SANFL Grand Final – Norwood v Port Adelaide: Our Lucky Charm

‘at 1-3 the Redlegs may need to channel the spirit of 1984 to have a chance of staying on top of the brewery chimney this year’ – yep, I wrote that after Round 4. Nostra-freaking-damus!

It’s supposed to be good luck when a bird craps on you (although you most certainly would not take her out on a second date). That’s exactly what happened to us as we meandered through leafy Modbury back-streets on our way to the very South Australian experience of catching the O-Bahn to Adelaide Oval. After I wiped the offending material off my shirt, I at least briefly considered said bird contents to be a positive omen, providing a welcome relief from a morning of worry and a night of dreams about heartbreakingly narrow losses.

I was finding it helpful to try to look at the world from my six year old son’s perspective. He is our lucky charm – within 24 hours of being born in 2008, Norwood beat Port at the Parade. The lad has been going to Redlegs games since 2011. In that time he has probably been to 50 games and seen Norwood lose a handful. In his experience the Redlegs winning is almost a given and his third grand final is a cause for genuine excitement. He’s been up and bouncing about since 6am. He sports the number 20 of his favourite player, little Rabbs Wilson, and his odd socks – one red, one blue. He is his own person, now. The baby chub has disappeared from his cheeks and although he is a ginger like his dad and has mum’s blue eyes he does not look particularly like either of us.

He bounces to the bus interchange, bounces on the bus, bounces to the oval and bounces around the Garry McIntosh Bar while we nervously gulp down a drink and wait for the rest of our party. The world is opportunity to him and I only try half-heartedly to temper his expectation. Meanwhile my nerves further strain as the Magpies run through their banner and Aaron Young and Jarman Impey are in the group. We were led to believe they were not eligible to play following the Power’s loss the night before. They further boost a squad featuring 19 AFL listed players.

The Redlegs run through their banner – Fortis in Procella – strength in adversity. A motto that, over the years, has not sat well with our but club is entirely appropriate this year. Despite winning the second semi and holding slim favouritism with the betting agencies, this is a team of semi-pros against a team of full-time footballers. Other than not having a real ruckman, this Magpies unit is bigger, stronger and faster. Presumably fitter too.

You wouldn’t know it as the game begins. Big Sam Baulderstone, aiming to prove Matt Zurbo right, gives the legs first use as Panos and the mids get the clearances. Liam Davis’s mitts are clean – between him and Simon Phillips the Redlegs are up by five goals 20 minutes into the first quarter. Norwood is harder at the contest, they want it more. The lad is excited but when the momentum slows I start to worry. You cannot let this Port side have the ball. Give them the least bit of room and they’ll slingshot you, particularly on a big ground like Adelaide Oval. Amon kicks Port’s first late in the quarter and Norwood are up by 22 points at quarter-time.

I head to the beer queue, as if a lashing of Mr Squire’s 150 lashes can quench nervousness as well as thirst. The line is bloody long, thankfully they have TVs above the bar. Young gets a cheapy for Port, 16 points. In comes Wilson – on the half forward flank he makes a high tackle, but standing the mark he intercepts a sideways hand pass and runs towards goal. Instead of blazing away he drops the eyes and puts the ball across the body straight onto Davis’s chest. Rabbs may be small but it’s play like that that gets you drafted. I am disappointed to be in a beer queue instead of sharing that with the lad – he knows how I value selfless play.

Young gets another through a terrible Allan turnover. Port are getting more of the ball as the legs fumble and slip (seriously, why is Adelaide Oval slippery on a perfect Spring day?) and 22 minutes in they hit the lead through a Summerton goal. I lean forward in my seat – no doubt the worry is written across my face as if I passed out in a room full of friends with a texta. Redlegs lift, Bartlett snaps around the body and we lead by 7 at half time. The elder statesman and I talk about what we have just seen. We cannot let them get the ball outside, we need to stop bloody falling over.

Third quarter, Newton gets an early goal for the legs followed by two quick Port goals – the pit in my stomach deepens. Another one, they’re in front again. Stick the tackle lads. Turnover in midfield and the ball goes quickly forward. Simon Phillips gets it in the Eddie Betts pocket and puts it through. That’s it, I’m officially renaming it the Simon Phillips pocket. The lad waves the flag – I worry for the heads of the people in the two rows ahead of us. Norwood are absorbing pressure and lead by 4 points at three quarter time. Bloody hell, it all comes down to this.

Tired after a day of bouncing and three quarters of football the lad retreats to cards on the DS for a break. Courageous play, Juice Newton marks the ball out wide. Here is your opportunity – time at Melbourne, two years of unfulfilled promise and injury is all wiped away if you kick this goal. He does – vindication! The blue collar legs build the wall, the ball stays in our half and the game is there for the taking. We don’t take it. As each defender’s mark and each forced contest draws loud cheers and applause the lad is paying attention and joining in. Something real and vital is happening here.

Momentum changes – Port transition and Nathan Krakouer kicks a goal from the Phillips pocket. Less than a kick in it. Resist. Fight. Donohue marks inside 50 – opportunity. If he kicks a point we’re a goal in front, a goal and we’re smiling. He misses the lot – head in hands. Contest after contest – Port gets it out, Summerton marks inside 50. Magpies fans start celebrating off the boot… too early. The narrowest of margins (one foot, not one point). Contest in the middle – the runners come out with a time check – oh crap. Port win a dodgy free at half back. The long, high torped ball crosses the fifty – mid-air siren!

We sing the song, I throw the lad in the air. He loves it. While I worried and carried on like a chook he was along for the ride. Clapping every mark and pressure act, lighting up every time Wilson got near the ball. He is six and has been present for three Norwood premierships – this is the elder statesman’s second and the significant other’s first. As we head to the bus older men envy the lad his youth and his success. A bus full of joy tooling down the O-Bahn.

This was a special, special win (Bruce is a Redlegs man after all) by a special group of players. Six Norwood players get their third premiership, six their second and 9 their first – this is not your run of the mill ‘threepeat’. 21 mates won three finals games not because they were more talented or skilful but because they were willing to work harder when it mattered and work for each other. I hope that is a lesson not lost on the lad. Here’s to Benny Warren and his brave boys and here’s to our lucky charm!

About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    How funny is the bird crapping on you line!! Great work Dave. Quite partial to a 150 lashes myself. Go Norwood.

  2. Thanks. Not my line, sadly, Luke. Comes from the old joke “What do you do if a bird craps on your car? Don’t take her out again”.

    Yep, I must compliment the Adelaide Oval people in ensuring there is drinkable beer available (you can also get the Jame Squire Porter). Was not the case at Footy Park.

  3. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Thanks Dave love the family experience linked in with a remarkable achievement truly 1 of the greatest premierships in football history . Every heart beats true for the red and blue . Thanks Dave

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