THE SWEET, SWEET TASTE OF PREMIERSHIP GLORY

The ball arched up, up, up into the air, the hopes of Geelong riding on this one kick. The game had been tight all day, but now the Cats were humming, dominating the last quarter of a see-saw battle.

As it swung straight through the big sticks it plummeted right towards me. Beer in one hand, I reached up for it as the crowd went wild. Six frothies deep I dropped the Sherrin, Carlton’s finest amber swill spilling all over me.

But the delirious excitement around me, and inside me, told an altogether more exciting tale… the Cats had sealed the flag.

In a team brimming with talent like Ablett, Bartel, Johnson, Chapman and Grgic, David Mensch was the unlikeliest of heroes.

The 2002 VFL premiership was a fitting finale for Mensch. Never a superstar, but never a dud, the euphoria created by this most unfashionable player was the first step towards Geelong building towards AFL domination. He was the last quarter spark, with three towering goals, that finally got the monkey off the Cats back.

David Mensch, short for The Much Maligned David Mensch, holds a place in Geelong fans hearts slightly above The Much Maligned Stephen Handley and level pegging with The Much Maligned Kant Kicksley.

Standing a heady thirty ninth on Geelong’s all time goals list, his career coincided with the inglorious years under the guidance of (un) brilliant (non) master tactician Gary Ayres.

It says something for his career that from a total of 158 games at senior level, that it’s nearly impossible to recall a single Mensch highlight beyond nondescript performance in two losing AFL Grand Final’s.

However, with Bomber Thompson having taken over the reigns at the start of the 2002 season, his leadership and experience was essential to the Geelong VFL team.

Desperate as most Geelong fans were for any success, I celebrated this premiership like it was the real thing. Having ridden the highs, the lows and the near misses of the Malcolm Blight era I had become used to disappointment.

And with Gary Ayres, there was no other emotion apart from disappointment as an option. Apart from anger. And sadness. Followed by anger again. Followed rapidly by frustration, tears, gnashing of teeth, resignation to mediocrity and then thoughts of violence against the ridiculously hirsute bouffant of Conan.

So when Geelong miraculously got up at Princes Park in 2002, this was a moment to cherish. Long forgotten James Rahilly was best on ground. Ablett showed flashes. Even Mitchell White got a touch or two in the last quarter after accidentally being put on the field by a potentially drunk interchange steward.

However, for one glorious day, David Mensch was The Man.

He was Gary Ablett.

He was Doug Wade.

He was The No Longer Much Maligned David Mensch.

He was Premiership Player David Mensch.

And in the tram ride home, my heart brimming with excitement and my clothes soaked with beer, I re-lived that glorious last quarter by David Mensch over and over again.

Yes, Geelong can win.

There is hope.

Comments

  1. I was at that VFL grand final and we celebrated with the players on the ground after wards. I remember at the time a very good football judge said “That Henry Playfair is no good.”

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    SM,

    In 1997, and having been away from Oz for a fair while, I was standing behind the nets at Trent Bridge studying Michael Slater’s footwork. This Aussie bloke came up, stood next to me and we started talking footy. As you do.

    I had being relying on TNT for footy info. As we were discussing Geelong’s 1997 prospects, this bloke reckoned it all revolved around Mensch.

    I was flabbergasted.

  3. Syd, his goal facing the other way from the goal square at a crucial time was menorable.

    I sat at home alone and watched it from the comfort of the armchair. Loved it, loved it, loved it, loved every bloody bit of it.

    It was good for ‘Bluey’ McGrath also if I remember correctly.

    I have to pinch my self every now and again when contemplating who the current bench mark is.

    Although we appear to be the first side discounted this year (again) I have a feeling that we will be a nuisance for any team that considers themselves contenders.

    My father used to say to me ” I wasn’t very good at fighting but I had the capacity to make it difficult for anyone who thought they could.

    Go Cats. Phantom

  4. Alex Wadelton says:

    I just love how Menschy was able to conjure the ghosts of future Chappy for one brief moment of happy snappy goalden glory! He would have been a superstar in the 70s. The 1870s that is.

  5. Tony Roberts says:

    His surname was, of course, German for ‘man’. Any Nietzsche fans here? When the Lions used to visit Kardinia Park for (what was then) their annual four-points bonus in the late 90s, I used to enjoy bagging ‘Untermenschen’.

  6. Richard Naco says:

    I love the yarn, and it scores extra marks for using one of the two Great Geelong Words (“frothies”).

    If it had also incorporated the Greatest Geelong Premiership Adjective (“surreal”), it would have been perfect!

    ;)

  7. Stephen Cooke says:

    I turned on the ABC to watch the big game as I was living in Emerald, Central Queensland. Bl**dy Sunday Arts! No VFL Grand Final in the heathen states. And to make matters worse, I missed Lake Boga’s first premiership in almost 30 years the following year!

  8. johnharms says:

    P. Flynn

    At that moment you knew you were with someone up there with the great misunderstanders of all time – the older husband who can’t sleep in The Big Chill, the army comedian in Good Morning Vietnam who references Readers Digest. There are probably better examples.

    T. Roberts

    He was occasionally ubermensch. He kicked the Sherrin to Billy for the famous after-the-siren goal. He also won a number of games for the Cats when he was moved into the ruck. For a while it became Geelong’s version of Ayres to the centre, or Cooney to full forward. ONe memorable vicory in a night game v North when he played a running ruckman roll and smashed Corey McKernan and Bluey McGrath thrashed Carey.

  9. Richard Jones says:

    Standing underneath the old scoreboard on the Moorabool St. wing my family would simply yell: “For Christ’s sake, Menschy, go and sit on the benchy.”

    We weren’t too enthused about Bluey McGrath either, Phantom. A bit like Essendon’s Walsh. No, that’s probably a bit unfair. Bluey was a tad better than Walsh and he did conduct on-ground match day tutorials with Tommy Harley to give himself extra points.

    Ah yes. And Stephen Handley. The name just might have slipped over the edge and into the fog of memory but who could forget those spindly, squid-white legs.

  10. pauldaffey says:

    Richard,

    You’ve just raised my estimation of Bluey. He obviously took his elder-statesman role to heart. I’d be curious to know from Tom Harley whether Bluey was a big influence.

    Cookey,

    My mother (ex-Ultima) told me last night that Lake Boga is filling today for the first time in a few years. The lake is an interesting spot because of its role as a landing base for water planes during the war.

  11. Sydney Malakellis says:

    John,

    Mensch may well have kicked it to Billy for that famous goal, but really, it’s not as memorable as Leigh Tudor’s infamous centre to G. Ablett (senior) against North in the prelim. Once again, Much Maligned fades into the distance once again…

  12. While on the subject of teams that can only look up my Tigers supporting brother rang me recently to acknowlege the Tigers big win against the Cats at Yea.

    He said he was so desperate for Tiger success he would take a practice match win against the reigning premiers or even a Norwich Rising Star award.

    I listened for sometime and eventually responded with my observation that Richmond obviously had more depth than the Cats this year.

    When I noted that the Cats only had twelve players missing from their last premiership team while the Tigers the entire team he grunted and hung up.

  13. Richard Naco says:

    (Makes note: put Phantom on Xmas list for that outstanding counter-attack.)

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