jackson 6 A. Neal-Bullen 30 K. Pickett 36 T. Rivers 24

Sub: N. Jones 2 Emerg: K. Chandler 37 H. Petty 35

In: O. Baker B. Brown 

Out: K. Chandler (omitted) J. Viney (toe)

Injury List: Round 7

James Harmes (wrist) — Available 

Jay Lockhart (calf) — 1 Week 

Aaron vandenBerg (quad) — 3 Weeks

Bailey Laurie (eye socket) — 6 to 7 Weeks

Joel Smith (knee) — 8 Weeks

Marty Hore (knee) — Season

Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season

PreviewRd072021.png

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