Finals Week 1 – Melbourne v Brisbane: Mythology




Melbourne v Brisbane

7:30pm, Saturday August 28

Adelaide Oval



Life speeds up, in conjunction with the pace of the game, it seems. The trick, in this rush that is work, fatherhood, sore bones and life in general, is to do what the best players do, take moments, and find ways to make them last forever. Time on the farm with your kid, watching her play in the mud while you fix fences, as if dusk will last forever. Sharing a never-ending beer over the tray of your ute with a mate. Sitting down, in a seven day week of yakka and chaos, in from of a fire, to find that window and watch a final. Making it timeless.



That first quarter, I wanted to last forever. Only Geelong Hawthorn ’89 GF last stanza was better. Goal-for-goal, a rip snorting shoot out! A speckie from someone too young to realise he was built to lumber. A forward who grabs games by the short and curlies, kicking them from everywhere. A back flanker cutting lazer-like runs through the game and our memories. Two champions showing why they are champions, how one player can’t do it on their own, about how a team within a team can be near invincible. Half a dozen blokes showing exactly why they’re All Australian, two different game plans. Big hits, fierce tackles. Modern footy. Grab a drink, marvel, barrack, put it in a goddamn bottle!



Brisbane have a solid game plan. Like their nuggetty on-ballers. Big Fella, in the ruck, Oscar, has improved out of sight! Has stopped trying to use his height. Opponents all year have been jumping all over it. He is coming in earlier, bringing them to ground, making it about knees, elbows and muscle. His job isn’t to win ruck contests, but make them neutral. The little men play to it. To a one built like tanks, great in close. They go man-to-man, flex and smash and crash.



Melbourne have a tough bastard of an artist in the ruck. They look to win each tap. And have the hardened silk on the ground to back themselves. Brisbane hug their backs, looking to tackle. Hit to advantage time and again simple become the briefest touch followed by rams head-butting. Yet Oliver finds ways, even when wrapped by bear hugging octopuses, to twist, get a knuckle on, a finger, use his body momentum, his tackler’s, to get that ball towards a teammate. He uses it, uses it, uses it. Petracca has the same force of will as Zorko, but electric reflexes. He just point blankly refuses, at 100 kms per hour, to go to ground. Takes on three, which frees up two Demons. And seldom, unlike much of the Lions on-ballers, grabs the ball flat footed. Like Oliver, he has the freakish, unteachable ability to reach top speed off two steps. Both he and his Brisbane counterpart will get a stat, but his have momentum.



His game around the ground is so obvious. It’s Melbourne’s game plan. I can’t believe the Lions weren’t more onto it.



So much of today’s footy is defensive. A chip is given in the backline. The team without the ball cover every space. All of them. A player’s dream. The bloke with the ball plays on, and goes 50 metres to a contest down the line, near the boundary. Time and again, ad nauseam. But never to Petracca! He is always, always, 35-40 meters from the kicker, with a few running back flankers, watching the ball sail over their heads, ready to be on the move, numbers front-and-centre. He gets half his stats this way, roving the inevitable marking contest. Twisting, bending, refusing to be knocked to the ground, feeding off to the flankers, or, if not in the clear, driving it forward. It’s like watching Kevin Bartlett in his prime, but not just in the forward line.



The whole Melbourne team is.



Front. And. Centre.



A team of Bartletts – who aren’t hungry!



There were duels everywhere. Big Bloke on Gawn gave Brisbane an early edge no-one was expecting – though, as said, countless times, the beauty of the ruck is it is a war of attrition. May on Daniher was a ripper! Two blokes oozing personality. May smashed it. But if Joe could kick worth a damn, he might have. I love Joe! Who the hell could possibly not? He’s my yardstick. If you don’t like him, as a person, you’re a hater. Yet he and May provided some great comedy. When Joe tried to throw his weight around after a Melbourne goal, May gave him a look, one for the ages, straight from Warner Bros. ‘Joe, what the hell? Am I going to have to eat you?’



There was Robinson on Harms. Those heads clashing? Oh, the splinters! Cameron on Generic-Backman-Not-Up-to-It.


Brownlow Neale, on probable Brownlow Oliver. Rich on Generic-Half-Forward-Not-Up-to-It.



It was beautiful!



But there in lay the difference. Melbourne had back flanks that ran like dreams, providing the spread to make all that in close action pan out running. Salem, so good! Ginger Meggs, Petty…



The game, to me, was summed up best by the real contest; Rich v Langdon. Rich is old school. He reads the game so well, with that stocky Brisbane frame, that Watters waddle. Delivers like a bullet. A marksman. So crisp.



Yet Ed runs! Man, he runs. Watch him. Just spend a whole game doing nothing but watching him! Really. Do it.



He marks like a dream, up with the best of them. He runs! Like Petracca, if he is anywhere the width of the ground, between the kicker and the marking contest, off he goes – and does not stop. If it is another kick to Melbourne, a mark, or a front-and-centre, he runs to the next contest, and again. I lost track of the amount of times I saw him glide forward, through three contests in a row, finishing up deep in the forward line, throwing out his opponent, creating doubt in the tacklers, only to glide back just as quickly.



I got seasick watching it.



Play on him, you may as well throw your name magnet off the board. You’ll simply be chasing. Rich is crisp. Ed is penetrating. Daniel got an All Aussie gong, he’s a great player, good on him, but I know who’d I’d pick first if I wanted to win a final.



Muscle vs silk. Brisbane’s solid builds vs motion.



And when it did go forward, it was Melbourne’s spread of forwards vs Cameron. Benny, Spargo, Peckett, the class of Fritch, there were too many to cover, the Dees got them from everyone.



Along the way I noticed Emmett Dunne, the All Aussie with the cheesy Goose-from-Top-Gun mannerisms. They say he got the most intercept marks this year, more that Stewart. Unreal. He must read the play like no other in history, because he also gets clear fists to so many he could pluck like cherries. A touch more Brian Lake and he might be one of the all time greats.



From Southby to Jess to Lake, to today’s model, May, I just love tough backmen who also mark everything! It puts so much pressure on the opposition! Makes forwards look impotent. It defeats them.



The finals roll on. So much can still happen! Prelims often tip the world on its head, and everything you thought you knew about it. Geelong got spanked in ’89 and came back a few weeks later to only fall a kick short in the Grannie, the Doggies won one from seventh.



Right now, the thought of Melbourne v the tough and pace of Port terrifies me.



But yeah, last night, Melbourne v Brisbane, there was so much to take in, in what was a cracker. That first quarter, it belongs in mythology.



Some say there’s an afterlife. I believe life is a series of moments. If you can make the good one last forever, like Oliver and Petracca do in traffic, then, somewhere in time, they will still be. Lasting forever.



For two hours or more I sat in a bubble, by a fire, drinking, watching things close to heaven.




MELBOURNE    5.4     9.10     9.12    13.15 (93)
BRISBANE       4.2      5.4       7.5        9.6 (60) 


Fritsch 4, Pickett 2, Petracca 2, Brown, Sparrow, Oliver, Langdon, Spargo
Brisbane: Cameron 5, Bailey, Berry, McCluggage, McCarthy 


Oliver, Petracca, Lever, Viney, Fritsch, Neal-Bullen, Gawn
Brisbane: Neale, Cameron, Rich, McCluggage, Coleman, Bailey 


Crowd: 13,784




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



To return to the  home page click HERE



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.



Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.



Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE

One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE

Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE





  1. Melbourne’s lesser lights are worth watching too; Spargo just seems to be a natural footballer, Brayshaw plays his role letting Petracca and the stars dominate. They should make the GF barring a catastrophe.

  2. Could not agree more with lesser lights! Brayshaw’s smothering is a dream. So gutsy.

Leave a Comment