“I was saying ‘Boourns’…”

It’s the preliminary final. Your side hasn’t played on the big stage since 1995, hasn’t claimed the silverware since 1963. Your job is to apply the pressure, and the game is pulsating with it. It’s deep into time-on in the third quarter and your team is down by a point. There’s a ball-up 20 metres out straight in front of your goal. The ball goes to ground. There’s a frenetic pack, you see a player start to emerge with the ball. You launch yourself and tackle him. Yes! It’s a good tackle.

With horror, you realise it’s your teammate and you promptly let him go. Too late – Collingwood has already pounced to finish what you started. The umpire blows his whistle. Holding the ball.

Oh, crap…


It’s moments like that which made Shannon Byrnes such an exasperating player, but by equal measure, an endearing player.

He was an AFL footballer, but he was also glaringly human. One of us. A man of the people with flaws and ambitions bigger than his body (not that that was hard).

He was not a flashy small forward who’d produce a stunning highlights reel in the ilk of Cyril Rioli (though he had pace to burn) but he perfected the art not just of kicking goals from the goal square, but from the goal line.

The death-defying, heart-stopping trick started with a selfless but senseless Nathan Ablett pass in the 2007 Grand Final, and evolved into the ‘Byrnesy special’.

I still maintain his disallowed goal (which he kicked from a foot out against Collingwood in season 2010) cost us the momentum in that game, cost us the momentum in that season, and gave Collingwood the run to the premiership.

You see, Byrnesy was a very important man at Geelong.

He was a bigger part of the 2007 and 2009 premierships than most people realise.

Speaking on the Cats’ Decade of Dominance DVD, James Kelly said Byrnes was responsible for the drought breaking premiership win in 2007. (Whether it was said tongue-in-cheek or not is completely irrelevant. Completely.)

“When we got into the changerooms we were talking about our zones,” Kelly said on Decade of Dominance. “Bomber asked Shannon Byrnes – everyone was real tense, you could feel the tension in the room – and Bomber asked Shannon Byrnes what we were doing with the zones, and Byrnesy just got it completely wrong. Absolutely wrong. Like, he was way off and everyone just burst out laughing straight away.

“It sort of relaxed the whole group, and once everyone got that laugh out of the way it was quite serious after that, but that – it took the edge off it, and everyone could just focus on the football and play.

“I credit Byrnesy for winning the Grand Final for us in the meeting.”

In 2009, there were some vital contests in the final quarter where he stood up, ran around Raph Clarke (though some may argue Clarke was essentially playing for Geelong that day) and got the Cats going. It was Byrnes at the bottom of the pack in the goal square who dished the ball out to Varcoe, who then set up Chappy for that goal.

We would’ve won in 2008 if he was in the side.

Byrnesy was much-maligned on the field throughout his career, but there was never any doubt about his form off it. A larrikin, the king of comedy, @ShannonBoourns has been at the forefront of comedic capers since he appeared on Before The Games Grand Final show many, many years ago, alerting the people of Australia to his very sick friend Cameron Ling, who suffered from red hair.

He was known to once or twice put his foot in it, forgetting to toe the party line vis-à-vis injuries to his teammates, accidentally telling the media the truth.

But the risk of a Shannon stuff-up, on or off the field, was more than worth it for the absolute gold he provided.

His lasting legacy to the game may just be – thanks to his snobbing off a kid as he received his medal after the Cats won the 2006 pre-season premiership – every player now presents the kiddikins with hats and a hand shake after being presented their premiership medallion. But if it is, he has undoubtedly changed the game for the better.

Everything else aside, Shannon Byrnes retired a two-time premiership player. Not too many players out there can lay claim to that.

And in 2012, playing his last game as a Cat, Shannon Byrnes finished with the ball in his hand, raising it in the air in joy as the siren sounded. His teammates were over and hugging him before he’d even had the chance to take his kick. But kick he did after the siren, his trusty left boot getting the job done as the VFL Cats claimed the premiership.

He’d come a long way from the tiny little man donning the number 46 as a rookie. He was still tiny, but somewhere along the line they upgraded him to 17.

Two AFL premierships, one VFL premiership, two pre-season premierships.

A Facebook page dedicated to the appreciation of his pretty, pretty calves.

An all-round top bloke who’s funny as anything and introduced “What Grinds My Gears” to the world.

A champion of the game. Byrnesy – you’ll always be my favourite.

About Susie Giese

Born into the worship of the mighty Hoops, Susie has turned to adopting a Zen-like state during games in recent years to preserve her heart. The Cats of 2015 have the ol' ticker a-racing, though!

Comments

  1. MGLFerguson says

    Best “Down at Kardinia Park” host ever. By far.

  2. By the furtherest.

    Surely we are about the witness the birth of a prolific media career…

  3. Cat from the Country says

    Great story about Brynsie.
    He was a wonderful player for Geelong.
    I missed him when he left us.
    Go Cats!

  4. Susie – yes his last quarter in the 2009 Grand Final was crucial. He was pretty good at murdering the ball at times, but he did it with the best of intentions. From all reports a good bloke. That’s most important.

  5. Cat from the Country – did you type Brynsie on purpose??? That’s what me and one of my brother’s have called him ever since he was introduced as Shannon Brynes (twice, from memory) by the ground announcer in the 2006 pre-season grand final.

    Well, that and Curns/Curnsy, in continuing the Simpsons tradition…

    Dips, spot on :-)

  6. TheBlackCat1859 says

    Ah, the ‘Byrnesy special’?

    I knew it only as the ‘Shagga goal’.

    Kicked a stack of them!

  7. “Byrnesy special” in my household, Black Cat. I’m glad to see others thought it worthy of being dubbed. Though I’m sure a ridiculous goal by any other name is still a ridiculous goal.

    (The Byrnesy Special is the extreme form of the Stokesy Special. Stokes kicked 32 goals in 2007, and my brother Chris reckons every single on of them was shown on the season highlights DVD. He also reckons every single one of them came from the goal square.)

  8. Dennis Gedling says

    Was made to change my opinion on him more than most players after 2007. Still remember that turn in the 2009 Granny. It’s not his fault Melbourne was a basketcase when he went there last season. Wojo is the only other one to win a flag and not play in 2008?

  9. Yeah, from memory he and Byrnesy were the only ones going at 100 per cent strike for premierships from Grand Finals played after 2009.

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