The solemn Grand Final

By Andrew Calleja

Usually a cause for celebration, the days leading into the 2012 AFL Grand Final respected events that had taken place in the early hours of Saturday, September 22nd.  The murder of Jill Meagher cast a solemn shadow over a city preparing for its biggest popular event.

Abducted whilst walking along iconic Sydney Road in the Northern Melbourne Suburb of Brunswick, Meagher became an unwilling participant in a story that captured the minds, tears and grief of a public stunned by the raw and barbaric nature of her death.

For those lucky enough to secure a Grand Final ticket; sunshine, the odd rain shower and strong winds greeted them whilst those with 7’s pre-match coverage endured hours of endless speculation over Shane Mumford’s hamstring, would Brian Taylor run in the Grand Final sprint; given Ben Hudson ran in the heats BT wouldn’t have been that out of place, and Brynne Edelsten’s new show that apparently is on Thursdays at 7.30.

Just in case Brynne is perusing over this piece that is PM not the 7.30 that is early in the morning.

Brynne’s husband Geoffrey though did have a third party link to the Grand Final as he used to own the Sydney Swans.

In those days despite having Capper, Williams and Healy the Swans couldn’t make a Grand Final let alone win a premiership. Geoffrey has since been deregistered from practising medicine, divorced first wife Leanne and once again is supporting the Carlton Football Club.

If the truth be known the 1986 Edelstun foray into Sydney was really a round-about way of Carlton interfering with the success of the then all conquering Bombers.

In the absence of the TAC Cup Final, the replay of the WAFL Grand Final became the Curtain Raiser of choice in my lounge room.  Defying the trend of retired AFL players putting on weight, Claremont forward Paul Medhurst has lost weight and plenty of it. Since his playing days with Collingwood, Medhurst obviously hasn’t been near the weights room and despite being a borderline selection for the WAFL Tigers; his six goals earned him the Simpson Medal in a winning side.

Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield won the worst ever edition of the Grand Final Sprint. Given that Dangerfield comprehensively beat Lewis Jetta in the 2011version, he was never going to be troubled by some of the ‘slow coaches’ that took part in 2012. The sprint has had its day.

The game itself was one for the ages. Over the years match day tactics have evolved, The Coach has become a coaching panel and players are physically stronger to cope with the rigours of continuous stoppages that are so much a part of big matches in the modern era. The one thing that hasn’t changed though is the need for players to kick well under pressure.

Sydney’s 2005 premiership side could flood back in defence and win its share of contested football but it was their ability to use the ball well by foot that got them over the line in tight games.

The 2012 Swans side is characterised by forwards pressing hard up the ground, having more players around the stoppages than the opposition and small forwards slinging back towards an open forward line.

Again on Saturday the Swans ability to kick well when switching in defence and when going forward up the middle of the ground was what allowed them to score despite having less scoring opportunities than the Hawks.

It’s Hawthorn’s first loss in a Grand Final since 1987. In an ominous warning to rivals basking in the glory of the Hawks loss, Hawthorn rebounded from that to win back-to-back premierships. The Hawks didn’t do a lot wrong and but for some average kicking for goal would have won. Hawthorn have few weaknesses but looking forward they will need to add a midfielder or two to their list.

In his post-match press conference Hawthorn Coach Alastair Clarkson like many had earlier that week, reflected on events in Melbourne leading up the grand final and put a perspective on the game that is sometimes lost in the era of full-time professional sport. Clarkson pointed out that tragedy is losing a life; disappointment is losing a game of football.

The day after the Grand Final, 30,000 people turned out to pay their respects to Gillian Meagher in an impromptu march along Sydney Road. A woman murdered going about her daily business is indeed a tragedy and one that happens far too often.

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