AFL Semi-Final – Geelong v North Melbourne: Did not deserve to lose

There wasn’t much love in the garage for Geelong.  The Pole, despite being a Hawthorn fan, wore his North Melbourne jumper, an old woollen version with a VFL logo.

Stevo, a Blues fan, said he was sick of Geelong and as I was supplying the beer and the steak, North had his full support.

Danny and Simon sat at the table, watching both televisions.  They understand the garage is an AFL domain and didn’t grumble about the lack of sound for the rugby league final.

I wore the North Melbourne jumper with two signatures on the front.  No one in the garage was as nervous.  I sought refuge in beer.  Trying to pace myself was a waste of time.

We all rated Geelong highly.  Not as high as Brisbane of the early 2000s, and nothing like Hawthorn of the eighties, but if you’re looking for quality in the current era, you can’t go past the Cats.

With seven top four finishes, four grand finals and three premierships since 2007, they have been the standout.

Since 2007, North Melbourne have been standing out of the finals with the exception of a 96-point elimination final loss to West Coast in 2012.

Geelong have been making history.  North have been envious.  Everyone in the garage thought the Cats would win.

It became clear early in the first quarter that Geelong were not going to win.  It was North who raced to a five goal lead.

The Cats were hesitant, flaky and slow.  They couldn’t get their hands on the ball.  When they did, their possessions lacked composure.

Stevo and the Pole were offering high-fives whenever North kicked a goal.  After Todd Goldstein’s goal, the Pole threw a high five with mean intentions.  The smack reverberated around the garage.  I didn’t feel the sting.  Geelong looked like a rabble.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a North game without helpless uncertainty.  Geelong kicked three goals in four minutes to end the opening term 12-points down.  Tom Hawkins kicked two of them, including a beauty after the siren.

Second quarters, long an issue at North, became an ally.  Geelong didn’t kick a goal.  North kicked two.  The 24-point lead at half time was handy.  But Brent Harvey was in trouble over a clash with Joel Selwood at half back.  Selwood was left bleeding, the cut resembling a boxing injury.

His complaint to the umpires wasn’t muted, Boomer fucking jumped at my head.

Based on previous incidents, I thought Harvey was gone.  Turns out he is.

North has been the best third-quarter team all year but they never got a charge on.  Although the margin blew out several times to 30-points, North couldn’t finish the Cats off.  All they did was maintain their four goal lead at three-quarter time.

When Josh Walker kicked an early goal for Geelong in the last quarter, I filled my beer.  By the time Jack Zeibell had put North 32-points up, it needed refilling.

‘If you lead by 32-points in the last quarter in a final, you don’t deserve to lose,’ I said as I refilled everyone’s beers.

Then Hawkins went mad.  He kicked three goals from long range in six minutes.  In one marking contest, Hawkins pushed Scott Thompson in the face to keep him at arm’s length, which is apparently an infringement.

The umpires disagreed.

‘This is Geelong,’ Stevo said.  ‘The umpires will do what they can to get them over the line.’

I repeated my belief, if you lead by 32-points in the last quarter in a final, you don’t deserve to lose.

Everyone agreed.  It didn’t mean it would happen.  Jimmy Bartel made the margin a goal with three minutes to play.

When Andrew Swallow was penalised for deliberate out of bounds with less than a minute left, Stevo yelled at the umpires, that’s right, anything to get Geelong over the line.

The umpires couldn’t do anything about Todd Goldstein’s mark with 30-seconds left.   Goldstein is the quintessential tap ruckman.  He lumbers.  He doesn’t get many possessions.  He doesn’t take many pack marks.  He took just four marks against Geelong and one of them has become famous.

When the siren went, I bolted upstairs and grabbed Kristine.  She was excited.  She’d been watching the game and posting updates on Facebook.

‘You should go to Sydney,’ she said.

I ran back to the garage to soak up the post-game love.  We celebrated with beer.  My nerves wouldn’t settle.  They couldn’t settle.  I left a glass of beer in the freezer.  It wasn’t going to help.  I was an emotional wreck.

When I went to bed and waited for sleep, the win seemed surreal.

No one would’ve complained if Geelong had won.  They’re a quality side, a big occasion team.  Had they won, no-one would’ve been surprised.  North have a history of giving up big leads, and five goals is nothing in modern footy, as the finals have shown.

North finished the home and away season sixth.  History suggested they would lose.  The bookies suggested they would lose.  When I went through North’s team before the game, I wondered where the stars were.

In the end, Geelong was favoured on reputation only.  At some point, injuries, poor form and age were going to have an impact.

Consider the injured; Steve Johnson, Hamish McIntosh and Allan Christiansen.  Steve Motlop was playing hurt.

North took advantage and outplayed Geelong for most of the match, save for a few minutes late in the first quarter and the final ten minutes of the last.

The Roos had 80 more disposals, led all night and the Cats almost stole it, such is their mental strength and belief.

The following day, the exhilaration was tempered.  Nagging doubts arose.  Argument can be made that North got lucky in both finals.  That doesn’t diminish the achievement.  Argument can be made that North reeled in a 33-point deficit against Essendon and led the Cats by 32-points midway through the final term.

It’s a fool’s argument, because the facts are simple.  North didn’t deserve to lose either game.

And they didn’t.

 

 

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. Good stuff Matt. Don’t go to Sydney mate. There are more dreams in your garage with your mates, than in a make believe Stadium in the middle of a metropolis against the best team that money can buy.
    In Brisbane there are more friends, cheaper beer, and a short stroll into bed for consolation. It could get ugly down there. Nothing good comes out of Sydney except the road to ……………..

  2. Well said Matt, Go the roos. They can say what they like but we are something to be reckoned with whether the doubters believe it or not!

  3. Peter, I won’t be going to Sydney.
    I have to be in the newsroom at 5am on Saturday…
    Wouldn’t it be great if the 100-million dollar team with all the AFL perks was upset by the Shinboners.
    That’s what I’m daring to dream about.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    You bloody beauty Rooboys. Look out Sydney, we’re coming. Boomer got off.

  5. Nice work Matt. The Roos were the better side all night but I love that our game can suddenly come alive; out of nothing.

    Tough assignment this week.

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