In the Year of Waiting, we await a result

weird a

1. Of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural.

2. Of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange.

3. Archaic Of or relating to fate or the Fates (this one unnerves me a bit).

In a world in which everything and everyone seems to be in a hurry, surely 2010 will go down in Australia as the year in which we steadied the ship. Federal election ? No problems, we’ll have a result in 17 days.  Commonwealth Games next week ?  Maybe.  AFL Grand Final ? Sure, can you wait a week before I tell you who won ?  Weird.

All week, I was conscious of the words of Charles Dickens, who could well have been writing about Grand Final Week for supporters : “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”  On Friday I read that Leigh Matthews once told of his GF morning experiences of waking up knowing that the day would end in either triumph, or despair, but nothing in between.

Well, Dickens and Lethal were wrong, at least for a week, because the end of the drawn Grand Final had no triumph, some despair, no one going to heaven or hell, and bucketloads of in between.  I will however consult their words again before next Saturday, when, in keeping with the theme of 2010, a resolution will occur.

Like most others, I don’t really know what I feel as I write on Sunday morning, having seen the replay and still feeling no clearer about who should have, could have, might have won.  In the end it was a great Grand Final, and a Grand Final typifying the modern era, at least since 2005 (with the notable exception of 2007).  It was chockfull of pressure, overall not the highest exhibition of skill we have seen for the season, but breathtakingly tense.  There was a moment about one minute after the siren when applause started to break out from many in the crowd.  Sadly this didn’t reach the noise levels otherwise reached during the game, because in the end both sides thoroughly deserved a standing ovation – they had given it everything, asked no quarter and given none.

This game was similar to the 1977 GF draw in many ways.  This was the last season in which the Pies had finished minor premiers, the Pies led most of the day and looked the winners before the opposition caught us, passed us and was a goal away from burying us.  On both occasions we were composed and desperate enough to score answering goals, this time putting us in front, before Hayes’ wobbler balanced the ledger.

Where did we not win it, after a brilliant first fifteen minutes and a dominant second quarter built again on phenomenal forward pressure and quick ball movement gave us a four goal buffer at the main break ?  While many will understandably point to our goalless third quarter, I think the biggest reason was our inability to build a bigger lead based on the dominance we had in the second quarter.  As in 2008 and 2009, the side that controlled most of the game failed to put that dominance on the scoreboard and was bitten on the bum for that failure.   For all the analysis of mountains of statistics, ultimately the scoreboard is the only thing that counts.

Having said that, let me quote some statistics !!  The second quarter inside 50s were 19-3 or 21-4, depending on whose stats you read, and 3.6 to 1.0 meant that our worst nightmare was unfolding before our eyes, notwithstanding that there were several rushed behinds.  Cloke’s two misses just before half—time were the key point in the game.  A five or six goal lead would have been both very difficult to make up and psychologically very challenging for the Saints, who had only kicked 4.2 to the main break.    They were always going to have periods of dominance in the game, they are a very good unit.  Ironically they did better when Gardiner was out of the game, including in the first quarter when their two late goals were kicked while Jolly and Gardiner rested.  Hayes and Goddard willed themselves to impose on the game and were brilliant.

The last quarter was, well, tense.  Leon’s goal gave us a good buffer in a close game, but the Saints were coming hard.  Milne was lucky to get away with some gentle but clear hands in the back on a jittery Harry, while Goddard’s mark and resultant goal was the individual moment of the match. The tortured collective anguish from the Pies faithful was palpable at this time.  The inaccurate pair Dawes and Cloke combined to restore our lead before the Saints managed to isolate Milne and Johnno in the goal square, and Hayes’ hurried kick, bounced and wobbled first towards and then past them. I was relieved when it went through for a point because there was a moment when the bounce appeared to favour Milne, who had an open goal ahead of him.  We defended grimly for the last couple of minutes, with the Saints more likely to score than us.  For this reason my primary emotion when the siren went was relief.

The siren saw the collective stunned numbness that goes with the territory.  The only people who were jubilant were Andrew Demetriou (ker-ching, ker-ching) and Guy Richards (remember the 2007 drawn semi final against the Weagles).

Like any team in any GF we had heroes and villains.  Thomas was a standout for the entire game, Maxwell led with distinction, Shaw again held the family name high, Sidebottom was terrific and the only one of our small forwards to make a sustained impact.  Swanny worked typically hard and had some great patches and a game-high nine clearances without the overall impact we have come to expect.  Nathan Brown was very solid on Riewoldt, Johnno was a workhorse, Pendles and Didak were very good early but faded, as did Jolly.  I’ll leave discussion of the villains to other Floreat Picans, but will say that it would be a great surprise if Leon gets another crack next week.

What do we different next week ? I agree with the coach that we took a lot of wrong options going forward. Again and again we went long to outnumbered forwards without taking shorter or lateral uncontested options.  A telling example was after Cloke put us ahead.  We won the clearance, Thomas broke from the wing with the ball , and chose to go past Travis to Dawes, whose man closed and spoiled, and the moment was gone.  While we did create enough opportunities to win the game, we could have made more of what we had.  To state the obvious we could convert better next week. Travis and Dawes had ten shots on goal for 2.3 and 5 misses.  UGGHHHH !!!!  The Mop and Blair missed critical easy shots in the third quarter.  We also have to do some work on the stoppages, in particular the Saints’ successful use of a third man up, usually Hayes or Goddard.

As for whether the GF should go to extra time or replay in the event of a draw, I favour a replay, as extra time would substantially disadvantage a side with injured players.  Neither option is perfect, but both are better than a goal shoot-out involving Travis.  I quiver at the very thought.  Perhaps he can be the 2010 version of Arnold Briedis, who kicked 0.7 in the draw and then 5.2 in the replay.

It was a great game, it was a thoroughly weird day.  Bring on next week.  While the psychological and physical recovery of the players can’t be underestimated, neither should the demands on supporters having to source two lots of tickets, let alone survive two games !!

Floreat Pica

Steve

Comments

  1. Weird as in Blessed and so are the magpies for no team should be playing off for the flag after that choke

  2. Fair summation Steve. No question the Pies blew it.

    The game has to be replayed. Its interesting that of all the people I’ve spoken to or read concerning the argument of replay v extra time, it tends to be the younger brigade wanting extra time. They want a result NOW. Just like they want everything else NOW. Its the same reason test cricket is in trouble, but that’s a discussion for another day………..

  3. But the real question is “Will there be another Footy Almanac Lunch?’

  4. John Butler says:

    Tails, it’s a question that’s been put.

    Dips/Steve, I don’t fully subscribe to the notion that the Pies blew it.

    They certainly had a chance to break it open, but don’t underestimate the Saints refusal to buckle.

    Collingwood may be slightly the better team on average, but the Saints have the individuals who can swing the momentum. I think this counts for a lot in big finals. Will the Pies find them next Saturday?

  5. JB – Pies were 24 points up in a game where only 68 were scored! That’s blowing it. Also they were 14 up in the last quarter when Leon got his kick (sic).

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    G’day Steve,

    I thought it was a 1960’s/70’s game played with 2010 bodies, tactics and intensity.

    This is not to denigrate the match. I thought it was fantastic.

    Now what? I suspect that the five-goal advantage that Collingwood had may have evaporated.

    PF (reverse of FP)

  7. John Butler says:

    Dips

    The mere fact it ended 68 apiece tells you how tight it was.

    The game is won over the whole four quarters.

    I detect a need from our Geelong fraternity to pump the Pies up. Help’s them adjust to the reality of their own side’s decline. It had to be a champion side who knocked us off- didn’t it? :)

  8. Steve Fahey says:

    I think you’re right John, that “missed a chance to blow it open” might more accurately describe it than “blew it” but perhaps I’m being pedantic or protective of my Pies.

    That must have been Flynny I heard yelling out “Hit the boundary” when we were a point in front !!

    One suggestion I haven’t heard for resolving the deadlock is a sing-off between the players from each of the teams who topped the Norm Smith voting. I fancy Daisy would have had Lenny covered – I was waiting for Lenny to raspily say ” All that’s holding me together is my King Gee footy shorts.”

  9. Peter Flynn says:

    I think Lenny has to go for a Tom Waits number.

  10. Peter Flynn says:

    Steve,

    Have you had to reschedule your medal night?

    I note that the Copeland night has.

  11. Steve Fahey says:

    Yes we have.

  12. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Great piece, Steve. Loved the piece in The Australian too. Until yesterday I also subscribed to the ‘we blew it’ theory. After watching the replay I’m not so sure. I thought it was a phenomenal effort to get back in front after Goddard’s heroics. We hung in and still could’ve pinched it.

    I was proud of this young team because they were playing against a team that has been threatening to win the flag since 2004. The reality is that our stars like Dids, Pendles, Swan and Cloke had below average games. If they can all step up next week, while the others play their roles, I know we can win.

  13. #12 – Phil,

    Hear, hear!

    Yes – our second qtr domination went largely unrewarded and ultimately left the door open. The Saints are an experienced, hard outfit & they tried valiantly to take advantage of the opening. With 5 minutes to go, they looked home withh all the highlights going their way. But for all of that, they did not win. The Pies fought back magnificently and the last-minute goal-mouth heroics from Benny Johnson was stuff of heroes also….

    I agree that we have more upside & our youngsters did not freeze on the big stage. Quite the contrary. They have now experienced what the Saints took in as their big advantage. Let’s hope it stands us in good stead on Saturday.

    Maybe now the bookies will frame a more realistic market than the ridiculous one they put up last week.

    Cheers & Go Pies!

    Bakes

  14. #12 and 13 – Bakes and Phil. Great to read the optimism of the Pie supporters after another near thing. My concern with the Pies is that their game plan is impossible to maintain over 4 quarters. You simply can’t expect the players to be that frenetic for 100 minutes. That’s why the Pies MUST make the most of their opportunities. They didn’t. The gate was left ajar. They blew it.

    Next Saturday will be fascinating for what’s going on above the shoulders as much as below.

  15. Lucas Garth says:

    Everyone talks about second quarter domination. Fiddlesticks.

    The Pies had about 5-10 mins of control of the game in that second term where the Saints became rattled, and they went 2.2 in that period. While flooding back (Riewoldt joined the crew in defence for that period, so any wonder the inside 50 count got skewed)

    St Kilda had their turn in the third where they were all over the Magpies who did very well to limit the damage to 3 goals.

    Indeed when one remembers when Gilbert’s goal went through, the margin was a goal with a quarter and a bit to go. I remember twisting in my seat thinking they are going to win this.

    So to first halt this tidal wave of emotion through the ground showed maturity (or the 3/4 time break could not come soon enough – a bit like St Kilda and half time)

    To halt the tide is one thing but to reverse it is another. Goddard’s mark and goal in most other games wins it. Two out of two from the Saints leading into time on in a GF and not winning.

    In terms of field kicking 9-7 to 10-7. Pretty darn close, and interesting we aren’t hearing about Riewoldt’s 2.3 instead of Cloke’s 2.2.

    I think St Kilda’s defence needs credit for only conceding goal kicking opportunities outside 55, and then for rushing the ball through from each of these chances, in a Hawthorn 2008 manner.

    Who wins this week? Who knows? But one thing I do know is much of what has been written about opportunities and domination isn’t borne out by watching a replay of the match.

  16. #15 – Phil,

    Fair comment but I too have watched the replay & the second qtr domination by the Pies should have resulted in a 6-7 goal lead and the match. There is no time limit on domination – if it goes in 20+ times a quarter (almost unheard of) it must go through the big sticks at least 5-8 times but it didn’t. So the total domination was simply not capitalised upon and the Saints must get some credit for this happening.

    In the third qtr, the Saints only went inside their forward fifty 9 times (to the Pies 16) but they converted their opportunities again whilst the Pies squandered two guilt edged chances to Thomas & Blair. So the Saints “domination” was not reflected by getting the ball deep inside their forward line.

    The Saints certainly got to play their dour brand of footy more than the Pies were able to play their fast, attacking stuff so real credit to the Saints there. They defend well as a team and just denied the Pies any real space. The Pies helped here by not playing on much in the second half.

    Fortunately, both outfits get to reconsider their approach, match-ups, tactics…etc. Lots of talk & positive vibes but I believe that it all counts for nothing. two hours of hard footy awaits.

    Lots think that the Pies blew it, choked …etc. but these views come from the usual suspects. From where I sat, both sides had real chances to win and did not take them. Maybe Milne’s lack of attacking the ball (unbelieveable to watch in such a big game when all around him players were crashing head-long into each other…) will prove ultimately costly. Why, even the much-maligned Davis would have gathered that ball & goaled.

  17. Bakes – the Pies blew it just like the Cats did in 2008. We can’t sugar coat it.

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