Better seats this week. After being behind the point post in the Ponsford stand last week we are in the Olympic Stand between the centre and the 50m line at the Punt Road end. 30 rows from the fence on the bottom level. Happy with this, always prefer to sit somewhere between the two 50m lines. Boonie and I take our seats as West Coast run out. Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox are giants. Good luck Jolly. Then come the Pies. The teams line up for a minutes silence for John McCarthy. Always sends a chill up my spine, whether it’s ANZAC day or for a player like J-MAC. The national anthem is followed by the loudest roar I have heard since the 2010 Collingwood v Geelong preliminary final.
It’s the Eagles who start well. Naitanui wins the first hit out then gets the ball back and thumps it to the forward line. Looks like he is set for a big night. Darling and McGinnity goal for West Coast. Krakouer kicks a goal only he could kick, but it is reversed by the video umpire. This does not go down well with the Magpie army who grow in voice. Things aren’t looking good. Hill and Kerr goal for the Eagles. Tarrant is struggling and making mistakes. Maybe that saying “when you have decided to retire you have retired” is true. Like it was for Leigh Brown last year. Boonie and I are thinking the worst. But then Goldsack takes a strong mark in front of goal. Never confident when Goldy has a set shot. My lack of faith is justified with his miss. But moments later Harry O latches on to a loose ball and bangs it through for a goal. We needed that one. After a Cloke miss Pendelbury marks strongly and goals. Goldsack marks again. And misses again. But he is providing a target. Cox goals for the Eagles but shortly after Jolly takes a mark inside our forward 50. Unlike when Goldy is taking a shot, I’m supremely confident when D. Jolly has a set shot inside 50. Of course he puts it right through the middle. We are 9 pts down at quarter time but right in it.
The Pies dominate the second quarter. Like we did the second half of the first. But only score 1 goal. As does West Coast. Tarrant has improved though. Jolly is matching the Eagles twin towers. But at the main break the Magpies are now 11 points down. Boonie and I are worried that after dominating the quarter and not taking advantage the Eagles would turn it on and blow us away.
But it was Daisy who blew the West Australians away. 3 goals in the first 7 minutes of the 3rd term to the Magpies number 13. He will never win a Brownlow but is a great finals performer. Barring last week. Suddenly we are 8 points up. Daisy is starring and Pendles is back to the form he was in before his mid-season leg injury. Blair kicks a goal from near the boundary 50m out. Didn’t know he could kick that far. A late mark and after siren goal to Jack Darling and it’s a 10 point margin in favour of the Pies at the last change. Boonie and I more confident now and start talk of Sydney preliminary finals.
That notion is turned on it’s head rather quickly as Nic Nat goals within 45 seconds of the last quarter, followed by a Josh Kennedy goal. We are now 2 points down. Goldsack marks in front of goal again. I can hardly watch. But I do and he puts it through for 6 points. Like I knew he would. Swanny goals. We have a two goal break. And hang on to it for the last 6 minutes. Great win. The Magpie army sing the song as loud as I have heard them sing. Myself included. Many of the players who were down against Hawthorn were much better. Reid was brilliant. Brown, Toovey and Johnson won in their roles. Apart from his first couple of touches and fumbles Tarrant was great. Maybe he should go on next year, you are a long time retired after all. Sidebottom was fantastic after his disposal let him down in the Hawks game. Swan and Beams were very good, while Thomas and Pendlebury were back to their brilliant best. How good was Andrew Gaff for West Coast? Was great to see a midfielder play a starring role in the number 3. He reminded me a lot of the great Chris Mainwaring. Except he is left footed. Kerr was also at his brilliant best. The Eagles will be up there again next year.
It’s always a great walk back to the car after a finals win. And a great drive home. But next week will be different. An interstate preliminary final. Against a red hot team. I will be watching on TV instead of being there. Who knows how the Pies will react after Thursday’s funeral of their mate. I’m proud of the way they played for him against West Coast. Whatever happens from now on, a team struck by injury and grief has made it to the last 4. They have nothing to lose now.
RIP John McCarthy.