Waiting for the siren’s call

From Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games

Round 8 2002

Collingwood         5.1.31       8.9.57    14.12.96    17.12.114
Brisbane Lions   7.2.44    10.5.65      12.9.81     16.15.111

VENUE: Colonial Stadium
DATE: Saturday 18 May
CROWD: 46,279
UMPIRES: Sheehan, Ellis, Nicholls

B Johnson Prestigiacomo Clement
HB Lonie Wakelin Cloke
C Fraser Buckley N. Davis
HF Lockyer Rocca Burns
F Holland Tarrant Molloy
FOLL McKee, Licuria, O’Bree
INT McGough, Freeborn, Cummings, Betheras
COACH Malthouse

B Bolton Michael Ashcroft
HB C. Scott Leppitsch Pike
C Notting Voss Power
HF Black Brown B Scott
F McRae Lynch Bradshaw
FOLL McDonald, Lappin, Akermanis
INT Hart, Charman, White, Headland
COACH Matthews

COLLINGWOOD – Buckley, Rocca, Tarrant, Licuria, Cloke, Betheras, McGough
BRISBANE – Voss, Black, Keating, Akermanis, Headland

COLLINGWOOD – Tarrant 5, Betheras, Rocca 3, Buckley 2, O’Bree, N Davis, Fraser, Cummings
BRISBANE – McRae 3, Akermanis, Headland 2, Voss, Bradshaw, Brown, Pike, Charman, Keating, Lynch, Power, Lappin,

Reigning Premier Brisbane was in sensational form having cemented top spot after a 57-point thrashing of the highly rated Port Adelaide. Meanwhile, after impressive wins over Essendon and St Kilda, a Rocca-inspired Collingwood had struggled to a fortuitous 10 point victory over an inaccurate Western Bulldogs. It was said the team’s listless performance was due to setting themselves for the Lions’ showdown.

The build-up for this game was intense, the reigning Premiers set to take on the young up and comers in a battle for top spot. This was to be the litmus test verifying Collingwood’s rapid rise from competition easy-beat to the real deal. The atmosphere at Colonial Stadium was electric prior to the game. Magpie supporters had not seen their team play a final since 1994, and this was the nearest comparison for eight long years.

The Magpies were shooting for five straight wins, however a major bogey confronted Collingwood, having not beaten Brisbane since Round 22 1996. A solid core of eight accomplished players that were part of that Brisbane team remained, whilst in that time all but three Collingwood players had departed. If Brisbane’s awesome runners Voss, Lappin, Black, Akermanis, Power, McRae and Hart weren’t enough, Lynch, Brown and Bradshaw presented a monumental challenge for the unheralded Collingwood defence.

After a winning streak of 20, the Lions were on the prowl after dropping two of their previous four. Collingwood’s youth and recycled players would need to play their very best and most disciplined football to come close to the Brisbane juggernaut.

After Cummings slotted the first, Rocca added another with a neat set shot from the boundary at the eight minute mark.  Akermanis jagged a quick reply, followed in quick succession by Keating and Pike.  Nick Davis got one back however Brisbane were as dangerous as ever in the first term, and it was their midfield that inflicted most damage on the scoreboard. At one stage Voss was crunched in a pack, courageously found his feet only to stagger about, punch drunk from the effects of the blow. McRae goaled twice in a minute for the Lions before Tarrant kicked truly, but again in time-on McRae scored. After 32 minutes had elapsed Mal Michael was caught napping by Holland when clearing the ball, allowing Buckley to swoop in and slot the ‘Pies much needed fifth from the 50 metre arc. There was still time for Akermanis to kick yet another in a protracted 34 minute quarter. Hopes for a free-flowing, man-on-man encounter had so far been fulfilled.

Voss cops friendly fire in the shape of Brown’s elbow; Tarrant outmarks Bolton

Rocca opened the scoring for the Magpies in the second term via a timely soccer from the square. The teams traded goal for goal. Following Jonathon Brown, Rocca pinpointed Tarrant before Bradshaw provided the answer. After a lull in scoring, Tarrant took a strong, spectacular one hander and unleashed a long accurate response late in the quarter. Buckley and Brad Scott engaged in a tussle that generated reports. Both teams closed ranks but the game was still a ripping tussle.

Voss bravely returned, marked by McGough; Tarrant pulled in a superb one hander before half time

Lynch goaled early after the recommencement however Fraser, and Buckley a few minutes later, had the ‘Pies back on track. Umpire Ellis brought out the book again, reporting Ben Johnson for striking Power. Voss kicked an inspirational goal for the Lions, spearing through a classic having taken a mark just out of Buckley’s desperate reach. The two champions in a head-to-head battle was alone worth the cost of admission. Surprisingly, for the remaining 15 minutes it was Collingwood that appeared uplifted by Voss’ deeds. Tarrant continued to prove a headache for Craig Bolton, but it was crowd favourite Betheras’ steal and snap across his body followed by his composure for another on the run that raised the roof as time-on commenced. Rocca kicked another to take the buoyant Magpies 15 points clear at the last change.

You’re in the book Johnno; Betheras kicks a crucial goal 

A spectacular goal by Headland delivered a message the Lions would not give up without a massive fight. Again Betheras was the thorn in Brisbane’s side, replying a couple minutes later, judging the spillage from a Nick Davis long bomb. Lappin replied and it was still game-on. Molloy took a strong mark, the forward thrust resulting in O’Bree’s snap around the corner pushing the margin out to 14 points. Soon after, a leading Tarrant was nudged in the back and his cool conversion put the ‘Pies within sniffing distance of a victory to savour. But few doubted Brisbane would rise to the challenge, and sure enough, as the young Magpies flagged, Brisbane lifted. A superb mark by Lappin resulted in a Brown point but the Magpies were under pressure, and Headland made Clement pay for an errant kick-in. A dubious free to Brown (who missed again) had the margin at two goals with just over ten minutes remaining. Collingwood was hanging on as if they had one hand gripping the edge of the cliff, struggling to find relief beyond their half back line.

Licuria marked in the square to stymie White’s shot on goal, however Charman goaled brilliantly from the boundary line. Magpie fans squirmed in their seats with the margin just a goal with eight long minutes to go. To have played so magnificently and lose from here would be heartbreaking. When Lynch jumped into Rocca on the wing, the big man went down sore. A Luke Power poster from the boundary followed by an errant shot by Akermanis (rushed through by Lonie) had hearts in mouths. In a rare foray, Lockyer’s apparently perfect pass was intercepted at the last second by livewire Power, just as Tarrant looked set to devour the ball. Power and Lappin caused the most nightmares as the ‘Pies hung onto their four-point lead, three minutes remaining on the clock. A free plucked out from a stoppage was lazily hooked behind by White, followed by Wakelin bravely fending off desperate attempts by McRae and Power. The Lions kept coming until the bitter end. Finally, the siren sounded after a gut-wrenching 30 minutes played mostly in Brisbane’s half of the ground.

Betheras kicks another; Cloke marks in the final act of the game

Mark McGough’s ANZAC Medal in his second AFL game catapulted the 17 year old rookie into the spotlight. Here, McGough was assigned the mighty task of minimizing Voss’ output. Though Voss was polaxed in the first quarter, McGough did an admiral job until he was on the wrong end of an even worse collision which resulted in a broken leg. Thereafter Voss eluded the Pies accruing 29 possessions, however McGough’s legacy was his courage going in where angels fear to tread.

Betheras’ goal 19 minutes into the third quarter from a defensive mistake 40 metres out nearly lifted the roof off the Dome, and more importantly, steeled the team’s resolve to achieve mission possible.

And in the dying minutes, Wakelin twice showed great poise under pressure to deny Brisbane. First a desperate shot by McRae failed to clear Wakelin in the square before a speculative hospital kick by Power was supremely judged by Wakelin.

“It felt like it was in the air for about half an hour. I pretty well knew there was nobody behind me, but I wasn’t sure if anyone was in the forward pocket off to the left hand side.”

The last passage of play was desperate, and could have seen the game go either way. Jason Cloke marked and kicked long to Fraser on centre wing, yet the game wasn’t safe when his kick resulted in a loose ball. Lynch handballed long over his head, somehow finding Headland streaming forward through the centre square. His wobbly kick could have ended up with anyone, but fortunately that anyone was Cloke.

Moment before impact; McGough’s bravery cost him a broken leg but won him the respect of teammates

Coach Mick Malthouse’s reaction to the siren was instructive – an internal explosion of relief and delight just reaching the surface for a split second before being capped, his assistants holding onto him lest he collapse! Leigh Matthews’ stony lack of emotion was nothing but typical.

Rocca and Tarrant combined to form an irresistible force, sharing 20 marks and 8 goals. Such was Rocca’s impact, his opponent Leppitsch was dispatched to the forward line. And in Tarrant’s case, his five goals and domination of Bolton caused just as many headaches for the Lions hierarchy. With Collingwood playing four tall forwards for much of the game, Brisbane’s defence was stretched to its limit.

Though Collingwood had more of the ball, Brisbane was more direct with 13 more forward 50 entries. Brisbane had to work harder than it could remember, forwards, backmen and its famous midfield all under pressure from a well balanced team intent on making a statement. Another noteworthy statistic was that the Lions had 46 hitouts to 27, yet lost the clearances 48 to 30. This was typical of the 2002 Magpies whose midfielders’ necessarily developed an uncanny ability to read the oppositions’ dominant ruckmen.

Finally, an endearing memory for those who remained to sing the song (over and over) was Mark McGough on crutches hobbling out to greet his teammates as they left the arena. It was Boys’ Own Annual stuff, with McGough moved to tears by his teammate’s performance – which he had to a large degree inspired.

Agony and ecstacy; side by side

Jason Cloke (Collingwood)
First year player Jason Cloke showed maturity beyond his years in taking out the Lions’ star forward Jonathon Brown. Indeed, for the whole season Cloke a key plank on which the Magpies based their miserly defence. Cloke’s 7 kicks, 2 handballs and 6 marks may not read impressively, but he kept Brown to just 7 kicks, 3 marks and just one goal. There was little finesse but a whole lot of heart, and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. This was certainly the case when he twice averted potential heartbreak in the dying moments.

The euphoria of the ground breaking win over Brisbane was short lived. Facing another huge test against Port Adelaide at Football Park, Collingwood put up a brave effort only to finish five points in arrears. With Fraser, Wakelin and Nick Davis injured, the young Magpies earned further kudos as a genuine finals prospect.

“Everything’s important from here. Anything from here on in that is a bad mistake is absolutely magnified enormously, but its only selected from the one that was made in the first minute of the game.”
An introspective Malcolm Blight on the curious nature of pressure, and making mistakes at the wrong end of the game.

“It’s a great victory, it’s a home and away game though and we hope we have bigger fish to fry.”
Nathan Buckley already looking ahead moments after the game.

“What it meant to beat them was that we are not a competition as far apart as before the night started. I don’t know if we’ve closed the gap…but it’s terrific for the competition and terrific for us.”
Mick Malthouse plays down a ground breaking win for the other 14 clubs.

“It was bizarre that some of the things we tried to do didn’t come off. I don’t think we played smart…Throughout the whole game we didn’t deserve to win but at the end we should have won.”
Bewildered Brisbane skipper, Michael Voss.

“When you’re 20 points behind in a hostile environment and you find the pluck to sort of dominate the game for the last 10 minutes…our guys were proud men.”
Matthews was enthused by his Lions’ pride.

Collingwood’s 50 Most Sensational Games
An ebook by Jeff Dowsing

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.

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