The GF, not quite Doggie or Qld style

 

by Mick Jeffrey

What a week it has been in football was the opening line to many a Footy Show when a certain president oversaw the Melbourne ratings phenomena. For me it proved there certainly was a first time for everything as this was my first true Grand Final experience from inside the MCG. For too long it has been a ritual to experience the big day in someone else’s loungeroom or verandah, or perhaps in a sponsor’s establishment. However I was one of those that despite not supporting either Collingwood or Geelong, splashed out on a $1400 package.

As an added bonus I was in Melbourne in time for the annual Grand Final parade, staking out a tree behind a couple of lines of cat or magpie fanatics. To be honest it was a little underwhelming, although I’m sure it was a big moment for the Auskick kids to walk down a street next to Dipper, or the multicultural footballers walking next to Nic Nat. NAB Rising Star Dyson Heppell got very little applause, which was slightly more than the umpires who got none (their performance on Saturday justified this). Certainly the supporters went wild when their team went past but it all felt a little flat. Perhaps the true fans were just waiting at the Treasury Building where the procedings came to a halt. Noticeably there was no sign of Darren Jolly, Ben Reid or Scott Pendlebury at the parade, but Steve Johnson was present and accounted for.

Come game day, and it started at Melbourne Park with the Bulldog Function. Again it wasn’t the greatest function ever attended, certainly the magician on hand could make a better comedian. The footy panel consisting of Brad Johnson, Glen Jakovich and John Platten seemed to not go for very long, although the latter 2 were able to share some tales from Grand Finals past (and the Rat still had THAT haircut).

Eventually I get into the ground at 1:00, which to me again felt flat. If I entered at that time the next day in Sydney, there would be some proper entertainment (actual football, HINT HINT AFL!) to make it worthwhile to come early. Alas it was a case of sitting down and waiting for the entertainment proper to begin. It wasn’t really worth the wait with the timing of the past premiership cups being likened to our top order batsmen at last years Boxing Day test (all things being equal I shall be attending that again, but that’s another story), and Meatloaf performing like a roast beef roll being left in a pie warmer for a few days. The AFL blame the weather, but to me that’s a lame excuse as I was not wearing a jumper (and didn’t have to sit in the open).

After the National Anthem, it was down to business. Many say that the most dramatic opening was when Mark Yeates flattened Dermott Brereton with a hip and shoulder at the first bounce in 1989. The first goal, and the length of time that it took (I counted 14 seconds) didn’t quite match it, but it certainly as far as I can remember was the quickest ever goal in a Grand Final. Geelong got the jump and the Pies looked ordinary, until Travis Cloke kicked one from the Member’s Toilet to spark the McClelland Trophy winners into action. It was a first quarter worthy of the hype that the game anticipated, certainly something that had points of difference to many others in the recent past, the scoreboard being the obvious change.

It seemed that the Maggies had the better of the 2nd term, especially when Cloke came up with an encore performance to his first term effort, this time kicking from the tram stop outside the ground! But like a champion team Geelong just found a way to get back into the game though their medium and small forwards. They needed to step up when Podsiadly was done with a dislocated shoulder (looked a lot like Shane Warne in an ODI on that ground in 2002), and with a little help later from the maligned Hawkins that’s what they managed to do. Geelong had all the momentum late in the term, and I remember remarking to the Magpie fan on my left that Collingwood certainly needed half time.

The Premiership Quarter (the 3rd term for those who are not Australian Football followers, much like the Israeli lady behind me) was classic counter punching which in the end saw the men from down the highway come out on top. There were 2 big plays in that quarter that swing the momentum to the Cats. The first was a reflex Bartel handball in the middle of the ground that drew a couple of magpie defenders and set Varcoe on his way from 50. The other was a ripper mark from Christensen (I always get him mixed up for Stokes), the quick release for Bartel at half forward, then Johnson’s kick which was in the ideal position which led to a spillage from a mark and a Hawkins soccer.

Of course the talking point in the quarter was the Wellingham goal that was a poster. First of all, the goal umpire in question cannot blame Joel Selwood for drilling him in the 2nd quarter causing amnesia (goal umpires change ends at the end of the 2nd term). To me it just capped a poor day for the officials, whom to me let the ruckmen continually wrestle each other all day without using the whistle. Shaun Ryan (one of the 3 Ryan’s that umpired at the highest level this year, none of whom I believe are related) I felt had a poor day for not assisting the goalie in question (Craig Clark), and for a few decisions earlier in the match (Enright getting an errant kick in the tackle ruled holding the ball in the first quarter the most obvious). Still despite those decisions it was expected that the last term would bring us the massive finish.

In the end, thanks to Hawkins grabbing just about everything, and Johnson (whom was given far too much latitude all day according to the magpie fan, I concur with his thoughts) creating his own brand of havoc. By the midway stage of the term, the haunting Collingwood chant which was prevalent at the start of the day was substituted for a haunting Geelong chant. Collingwood fans were departing in their droves, as was one Cat fan thanks to security and much to the annoyance of his partner. It was a display from Geelong, particularly in the 2nd half which not only confirmed their 9th premiership flag, but also their place as one of the greatest dynasties that has taken place in the modern era. Sure they may not have gone back to back, which is a carrot (pardon the pun for Cameron Ling fans) for their experienced players to come back for another tilt.

The speeches for once provided nothing special or noteworthy. Jimmy Bartel was very reserved in his acceptance of the Norm Smith, for whom presenter Michael Long was given a warm hand for (and for which got me into a profit betting wise on the day). There was genuine disappointment in Nick Maxwell’s tone, he clearly didn’t want to be up there for too long. Both captain and coach were also not over the top by any means, like they were expecting things to happen. Thankfully there was mention of the pair of veterans in Mooney and Milburn who have (yet to be confirmed in the case of Milburn) played for the last time in the blue and white hoops. The victory lap was also a reserved affair, although the fans certainly lapped it up (so to speak) when their heroes came past. Certainly for the biggest of the community clubs it was another reason to party and celebrate.

Thus concludes another year of AFL on the field, save for the hybrid series. For now it’s time to focus on the other sports that come around, like motorsport, racing, golf, cricket, tennis……

About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.

Comments

  1. I attended the game on Saturday (my first GF) and loved it. How can you not love an event at the MCG. What a stadium. I’d pay just to go and sit in the stand.

    The game lived up to the hype and the atmosphere was terrific when I got there at about 1.15. Even the terrible weather on the way to the ground didn’t spoil things.

    As a neutral I didn’t really mind who won. By the start of the third quarter I was leaning towards Geelong. I admire the way they play and how they appear to conduct themselves. Winning on Saturday seems to validate them as one of the great sides (according to what i have read since).

    Pre-match entertainment? Who needs it. I went to see football, not a concert. That being said the choirs singing the club songs were great. I think I enjoyed them as they had some connection to the game and football where as pop singers generally don”t.

    The added bonus for me was visiting Melbourne for a few days. It’s a fantastic city.

    Funds permitting I’ll do it all again.

    Peter

  2. Ian Hauser says

    Mick,

    I had a similar experience of the Grand Final parade on a visit to Melbourne a few years ago – didn’t do much for me. I’m sure the players and coaches could do without the distraction.

    There are a few interesting contrasts between AFL and NRL Grand Final days. The NRL has THREE games on grand final day, not just one, and is less reliance of so-called “entertainment” to pad out the day – although the “entertainment” is almost universally crap. (I can’t decide if Meatloaf was cringingly bad or just plain sad.) To be honest, however, I think the AFL GF is better as both theatre and spectacle. National anthem “performances” are always variable in quality when performed by celebrities – call me old fashioned but bring on the marching band version any day. (By contrast, look at the far better effort at the Rugby World Cup – now there is a bit of spirit in the anthems!) But what a farce in Sydney – they played both the Oz and the NZ national anthems! Heavens above, this is the NRL, not the IRL. The teams were not from Oz and NZ – each had a sprinkling of Aussies and Kiwis, so which anthem was for which team?

    The results also had an interesting similarity. In the AFL, Geelong progressed to the GF with a solid but less taxing hitout against West Coast while Collingwood had to give everything right up to the final siren to get past Hawthorn. In the NRL, Manly got to the GF with a solid but not too difficult win over the Broncos while the Warriors had to play their hardest, most disciplined game for the full 80 minutes to beat the Storm. My point is: did both Collingwood and the Warriors play their grand finals a week early in the preliminary finals, leaving less than enough fuel in the tank to see out the big one?

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