AFL Semi-Finals: Never-say-die Pies prise prize from under Crows’ eyes

By Steve Fahey

Floreat Pican John Ramsdale wrote last week of his sense of déjà vu in watching our ordinary performance in our opening finals appearance.  This week the Pies’ stunning last-gasp win over the Crows gave me a double sense of déjà vu.

Why a double sense ?  Firstly because this game was nearly a carbon copy of the Round 1 match between these sides, with the Crows getting to a big lead, the Pies pegging them back before hitting the front in a dominant third quarter, and then the Crows regaining the ascendancy and the lead in the last quarter.  Fortunately it was only nearly a carbon copy because while both games had desperate last minutes, this time the end was a fairytale for the Pies.  Elite sport is often about a few inches and a few seconds.

The second sense of déjà vu came because it was 28 years to the day that the Pies snatched a last-gasp semi-final win over the Roys, with Ross Brewer snapping from the goal square to give the Pies a win by a solitary point.  I was reminded of this yesterday when Floreat Pican Kevin Ramsdale sent through some highlights of that game. Lovers of trivia and omens may note that Carringbush won the last race that day at 14-1 making a great day even better.  I remember the delirium and relief of the final siren of that game, and relived that feeling in this famous win over the Crows.

I woke on the morning of this game feeling apprehensive, knowing that while we were going to field 22 fit players, they weren’t our first choice line-up.  I reassured myself that Malthouse teams nearly always perform well when their backs are to the wall, and that we have a good record against the Crows.  I am also a student of footy history, and referred to my comments in my match report after last year’s losing semi-final :

“Since the change to the final eight system in which the top four play each other in the first week, there have only been two years in which the top four have not all proceeded to the preliminary finals.  These years were 2001 when the Hawks made the prelim and 2007 when we did.  It amazes me that most years, including this year, the media overrate the prospects of the winners of the two elimination finals.”

Another touch of déjà vu as the media and the punters went down the same path yet again.

We started the game like we would be back to the drawing board as well as having our backs to the wall.  We were horrid in the first quarter, fumbling, conceding free kicks near our defensive goal through clumsy tackles and looking stagnant and uncertain when we had the ball.  There seemed to be few if any players ahead of the man in possession who wanted or demanded the ball.  The Crows dominated the clearances, were slick with their disposals and ran hard through the centre corridor to create scoring opportunities.  They were all over us tactically, with Otten regularly mopping up and setting up as their spare defender, while we were unable to make Shaw or Maxwell our spare, with the Crows able to engineer the defensively-oriented Sack as our spare.  Didak and Davis were quiet, and the only positives were the terrific form of Sidebottom and Swan attracting lots of the footy .  The quarter–time deficit was unhealthily large at 29 points.

In the second quarter we managed to shore up our structures, in particular man up their spare defender, but while we narrowly won the quarter, we were still unimpressive.  Swan went behind the ball and racked up possessions, Heater and Max held the back half together and Travis worked hard. We still lacked the confidence to take risks moving the ball forward, but did so twice for the term, both times resulting in goals (to Wellingham and Harry).  We did enjoy a good patch in the last 6 or 7 minutes of the quarter, controlling possession and scoring our second goal via a long bomb from Harry, but the 26 point margin could have been bigger but for the Crows’ inaccurate kicking (1.4 for the quarter). The telling half-time statistics were that the Crows had had 98 more possessions and were in front 34-18 in the contested possessions.    Our measly three goals continued the recent lean returns of our forwards, with Jack and Medders again unsighted.

We came out like a different team in the third quarter, winning the clearances through Swan, O’Bree, Wellingham and Dr. Benny.  Our three early goals reduced the margin to single figures and all of a sudden it was game on, with the intensity palpably going up a notch, and our blokes applying enormous forward pressure to the Crows’ back half which had been unflappable until that point.  Sidebottom quelled the influence of Vince who had been BOG in the first half.  The Crows predictably pushed numbers back, which gave them a numerical advantage but made it very hard for them to get the ball out, as they had little ahead of the ball.  Our multiple scorers in this term were the opportunist Dick and the unlikely Dr. Benny, whose second goal was a trademark helicopter punt.  When we got to the lead we seemed to tire and/or lose focus on how we had got back in the game because we started to bomb the ball in long to our outnumbered forwards. While the Crows were goalless in the quarter, we let them off the hook in the latter minutes and assisted them to regroup and restrict our lead to ten points.

The last quarter was an epic struggle.  If Mike Williamson and Butch Gale had been commentating they would have each claimed multiple heart attacks. We squandered an early opportunity to extend the lead when Travis dropped a chest mark from Tarkyn.  The Crows quickly regained the lead with two goals in as many minutes, and then added another to lead by seven.  We scored goals through the unlikely avenues of Leigh Brown (from 50 what’s more) and Macaffer from a brilliant running goal.  It was great to see him want to take the shot and then nail it, it was a team-lifting effort.

The dying minutes saw the Crows goal from a dodgy free kick to Tippett against The Sack, and regain the lead from another free to Tippett after a clumsy effort from Presti, who had a second successive bad day at the office.  Just when it appeared that heartbreak would again be our companion home, a dubious free to Jack meant that he had the chance to redeem himself after having had an absolute Barry Crocker/Sav Rocca.  He coolly nailed it, we hung on desperately for the remaining seconds and the sweetest sound of all announced a remarkable victory.  This was truly a victory for the true believers, although there may be less of them among the Floreat Picans than I thought, judging by the response to last week’s loss.

I got straight on the phone to Stork in Scotland, who amid the delirium, got the general message that he would be able to watch the Pies when he returns for next weekend.  Several raucous renditions of the song later followed by the drive home I eventually tried to go to sleep about 12.30 but there was way too much adrenaline in the veins.  Tottenham versus Man U at 2 was unfortunately out of the question due to an interstate visitor meaning the lounge room was occupied, so it was straight onto the computer to write this report and trawl the web reports.

A few bouquets and a single brickbat.   A huge bouquet and pat on the back to the Crows fans who are amazing in their ability to support their team in huge numbers and noise away from Adelaide.  They neutralised the crowd factor,  which is no mean feat.  A huge bouquet to our blokes who never gave up hope.  A bouquet to the Crows – we know exactly how they feel and all 44 players will know that they took part in one of the classic finals.  A bouquet to our selectors – they got it horribly wrong last week, but not playing injured blokes, picking Macaffer and retaining Sidebottom were all gambles that paid off.

A massive brickbat to the AFL for its scheduling last week. Playing the Crows/Essendon game on Friday night meant that the winner enjoyed two days extra break than its opponent.  This was unnecessary as that game could and should have been played on Saturday night, with Brisbane/Carlton on the Friday night.  As Paul commented, hypothetically Essendon could have won and the Saints lost and you would have had the eighth team who won less than half their games enjoying two extra days break over the top team who lost two games.   Farcical and amateurish, and we can say something about it because we won.

The win by the twos made it a great day for the club, and bodes well for the next 2-3 years.

On to next week.  We have little to lose and will again go in unfancied.  We deserve to be underdogs, and I have huge respect for the Cats, but I will note that preliminary finals  are a different ball game as the top teams move into sudden death territory.  We had some impact on the Cats in both 2007 and 2008, although they were good enough to win both games.

Finally a couple of quotes to end this report.  Seven year old Joel said after Jack’s match-winner and hugs from all and sundry after the siren “Jack Anthony is Jesus.”  Then this morning I woke from very little sleep to hear of the death of Cuban Revolution hero Juan Almeida Bosque.  He was famous for declaring “Here we never surrender”.

Very apt.

I can’t wait for the replay on Fox at midday today !!!!

Comments

  1. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Great report Steve,

    does this make Jack Anthony the 2009 version of Brewer? Let’s not forget we beat the Cats in the Prelim after that and we don’t have to play Carlton if we win this time!

  2. Steve Fahey says:

    Thanks Phil

    At the considerable risk of being a member of the Mutual Admiration Society, I really enjoyed your report and your other various contributions.

    Hopefully we have two more reports to write this season !!!!!

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