AFL Round 13 – Brisbane v Geelong: Pleasure and pain

There are moments of stark transcendence that sweep through the highly subjective experience of our diverse individual existences. Minute slivers of time in which we each feel a profound connection to a shared humanity that is greater than us all. Reminders that some elemental forces bind us in a fashion that our own extraordinary uniqueness cannot completely contain.


I, along with many other followers of the hoops, knew the power and the pain of that emotion once more in the instant that Ash McGrath’s hands grasped the footy in the closing second (yes, really) of this astounding football match. As the stadium was transfixed on the drama to unfold as he prepared to take his shot on goal, I was aware of a profound sense of the inexorable destiny again beckoning to us Cats supporters. While many of those at the ground may have wondered just what would happen next, in my mind the fate of the Pivotonians was already set in stone.


I watched McGrath’s kick after the siren from seat 194, Section 32 of the Gabba (a position which perversely afforded me a magnificent view directly over his shoulder towards the goal) in the full and strangely serene certainty that he was never going to miss. There would be no miraculous deliverance for the GFC from the footballing tragedy they had so painstakingly constructed for themselves over the previous half-hour. Like so many other Catters no doubt, I sensed the indelible imprint of the Almighty upon our latest tragicomic episode.


And as everyone within a good kilometre of the stadium ‘heard the mighty roar’ our predilection to construct the utterly confounding to run alongside the unquestionably sublime was confirmed once more. As if those of us who have negotiated our way beyond teenage years needed any reminding.


The Cats of recent years have invited comparison to the Lions of ’01-’03 in compiling our trio of premiership victories over the past six seasons. In one area at least, the GFC will always have the Lions well and truly covered. The boys from Brisbane can’t touch us in the capacity to both intoxicate and infuriate with a ferocious intensity befitting our feline epithet.


Just consider the latest achievements of our remarkable football club. This after the siren loss saw us stream into the ‘lead’ in two more of the most galling statistical measures a footy fan could ever dare to contemplate. Conceding a lead as large as 52 points with 21 minutes elapsed in the third quarter had never been verifiably achieved in VFL/AFL history before this match; thanks to the hoops, it is now a certified reality.


Furthermore, the entry of this incarnation of the ‘Collapso Cats’ into the record books sees us now standing alone atop the leaderboard in the table of teams to have conceded the greatest leads in the long history of the VFL/AFL. Three entries in the top 10 (at numbers 4.[i], 7.[ii] and now 8.) attest to our unparalleled ability to wrench defeat from the beckoning grasp of victory.


Just how we retain our incomparable capacity to operate at such a sterling level of both excellence and ineptitude is a mystery beyond all comprehension. Only one thing appears certain. The juxtaposition of both the exultation and the excoriation present in the life of the Cats fan is to be embraced with as much bonhomie as one can muster. For it is in the rich melange of these two fervent emotions that we find meaning in both of them.


And it is to this utterly confounding conundrum that I found myself retreating for solace as Ash McGrath’s kick sailed long, straight and true just inside the right-hand goal post. The Lions crowd erupted in ecstasy. From the old stager in former Cat Brent Moloney to the young tyro Daniel Rich, the Brisbane boys had demonstrated an indefatigable will to stay in the contest and an unstinting precision with the ball in hand during the latter stages of the match. Their victory was entirely deserved.


All that was left for me was to reflect on the curious affliction that besets all devotees of the Cats. In a way that perhaps only those of us foolhardy enough to throw in our lot with the boys from Corio can understand, something about who we are makes almost perfect sense of what transpired at the Gabba on this occasion.


We feel that the unutterable joy of our recent successes in September is somehow sublimated by such appalling capitulations as this one. It is as if Cats fans now blithely accept that we will only understand our football world by complete immersion in the abundance of emotions afforded by both exhilarating success and devastating failure.


What’s more, I believe that many of us wouldn’t have it any other way.


Brisbane Lions                      3.2       5.4          7.8        15.13 (103)

Geelong                            5.3         9.7     13.10        14.14   (98)



Brisbane:  McGrath 3, Moloney 3, Rich 2, Lisle, Patfull, Brown, Zorko,

Adcock, Hanley, Golby


Geelong:  Hawkins 3, Christensen 2, Motlop 2, Johnson 2, Mackie,

Guthrie, Murdoch, Blicavs, Podsiadly


Brisbane:  Moloney, Rich, Leuenberger, Black

Geelong: Stokes, Johnson, Bartel, Selwood


Umpires: Donlon, Bannister, Wenn        CROWD: 24, 164


OUR VOTES: Moloney (3), Rich (2), Stokes (1)

[i] In Round 6 1989, at Princes Park, Hawthorn reeled in a 56 point lead to beat the Cats by 8.

[ii] In Round 10 2006, at Kardinia Park, the Weagles overcame a 54 point deficit to defeat the Cats by 3.


  1. Excellent report Scott. The Cats never seem to do things by halves.

  2. Yes, well written Scott. As a former Cats supporter I watched the final term in dismay. In the period i followed Geelong, 1969-99, i saw some horrible capitulations, starting in 1972 with the first game i attended, Geelong v Footscray @ Kardinia Park, when a decent 3/4 time lead was surrended to give Footscray their first win there since 1945. There are other matches that are galling to recall, such as conceding two goals in the final monents v Hawthorn in the last game of 1987 , conceding a spot in the finals. This current Geelong team is one of the giants of the modern era, but the abysmal perfomance, leading to Sundays defeat, might signal the start of the end.


  3. Hey Glen,

    ‘Former Cats supporter’? I’m intrigued!

    Love your recollections; thanks for sharing.

    The first Cats game I attended was Round 15 1987. The boys ventured up to my home state to take on the fledgling Bears. Having already dropped the home game against them in Round 2 of that year, we hoped that the players might be galvanised to perform against the 12th placed Carrara Koalas. The hope of finals footy was still alive at the Cattery that year with the boys in 6th place (just two points off fourth, in fact) going into the fixture on the Gold Coast.

    And as every Catter fan of any vintage well knows we were utterly smashed by an enthusiastic Bears outfit from start to finish, culminating in a humiliating 41 point shellacking. I slunk home both apoplectic with rage and dully resigned to my fate. That incredibly disappointing bunch of footballers picking and choosing when to rise to the contest would always be MY team. And following the footy has never been the same since that day.

    Perhaps Sunday does signal the end of the era. But it’s just possible that it simply becomes another charged moment in the rich history of a footy club that doesn’t know any other way.

    I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

    As you noted earlier, those twin losses to the Bears in ’87 contributed to us missing the finals by two points (after the last-minute loss at home to the Hawks in Round 22). And the Bears finished next to last. Most tellingly, very few of us hoops fans would have felt even the least surprised.


  4. I’ll think this modern Geelong’s sustained excellence over such a long period gives them a fair bit of room to fall before they can be tarred with the brush of eras past. Since R5 2007, I can only remember 4 games where their performance and the result was really disappointing – Collingwood 2008, Hawthorn 2008, Collingwood 2010 and Freo 2012.

    Remember, the Cats are in a rebuilding phase and are not supposed to be near the top of the ladder. The Cats have been so good for so long that we are now judging them unfairly; judging them against themselves at their best rather than against the rest of the current competition?

  5. Thanks, Pete. You may well be right. Although no team is judged unfairly in my mind when they concede a 52 point lead in little more than a quarter of footy. That’s the hoops through and through for me.

    To your list I’d simply add the Crows away early last season. That was an uncompetitive effort throughout.

    And I’m always shattered by losing to the Tankers so those defeats in ’09 and ’10 were pretty ugly in my view. But I’m hardly objective when it comes to Carlton.

  6. Mark Doyle says

    It is bemusing how supporters focus on bad losses. Geelong have provided supporters with more good wins than bad losses over the past 50 odd years.
    With respect to the losses against Brisbane in 1987, these losses were in a period when Geelong had it’s worst ever coach, the dud John Devine.

  7. andy_frame says

    I am still shaking my head. Never was the phrase – ‘From the sublime to the ridiculous’ – more apt when describing a game of footy. Or indeed the ongoing experience of the lifelong Cats fan. It should be inscribed in Latin on the club crest. As you say though, we wouldn’t have it any other way. :-)

  8. Mark,

    I would submit that I focus equally on the good wins and the bad losses. It’s just that when we get out act together for the bad loss we really go to town. And in the wake of such defeats, part of the catharsis for us followers of the hoops is to pen our ruminations on the delicious uncertainty that still pervades our relationship with the club.


    And whatever the limitations of one J. Devine, getting rolled by the Bears home and away in their first season was some achievement in my view. Not many footy supporters get to follow a club capable of that.

  9. Andy,

    You should submit that crest idea to the club.

    Love it.

  10. I was at the 87 loss.

    And I can assure you, Mark, that Scott Frame celebrates the wins.

  11. Andrew Fithall says

    Scott – you have provided another example of “best writing comes out of a loss”. Great work. And you are a rare Geelong Catmanacker who actually writes about a loss. Yes I know JTH has as well, but he is obliged to or he doesn’t pay himself. I look forward to your work this week after the Freo game.


  12. Lovely work, Scott. You and JTH seem to search for spiritual meaning in these things. As if there are external forces that made the result pre-ordained.
    My suspicion is that at the core of the GFC and certainly the current playing group is a commitment to entertain. And it is not so much about entertaining the crowds as entertaining themselves. “If I just bent this kick over here?” “If I just ran over here when the percentage thing is to run here? But if I know I’m expected to do that, so does the opposition, so the conventional percentages don’t really work out.”
    Stevie J is clearly the epitomy of this, but there is something in the Corio air that injects it into every player’s DNA. The opposition don’t know what to expect, and all that teammates know is to expect the unexpected – which gives them some idea of where not to be.
    And as Eccles famously observed to the question “what are you doing there?” “Everybody gotta be somewhere.”
    In the Cats case that ‘somewhere’ often amounts to in space with the ball.
    Of course inside every grown man is the memory of that sunny afternoon with time and possibilities stretching endlessly before a 12 year old boy.
    “I don’t reckon that shed’s built of combustible material. I’ll just light a match to check out that I’m on the right track.”
    On the weekend Geelong burned down the shed. That is at the core of their success.

  13. I’m with you on some of that PB. As I was watching I was thinking, I like that they are kicking to contests, I like that they are trying things, I like Jimmy’s barrel. I was thinking: you can’t have it both ways. You can’t delight in their style of play and then be critical of it when they lose. Although I will qualify that with the assertion that that is a matter of degree.

    I also think Geelong crowds want to see good footy. Many a day losing sides have been clapped off not just out of loyalty but because the game has been more than pleasant to watch.

  14. Geelong Football Club – the AFL’s ‘Agony and Ecstasy’ specialists.

    Go Cats.

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