Hawthorn v Geelong
Walking to the G with the throng was a highlight in itself. Several blokes were playing the club songs on trumpet and a harmonica rang out with “Up There Cazaly.” The lights of the MCG shone brightly as I walked past the statue of Shane Keith Warne and paused to reflect on how much I miss his leggies. I took my seat in Level 1 of the Olympic Stand. There was a strong contingent of Geelong supporters but they were vastly outnumbered by the brown and yellow of Hawthorn. As I looked out, the surface of the MCG was immaculate even after some heavy afternoon rain.
Stevey J was superb in the first half keeping the Cats in the contest. Buddy, Cyril and Hodgie were very subdued for the Hawks.
The $6.80 Carlton Draughts were going down nicely as Geelong surged ahead before a spirited comeback by Hawthorn in the last 10 minutes. Sammy Mitchell lifted the Hawks to victory. The ‘Kennett Curse’ was broken. Hawthorn fans were jubilant, singing their song with gusto, over and over again, well after the players had left the ground. Geelong supporters filed out with sullen but proud looks on their faces.
I purchased a hot jam donut for the walk back to my hotel. It was a memorable night!!
Melbourne Storm v Newcastle Knights
Walking from my hotel at South Bank to Aami Park, I was reminded that Melbourne is indeed the sporting capital of Australia. I passed the MCG, Hisense Arena and Rod Laver Arena before reaching the steps of Aami Park. The dome like structure and modern facilities were impressive. The green seats however were odd.
There was a real feeling of optimism and expectation among the Storm supporters. I sat in Level 1 of the Eastern Stand through Gate 2 with Melbourne Storm season ticket holders. I was right on the try line in the front row. There was a friendly chap sitting next to me with his wife and 2 kids all dressed head to toe in purple with flags in hand. Surprisingly, he was Melbourne born and lived at Richmond. This bloke just loved rugby league. He reminded me of Roy Slaven in some respects.
I was struck by the small size of the crowd – only 19,649 for a semi-final. Knights supporters occupied 2 large sections at the other end of the ground.
The Storm players burst through a banner, AFL style. Cheerleaders danced and flames exploded as the ref blew his whistle. The Knights dominated the first 15 minutes. The Storm looked sluggish especially their forwards with Kevin Proctor the best performer.
The Purple Haze supporters were livid with a couple decisions especially the repeated high shots by Newcastle’s number 17.
The old guard of Danny Buderus and Willie Mason played very well. Newcastle had the ascendency in the forward battle.
Billy Slater’s brain explosion in attempting to mark a bomb AFL style was out of character. Sadly, it seemed like the Storm were leaving their worst performance until the end.
A second half resurgence by the Storm was not enough. Newcastle were the better side and deserved to go through. As the hooter sounded, Storm supporters left in disbelief. They were genuinely shocked.
I walked up to the Young & Jackson with a group of Newcastle supporters for a few post game beers at Chloe’s bar. The Knights fans were elated. They were carrying a large sign which read: “We have a big Willy.”