Grand Final bliss as Blacks jump the Shark

I’ve awoken to the sound of my phone beeping and traffic gliding past my apartment. In days gone by, the thud of a newspaper on my doorstep was the ideal way to start a morning but these days a courtesy glance at social media is all it takes to catch up on the previous 48 hours. As I reach past my strewn Myki card and attend to my messages, the imagery of photos in glorious sunshine slide past me. Gently I lift myself from bed, take off my damp socks, step over the ‘Keep Off The Grass’ sign that somehow ended up on my floor and walk towards the kitchen. With a flick of a switch, my kettle is bubbling and again I’m drifting away to a sunny scene from two days ago…
My stomach was tied in knots on Saturday morning. Our Blackers had finished on top of the ladder in both grades, they had both earned the week off, and they had been fine-tuned over two weeks at venues from the VFL halcyon days such as Victoria Park and Princes (Visy) Park. Although this should have provided comfort, the knowledge that Grand Finals can bring undone even the best preparations made me quite nervous. Say what you like about the ‘Cups King’, but none of JB Cummings’ 11 winners ever had to deal with a wind to the Glenhuntly Road end. Fortunately, Blacks Reserves skipper Andrew Jesse won the toss and pointed in the same direction as the trailing steam from my long black, so my nerves were able to settle.
The opening few minutes provided the typical flurry of 2nd/3rd/4th efforts that signify the beginning of a Grand Final. Soon after, however, our lads gained the ascendency. Through a combination of back-line dash, midfield nous and forward-line coolness, The Blacks were able to immediately register a healthy buffer. Leading from the front in this crucial period was Captain Jesse. In displaying his typical appetite for a drawn-out shot on goal, Jesso soaked up the pressure and slotted two crucial majors. Adam Cook was also a prominent marking target and constantly worried the Sharks’ defenders. Mind you, it should come as no surprise that a man with Cookie’s facial growth should be able to tame a wild sea creature.
With the quarter-time score showing the Blacks ahead by 39 points, it was tempting to believe that this would be done in a canter. Unfortunately, your columnist has seen a lot of finals footy and was sure that Beaumaris would make a better fist of it with the wind at their back. It must also be said, although one usually refrains from making comments about the opposition, that Beauy were not playing with their usual ferocity. In fact, I doubt they would’ve even troubled the beach goers at Amity Island in 1975 and they were pretty easily fooled.
Needless to say, my concerns were realised in the 2nd quarter with the Sharks lifting their intensity exponentially and making full use of the breeze via long kicking and hard running. One casualty of this spirited period was veteran Blacker Dave Batten who attacked a ground ball with a disregard for his own safety which was akin to that which he held towards audience sentiment in his Black Spot hosting days.1 Although Dave won the free kick for a high tackle (which was audibly disputed by the opposition fans), he was unable to take part in the rest of the game due to a slight concussion (tough crowd). Although I’m pleased to say that he recovered quickly post-match, this didn’t help the immediate problem of Beaumaris outplaying and outmuscling The Blacks. Fortunately, some late goals helped steady our side, with a roving snap from resting ruckman Josh Steadman the pick of the bunch.
With a long break under their belts, The Blacks streamed back onto the ground with a view to extending their lead with the aid of the breeze. Unfortunately this didn’t eventuate as a combination of desperate and cunning defence from the opposition and poor disposal into the forward line meant that our boys were outscored in the third stanza. With the quarter only going for 21 minutes, it seemed that even veteran timekeeper Andy Smith was keen to see the final act unfold. Well, either that or it was a protest on account of the Sportscover Arena bar stocking New Zealand sav blanc.
23 points ahead. 1 quarter to go. On paper it seems oh so simple, and for the opening 10-15 minutes of the quarter it seemed that The Blacks were going to do enough to take home the title. Even when Beaumaris kicked a goal, a flurry of Blacks points was followed by a Scotty Myers major and it seemed that a fire had been lit that not even Scotty’s hose could extinguish2.
Then it happened….
Beauy goal. Beauy goal. Beauy goal. Beauy goal.
Within 5 minutes, the game had gone from a Blacks perspective of an afternoon in a hammock with a cold one and Kerry O’Keefe on the wireless to a Sunday mid-morning at Revolver ploughing through a chain of vodka/red bulls to the strains of Jamaican hip-hop. To say that the boys from the Uni were unsettled is to understate things slightly.
All digs aside though, it should be said that Lukey O’s boys did switch back on after the goal burst and managed to hold firm as the clock went past 25min. As time ticked away further, Beaumaris launched another attack but were repelled by a strong mark from Rusty Else. From my vantage point, I could hear cries of ‘Leo Barry’ coming from the crowd. Personally, I found that interesting as I’m sure the Swans defender took the cleanest of marks over a pack of players and I’m equally sure that I just saw a two, possibly three-grab effort leaning against just one opponent, but there wasn’t time to argue.
With one final forward thrust from the Sharks being repelled by the effervescent (and Best on Ground medallist) Dan Hunt, I was sure that we were nearly there. Sure enough, in a matter of seconds the siren sounded and our players collapsed to the ground through relief and exhaustion.
As I made my way onto the ground, I noticed Coach O’Connell making his way towards the players. Given our somewhat fractious relationship this season, I was slightly anxious about approaching him, but I figured that surely now would be the ideal time to get him to open up. As I got closer, however, I noticed a smearing of red across the back of his right hand. Without thinking, I asked him whether the loud ‘thud’ I had heard near the end of match was his hand against the Perspex where he was sitting. Typically, I received an eye-roll and a tired reply, “another dud question Hack”. Crestfallen, I tried to gather my thoughts to attempt a follow up. Before I could though, Lukey O was already walking away. Though I’m sure I heard his postscript…..”You know that when I bleed, I bleed black”
Uni Blacks
Goal Kickers
Cook 3, MacGugan 2, Jesse 2, Gardiner, Bismire, Myers, Steadman, Crameri
Best Players
Hunt, MacGugan, Cook, McNamara, Yule, Jesse
With one flag already in the back pocket and a cup stashed away under a pile of Melbourne Bitter stubbies in Steve Comma’s car boot, it was time for the main game. Only once in their previous 150 years had the Uni Blacks won a B-Grade flag, and it seemed like today would present a gilt-edged opportunity to double that tally. As I stood amongst the Blacks faithful and saw Captain Costello win the toss and kick with a breeze that had reduced significantly, I was as confident as one could be.
They say that Grand Finals can build reputations. There are numerous instances in AFL history of men who have made their names at the ‘Big Dance’. Ted Hopkins, Paul Dear, Shane Ellen and Stewie Dew are just a small sample. Less is said, however, about those who treat the big stage as but another glittering block in the yellow brick road of their career. I say this only to remind you, good reader, of the season Jordan Foster has had in 2012 and how it should come as no surprise that Foz bagged 3 of the Blacks’ 4 first quarter goals. In customary style, all of the goals were of a short distance and mainly along the ground. It was pure Foster except for the absence of a long-sleeved jumper. Such was the performance that eagerness got the better of me at the quarter time break. Without thinking, I dashed up to Jordie and asked him whether he was in for a big day. All I got in return was “It’s just the first leg Hack. You can never take results for granted on a track this firm”.
With the first quarter providing a close scoreline due to the typically hectic nature of the contest, I was keen to see how the 2nd stanza would unfold. To be honest, I had an inkling that the warmer weather and the wide expanses of the field would allow our Blacker boys to show off their skills.
I was right.
They say that the 3rd quarter is the ‘Premiership Quarter’, but then again they also say that students are an impatient lot. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the Blacks chose to break away after quarter time. Whilst a great deal of column space and dodgy similes have been dedicated to recording the 2012 season, one could do a lot worse than watch the 2nd stanza to see how the Blacks had managed to top the table. Wherever you looked, the team had a winner. Howgate was thumping them clear down back, Richardson and Costello were charging through the middle and, in scenes akin to having Larry and Magic accommodate Michael and Scotty in Barca ’92, Weekley and Lahy kicked goals while changing up forward.
The goals kept coming with gun recruit and Moore Medallist runner-up Andrew Willingham slotting one from 45m, which was followed up by Huw Lacey doing the same. Lace’s set shot was actually straight from his playbook. With the sun hitting his skin at the right angle, the kick being taken near the grandstand wing, and the umpire allowing him more than the customary 30 seconds to be enable him to spin the ball around sufficiently at the top of his run-up, Lace’s kick went sailing over the goal umpire’s head. With Moore Medallist Richardson kicking another to make it 5 on the trot, it was clear that the Sharks would need to recover quickly.
Whilst the crowd expected the opening moments of the third quarter to be tense, this notion was knocked on its head two minutes in when Levi Kalms’ searing left foot found Lacey who again dobbed one from long range. It may be stretching the truth to say that the 8 goal margin had made the Blacks fans delirious, but let’s just say they were a tad giddy (and I’m not talking about the twos players returning from their half-time dash to the Elsternwick Hotel). In typical style, the rest of the third quarter belonged to Jordie Foster who slotted another two goals. Needless to say this lift in form coincided with the gathering of the Blacks fans behind the goals as he proceeded to attempt a couple of snaps as cheeky as their half-time bevvies.
It is true that the final quarter saw Beaumaris peg back a few goals, but in truth the game was already won. As the sun continued to shine, our boys stuck steadfastly to their game plan and though they were clearly tiring, it pleased all of the supporters that the discipline never waned. In true fashion, Captain Costello led from the front in this regard through his repeated attack on the ball and his ability to kick to the top of the goal square from a set shot outside his range (ie. anything over 20 metres). Gradually though, the only thing anyone wanted to experience was the siren.
And then it came.
As the crowd cheered, I gazed out over the ground and watched the reaction of our team. There was no leaping in the air, no sprinting across the ground or fist pumps (though we knew they’d come later #slab), just 22 grins that seemed as wide as the grandstand shadows. It was clear that our lads were exhausted, but equally clear that they were deeply proud and finally satisfied.
With the sun getting lower and delivering a glow to the presentation area as the formalities commenced, it was fitting that our golden-locked midfielder in Charlie Richardson was awarded the Cordner Medal for best on the ground. With Huw Lacey winning a similar award from the radio commentators, it was clear that the blondes/brunettes debate was one title that was not going to be settled today. Finally, the podium was complete with coach, captain and club legend Andy Smith and the cup was lifted above a sea of black.
As the players filed into the rooms to toast their win, I managed to grab Coach Kempton to get his thoughts on the game. With a smile and a short, jolting nod of the head, his thoughts were delivered with a sly wink:
“Cracking year Hack. Cracking year”.
Go Blacks
Uni Blacks
Goal Kickers
Foster 5, Richardson 2, Lacey 2, Slabbert, Lahy, Willingham, Weekley, Mahon, Drysdale
Best Players
Weekley, Willingham, Delahunty, Mahon, Foster, Richardson
A special thanks must go out to the Clyde Hotel who accommodated the club during its celebrations on Saturday night (and Sunday afternoon). It was fantastic to see so many of the Blacks family in attendance. Needless to say, Coach Kempton and soon-to-be wife Lizzie were the toast of the evening
The Black Hack
1 I should clarify this. Dave was a fine host and took the Black Spot to places it hadn’t been before. It’s just that he could often allow a dead segment to continue for a week too many. Mind you, that’s the sort of persistence that can get one into Med school. Onya Dave
2  Scotty is a fireman, and a good one at that.

About The Black Hack

Loves scoops. Hates deadlines

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