How damn brilliant was Jetta taking on Rioli? Something for the ages.
It was like the fight everybody wanted. Everybody expected. As if the two of them had no say in it. As if it wasn’t just a piece of play, as if it wasn’t just a race. There was ownership involved.
One bounce, two, three… four! A knockout!
The fact it was in a Grand Final is what really made it grand.
As with the week before, Jetta started beside the chaser. Snapped and left dust and grasping hands.
We watched from Roland’s GF shed, with its bird’s nests and punched out walls. All the loose units of the district. The wild boys and loopy girls, work pallets stacked like stairs, then layered with every broken down, torn, shitty couch his dog has ever called home.
We “Oohhhed” at Hanneberry’s mark in the first.
We cried “DAMN that Goodes!” every time Adam made a contest. He played the power forward so well. Gibson spoiled, but, made accountable, wasn’t third over and couldn’t once get his golden fist on. The ball was predictable, fell into crumber’s paths. Goodes presented. And, when the game was there to be won or lost, he worked the packs in the middle. Like LRT, he played two games.
It’s easy to see how Goodes won two Brownlows. When he gets a ball and runs, he looks so big, that lope so imposing.
We nodded wisely at Sewell’s game, and Hale’s. Didn’t really notice Smith until we noticed we hadn’t noticed Rioli at all. What a job! The match-winner didn’t! Not once.
We said “Who the hell’s this Johnston bloke?” as he did a Birchel for the other team.
We almost felt sorry for Buddy. He spanked Ted, then spanked the points! This generation’s Richo! All that talent, ticker, such a mighty flaw.
When The Beard’s first goal went through everybody barracking for the Swans roared, slapping and harassing everybody barracking for the Hawks. There were fights everywhere!
Somebody, for some damn reason, set the barbie on fire.
Good marks happen in the time of a sneeze. So do goals. There’s something about a run, though. With each step it builds, like a wave. By Jetta’s fourth bounce Hawks and Swans and lost barflies and at least two cattle dogs were all on their feet, yelling anything and everything!
“Get him, get him, get him!”
Then, when he kicked it, we all bubbled down again, full of some mad kind of buzz, like excited school children pumped full of raspberry lemonade.
I vaguely remember Manassa’s run. Brilliant, but the game was over. Then there was McGuane’s. Lots of little bounces and zigging and zagging. Mitchell, for Richmond once ran the length of the field for a goal. It was weird. Nobody really approached him.
Jetta’s was so grand because for every damn step of it he was under the hammer! Rioli’s reach was never less than a foot away.
I once saw Mick Nolan, in a reserves final, at VLF Park, take three bounces on the member’s wing. By the third we were all cheering warm, laughing cheers and loving him like an uncle you want to hug.
We have a Jetta in the team I play for. Nugget’s his name. Same skinny build, same wiry, impossibly long-striding legs. Every time he takes a mark, if his opponent doesn’t wrap him up, he does this manic little leap in the air, like Fred Fintstone, and ZIIIPPP! Outa there! He takes ‘em on. They know he’s going to, are ready for him, but gauntlets were made to be thrown.
When he runs like that we all moan with envy shake our heads and smile.
He was the difference in a tight Grand Final this year. Like Jetta, and Robert Flower before him, he proves stats often lie. With twelve or fifteen touches he can rule a game.
Being a big, slow donk, I set myself a simple goal each year. The marks and desperation and whatnot will take care of themselves. But I aim to have at least one bounce before the year’s done.
Even when free, the rovers, black-flankers and wingers know I like to dish it off to speed, and come find me, for the chip, the handball. Yet, that once a year I have a dip.
This season gone, playing the second bottom team, Div Two reserves, in front of the dunny block clubrooms, cows in the background, seniors all gathered and lazy, half watching, talking, right in front of me, I took a mark out wide.
Sorta. Truth to tell, I slowed to a jog, to make sure the ball came back on the bounce. They gave a Bronx cheer! Fuck ‘em, I had 50 meters. I showed them the ball!
They laughed and bloody well roared!
I took another bounce.
Suddenly, I realised one of the other mob’s chubby forwards had had enough, and was bearing down on me from behind. I panicked, did a torrie, watched it slew off my boot to a contest not 30 meters away.
All that ‘glory’ for a 45 meter play. Hell, the boys let me know! ‘Job done for the year,’ I thought. ‘Screw them all.’
I would love to line that one up with Jetta’s, just for shits and giggles! Play them side-by-side.
Give me 100 Jarrad McVeigh smothers before one spectacular mark. Give me O’Keefe’s fifteen tackles over a good goal. Often we notice, barrack and give our best how we would like to play.
But Jetta’s run was something electric, above all that. A thunderbolt shaken down from the sky!
Sewell, Hannaberry were stiff, but I thought Ryan deserved his Norman. That the Swans, despite the scoring shots, deserved to win. They were tougher when it counted. Their backline absorbed everything the best of forward-lines and midfields could throw at them. LRT, Shaw, Morton’s desperate effort to spoil an easy Hawk mark in the last few minutes, Kanook Pike, the Bloods had underrated players rising to the occasion everywhere, never to be underrated again.
When the game was over, we pretty much raised the place. Why not? It was a corker full moon, Jetta had inspired us, and the shed was in a paddock, in a valley, lost in nowhere Tasmania, the nearest farm house two kms away.