AFL Grand Final: The Price You Pay – A Fairytale

The Price You Pay: A Fairytale

 

The film Caddyshack can be easily written off as a second rate sports film. But that would miss the point of its central conceit and charm – the fairytale of the outsider that comes through.

This charm is best seen in Bill Murray’s wonderful performance as Carl Spackler. Particularly the scene where he commentates (imagines) winning the Masters with a hole in one, “This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the Masters champion”.

And so it was that the focus of this year’s Grand Final was a fairytale. The fairytale of Fremantle first found footing after they demolished Geelong at fortress Kardinya. When they stunned the Swans in two quarters of intense and smothering defensive football to win their way into their first Grand Final it set the footy world alight. It was literally the Cinderella story outta nowhere.

Experienced footy analysts touted Lyon as a genius. Don Scott at the Almanac GF lunch, claiming to have hardly watched a game in 20 years, pronounced the Dockers kings and Premiers. By game day on Channel 7 the vote line had 60% tipping (hoping) Freo would hold the Cup aloft come 5.30.

When the siren sounded at half time the Freo fairytale looked as faded as my jeans. Freo had scored one goal to that point and you don’t win on the big stage playing like that. In 60 minutes of football the mighty Hawks outplayed the apprentice Dockers at their own game. The Hawks had out muscled, out tackled and out bullied Freo all over the park. But the game wasn’t nearly over, the best was yet to come. And so was the fairytale.

There are two standout periods that made this Grand Final great. The first was how well the Hawks beat Freo at their own game as I’ve said. This cannot be over stated. The argument leading up to this game was that Lyon had, through Freo, lifted defensive pressure to a new level and, more significantly, that is what would beat the Hawks. It didn’t. The Hawks fought the Lyon game plan and the Hawks won.

In doing so it forced Freo to open up and start playing a more free flowing game. In the Third Freo found space and their fast running midfielders (notably Mundy) created more opportunities and dared to dream. By midway through the quarter they had the run of the game. They had whittled the chase to 3 points. Freo fans lifted in voice and song. The desire inspired by the surge was palpable. The next twenty minutes of footy (the last half of the Third and the first 10 minutes of the Last) was as good as it gets.

We were on the edge of our seats. Twelve rows from the fence just to the side of the point post, with the Dockers Cheer Squad right alongside willing the fairytale to come true, it was as much as Hawks fans could take. All the questions, all the doubts, all the mistakes of the past crashed around in my head like storms of the apocalypse. I could barely breathe.

Through the mist of the looming disaster I had already foretold Mitchell booted the ball mid-air, Puopolo deftly tapped it to himself then found Hill who headed towards the boundary trying to find space to get a kick goal-ward. The ball sailed into the square where Gunston did enough to keep the ball in play with the devil on his heel.

Then, in a moment that spoke of the Hawks’ hunger to win, Gunston trapped the ball less than a feather’s length from the point line, picked it up, swivelled and goaled in the one action. The Hawks weren’t going to lie down. They were going to pay the price. The storms in my head abated. A fairytale, a very unexpected fairytale was forming.

When Smith kicked cleanly (and beautifully – he’s learnt from Buddy) in the Last from 50m out the Hawthorn fairytale was alive and dancing. Only a hard- headed misanthrope could resist Smith’s explosion of delight as the umpire waved the two flags.

Hawthorn didn’t score for the last ten minutes of the game. They had stretched the lead to 31 points by then and held on. The Hawks defence was its shield all day. With Hodge patrolling the perimeter, sergeant at arms, Gibbo and Goo shadowing every forward entry and Birch, agent provocateur, harrying nervous Dockers to the point of fluster then escorting ball and carrier forward the Hawks stayed attack after attack. Central to this was Lake.

Lake was the big marking full back the Hawks have long needed and in the Grand Final he signed his own cheque. He owned the backline. Deep in the last quarter, probably after it was too late for the Dockers anyway, he took a Leo Barry type mark 10 metres shy of goal. That epitomised his efforts. Lake, of all people, deserved the Premiership. His was a Cinderella story.

The Hawthorn team of 2013 has many Cinderella stories. Bailey, the big boofy ruck, is as Mitchell called it, “the greatest story of the Hawks Premiership”. The Hawks continued to back him even after three knee reconstructions and 6 games over 5 seasons. In 2013 he stepped up and was a key to the Hawks success.

The Hawks fairytale win was authored by Clarkson and his coaching team. In 2008 we all marvelled at Clarko’s insight to bring in Stuey Dew and his contribution to that Flag. Simpkin, Hill, Hale, Puopolo, Gunston, Smith and Lake to name a few, are all part of this year’s fairytale. As is Roughy and Hodge as captain. Clarko has assembled a rag tag group from across the other club’s pickings and the Hawks development squad. He built a team, he built a dream; he produced the fairytale of new Hawks.

Our votes: Lake (3), Gunston (2), Hodge (1)

 

Comments

  1. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Congratulations Rick. Not one for the ages, but Lake’s performance was a brilliant individual effort that reminded me of Bob Murray in the 1966 GF. He epitomized two different eras in this game and that was the highlight for me. Cheers.

  2. Paul Campbell says:

    Hi Rick. Enjoyed your piece. I haven’t been able to stop smiling the last couple of weeks. This is unnerving other passengers on my train. It was a great day and the premiership crowns the last couple of years by the Hawks.
    Cheers. PC

  3. Grant Fraser says:

    Rick – Relief. Rgds, R.Grant

  4. Trucker Slim, I know of absolutely no-one in golf or in my broader existence who has a bad word to say about Caddyshack: sheer genius.

    By comparison I know a lot of poeple who speak poorly of Hawthorn.

  5. Big hitter, the Lama.

  6. mickey randall says:

    Ty Webb: Ha ha… No, that guy was Mitch Comstein, my roommate. He was a good guy. (Caddyshack genius)

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Every player has a Premiership , story rapt for Puopolo , who worked so hard to get in to the system the extra work he did after Norwood , training on his kicking with
    Nathan Bassett , to ironically end up at the club who demands kicking skills more than any other he has used his manic desperation and defensive skills and improved his leg it’s not elite but it’s ok to become a consistent AFL , player he is a lesson in receiving knock back after knock back he was honest and listened at what he had to do to
    Improve and make it well done PP
    Credit too to Bass , and Norwood , for becoming the production line for mature age recruits Matt Fuller should be picked up in this years draft and we wait to see whether a club will have the courage to pick the effective ugly duckling Alex Giorgiou
    Lake is a great victory for the natural footballer not the athlete
    Thanks Trucker Slim

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