Almanac Books: ‘1989 – The Great Grand Final’



1989: The Great Grand Final 


I first came across the 1989 Grand Final, when I borrowed Inside the Battle of 89’ 1989 VFL Grand Final Reunion Special, on video from the library. I must have been about 10 or 11 at the time, and not having known anything about it prior to this. The bruising, violent and notorious match, a game where Hawthorn, hungry for their first back-to-back Premierships met a hardened Geelong side. So, when I came across 1989; The Great Grand Final, by Tony Wilson, I thought I’d give it a read. The book was entertaining, while also chronicling Allan Jeans will to win in September because of his bitter disappointments in 1984/1985. And of the fresh face of Malcolm Blight, eager to make a lasting impression at Geelong. It was a time when players were not held to the level of professionalism that they are now. Off-field escapades, all-night drinking and clubbing were all a part of a player’s life during this era.  So, with all that being said, join me, as I take a look at Tony Wilson’s book.


Probably one of the most dramatic moments of the game, came in the first 20 seconds after the first bounce. I’ve clicked on the incident a lot of times on YouTube, rewinding it repeatedly and going closer to the screen. I still can’t see the bump. Save for the slow-motion replay. Play continues, however Brereton was hurt and hurt badly. It was revenge for something Dermot Brereton had done to Mark Yeates in Round 6. I’ve also watched that Round 6 game, and I can’t see Brereton’s bump on the footage. Yeates hitting Dermot set the tone for the 1989 grand final, for its violence and for Brereton’s refusal to go off the ground. This action stood as a metaphor for Hawthorn’s determination to win at all costs. Another player knocked out was taken off.


It is rather ironic to me, that a player nicknamed ‘Buddha’, could have been responsible for so much carnage, however ‘Buddha’ Gary Hocking was responsible for taking Johnny Platten out of the game. Because Hocking gave Platten  serious concussion. Tony Wilson does dedicate some of his book to a discussion about repeated head knocks and how the attitude in the AFL has changed since then.  In light of Gary Ablett senior’s AFL lawsuit, as well as the recent AFL women’s player who committed suicide because of CTE, it seems relevant to round my discussion on this book with concussion.


A player’s attention in this era seemed to be as much about how they could weaken or injure their opponent off the ball, than it was about actually playing the game.  Dubbed the most violent grand final, though I think the brawl in the 1990 Grand Final was equally big, it signalled an end of an era. The 1990s brought increased professionalism, the blood rule and trial by video, as well as the football club becoming more of a corporate entity rather than the suburban tribal strongholds of Melbourne.


You purchase Tony Wilson’s book of this epic Grand Final at his website Here


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  1. george smith says

    It was a great grand final, but one in isolation. Going back in the ’80s and going forward in the ’90s – the decade that didn’t deliver! We see that every grand final was more or less over by 3/4 time and there were some one sided blowouts. Compare it to the last 15 years when we had the incomparable 09 where a toe poke at the last was the difference between two champion teams, the draw in 2010 where either side would have been worthy premiers, the amazing 2012 where the Swans just got ahead of the unstoppable Hawks and the accursed 2018. Then there is my favorite of all time – last year!

    The flaw with ’89 is that the Hawks scored just enough to keep themselves safe all day, in spite of the heroics of Ablett and co. Had they lost it would have been a catastrophe on par with 1970, and to be honest, it never looked like happening, in spite of the mighty performance by Geelong.

  2. Barry Nicholls says

    An excellent review of Tony Wilson’s account of this memorable game and its aftermath. I remember borrowing the Art room TV (large screen – rare in those days) from St Ignatius Junior School to host a group to watch the Grand Final at my flat in Kent Town. One of my friends repeated the phrase ‘It’s line ball’ for most of the final quarter. Which it was. Right to the end.

  3. RagingBull says

    the 90s, it delivered a further push by the AFL into corporate interests. I would agree that because of this,
    the competition was pushed further away from its suburban routes. Losing for many, what was the appeal of it.
    At the same time, I think it was inevitable. it was the culmination of what really had started in the 1970s. So, with bankruptcies, interstate teams and decisions geared towards a business outlook, the change was bound to happen.

  4. RagingBull says

    Barry Nicholls, I’m always interested to read accounts from people, around at the time. Of what they were doing
    in a particular year and game.

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