The Real Experience from the Great Southern Stand

by Lucas Garth

OK. My review, having not watched any TV replay or listened to the game on radio. Literally just watched the game live without input from any analyst which I though was hard to do but made for a gripping “real” experience.

First quarter Collingwood played very well early, could have had 6 goals on the board, but for fingernail touches on the line, and free kicks off the ball, which may or may not have been there (did not see). St Kilda rebounded amazingly well and would have gone to quarter time with truckloads of confidence. No lead, but they certainly would have thought a win was ‘in the bag’ given they’d taken on the Magpies famed frontal pressure and come through the other side. Riewoldt was looking to be a very large factor, even though the aggression of Reid and Brown in defence was something to behold. We must realise these two young players have both played under 50 games, but were mature beyond their years in this match.

The second quarter followed. Collingwood, were, for the most part, brilliant in the arm wrestle that ensued. St Kilda gave nothing away (apart from an injudicious 50 metre penalty), but on occasions the Magpies forced their way through, as they had done with Geelong and the Bulldogs in previous weeks. Indeed watching the game I thought an extra goal before half time would really make a difference. Cloke, in reality will be “pinged” for the two shots missed, but in all honesty, the first was the soda that should have been kicked; but the second was under a great deal of pressure and you would not back any player with a greater than 50% chance. Any shot from greater than 50 is not certain to go through and to be honest both teams had their long shots that missed and went through.

The half time break as a Pies fan I was happy with the effort put in, but feeling that we were still a few goals away from putting the game to bed. I couldn’t eat and felt sick to the guts. This was before the last half.

The third quarter began with trademark Collingwood pressure, a few nervous behinds, and a Riewoldt goal. It seemed strange but once again one had the feeling that it was going to be one of the days that the Saints would kick very straight, from limited opportunities, they hit the scoreboard hard.
The game play was tight, and relatively end-to-end football. Saints edging closer, but Collingwood generally holding firm in game play. Just not on the scoreboard.

The choker hold that both teams were putting each other in meant goals were at a premium. Pressure, whether real or inferred kept the difficulty on the shots. Thomas should have nailed a goal on the run, then after a brilliant mark, the ball centred to Blair also came up short. This, combined with a split second gather and cool shot under pressure from Saints backman-turned-forward Sam Gilbert, gave the Saints amazingly strong momentum and a massive belief that they had victory in their grasp.

At three-quarter-time the Saints were in full command psychologically. Though the Pies held a scoreboard advantage, the combined pressure of 0.5 vs 3.3 and the self-belief apparent in the Saints camp meant that for all except the most parochial Pies fan, a Saints victory was there for the taking.

First goals are always crucial in final quarters, but when the game is up for grabs, it gets even more significant.

Enter Leon Davis.

Completely without influence (no tell a lie, gave off a very smart handball to Thomas that should have set the Pies rolling in the third) in the match, somehow, found space, time and accuracy to slot one of the more important goals of his career.

Love him or hate him – and I think most people just like sticking the knife in for the reason he plays for Collingwood and no other – at the time the Magpies needed a cool head, he delivered.

At 14 points up, Pies fans dreamed, but still felt the game was close enough to still be on a knife edge. The Saints were coming hard, and one could tell by watching (maybe not evident on the TV screens) that the Pies were running on top of the ground, and being clearly outpaced by the Saints. Only Wellingham, Shaw and Thomas appeared to have the speed to break lines. The rest appeared buggered, out on their feet acting on will alone. With Goddard and Hayes going in for the kill, one sensed at least one more goal would be necessary.

Two minutes later the lead was all but gone. Hayes, the clear best in the last half, stepped up to the plate with an inspirational goal, then it was followed up by the Milne factor. Hands in the back to all, I realise, but it’s a GF. You can’t pay decisions, you need to let it go. So it was back to very close. One point up for the Pies.

I remember saying one point would be enough all week. And certainly hoped it would be.

Riewoldt did what he does, and conjured up a goal from nowhere, the ball bouncing, and bouncing, and with pace generated by sheer terror, his opposite number Maxwell (another player greatly hated on but inspirational leadership has no greater advocate than he), finding strength from who knows where, got a hand on it. Scores level.

Saints with all of the momentum, but still with the same relatively dysfunctional forward line.

Pies with no legs and acting on guts, but with a forward division and game plan that would only conjure up points and balls along the boundary line.

The football pinged around as tackles were laid, stoppages took a massive premium and spectators tried to ride the moments with their teams. I am certain at this stage Molly Meldrum once again fainted. Sometimes it’s just all too much.

It is at this moment that champions will themselves into the game.

Goddard, playing a slashing second half full of bravery, determination, skill, class and a German Tank precision, took one of the greatest Grand Final marks of all time, and with subsequent coolness, gave his team the lead for the first time in the match.

St Kilda had three amazing goals from their favoured sons (Riewoldt excepted), and Collingwood had found a way to lose a Grand Final.

The script writer wasn’t done yet, though.  They decided to add a few final twists in to make things interesting.

Collingwood found some energy that had been locked up. From being the hunted, they now found themselves a cornered tiger fighting for their very existence. To come so far – to the last third of the last quarter of the last game of the year (round 26 Ross Lyon) and be headed would be so fundamentally unjust.

Forcing the ball forward, they managed to hustle a point, one which like Eddy’s poster before, could so easily have gone straight through. Not a goal, but anything that brings a margin back to a mere 5 points has everyone on tenterhooks.

It means that every possession is crucial, every little act can be what wins or loses the game for your team.

St Kilda, playing Saints Footy, kept the ball, and using amazing tempo coolness, gritted the ball to their half forward line. Over 25 minutes gone, a 5 point lead, and control of the ball. Again, they looked the smarter, more seasoned team they had been telling us about in the pre-game.

However, Collingwood did not die. Like the Terminator, Dane Swan, with his robotically tattooed arms, forced a crucial clearance, and with the forwards all sucked up the ground, the open forward line meant a clear shot at goal. Dawes-Cloke-goal.

It did not dispel the doubters from before, it did not redeem completely the past sin, but the goal had put the Pies in front by a point.

Not long left at all. From a goal down to a point up, the Magpie army awakened and with one more impassioned plea, tried to lift their weary team to success.

This, in normal matches, in normal circumstances would have been enough.

However the Saints, with a commitment to their ruck and maul style, got the ball close. Close enough for another shot on goal from the irrepressible Hayes.

It bounced.

I swear it got through a few, but all I saw was Milne. All I saw was game over. In my head, it was as if the moment occurred in slow motion.

Of all the ways to lose a Grand Final. Milne in the square, check mate.

But, like the Leigh Brown ball from a week earlier, the ball seemed to elude Milne’s waiting clutches. Or he let it go. It could have been anything, but certainly unlikely it was that a point would result. It did.

There was an audible sigh from the crowd, almost like the popping of a Coke (TM) bottle.

Scores level. As Butch Gale immortally said “IT COULD BE A DRAW…”

‘I tipped this’ was revolving in my head. As well as the command to Heath Shaw to “hit the boundary line” with the resulting kick in.

He did, but it came back, and with interest.

For what seemed like forever, but was actually about 10 seconds of game time, both teams scrambled for possession 30 metres from the Saints goal, directly in front.

It was only luck or the right man at the right time that saw Heath Shaw, the defensive general of the last half who had played one of the games of his career, that got a clearing kick out of the congestion and over the boundary line.

A few more boundary throw ins resulted as people tried to count down from 20.

But we all knew what was going to happen. Lock in, lock down, see you back here in 7 days.

And that’s what occurred.

There was a sense of stunned disbelief as both supporters who had almost tasted victory and defeat in one incredible 10 minute conclusion, now saw both as imposters (apologies to Kipling) and the only clarity was that it be only fitting that another 120 minutes would be needed to separate the combatants.

All that now needs to be said is ‘bring out your dead’ and though we know the king is dead, we have to wait another week before we can say once more with passion “Long live the King”

About Lucas Garth

Has been supporting the Magpies since birth, and attending regularly games since 1986.

Comments

  1. Hi Lucas, lovely writing and reading it I was back at the game only on the Pies viewpoint. lovely read. Let the games begin again.

    Yvette

  2. Summed up with gut-wrenching perfection.

  3. Peter Schumacher says:

    Loved this post, particularly impressed too that it was done “cold” as it were, without any outside analysis. This was a truly fair report which I think captured the way game as it unfolded and most importantly perhaps the tension in the last quarter. As is suggested in Yvette’s post, it made the reader feel in respect of Saturday, “bring it on,can’t wait for the final installment”.

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