AFL Preliminary Finals – Sydney v Collingwood: Revenge, Redemption and Jetta

 

 

It’s been a huge fortnight. September, surely, is Christmas for footyheads. A whole month of it, longer than we get for holidays.

I’ve been to the mainland, watched the game’s oldest, greatest rivals, Port Melbourne and Williamstown slog it out in a VFL Semi, at a ground where you could sit or stand or do whatever. Fart and whistle if you wanted.

It was gold.

Nobody went to the toilets at the breaks, they were too busy having fun on the oval, kicking their own pigskins, dodging kids, listening to the coaches, Ayres and German. Punters all but tagging them in the huddles.

I saw an AFL final in the city’s oldest pub, forgotten, left alone amongst the skyscrapers. A shuffling mass of people outside its stained glass windows, not even knowing it was there. Traffic where there were once cows and horse troughs. It filled to the brim for the game, like Noah’s Ark, with all sorts, then emptied, as if exhaling and being forgotten, again.

Everybody cheered, but Collingwood won anyway.

I played in a social match, hungover, without sleep, with rock gods and fellow fabulous nobodies, at Victoria Park. Blurry eyed and vomit mouthed, I pulled it together to put in a corker for my great mate, Len Thompson. Ran in his steps, as best I bloody well could. Gave away a free on the spot Nicky Winmar raised his jumper and pointed. Shuffled along the boundary where Kelly knocked Nolan’s teeth out.

All the while, the old P.A. system boomed out Georgie Fame and Grunge classics.

We won by two points in a corker. It doesn’t matter what level it is, it’s all football. Walking slow and easy from the oval, bag over shoulder, felt the best, cowboys and sunsets.

At the station I saw two of my teammates on the other platform, on their way to the city for free drinks and more Sunday night rock-n’roll. Ripper blokes, all hair and skateboards. We talked small shit across the lines. I held my hands up cupped, as if marking. They gave the best of smirks, and the train cut us from view.

Back in Tassie, I watched one final in a packed yuppie bar in the city, went to my club’s presentation night, then, the next day, to a Div 3 Grand Final in a forgotten old bush league I used to play in. A locals thing, hanging on beneath changing times and the notice of newspapers.

 

In this fortnight I saw Pendleberry on O’Keefe, and other brilliant match-ups that come with finals. Rhys Shaw complete his re-invention from Collingwood homie, to bearded Sydney B.O.G, and have it all, every bit of it, blown away by the run of Jetta.

I saw Mitchell punch out those handballs, Cloke have a corker then a dud, Glass stand tall. Gibson only smoulder when on a quality forward who made him more accountable. An old dog in the bush kick six, the Truck flex his muscle on Pav, our full-forward give a corker speech, kids dodge and weave through middle-aged men using half time to relive their legends.

And Jetta burn.

I watched his efforts in a bush pub, in a small valley town, surrounded by ghost ships. Some were caring, others not, a few barracking, just to be drunk. To know it’s Friday. The pool game was hopeless, and never once stopped, toothless old Harry in my ear, even though I couldn’t understand a word of it. The only person there under 35, a wild girl from the horse ranches, kept turning up the jukebox over the commentary. The publican reversing it again. We watched them, as much as the telly, like good, bad sport.

Then Jetta took the ball on the half-back line and ran.

And ran.

Got those long, skinny, impossibly wide-striding Roadrunner legs into gear, leaving nothing but flames behind him.

He ran his full length and bounced, his full length and bounced, his full length and bounced, then found he was on another planet. One that was flat and smooth and green and had had no other players, no presses or zones or rolling zones, or coaches or strategies.

That was free, timeless, with a big, fat, easy, empty goal in front of him.

 

I felt for the Collingwood player who chased him the whole way without once giving up. Veins popping, teeth gnarling, head exploding, he gave it the lot, writing himself into trivia questions, without ever quite getting there.

He was my hero. The one with the front row seat to something amazing.

 

The best players, I thought, you could raffle, depending on how you view a game. O’Keefe did what you’d expect of a quality on-baller and then some. Pendleberry was the champion he is, poised in chaos, playing another, simpler game than anyone out there, McVeigh was relentless. His smoothers and little things there are still no stats for were an inspiration. His want in the 3rd quarter palpable. Jetta didn’t get heaps of it, but every time the game was there for winning, he won it.

He is no pretty boy, no hulk, or superstar. Just honest, like the club he captains.

Rhys, for me, though, did way more than his job dictates. He was a defensive winger who stopped the ball on the line, who took them on, who attacked with some sort of calm poise and anger, and set up goals, delivering deep inside the forward 50. Who took that extra step, hit targets.

Who charged, both from the very beginning and everywhere.

That’s me though. A backman’s view.  In some games it comes down to if you like the Superstar, the underrated Champion, the gutsy leader, the freakish match-winner, or the bloke, in the forgotten first half, who laid the platform. The one served with revenge and redemption.

Not that it matters.

With that run, that goal, Jetta raised the dust of a cold, empty, nowhere pub stuck in its rut. He had the farmers and ghost ships, myself and barman screaming, throwing our hands in the air.

I’ve forgotten more games I’ve played than I’ll ever remember. In a fortnight of feasting, in a lifetime, matches come and go, even finals.

 

But brilliance lasts forever.

Comments

  1. I like your comment about Nathan Brown writing himself into trivia questions.

    Graeme “Jerker” Jenkin played 127 games for Collingwood and another 22 for Essendon. Some of these games were pretty good – Good enough to win him Victorian selection in 1970. He also has the distinction of being the last boy from Collingwood Tech. to play for the Magpies. However he is now mostly known as “Jezza’s stepladder”.

    Nathan Brown should be known as the bloke who replaced Simon Prestigiacomo in the drawn Grand Final of 2010 when Presti declared himself unavailable and played so well that Presti couldn’t get his place back for the Replay. It would be a shame if he was only remembered as the bloke who couldn’t catch Lewis Jetta in the 2012 Preliminary Final.

  2. Jetta’s goal was brilliant, no question, but for me that passage of play epitomised the season for Collingwood.

    Whenever the Pies turned the ball over in their forward line, the opposition (in this case Sydney) would stream into an empty half of the ground with NO Collingwood players goal side. Why? Because we were too busy trying to implement the forward press. What would follow would usually be Heath Shaw waving his hands, remonstrating with a teammate: “Why didn’t you cover for me?”. The worst case was when Hawthorn beat us in about Round 16. I reckon the Hawks kicked 7 or 8 uncontested goals that week, just by handballing/kicking to loose players in their 50. Madness! Bucks has some tinkering to do with the gameplan in 2013.

  3. I agree, DB, Collingwood’s game plan made it possible. But the sheer electricity of him taking them on…

  4. A great read – really enjoy the way you tell a story.

  5. Totally agree Matt, it was electric ….if only channel 7 had not switched to about 6 different cameras angles during Jetta’s run. For a piece of play like that, all you needed was the traditional side-on camera to appreciate the brilliance of what took place. I hate using that corporate wankword “brand”, but channel 7 are doing everything they can to destory the AFL “brand” with their cameria angles.

    (Not to mention Bruce’s stats, Denis trying to be Oscar Wilde, Hamish trying to be Bert Newton, and the continual missing of ruck contests because they were showing replays or shots of the crowd).

  6. DB, the crowd shots. Depends on who’s directing, but they are the single worst aspect of footy coverage by a mile, when they focus solely on the fat, awkward or ugly, as if they are freaks. It is nasty, spiteful, vain and so horribly SMUG. Arian. They are FANS! The lifeblood of the game. I loath it.

  7. What’s with the overhead camera shot at centre bounces? Perhaps you can appreciate how the onballers are setting up but there’s no context as to whether the ball is coming up or going down. I suspect its more about the Toyota logo for the centre circle.

  8. Correct.

  9. He ran too far.Naitanui ran too far.It’s good to see the umpires get caught up too

  10. I thought maybe so. Three bounces probably should not take you from half back to almost goal square, but I DON’T CARE! Haha. It was magic!

  11. Skip of Skipton says:

    I didn’t notice he had run too far without bouncing the Sherrin. When you can scoot and boot like L.Jetta, time and meterage and whatnot become irrelevant. He bounced three times? That’ll do!

  12. Skip of Skipton says:

    I did notice big N.Brown busting his pooper in pursuit. Bigger effort than Hooker chasing Lance.

  13. Skip, wish I’d said it half as good!

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