Footy: Every time I relive the Grand Final, I’m a joyous Cat all over again


It’s early in the last quarter when I decide to play the reverse psychology card: ‘We’re gone, that’s it.” I say this to my long-time football compatriot, Paul T. It’s all I’ve got left in my hand; the rain is like ice and I’ll know in half an hour whether or not the footy gods care for me in the slightest. I’m exhausted. It’s been the longest two and a half hours of my life and I know that one of the following will be forever etched into the minds of the Australian football follower:  either Geelong will become eternally known as the club that brokered the end of the Saints’ drought or finally as a club that would be viewed with the respect it would have had if its seven flags prior to 1896 counted for anything.

But those flags don’t count so now the dying minutes of today are all that I cling to in the quest for that respect.

After the game Paul tells me he didn’t hear me play my card. “Did you really say that?” he asks. I’d said it all right. Threw it out there – without an audience, it seemed – and prayed that it worked. History will tell us it did: two separated six-point margins. One that demonstrated the momentousness pressure; the other, Max Rooke’s deserved goal after the siren that rolled through as tears began to flow and boozy celebrations began.  The bearded Rooke deserved to be a multiple goal-kicker that day. His attack on the ball was superhuman. He was superhuman.

I didn’t hear the siren on the day and I have barely heard it in any of the thirty or forty times since that I have watched the replay of those dying moments of the game. Footage of the euphoric Mark Thompson and his comrades in the coaches box is the visual symbol of victory that replaces the  sound of the siren. Thompson’s group, not normally renowned for outlandish celebrations, showed the relief that this redemption has brought.

The oft-referred “premiership quarter” is like a blur to me still. With scores locked in quicksand, I was haunted me as neither team could break free and neither seemed set to break down. But when Leigh Montagna conjured something from somewhere darker than the rainclouds above the MCG, the feeling of pending doom forced me to look deep into my supporter’s bag of tricks. Was there anything left?

In the second quarter I couldn’t tell whether we were seven minutes of brilliance away from breaking the game apart or whether we’d soon crumble like Hawthorn’s premiership defence after injuries took hold (shame about that). I will watch the second stanza with that question unanswered like Eddie’s question when a million clams are on the line.  We dash two goals clear with Hawkins’s woodwork-assisted six-pointer and the sure boot of Chappy. But late in the quarter I notice an alarming trend creeping into the affair: not the two toe-poked Saints goals conjured from Montagna, but rather Darren Milburn’s mentoring of Harry Taylor and the urging of him to contest every goal as touched regardless of the geographic location of the touchee. Such enthusiastic commitment from Milburn – as he demonstrated the lesson to Taylor – goaded umpire Hairy Mclarey McBurney into gifting the Saints a goal on the half-time siren. We’d gone clichéd chocolates to clichéd boiled lollies in the time of the suggested shower during stage 3A water restrictions.

Max Rooke starts the game like a man possessed, playing as tough as he looks. I remember being seated near him at the after-party for the ’08 Best and Fairest when he had the pain of defeat etched across his face, a deflated man burdened by the loss of a game the football world didn’t see coming. But his rundown of Raph Clarke, the man taken one pick before Kane Tenace in the 2003 draft, was one from a man in search of the ultimate redemption.  He leapt into the kick and it sailed through, followed soon after by an ominous sign for the Saints as Mooney convertde from fist-pump range outside forty. I was thinking the AFL had unfairly charged for a clinic. But at quarter-time we have our hands on the tail and  quickening our step to catch it.

I wake to rain after I go to bed hearing it fall. It stops long enough for me to sneak in a walk for the dog. I need to do this as I am unable to guarantee her the time of my return or the state of it. If previous years were a gauge, it was best we walked now. On my travels I see a kid in a Geelong jumper putting up streamers of the blue and white variety on the front fence of the family home. I give him the thumbs up. “That’s the spirit,” I say. I feel good. Fourteen hours earlier I’d been ticketless. Our streak in the ballot had extended to zero from three before a late-minute reprieve from a white knight came to our rescue, for the third successive year. I like that it starts to rain again. This kind of weather excites Geelong fans of this era. Maybe in the future it won’t be this way, but for now it is a blessing.

Comments

  1. I doubt there are many Geelong supporters who have not watched those last five minutes 30+ times – it may not have been the prettiest football to watch, but to Cats fans, without a doubt it was the most beautiful five minutes of anything EVER (we had the game won for more than five minutes in 2007 so that doesn’t count).

    I am concerned my DVD will wear out from the Harry Taylor mark and pass to Boris onwards.

    Well done for lasting until the fourth quarter to use the reverse psychology card – I said the same thing at quarter time (though I don’t think mine was reverse psychology – I was trying to brace myself).

    Fingers crossed that we will be watching another Grand Final on repeat this time next year!

  2. Leigh, I hadn’t watched the entire game yet this year (a few last quarters here and there) so I took the DVD down to the shack last night and had a private viewing.

    I didn’t realise how well Gilbert played for the other side and how close it really was. The other side had a real crack which makes it all the better for our side.

    Just a little hint: have a look at the whole game again and again and again and again and look at the ‘one percenters’.

    We may not travel this road again for a while so you are alowed to keep watching it in the privacy of your own home, if youn are a consenting adult. But even big kids like me can get away with it.

    Can you keep a secret? Of course you can. There is a real smokey that nobody gives any chance in 2010. Every one has written them off already but they are worth keeping in mind.
    (The Cats. Ssshhh.)

    Phantom

  3. Richard Naco says:

    And ain’t that lot from Corio Bay just so much better when everybody else has written them off!!!

    It’s going to be a very close fought & exhilarating race in 2010, but all the right noises are coming from Geelong right now and I am confident that we’ll be there to take the cream come the last Saturday in September.

Leave a Comment

*