Paul Couch: Giving something of value

by Brutas Mudcake


There’ve always been players you secretly love that play against your team, and for me Paul Couch was one of them. I’ve got a feeling I wasn’t alone on that one; everyone was sad on Saturday.


Blight-era Geelong played football like you did when you were a kid. Or what you dreamed about as a kid. Taking speckies, kicking long goals, running around with a smile on your face. I’m sure it was more scientific and stressful than that for the Cats, but those teams embodied everything that was good about the game and people smiled. What fans would give to see that team play again in this era.


Ablett was the superstar but Couch was the most watchable of the next rung of stars that included his running mates Hocking and Bairstow. His charm was in his movement, or lack of. He wasn’t quick, and he wasn’t built like an Adonis, but he got to the right spots.


When he got it he seemed to take an eternity to drop the ball on to that left foot with both hands hovering longer than most kicking styles. It wasn’t quite ungainly as much as it was measured and distinctive and invariably it would find a target and travel a large distance.  It takes longer to load a cannon than a water pistol.


Couch was pure schoolyard footy; athletic prowess irrelevant, all that mattered was getting it and showing off your skills. You won by being good, not by science. Midfielders in the late 80s didn’t regularly kick goals from beyond 50 metres but Couch did as Geelong came alive in his 1989 Brownlow season.


For all the stigma of the four grand final losses, Couch never dipped below 20 possessions at a time when possessions were relevant. He never dominated on Grand Final Day but he never shrunk. In any final where Geelong’s season ended across his career he never dipped below 20 touches, and 5 games from the end of his career he had 32 in a final against eventual premiers North Melbourne.


Couch was supposedly finished time and time again, but he kept getting the ball and he kept kicking it with deadly precision. And he always found a way to kick goals.


Couch’s death is a tragedy. In a very different postcode, Couch and Geelong not winning a premiership is a ‘football tragedy’.


But then maybe it’s up to us to take a more balanced look at sport beyond the Australian culture that winning is the only judgment. Can we enjoy sport for what it is and not the entry in the history books?


West Coast may have won those Grand Finals in the 1990s, but it was the Geelong teams of Couch and company that made me love the game.


What should we value more?


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  1. Well said Brutus. As a Geelong supporter I really loved that era. It was enormous fun until the last games of the seasons.

    Over the last few days I’ve been watching some Paul Couch highlights on YouTube. I’d somewhat forgotten just how good he was. Deadly left foot, and tough at the footy too. A genuine ruck rover type.

    From all reports just a lovely bloke too.

  2. About ten years ago (2005/6?) I was in the Sawyers Arms (Otherwise known as Clatt’s) over the road from Kardinia Park. Friday night about seven o’clock. Playing on the big screen was the 1989 GF. It was so much tougher than I remembered that I wanted to speak to someone about it. The bloke leaning on the bar to my left was P Couch esq. “Jeez, Couchy that was brutal game,” I said. “Yeah, it was, wasn’t it,” he said as if genuinely surprised. “I’ve never watched it before.”
    Therein lies a tale of the difference between loss and victory. If only that lazy number 5 had booted a couple more.
    So I watched the 89 Granny live, then many years later with Couchy, who’d never seen it from outside the arena.
    He played and lived with a smile. A remarkably rare and brave thing to do. (Bobby Davis springs to mind.) Vale No. 7.

  3. george smith says

    When Greg Williams went to Sydney, Paul Couch stepped into his shoes without skipping a beat, which shows the talent down at Geelong at the time.

    It is unbelievable that the Geelong and Melbourne sides of that amazing era, sandwiched between the end of the gang of 5 and the beginning of the interstate juggernauts, never saluted the judge in September. They were dripping with talent, particularly the Geelong sides. It took the little black and white engine that could to break the power of the heavyweights, which makes that era all the more special to me.

    The Cats should have won easily in 1992, but though their forward line was mighty, their defence was ordinary, and they couldn’t stop Matera, Sumich and co. 1991 they had the Hawks measure, but lost by 3 points!

  4. Paul Couch, to put it simply, he was a champion. Saying that, it was Blighty’s coaching that made him. Under John Devine he was passed over, with for example players like Daren Troy being more favored when Devine helped pick the side. Couchy saw a bit of the Magoos in 1987, 1988.

    Come 1989, with the arrival of Malcolm Blight, Couchy was treated with the respect and confidence he merited. Until he retired with knee problems in 1997 he was one of the best centre-men in the league. Great football smarts, with precision passing by hand and foot on his L side, he was a champion of both the club and the era.

    Vale Paul Couch


  5. Peter Flynn says

    He was always the third last to leave the Matilda Room at the ‘Bool on Grand Annual Day.

    Always giggling. He made us giggle. How good is it to giggle?

    He had a great rapport with Gazza.

    My main memory is of him running purposefully back to the centre either after kicking a goal or after Gazza dobbing one from a pinpoint Couch pass.

    Couchy was a brilliant wet weather player. He dominated the muddy centre squares of ’89, particularly those consecutive winter weeks at the MCG that year.

    His Old Man was a legend. Tough as tungsten. Playing with most of his hand missing after a gun accident.

    He seemed like a great great bloke. Well grounded. Amiable off the field. But obviously a fierce competitor on.

    Vale Couchy.

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