AFL Grand Final: The View from Shepparton

Let me say it upfront, I nominated the winner, the winning margin, and the Norm Smith Medallist. Pity I didn’t put the house on that particular trifecta.

So it was in the View’s TV area as we utilised our 63 inch Sammy for the reason it was purchased, to view the footy.

The AFL Grand Final was the social event of the year in the Schumacher household and the Minister for Home Affairs had outdone herself in the preparation of eats for the dozen or so of our friends that were scheduled to arrive. As it turned out all who came reinforced the eats situation but you never quite knew how these things were going to work out. As for me I did the hard work of breaking up some ice and putting a dozen or so Crowns and a couple of assorted soft drinks in ice in a laundry tub. So really, I did the important hard work in preparation for this footy fest. These drinks were also supplemented by our guests.

Chris and Rosalie were the first to arrive, he a WAFL footballer in the early seventies who went within an inch of making the Western Australian state team and thus it was agreed that he was the resident expert. He came along with a Hawthorn flag to as he said “provide token opposition” to the prevailing orthodoxy of the gathering that Sydney were the mob to barrack for. He then promptly switched allegiances as soon as it appeared in that first quarter that the Swans would be the underdogs. His partner Rosalie ran a child care centre or three so that she became the acknowledged expert on anything Auskick. Leon then turned up with half a dozen more Crowns. He was a quiet considered person in his mid-sixties who reckoned that by now, having lived in Victoria for over ten years I should have been over my irrational dislike of all things Victorian particularly in relationship to football.

Lois and Laura turned up, she an effervescent fifty something who as it turned out was a Hawthornite and her very quiet daughter sixteen year old Laura who said nothing all afternoon.

Christine and Denys then turned up, she an American who had come to these functions for years and feigned ignorance every time, “What happens when the ball is kicked out on the full”? And her husband who genuinely knew nothing about the game.

And it was on, I groaned at that first Xavier Ellis goal,”Xavier what?” my friend asked, “Xavier bloody Ellis”, I said, I hadn’t even seen him come onto the ground. I had previously tried to stoke up my juices when Lance had his first (of many) misses. I asked everyone but nobody in particular,” Can I say “Piss weak Franklin”? Nobody seemed to object so I said again, loudly, for emphasis, “YOUR’E PISS WEAK FRANKLIN” My football mate observed quietly, “it’s going to be a long afternoon”.

I thought to myself, that for a self-appointed expert on the game that I should have watched more footy, should have subscribed to Foxtel, too many players that I was not properly across, Hannebery for one, had never been in my radar yet here was this bloke, aged 21 apparently and yet another product of Xavier College who has just taken a screamer over Hale. How did Sydney recruit and develop these players so well?

Meanwhile the Hawks kept missing easy shots for goal, and you started to think, “They’re stuffed, just can’t get it right in front of goals when it really counts”. Still nearly all of the pundits had picked Hawthorn and Sydney had had a shocking record at the “G”. Hawthorn seemed to be in total control so that it would only be a matter of time before Sydney started to get walloped. Miraculously though, from nowhere it seemed and against the flow of play, from the left forward pocket Malceski who I thought was supposed to be in defence snapped an unbelievable goal. As a Lions supporter who had had great pleasure out of seeing Akka in his prime kick fantastic goals, this was the equal to any I could remember. What a game. Suddenly all hell broke loose in our lounge room, our kindergarten expert had a fantastic fabulous Red Indian war whoop, or at least I think that that is what it is. Anyway I am sure that it could be heard several streets away. This was the sort of involvement I have always dreamed of but seldom seen in our annual Grand Final footy fests. Meanwhile our sole Hawks barracker also screamed in stunned shock. What a game, what a gathering, what an atmosphere at home, at the ground, and all over the country. It was great to be an Australian!

My feeling of well-being was somewhat numbed when the Swans found themselves down at nineteen points at quarter time when the inevitable Hawks surge commenced and they finished the first quarter at a great rate of knots all over Sydney with those goals to Breust and Gunston in the last minute. How in the Hell did the Crows let him go? What a one sided disappointing game this was going to be. I would like to report that most of us present sat in stunned silence however in truth we were consuming comestibles and chatting and sharing a few drinks and definitely not sharing any sort of review of the first quarter. Franklin was clearly out playing, out manoeuvring Richards but I didn’t realise that he was yet another Swans player who was not properly fit. Perhaps for all Sydney fans the highlight might be the race around the wing where for about 60 metres Jetta left Rioli for dead before passing off to Bird who in fact was given a free kick close to goal down the ground as Jetta had been pushed after disposing of the ball. Bird missed.

How that all changed in the second quarter when our Red Indian whooper maker let loose at last 6 times whilst the token, or perhaps real Hawks supporter screamed and cried in dismay. That goal to Kennedy almost immediately after the second quarter started suddenly made unbelievers believers again. I thought that the umpiring throughout the day was OK but Roberts-Thompson and therefore Sydney by definition got out of jail when he should have been pinged for holding the ball, instead it resulted in Goodes gaining possession then to Jack down the other end who goaled.

McVeigh, who despite my guess as to the identity of the Norm Smith Medallist looked to be the best player on the field at that stage at least, goaled. Goodes came off injured but not being a medical expert I presumed, well I don’t know what, but couldn’t see him staying off the ground. Once again it appeared to some pundits at least that in the normal course of events he would have stayed off and been out for ten weeks.

Sam Reid at last showed something, goaled and “we” were 5 points in front. The lounge room went ballistic, sorry; I meant to say that there was a sudden change to a positive attitude in respect of this particular contest. Mitch Morton (“who”)? Some non-entity from Richmond who as I understood it had bagged a million goals in the seconds this year but was seen not to be a good enough tackler on defenders when they were taking the ball out of defence. And then Morton did it again, the Hawks defence which was subject to a question mark all year was having that question answered, they weren’t up to it. Some of the Hawthorn players looked stuffed already. Franklin missed a goal that was sorely needed. He should have played for Richmond, fair dinkum, he was so frustrating. Hawthorn had not kicked a goal in this quarter and Sydney had turned being down 19 points to a lead of 16 points.

We, (well most of us), all sneered we all jeered when Roughead missed yet another at the start of the third quarter and then when Kennedy and LRT kicked goals, we were all in seventh heaven. Kennedy hit the bloody post, 28 points up, not enough but by then were all pretty much believers one way or the other. In 2012 though nothing was certain. Mumford gave away a soft free kick to Hale in a ruck contest on the boundary and seemingly from about a zillion metres out Hale potted it. This opened the flood gates, well it had to happen and in a brilliant but short display of our game, the Hawks let loose with goals to Franklin, Gunston and Franklin again as he wheeled around about 70 metres out. Was the match loser about to become the match winner? There was deathly silence in our living room, well actually there wasn’t because our Hawthorn barracker was letting us know in no uncertain terms about the trend of the game. It got even worse when Smith (who?) yes “Smith” bolted out of the centre ruck contest and kicked truly, somehow Hawthorn was ahead. Sam Mitchell gave away a very soft 50 metre penalty and sanity was restored when McVeigh kicked truly as a result, a great captain’s goal. Sydney by a point a three quarter time. We all continued to eat victuals and drink stuff.

Well Sydney had had it now, two goals in two minutes immediately after the start of the final quarter to Hawthorn, Hale was a really good player, most of us sank into a stunned resigned sort of silence but the footy expert reckoned that it wasn’t over yet and it wasn’t because the winner suddenly became the loser again when Franklin missed yet another set shot, 12 points up instead of 17. Hannebury kicked a goal from nowhere five minutes later, cue to Red Indian war cries again, yippee. Then that Richmond reject Morton out positioned two Hawk defenders in the square and somehow got the ball onto Kieren Jack who got it. Our lounge room was a sea of seething tension again. Somehow Goodes who was by now an absolute hobbling mess scrambled yet another goal which gave the Swans a seven point lead. Franklin marked 50 metres out but by now his nerves and confidence were shot and he passed it on to Gunston who had been an absolute gun goal kicker all year. When it really really counted, when it was wanted most, he hit the post. Sewell then had two desperate shots for goal which went either side of the posts. Hawks down by four points but constantly in attack, surely Sydney would wilt, had to wilt under the sustained pressure. All players were now totally stuffed and this was exemplified when Jetta, Sydney having at last got the ball out of defence, couldn’t get the distance from 50 metres. But the ball was in Sydney’s forward line, everyone in our lounge room was screaming advice, willing the ball to either end of the ground. Malceski again, got loose about 45 metres out and snapped truly.

End of a great great game. Most of us left happy, I had a beer to celebrate my great tipping success which made me more happy.

Game highlight: Malceski’s goals although Goodes’s last goal came close. Low light: Franklin’s atrocious kicking from set shots.

Year’s highlight: Karmichael Hunt’s winning goal after the siren for the Suns against Richmond.

Year’s lowlight: Adelaide just missing out on the Grand Final.

About Peter Schumacher

Wannabe footy commentator and writer, used to be a wannabe footballer

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