AFL Finals Week 2 – Geelong v Port Adelaide: Payback can wait

Just before the Sturt vs Port Adelaide 1998 SANFL Grand Final there was a big bold headline on the back page of The Advertiser simply saying “It’s payback time”. Payback for what? To find the answer you would have had to wind the clock back twenty two years. Port went into the 1976 SANFL Grand Final against Sturt as red hot favourites but as the game progressed Sturt slowly but surely took control until they finished the last quarter with total dominance. It was in front of the biggest SANFL crowd ever. The official crowd was given as 66,897 but there was probably an extra ten thousand more as many people who were denied tickets pushed one of the gates in and sat on the inside of the fence. It was a loss that cut deeply and although Port went on to win the premiership against Glenelg the following year Sturt never received their payback. At that time Port had been in the AFL for two years but the older Port supporters still remembered 1976 and wanted retribution. In 1998 Sturt were minor premiers and Port had scraped into fourth spot. Sturt easily progressed into the Grand Final and were warm favourites. Some of Port’s players were not even born when the 1976 Grand Final was played but they all knew about it and when the final siren ended the 1998 Grand Final Port were nine points up and had a payback that was twenty two years in the making.

Port has had one other big loss that sticks in the gut. You don’t have to be a Rhode Scholar or even graduate from Sunshine TAFE to know it was the 2007 AFL Grand Final. It was a game that over the next six years saw the club pushed to the brink. The 2013 Semi Final may not hold the same status as the last Saturday in September but to Port supporters beating Geelong in a Semi Final would be part of the reprisal.

Now this takes me to my story. I always knew where I was going to be during Semi Final week. I had been slated to work on a ten to fourteen day geophysics survey near Adelong starting on Tuesday, 10 September. That said, if there was any chance that of making it to the MCG on Friday night I would be there. I worked out it was about a five and a half hour drive from Adelong to the banks of the Yarra. Five hours if you use incontinence pads. All I needed now was either an early finish on Friday or a sympathetic client who was either a Port or Geelong supporter. If I left at two pm, I could get to the game on time and then be back by three am. I could then get three hours sleep and work the next day. Unfortunately the client was a league fan and weather forecast was good, ruining any chance of an early finish. During the week I checked out if the pub was showing the game. Despite Adelong being on the aussie rules side of the Barassi Line it was a still very much a Rugby League town. As were all of my workmates. I was left to watch the game alone in my cabin on a sixteen inch television. So I armed myself with a six pack of Coopers Pale Ale, settled in and hoped for the best.

I always knew Port wouldn’t allow themselves to be shamed again and that’s how the game went from start to finish. An early easy miss by Colquhoun allowed big game player Chapman to reply for Geelong with two difficult goals. For the rest of the first quarter Port had the better and finished with three well earned goals. The second quarter had me actually believing in Football Gods and fairy tales. Port played brave football and at half time were twenty three points up. The good thing was that there were no real stand outs for Port whereas Geelong was kept in the game by their older champions.

The second half wasn’t what the writers of Bad News Bears and Field of Dreams would have scripted. Players like Chapman, Kelly, Bartel, Johnson and Corey took control and all of Port’s hard work in the first half was washed away in ten minutes. However I was yet to give up faith. As Geelong took more and more control I hoped that Port could hang in there and be within striking range with ten minutes to go. For the next quarter and a half the ball seemed to spend most of the time inside Geelong’s forward fifty. The belief was still there as Geelong repeatedly missed easy shots. With about ten minutes to go one of my workmates knocked on my door to find out why I was yelling at the television. Shortly after Christensen and Selwood goaled to put Geelong twenty three points up with about four minutes to go. My workmate asked if it was over and I said if Port got up from here I would do a “Frank the Tank” down the main street of Adelong. Then just like so many times this year Port threw caution to the wind and kicked two goals in two minutes and the hope grew again. I skulled the last of my beers and was undoing the buttons on my shirt as the ball was bounced with two minutes on the clock. Unfortunately a holding the ball decision saw Geelong move the ball forward and Motlop score the sealer. My neoprene stubby holder was thrown with full pace at the television screen and the good folk of Adelong were saved from a vision that could require a lifetime of counselling.

Port didn’t get their revenge but they did have a one hundred and three point improvement on the last time we played Geelong in a final. I felt that on the night our young players got the better of their young players and, other than Motlop and Selwood, Geelong were saved by players like Bartel, Chapman, Corey, Johnson and Kelly. All of whom will be the wrong side of thirty next year. If, at the start of the season, you offered me a sixteen point loss to Geelong at the MCG in a Semi Final I would have taken it. However after once again getting the taste of finals football I want more. As long as Port supporters keep getting into the ears of the players that pull on the Port Adelaide jumper we will beat Geelong in a final again one day. It may take twenty two years but until then payback can wait.

GEELONG                2.2    3.6    8.12    13.18 (96)

PORT ADELAIDE     3.2    7.5    8.5      12.8 (80)

 

GOALS

Geelong: Chapman 4, Hawkins 2, Motlop 2, Duncan, Bartel, Corey, Christensen, Selwood

Port Adelaide: Westhoff 3, Schulz 2, Ebert, Monfries, Lobbe, Logan, Gray, Broadbent, Hartlett

 

BEST

Geelong: Chapman, Selwood, Motlop, Johnson, Kelly, Bartel

Port Adelaide: Ebert, Westhoff, O’Shea, Logan, Moore, Broadbent

 

Umpires: Stevic, Meredith, McInerney

 

Official crowd: 52,744

 

Our Votes: 3. Chapman (G) 2 Selwood (G) 1 Ebert (PA)

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Entertaining write up Danny and your better than me as a non Port Supporter I would like to point out you got a right pants down and etc by the Umpires You have crucified
    McInerney not including him in Geelongs best mind you fair point that the good folk of Adelong have been saved from years of physiological counselling
    It will be interesting how Port cope with the Harder Draw next season
    Well done Danny May Bob Be With you

  2. Good report Dan. There is that heroic “Horatio guards the bridge” feeling to barracking for your team, when everyone else is either disinterested or antagonistic. You kept the faith.
    Your boys stood up much better under pressure than I thought they would. Against Collingwood you were able to counter attack when they came at you after half time. Against Geelong you lacked the same poise and self belief when it came to running the ball out of defence. Trengrove is a bit of a serial offender for missing targets.
    Still on the upside – Lobbe is the best young ruckman in the comp; Hartlett the best kick; and Monfries is the most improved. I agree that your youngsters outplayed the Cats kids, which is no mean feat considering their ability and relative experience.
    The last quarter free to Corey in the goal square, and the ‘advantage’ paid to Cornes shortly afterwards certainly took the wind out of your sails. But to your credit you never gave up.
    I don’t reckon Kenny will let the boys get ahead of themselves as Adelaide and my Eagles did this year. He is coach of the year in my book.
    Well done those men.

  3. Basket case says:

    Dan

    I remember the pain of 1976 against Sturt still ! Great story , go the hawks next week

  4. Thanks Dan, good report.

  5. Paul Spinks says:

    Good read, Dan. Adelong – an appropriate place name for watching a game between teams from Adelaide and Geelong – apart from the lack of footy appreciation. Not sure the Barassi Line means what it used to, though it was always less a factor the further east you went.
    My selective memory recalls a final at Football Park in 2004 when Port gave the Cats a hiding. I was there and had the ignominy afterwards of making my way to Aldinga Beach by buses full of Port fans. Got there eventually. Geelong were perennial under achievers back then and you won the flag.
    In 2007 the Cats were the fairy tale and Port were pereceived as arrogant. Funny how things turn around. Underdog one minute, tall poppy the next.
    Port’s future does look promising. Time will tell if Geelong can get enough games into our youngsters before all the veterans walk off into the sunset. Hopefully you will get another chance at payback because that means we’re still a contender.

  6. Nick Raschella says:

    I’m not waiting 22 years to beat Geelong again. I was dreaming as well at half time of a Prelim final. But not to be.

    In the end the old blokes for the cats were just two good.

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