Floreat Pica Heritage Round

When roster vacancies arose for the Weagles game, I not only put my own hand up, but also cajoled TAFKATBM (The Artist Formerly Known As The Big Man for those relatively new to the Floreat Pica Society) to write the DR for old times’ sake.

FPS began in 2005 and in the early years I wrote about 75% of the match reports, while The Artist wrote about 90% of the Danny Roach reports.  Our styles are quite complementary, with my philosophical glass half-full approach nicely balanced by The Artist’s venomous vitriol towards anyone he perceived let the Pies down.  Not only did FPS members take notice of The Artist, but selectors also seemed to tune in, with his three vote-getters once being omitted from the team the following week in the first 6 weeks of the 2006 season.  He is a man who has occasionally been prone to excesses, and this was evident in his voting after a humiliating Queen’s Birthday debacle against the Dees one year when he awarded all 6 votes to his favourite whipping boy, Pebbles.

In honour of the old firm combining for the Weagles game, I am unashamedly self-indulgently declaring Round 10, 2011 as the Floreat Pica Society’s Heritage Round, and implore members to wear their oldest scarf or other piece of Pies’ paraphernalia to the game.  I have attached pictures both of my scarf, knitted by my mum in the late 1960s, and pictured after last year’s triumph, and The Artist’s scarf.  The Artist’s scarf is possibly the longest football scarf in existence – it seems that the proneness to excess may be genetic, as my memory is that his mum knitted it in the 1970s.  It is pictured here before the 1990 Grand Final, coiling like a snake around the necks of The Artist and an uncharacteristically hirsute Stork.

In keeping with the self-declared Heritage Round theme, I thought that I would take the opportunity to reflect on some of the history between the Pies and the Weagles.  The clubs have fought some classic battles since the Weagles entered the AFL in 1987, and with much anticipation of this week’s clash between the reigning premiers and the red-hot Eagles, here is a look back at the Top 5 clashes between the clubs.

  1. The drawn 1990 Qualifying Final is without doubt the biggest game played between the clubs.  It set the Pies up for a premiership by screwing up Essendon’s preparation, and in doing so changed the rules for future finals, with extra time introduced for finals other than the GF.  A nervous Pies’ team struggled against the determined Eagles, and a classic last quarter eventuated.  The Macedonian Marvel kicked one of the game’s most famous goals, the banana kick from the “wrong” forward pocket after being set up by the handy duo of Millane and Brown (see here to relive the memory, there is another goal before it).

When Eagles’ gun forward Peter Sumich marked and kicked for goal from a tight angle there were only seconds left and the Eagles trailed by a point. Heartbreak seemed just around the corner again for the Pies, who hadn’t won a final in their campaigns of the previous two years.  Fortunately he missed and they did it all again the following week, with the Pies capitalising on a fortunate second chance with an easy win.

I recently heard Mick Malthouse speak at a function, and he talked about those last weeks of the 1990 season as setting the Eagles up for their premiership successes of 1992 and 1994.  They travelled to Carrara (via Melbourne) in round 21 and then to Kardinia Park in round 22 before two trips to Melbourne for the qualifying finals, then returning again to beat Melbourne in a semi-final before being thrashed by the Dons in the prelim.  Yes, six weeks in a row on the road, and Mick said that toughened up the group immeasurably, although a few fell off.

The drawn match was also significant for being the last match for BT, who kicked two goals in the epic last quarter, but was afterwards discarded, and spent his time writing a controversial diary of the season.

  1. Semi-final 2007.  The Pies travelled to Perth to take on the reigning premiers who had lost narrowly to Port the week before, and were without their injured stars Judd, Cousins and Kerr. Incredibly this match also finished in a draw at full-time, although Guy Richards famously threw his arms up in short-lived jubilation at the final siren before realising he was the only one celebrating.

The Pies blitzed the Eagles in extra time with The Mop engaging in numerous breathtaking runs along the expansive wings of Subi, and Pendles also prominent, setting the scene for later glory on the big stage.  Eddie famously chartered an aircraft to return to Melbourne at low altitude to aid the players’ recovery.

This match was also significant for being the second last game for three Pies’ legends – Bucks and Jimmy Clement, both of whom retired after the gutsy loss to the Cats the following week, and big Guy Richards, whose services were dispensed with after the same game (and was possibly snapped up by Mensa).

  1. Elimination Final 1994.  This one looked to be a no-brainer on paper, with the top-placed Eagles hosting the eight-placed Pies, whose late season form had been patchy, losing four of the last seven.  The Eagles led by a handy margin until Matthews shifted Brown forward.  The new skipper inspired the team with five second-half goals, and a massive upset was on the cards.

Trailing by 2 points, the Pies surged forward with seconds remaining.  A kick forward cleared the pack and a diving Mighty Mick McGuane spilled a chest mark about 30 metres from goal before the siren rang.  He was infamously sledged after the siren by The Chemist (aka John Worsfold) prompting much debate in an era when there was a lot less media.

This match was also significant for being the last game for Tony Shaw, who sat out much of the game with an injured hamstring.  In a sign of things to come, Channel Seven went to an ad and missed the tearful old warrior being applauded from the ground.

  1. Round 13, 1992.  The Pies travelled to the West to take on the Eagles, who a few months later won their first flag, at their stronghold. In a low-scoring affair, in which Brown was typically inspirational, we trailed most of the day.  We kicked a goal to level the scores with less than 30 seconds left.

The last centre bounce was obviously crucial, with all three results possible.  Paul Williams got the crumb from the ruck contest and handballed to the fleet of foot Troy Lehmann (once described by Leigh Matthews as the “prototype of the 1990s footballer” and later traded with Starcevich to Brisbane as part of the Buckley deal).  Lehmann ran to the 50 metre line, and kicked on his non-preferred left side.  The kick slewed slightly from the side of his boot and went tantalisingly towards the behind post.  With white knuckled anxiety we watched as the goal umpire raced to his right to get a good line on the ball. It appeared that it just snuck in for a point and when the goal umpire signalled a point the boys (Stork, The Artist, Mark and myself) erupted.  The siren sounded a few seconds later, and we jumped to our feet and embraced in Stork’s lounge room.

Much to our surprise the action really began now.  The Big Man reeled back from the group celebration clutching his chest.  He sat down and took some Anthony Rocca-like deep sucks for air, and then sat quietly for some time.  After being picked up by his wife, who took him to the doctor, the doctor was so concerned that The Artist had suffered a heart attack that he wouldn’t release him and called an ambulance even though the Medical Clinic was only 400 metres from the Austin Hospital.

The upshot was that the tests were inconclusive, and despite some discomfort The Artist did not miss a game – he was there the following week to see Big Sav debut as the Pies won by a goal against the Dogs.  Yes, this match was nearly significant for being the last game for The Artist.

This win ended up being the key plank in the first Grand Slam, that is four wins out of four road trips, by any Victorian club, with the Pies also prevailing in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.  And yes, the club did sell t-shirts promoting this feat !

5.      Round 2, 1991.  The Eagles came to Vic Park and took the chocolates for the first time on the sacred turf on their way to a 19-3 home and away season that put them in top spot before losing the GF to the Hawks in the Batmobile GF.  This match represented a shift in footy power, with the reigning premiers easily pushed aside by the warriors from the west.

There have been other significant games.  I know some Pies fans will talk about the game in 2005 when we, as the then bottom side, triumphed at the G over the Eagles who were the top side.

I will also reflect briefly on the traffic between the clubs.  Off the top of my head I think that John Annear would have been the first ex-Pie to play for the Weagles, while Murray Wrensted was the first to go the other way.  There have been some very unremarkable players to go between the clubs, including Andrew Williams, Brent Tuckey and Damian “Chipper” Adkins, while others played some good footy at some stages of their career, but made minor contributions at the Pies, notably Geoff Miles, Chad Rintoul, Chad Morrison and Scott Cummings. Without doubt the biggest name to go between the clubs is a bloke by the name of Michael Malthouse.

So gather all your old scarves and other stuff and wear them to this Sunday’s game.  There is history to be celebrated and maybe history to be made. Hopefully the Pies can triumph and The Artist won’t have to wield his poison pen too heavily.

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