Errors: Significant, but often forgotten by history

What tragics some of us are.


With no football on weekends to occupy our time and so many other hobbies and productive tasks from which to choose to fill the void, what do we settle on? Watching old matches of football on weekends, of course!


Today it’s been reliving the glory days of 2009, when my Saints thumped West Coast by 97 points in Round Three. Yesterday the 1989 Grand Final and 1987 Preliminary Final between Melbourne and Hawthorn. The day before that? The 1964 Grand Final, where Melbourne’s twelfth premiership win was “straight outta Crompton.”


We’ve been reminded of some humbling truths about the AFL this year: How naked the game is, and how remarkably normal the players are when there are no people in the stands; How fragile it is when no broadcasting rights dollars are bankrolling it; and how for all the criticisms we have of the AFL commission we will never do the one thing that would truly make it change how it operates – stop watching.


In watching highlights and replays comes another truth: Great AFL/VFL matches are often remembered for moments, which don’t always reflect the full story.


As an example, I went to watch highlights from the 1987 preliminary final to remember the commentary of that kick after the siren, and to see if I was adept enough at tapping the space bar to capture the moment Jim Stynes emerged from behind Gary Buckenara’s left shoulder.





In that moment he conceded a 15 metre penalty gifting Buckenara a closer shot at goal. It was the Hawk’s fifth and ultimately won Hawthorn the game by two points, ended Robert Flower’s career and sent the Hawks into a grand final against Carlton.


The extent to which Stynes was demonised after that blunder would make coronavirus blush, and yet the fault was not solely his.


Melbourne should have won this game before the siren: Twenty-two points up at three quarter time, they kicked six straight behinds in the final quarter, two of them in the last few minutes and conceding goals from each of the two Hawthorn kick outs that followed those behinds.


Stynes gave away another 15 metre penalty to Paul Dear several minutes before the Buckenara one, also allowing him an easier shot on goal.


Hawthorn should also have won it much earlier. They had all the momentum and scoring opportunities once Melbourne’s defence began to relent after about 10 minutes. They too missed and missed. Dear missed to the near side with the easier shot Stynes gave him. Minutes earlier he took a mark in the forward pocket and tried to play on and centre the ball with three Melbourne players within a metre of him. The smothered kick that followed was completely foreseeable and avoidable.


Even Buckenara himself – regarded as one of the VFL’s best kicks for goals in the ’80s – hit the post before kicking the final two goals of the game.


So many other iconic matches have received the treatment of being compressed into single passages of play.


It’s just as well that in the 1994 preliminary final Dennis Cometti prefaced Gary Ablett’s match-winning goal with “There is no justice in sport…the master all day, and this match will be remembered for this kick.”: In its absence, anyone who only saw that moment could be forgiven for thinking “God” dominated that game like so many others, doing a disservice to defender Mick Martyn and his efforts (SIDE NOTE: I think Matt Watson’s tribute to Martyn from Friday is well worth a read).


Preceding Barry Breen’s point in the 1966 Grand Final, Saints ruckman Brian Mynott tried to kick a goal off the ground from the goal square, and had a fresh-airy. Had he goaled, the scores may not have been level so close to full time (Incidentally, St Kilda defender Brian Sierakowski accidentally hit a goal umpire – a former mayor of Moorabbin – and broke the official’s leg a few minutes later).


Some of the shine is taken off Leo Barry’s 2005 Grand Final mark (“LEO BARRY YOU STAR!!!!”) when you remember Cox kicked it after marking a kick out of defence by Barry – a turnover.


Had a West Coast player marked it and goaled, Barry would today be Sydney’s villain, alongside Luke Ablett, whose kick across the defensive goalface early in the last quarter (meant for Barry ironically) was marked by Ben Cousins. Cousins’ subsequent goal put West Coast in front.


In the AFL/VFL, history is not only written by the winners, it also forgets their mistakes and lets individuals take the fall for the collective’s shortcomings.


The truth is no moment on a football field exists in isolation. Ironically, it took isolation for me to fully appreciate that.




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About Alex Darling

Melbourne-born, Horsham-based footy fan. Lover of the Saints, classic rock guitar and good writing on each of these topics.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Some good matches there Alex! I started to watch again my most favourite ever footy match, 1984 Grand Final a few days ago, I still jump out of my seat when Leon Baker kicked that goal in the last quarter. Great memories for Bomber fans!

  2. Frank Taylor says

    Nice one Alex.

    Being a passionate Pie’s fan, I could number dozens of moments that went against my luckless team – the last goal that WC kicked in 2018 – free kick to Maynard !!!!!! – being the last soul-crushing moment in time for me and my side.Ahhhhh…….

    Cheers and Floreat Pica


  3. Peter Fuller says

    You would have to acknowledge Peter Sumich’s behind at the death in the 1990 Qualifying final. It gave your mob the drop on the Eagles the following week and condemned Essendon to two weeks idleness before you caught them in the 2nd semi. Thereafter the Pies couldn’t manage to blow it.
    It’s a splendid topic Alex, congratulations on bringing it to our attention. I might also note that it has plenty of non-sporting applications as well. It’s amazing how difficult it is to un-forget a false memory of any aspect of our lives, when the correction is brought to our attention.

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