Finals Week 1 – Geelong v Hawthorn: Resurrection Deluxe

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GEELONG v HAWTHORN QUALIFYING FINAL 9-9-16

 

I don’t want to offend my friends and family who are Christians, but after Friday night I think I know in a condensed version how Jesus felt at Easter.

 

I’m sure that in the space of the 30 seconds, while Isaac Smith was taking that final historic after the siren missed shot for goal, I died and then rose again.

 

All season I have been watching Geelong and thinking they were flattered by their ladder position. But I guess I have been measuring them against the 2007-11 side. I now realise that although they are not as good as that Cats ‘Greatest Ever’, neither are any of the other 17 AFL teams in 2016.

 

You know you have seen a classic when neutrals are raving about the game and the noise and the last 40 minutes of the thrills and spills even make the post-match Richmond Station crush worthwhile.

 

How do you assess a game where you are so thrilled to win you stand with both hands in the air just repeatedly yelling, ‘Aaaah! Aaaah’ after the final siren and then within a minute are holding your head raging, “Who was meant to be on Smith?” (Matthew Lloyd would later blame Rhys Stanley.)

 

But as my son in the USA who watches his Cats games in the early morning hours from Washington DC said, “Smith missed the shot because he was ‘gassed’.” The ball had travelled the full length of the ground in the final 20 seconds of this crunching classic so in truth every one out there was already ‘gassed’.

 

And had actually Smith missed the Hawks first shot on goal on the night, reflecting a conversion rate inferior to his previous seasons. Perhaps he was always no certainty.

 

What had been at a high rate all night had been rib and tummy punches that both teams seem to relish when they play each other and head to head clunks that drew blood. On ground head bandages may have been at record levels by the time the match finished.

 

That Geelong would eventually win seemed most unlikely when Hawthorn moved to a 17 point lead midway through the 3rd term. Geelong had avoided their occasional MCG first quarter ‘Scottsomnia’ to have the better of the early exchanges, but when Schoenmakers put through Hawthorn’s ninth they had kicked seven of the game’s last nine goals.

 

Their ball use was clearly superior. They used the width of the MCG with an understanding rarely evident in the team from skinny Kardinia Park. One reason Hawthorn can do that with such precision is because of all the superb left foot kicks in the side. Sometimes it looks like a breeding program has taken place, or is it forced a team convention? Sam Mitchell, a natural right-footer, also tries to fit in by almost inevitably turning clockwise when he gets the ball.

 

But Lincoln McCarthy, seemingly the Cats youngster who handled the Finals pressure best, had a cracking 3rd quarter with two superbly snapped goals on his unnatural clockwise turn and Daniel Menzel and Steven Motlop, hitherto quiet, popped up in timely fashion so that by three quarter time Geelong were in front.

 

The lead had already changed hands three times in the last ten minutes of the third quarter. It had four such fluctuations to go.

 

Three of them after goals to, Rioli (Haw), Guthrie (Gee) and Burgoyne (Haw) took place in the first 8 minutes of the quarter. It was another 14 minutes before Caddy played on from the pocket and slotted through the major that would determine the result in favour of the Cats.

 

My wife Chris had taken a very unflattering pre-match photo of me in my MCG seat and posted it on Facebook. She wanted to take a post match one for a ‘before and after’ set. She couldn’t. Her hands were still shaking too much.

 

I took one of her and my sister-in-law Elaine waving scarves etc. Chris posted the photo. The foreground is pleasant enough. What touched me though was my brother in the background.

 

Barry is 74, fifteen years older than me. He has alzheimer’s. For much of his life he trashed ‘modern football’, although he had once been a keen and talented player good enough to spend a couple of seasons with Geelong West in the VFA.

 

Now he comes without complaint to every match attended by Elaine, Chris and myself. There he is in the Facebook pic, standing singing the Geelong theme song with as much enthusiasm as the day he came off the bench and kicked the winning goal for the Geelong Under 19’s against Richmond in 1960.

 

Every time I look at it I get a lump in my throat.

 

 

GEELONG 2.3 5.5 10.9 12.13 (85)

HAWTHORN 1.2 6.6 10.7 12.11 (83)

 

GOALS

Geelong: Caddy 2, McCarthy 2, Motlop 2, Hawkins 2, J.Selwood, Menzel, Guthrie, Blicavs

Hawthorn: Bruest 3, Rioli 2, Schoenmakers 2, Gunston 2, Burgoyne 2, Hill

 

BEST:

Geelong: J.Selwood, Guthrie, Dangerfield, Blicavs, Hawkins

Hawthorn: Lewis, Breust, Rioli, Mitchell, Burgoyne

 

Umpires: Margetts, Stevic, Meredith   Crowd 87,533

 

Votes: J.Selwood 3, Lewis 2, Guthrie 1

Comments

  1. Earl O'Neill says:

    Great piece, thanx. Barry reminds me of my dear departed Uncle Owen.

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