Football the winner

This was it. After 25 long weeks of pain, sweat and tears, the Grand Final was today. The premiership cup was going to either Collingwood or St Kilda, and it was being decided today. It felt like yesterday that I was telling my teachers to hurry up and finish with parent/teacher interviews so I could get home in time to watch Richmond and Carlton in Round 1.

You always remember how you spend Grand Final day. In 2007, I couldn’t sleep the night beforehand, in 2008 I stayed up for most of the night watching the old Grand Final replays on Channel 7, in 2009 I was still exhausted after 10 days in the Top End, so I slept like a baby. This year, I kept my eyes open until 3:30am, watching the last quarter of the 2006 Grand Final between Sydney and West Coast, before conceding that I needed to sleep. I planned to get up and watch the North Melbourne Breakfast, but then had a change of thought. I didn’t really want to, so I set my alarm to 10:30am. I closed my eyes, and all of a sudden it was afternoon and the day was primed. Collingwood and St Kilda. Unquestionable weather conditions. Bring it on.

After a rather questionable performance by the woman who sang the St Kilda theme song, INXS took centre stage and sang a few songs to get the crowd pumping. After that, the motorcades came out with all the retired players in the back with the crowd paying tribute. Where was James McDonald though? And Corey Jones? Trent Hentschel? But enough of the past-players, now and today’s heroes were ready to come out onto the ground. As Nick Maxwell approached the players race with the rest of his side behind him, you could just hear that buzzing sound of the Collingwood faithful, chanting and cheering. They were ready.

The ball was bounced, and 24 seconds later, Collingwood had a goal. That’s how professional this side is. Darren Jolly won the hitout to Dane Swan, who booted it forward. Alan Didak got his hands on it, handballed to Jolly, who had sprinted forward, and he showed why Josh Fraser has no hope of playing another game in the black and white stripes again. The pressure of the Collingwood players was enormous, and I was already ready to concede that the premiership was theirs. Stephen Milne got the monkey off his back, taking a mark and foolishly trying to play on and run into an open goal. Sure, he managed to get past his opponent, but the idea was fraught with danger. This is a Grand Final Milney!! Still he flirted with danger, choosing to snap the ball across his body instead of taking the set-shot, but it was a goal all the same. Jarryd Blair, who somehow managed to find his way into this awesome side and keep it (midgets can do that) quickly gathered the crumbs up forward and dribbled through Collingwood’s second, and when Sam Gilbert kicked out on the full, Alan Didak went to take the kick, 45m out on the boundary line. The man, whose shoelaces can tie themselves, settled with a drop punt, and with barely any daylight between the big sticks, he split the middle. I would pay big money to have feet like his. His little toe must have a bigger brain than most other Collingwood supporters have in their heads. Dale Thomas again tempted the Footy Gods, opting with a long torpedo barrel from 55m out. It spluttered and flittered towards goal, favouring the near side the whole way, until swinging late for an extraordinary goal. It was a 19 point lead to Collingwood halfway through the quarter. It was last Friday night all over again. Nick Riewoldt took a mark and kicked a badly needed captain’s goal, before a great hack out of mid-air by Sean Dempster, followed by a tap back into play by Riewoldt set Adam Schneider up, and he drilled the goal, cutting the margin back to six points at quarter time. Where did this come from?

Collingwood started strongly again, with Travis Cloke outpointing Zac Dawson and kicking a goal, and he was on 1.0. A huge win for the Magpies. Justin Koschitzke marked on the lead after a great kick from Sam Gilbert, and Kosi surprised everyone with a big goal from outside 50. The Pies got one back, with Brent Macaffer tackling Robert Eddy, who seemed to think he had all the time in the world. Macaffer was awarded the free kick, and was soon given a 50m penalty after a St Kilda player (Fisher?) kicked the ball away. B-Mac kicked the goal from the goalsquare, and then a great goal from 45m from Harry O’Brien saw the Pies out by 22 points. I couldn’t wait to hear what he thought about it on Facebook. Cloke missed a couple of shots at goal, then the siren sounded for half time, and Collingwood went for the oranges and cigarettes with a very handy lead, 7.8 to 4.2.

*GIGS MOMENT*

If Collingwood continued with their domination in the second half and St Kilda again booted a further 4.2, Collingwood would’ve finished on a score of 100 and St Kilda on 52. Why does this matter? 100-52 is the same scoreline from the Round 16 blockbuster between these two sides. Cue spooky music.

Back to the game, and Dad left to go milking. I feel sorry for him, having to rely on the old, untrustworthy radio to listen to the game. I go to my room, and turn the TV up really loud. I feel like I can’t get involved with things if the TV isn’t bursting my eardrums. The second half got underway and it was Koschitzke who produced some magic, tapping the ball into play as it was going out of bounds, then centering it to Riewoldt, who ran incredibly hard from the wing to get free and mark. Rooey was able to steady himself and boot the goal. St Kilda started to find loose men; they started to win the ball. It was as if a wave went over the MCG, the momentum switched. Brendon Goddard, playing the game of his life, floated into a pack and came out of it with the mark. He kicked, and the ball, for a frightening moment, looked to be headed across the face, but it snuck through and the Saints were right back in it. They won the ball forward again, with Riewoldt marking, but missing to the far side. The margin was just 13 points, when the ball spilt out to Sam Gilbert in the forward line. The footy was so hot; the players seem to get rid of it as soon as the sherrin graced their fingers. Gilbert did exactly that, and the ball found its way through the big sticks, and the St Kilda crowd exploded into pandemonium. They kept Collingwood goalless for the quarter, the premiership quarter mind you, and trailed by just eight points going into the last break.

It was end-to-end footy, with the tackles amazing. Bone jarring tackles, laid by the likes of Lenny Hayes, Luke Ball, Scott Pendlebury, Alan Toovey, Andrew McQualter and Leigh Montagna. St Kilda notched up 100 tackles for the game. When you do that, you generally win. But it was Leon Davis, useless for the whole day, who swooped on a loose ball inside 50, evaded a couple of players and curled through his first to take the margin out to 14 points. It was at this point that I thought Collingwood were home. I had been barracking for St Kilda all day. If you read this Danni, I’m sorry. Robert Eddy shot for goal from long range but it hit the post, but it was Hayes who didn’t miss. Snubbed by the All-Australian selectors, he gave a big F*** you to all of them with a long kick from 55m out that just cleared the line, and the margin was seven points. The crowd were up on their feet, the entity that is known as the Collingwood cheersquad were surprisingly subdued. You could just tell that the Saints were going to come hard. The Pies started making mistakes by foot, and this resulted in Milne outmarking O’Brien, 30m from goal. With the most important kick of Milney’s career, he dobbed it, and it was back to one point! St Kilda again had the chance to take the lead, with Riewoldt’s kick out of a pack bouncing towards the big sticks, but a desperate lunge from Nick Maxwell saved it, right on the line, and scores were level.

Maxwell’s efforts will be remembered forever. It was the Steven Baker of 2009, it was the Paul Chapman mark and Brad Ottens run-down tackle on Michael Pettigrew in 2007, it was Daniel Chick’s smother and shepherd of 2006, Leo Barry’s mark of 2005, you get the idea. But another moment that will be right up there is Goddard’s performance. A stack of possessions, and with the ball floating inside 50 to a large pack just outside the goalsquare, how Goddard managed to lift his tired, weary legs off the ground and better his Round 21 mark is beyond me. What a specky he took! The crowd was going absolutely bananas. Goddard nailed the goal, St Kilda were in front! Collingwood won the ball forward, and a behind was rushed. It was a five point margin. I started to feel bad for Collingwood, and started to feverishly barrack for them. The pressure around the man with the ball was hard to comprehend. A loose ball in the goalsquare squirted out to Cloke, who kicked a goal from the goalsquare! Cloke, of all people! The Magpies were back in the lead! The chant was starting up again, and I was a shaking, nervous mess, sitting on my bed. I felt like I’d just run a marathon, I’d seen the closeness of the 2009 Grand Final, the ’06 and ’05 heartbreak, but they didn’t compare with this one. The texts from family started to flood in. “A draw?” said Mum. “Can’t believe this is happening” from my Aunty. “Looks like a great game” from my sister. I didn’t respond to any of them. They would understand. Riewoldt took a big mark at half-back, but St Kilda’s main problem was that they didn’t have anyone else to mark the ball from his kick. He roosted the ball as long as he could, the ball squirted out to Hayes, who threw it onto the boot to a one-on-one with Milne and Ben Johnson (I think). The ball took a wild bounce in the forward pocket, and Milne looked certain to gather it and run into an open goal. But the sherrin is a weird thing. Sometimes it likes you, sometimes it doesn’t. And I don’t blame it for not liking Milney, no one else does. The ball bounced away from him, through for a behind. A behind, one point. Scores. Were. Level.

The scramble was on. Players were running on empty. Heath Shaw kicked it as long as he could, but it was quickly rebounded back. The ball ended up on the wing, and a stoppage was forced. 0:07 on the clock, 68-68 scoreline. The ball could go either way from the hitout. Any score would win. The ball favoured St Kilda, but they couldn’t make anything of it. And that was it.

St Kilda or Collingwood didn’t win today, but the AFL sure did. What a game of Footy.

Collingwood 4.2—7.8—7.13—9.14.68

St Kilda 3.2—4.2—7.5—10.8.68

Goalkickers:

Collingwood-Cloke 2, Jolly, Thomas, Didak, O’Brien, Davis, Blair, Macaffer

St Kilda-Riewoldt 2, Milne 2, Goddard 2, Hayes, Schneider, Gilbert, Koschitzke

Best:

Collingwood-Maxwell, Thomas, Shaw, Sidebottom, Johnson

St Kilda-Goddard, Hayes, Montagna, Fisher, Gwilt, Dal Santo, Riewoldt

Crowd:

100,016

Norm Smith Medalist: Lenny Hayes

WOG: Leon Davis (Worst On Ground, not any form of Italian)

Votes:

3: Brendon Goddard (ST)

2: Lenny Hayes (ST)

1: Nick Maxwell (COLL)

To be continued..

About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.

Comments

  1. Peter Schumacher says:

    Great coverage of this game. Another really great young writer.

    I do reckon one thing though, I reckon that Milne seemed to dwell slightly as that ball bounced in front of him, I thought that he might have made an effort to gather it in.

  2. Thanks Peter.

    Very true, I thought Milne did pull out at the last moment, you would think he could’ve gone for the ball and kicked the goal. But, the game was just about done, he was 99% likely to have been feeling absolutely spent, and we all know Milney LOVES a goal, so why would he not try and kick a Grand Final winner?

  3. Lucas Garth says:

    Tough call on Leon Davis for worst.
    I think Luke Ball was close, no jokes for getting smashed by both Goddard and Hayes during the day, and the other one was Dayne Beams, who had a rare game without influence.
    Saints had a much better spread of serviceable players, with everyone doing at least something productive for the team.

    Riewoldt in the best, and NJ Brown not there, yet in almost all of the contests between the two all day (apart from that wrenching mark in the 3rd) I’d have given the points, surprisingly, to NJ. Tough call mate. Understandable, but still harsh on Brown. No qualms about Riewoldt.

    Maybe this is something Saints fans should consider when saying their captain had “yet another average Grand Final”. I thought Roo played pretty well.

  4. Lucas Garth says:

    On the writing, though, first class…

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