Brisbane Lions V Fremantle
1:10 pm, Sunday, August 24
The Gabba, Brisbane.
As The Great Provider and I wander to our seats with our coffee and pie apiece I ponder the wisdom of making weak excuses for not going to my first Tupperware Party in more years than I can remember. I mean, do the young ladies (and men) of this day and age still frequent places where Tupperware ladies introduce attendees with excruciating ‘getting-to-know-you’ games and then ply them with the many attributes of the latest Tupperware containers? Do they still demonstrate the Tupperware burp to exclude air from the fruit box? Do they still explain exactly how to hold the latest gadget to get the most out of the scraper/dipper/cutter? Does the host of the party still receive an exclusive gift depending on the amount of sales made at the party?
I will never know, because I chose instead to go to the Gabba and attend the last home game for the season, at which Ashley McGrath was to bid farewell to the game after 14 years as a Lion, playing 213 games, according to the footy Record. I am sorry to see so many of the crowd now choosing not to buy the Record – how do they know who is kicking the goal or who is supposed to be tagging the opposing forward? Surely they cannot be relying on the huge scoreboards at either end of the ground for inside information? They cannot all be totally sure of the identity and numbers of both teams, can they? I consider this problem at some length – without my son or members of the Dudley Street crew I am at a loss to follow all of the intricacies of the game – the Record is my bible of the day – and sometimes I need to consult it for minutiae during the following week. As I age I become forgetful of some of the finer points. Of course I remember McGrath’s winning goal against Geelong last year – even if he is further down the field each time I recall it.
The Gabba ground is as glorious as ever, with just the beginnings of the cricket pitches showing through. There is a slight blustery breeze, but the rain of the past few days has cleared. Perfect conditions. The Lion’s banner rips before the run-through. An omen, perhaps? After last week’s stellar performance against Collingwood, anything might happen; the good thing about the pre-game stuff is that for a while dreams seem reality.
The first quarter is memorable as a training run for the Dockers, poor ball skills from all of the Lions and a score of 4 behinds to 4 goals 8 behinds in Freo’s favour. It is looking ominously like a repeat of round 14 in the West and only one quarter gone! Matters improve at the start of the second quarter – a goal to Adcock! This is outdone by a Taberner goal at the other end that sails through the air to hit the TV screen. At 2 o’clock Ashley McGrath, in the pocket, takes a lovely mark and lines up for what 90% of the crowd hope will be a score. It hits the post. Three minutes later – another chance. Out on the full this time. Oh dear! Some joy arrives courtesy of a Freeman goal for Brisbane on half time – the score now 64 -17 in favour of Freo.
I think about other sporting farewells – Jonathan Brown earlier this year, Sir Donald Bradman eons ago, Black Caviar last year. Some sportspeople fade away, others go out in a flurry of glory. It appeared that McGrath would make his own way, and it would be more like the Don’s than Black Caviar’s. He kicked a goal ten minutes into the final quarter which was greeted with suitable congratulations and applause (none of that soccer stuff for us!) and he deserved his guard-of-honour as he was chaired off the ground at the end of the game. Fremantle won with almost clinical precision in ball handling skills and an ability to chase down and control the Sherrin that was wonderful to see. Sandilands stood tall and Ballantyne and Walters plied their skills with meticulous energy. Any team that meets Fremantle in the finals will know they have a game to play. For the Lions the regeneration and renewal continues; Adcock, Green, Mayes and Gardiner are all waiting their chance. Crisp, Hanley and Patfull might follow McGrath into premiership teams, but not this year. I’m glad I went to the Gabba instead of the Tupperware party, but I don’t think I will remember McGrath’s last game for the Lions.
Brisbane Lions 0.4 2.5 4.8 6.12 (48)
Fremantle 4.8 9.10 10.13 15.16 (106)
Goals Brisbane Lions: Freeman 2; McGrath, Adcock, Crisp ,Green.
Fremantle: Ballantyne, Walters, 3; Mundy 2; Mayne, Pearce, Crozier, DeBoer, Taberner, Hill.
Best Brisbane Lions: Aish, Adcock, Mayes, Rockliff, Green, Zorko.
Fremantle: Ballantyne, Walters, Mzunga, Taberner, Mundy.
Umpires S.Wren, S Hay, A Stephens.
My Votes Ballantyne (F) 3, Mzunga (F) 2, Rockliff (BL) 1.