Finals Week 3 – Brisbane v Geelong: Small mercies



Geelong and Brisbane.

Brisbane and Geelong.


Two households, both alike in football dignity, in Woolloongabba where we lay our scene. It’s hard to hate the Cats, even though they loom ominously between my Lions from North Fitzroy and a Grand Final berth. Ok, it’s a very extreme North Fitzroy nowadays. But surely I’m not the only one who has reprogrammed their sat nav to direct me to Brisbane via Brunswick Street.


The truth is, the sting of preliminary finals is a pain that can be recalled just as readily as the thrill of a dynastic three-peat. I’m not suggesting that I’d change the experiences of 2001, 2002 and 2003; just that in hindsight it was a gluttonous way to win our flags. Like true connoisseurs the Cats have spread their premiership successes, grand final losses and their mountain of preliminary final appearances over the last thirty years, ensuring that their success was properly digested and savoured before recalibrating for the next peak. Our flags were more akin to a wanton feast at Smorgies or Sizzler.


Maybe it’s because we lost last night, but sitting here now, pondering 2021, I can more easily remember the preliminary finals we lost. There are ones that we obviously won too but they were means to ends rather than ends themselves. There is 1986 of course, Bernie Quinlan’s final game. Fitzroy, riding on pure adrenaline and fairy tale moondust started pretty well before the reality hit home – that we had a better list of players injured and sitting in the stands than on the ground that day. In ’96, that liminal time immediately after Fitzroy’s final game, the Bears lost a prelim to North. That was a weird finals series for Fitzroy fans. Our palliative period had finally ended, and we had to watch our vanquished suitor North pummel our designated stepbrothers. North again in ’99. That was a close one, were it not for Mick Martyn excavating Simon Black’s face with his fist in a particularly ugly incident early in the game, the Lions may have pinched a win.


The winning prelims get lost in the afterglow of premierships. Even the most ardent fan would take a little while to remember it was Richmond, Port Adelaide and Sydney who were our penultimate dance partners in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively. Think of the years now when your team wasn’t even involved in September, it’s harder than master level sudoku to think of the clubs who were vanquished finalists in those years. You win a prelim and it takes you to a game that, for good or ill, will be seared into your memories forever. Lose one and you become a footnote in another club’s narrative.


It begins. It’s Geelong’s quarter but Zorko seems to be everywhere and even though the game is being played in the Cat’s forward line, Harris is playing with the poise of an experienced small-town Sherriff. It’s Geelong’s kicking that keeps us in the game whereas Charlie is making his moments matter. The home crowd at the Gabba is to Charlie Cameron what the Chicago Symphony Orchestra once were to George Solti; what the force is to Yoda. Linc McCarthy is tackling his Geelong opponents like an aggrieved former employee with the support of his union. There are two ways to look at their quarter lead. It is either a glass half full five-point lead or they are smashing us with five more scoring shots. The quarter time scoreboard shows Geelong 2.5.17 leading Charlie Cameron 2.0.12.


The second quarter and the first part of the third quarter are like a Mexican stand-off. Lachie is getting more into the game as it unfolds. Brisbane’s last few games have seen our Brownlow Medal favourite start slowly a number of times. Last week, at the quarter time break against Richmond, he had exactly the same number of disposals as Joe Biden. In the same way that my youngest daughter likes to say “Uno” and then play the “Draw Four Wild Card” that she has been saving for the right moment, maybe he will erupt and steer us to a win. His second quarter is a slow burn. We are still only five points behind at half time.


Brisbane are being forced to take the scenic route around the boundary line for all of their forward entries. The US military protects Area 51 in Roswell with less zeal than Geelong are guarding the centre corridor tonight. Any fair appraisal would deem it Geelong’s game, but Brisbane are still hanging around. Ablett plays a few nice cameos that lead to Geelong goals. But we hang around. Rayner takes a nice mark at CHF and kicks a goal that is reminiscent of the last Lion to wear the number sixteen in our forward line.


Every time it seems like we are about to get the goal that will turn the game it becomes a Maxwell Smart, ‘missed it by that much’ moment. There is some conclusive evidence tonight that God himself is not just a Cats fan but has tickets to the Gary Ablett farewell tour. Geelong’s Jack Henry kicks the ugliest, wobbliest fifty metre goal I’ve ever seen. Not long after that, McCarthy finds McStay whose snap at goal looks like a work of art. The Sherrin fizzes through the air like a propeller. But it hits the post. Aesthetically, Henry’s kick is the artistic equivalent of a plastic stork in the front yard but our game is not measured like gymnastics, it’s still worth six points. Hipwood takes a huge pack mark only to miss from directly in front. In the grand scheme of all things 2020, Hipwood’s accuracy in front of goal has probably not been the biggest challenge that we as Australians have had to endure, but it is on my list. As INXS so profoundly stated about life, sometimes you kick and sometimes you get kicked.


I’m not so keen to write much about the fourth quarter. Geelong do what they probably should have done earlier and kick away. It’s a forty-point win at the end of the night and really, it could have been a lot bigger.


There is one other preliminary final that my Lions have been a part of in my lifetime that I haven’t yet referenced here. 2004. I’m guessing that the Cats fans look back at their nine-point loss to us that night as a sort of coming of age; a footy bar mitzvah if you will. Back then the heavens conspired to give us our chance to double down on our footy immortality and win a fourth flag in a row. It’s just a shame that Andrew Demetriou didn’t have the same sense of occasion with his scheduling of the game. Maybe, in the fullness of time, or ideally in just a year or two, Geelong will have had their last dance and sail off into the sunset. And Brisbane will look back on this loss as a painful but necessary part of their ultimate success.


I’m pretty sure that the sun did rise again this morning. I slept in and we have pretty thick curtains. There are some small mercies to savour. If Geelong do salute next week, they are doing so with one of our favourite sons Chris Scott (and let’s even give a shout out to Nigel Lappin as well here) at the helm. The snippy mood of every Essendon fan that I know this week seems to suggest that Joe Daniher can play a bit. There’s a Brownlow count tonight and Lachie Neale is a clear favourite… just like Paul Roos was in 1986.




GEELONG        2.5       4.8       7.11     11.16 (82)

BRISBANE       2.0       4.3       5.5       6.6 (42)



Geelong: Rohan 3, Hawkins 2, Ablett 2, Henry, Miers, Tuohy, Parfitt

Brisbane: Cameron 2, Neale 2, Rayner, Hipwood



Geelong: Hawkins, Parfitt, Duncan, Selwood, Dangerfield

Brisbane: McCarthy, Lyons, Neale, McCluggage, Rich



To read more from Shane, click HERE


For more preliminary finals stories, click HERE


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About Shane Reid

Loving life as a husband, dad and teacher. I'm trying to develop enough skill as a writer so that one day Doc Wheildon's Newborough, Bernie Quinlan's Traralgon and Mick Conlon's 86 Eliminatiuon final goal will be considered contemporaneous with Twain's Mississippi, Hemingway's Cuba, Beethoven's 9th and Coltrane's Love Supreme.


  1. Kevin Densley says

    Good writing, Shane!

    I’m a Cats supporter, but I reckon the signs are excellent in terms of Brisbane’s future.

  2. Lovely piece Shane. Even as a one-eyed Cat fan I enjoyed your article. There are some serious era comparisons you make. I have thought the same myself. Time will tell.

  3. george smith says

    Even though I hate Fitzroy, I would like to pay tribute to the AFL’s two most unusual clubs.

    The Brisbane Lions are what remains of the old misunderstood chip on the shoulder Fitzroy, as well as the previously underachieving Brisbane Bears. When the Cardinals finally forced though an amalgamation of two clubs, everyone was bitter and lost, and a wooden spoon 2 years later didn’t help much. But the golden era of 3 premierships must surely have helped soothe some of the wounds. To this day they remain the only amalgamation of two clubs in the AFL. Now an amalgamation is never going to suit anybody, but a bright future is on the horizon, this time without the blatant cheating from Wayne “Fairy Godfather” Jackson.
    This was not the first amalgamation involving Fitzroy. It should be pointed out that they nearly became the Fitzroy Bulldogs, the Fitzroy Kangaroos and the LA Crocodiles (true story, it’s on YouTube)

    So well done Lions, and a bummer about last night.

    The other interesting club is Port Adelaide. Unlike Subiaco, Norwood Glenorchy and Geelong West they are the only suburban club to join the big comp since Footscray and co in 1924. They remain the only suburban club from outside Victoria to play as themselves instead of being newly minted or shipped interstate. it’s a shame that they couldn’t salute the judge in their 150th year.

    Good luck to both of you, and here’s to a brighter future.

  4. Hi Shane

    Probably sounds hollow, I know, but commiserations. The Lions got back into it for a while, but the wave of Geelong had some force behind it.

    Your bigger picture analysis reminds me of moments in the history of both clubs,and the intersection of those histories.

    From a writing perspective, this particular piece is a study in metaphor and simile! Many to smile at. My favourite (for its insight) is the Harris Andrews reference. He could only be played by Gregory Peck or Jimmy Stewart. I don’t see him as a Bogart.

    Thanks for your terrific Lions pieces all year. We will feature one of them in our 2020 Almanac.


  5. roger lowrey says

    Commiserations Shane but I just love the effortless fluidity and colour of your writing.

    Loved the reference to Area 51 in Roswell in particular. Mind you, keep a careful eye out for any drones above your place over coming weeks because you are now almost certainly under active CIA surveillance.

    Best wishes,


  6. Commiserations, Shane.

    For what it’s worth, I think you raise an excellent point about losing preliminary finals being more memorable, and staying in the consciousness, than winning preliminary finals.

  7. Great work Shane. Yes I felt that this game was the 2004 preliminary final in reverse. The cunning and seasoned old dogs against the flighty young bucks.

    Don’t give up on Hipwood’s kicking. Hawkins kicking wasn’t much chop early in his career. He’s obviously done a power of work on it ever since.

  8. Shane love you’re match reports ! Some gold 1 liners as always the Hipwood kicking is my favorite glad I’ve been able to help spread the word

  9. Shane Reid says

    Thanks for taking the time to read this everyone.
    Kevin, Mark and JTH I’m definitely barracking for the ‘last dance’ Cats story now. Although, from the way they played who’s to say it is not the dawn of another great era for Geelong, what a might team they’ve been.
    You’re right George, it would have been a great story for Port in their 150th year.
    Appreciate it Roger – I really didn’t think that metaphor through!
    Dips and Smokie, I’ll try to find the silver linings.Multiple prelims seem to lead to the promised land eventually so who knows. I remember the Doggies had a rotten run where they just couldn’t get past the prelims though (Maybe 2016 was the cosmic correction).
    Thanks Rulebook, I really appreciate your support and encouragement.

  10. Shane Reid says

    JTH, thanks for the support re the end of year Almanac. I’m really chuffed.

    Looking forward to the Harris Andrews movie when cinemas reopen!

  11. Really enjoyed it and yes I used to go to the Brunswick st oval

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