AFL Grand Final Review – Part 1

Amazingly, this blog will be a two parts! For only the third time in 114 years the AFL Grand Final has finished with a tie. In the regular season when two teams end the game tied, it’s called a draw and they split the competition points and in the early rounds of the finals series the teams play 5 minutes each way to get a winner. In a Grand Final though, it means the entire match is replayed the next week! So I’ll be back at the MCG this Saturday to watch the replay!

I often find it difficult to really get emotionally invested in a game of any sport if my team isn’t playing. I’m so passionate with my hatred of Collingwood though that I have no such problem when they are playing and I found out on Saturday that it’s even more so when it’s a Grand Final. For much of the 2nd half I had a heap of nervous energy and excitement.

The signs for the Saints were terrible in the early stages of the match, Collingwood kicked a goal within the first minute and proceeded to dominate possession for much of the first quarter and kick some tough goals and you got the sense that it was going to be their day. They went into quarter time a couple of goals ahead.

In the 2nd quarter Collingwood absolutely dominated, they went inside their forward 50 zone a ridiculous amount of times, but somehow St. Kilda’s defence managed to repell a lot of their attacks. Collingwood’s key forward Travis Cloke missed an easy set shot and then an open goal from 15 metres out on the run, if he’d kicked either of them you got the sense the game was Collingwood’s at half time. He didn’t though, and while the margin was under 5 goals St. Kilda had hope.

The 3rd quarter in a Grand Final is known as the premiership quarter, so often the team that makes their move in the 3rd goes on to win the match. St. Kilda’s one and only ruckman picked up a hamstring injury in the 2nd, forcing them to make a few positional changes and it changed the game dramatically in their favour. The intensity of the contest lifted dramatically, St. Kilda started to apply their famous frontal pressure and Collingwood began to crumble. St. Kilda were able to get a bit more of the ball than they did in the 1st half and were pretty efficient when they got it down forward. The scored 3.3 to Collingwood’s very inaccurate 0.5. It set-up a dramatic final term with the Saints trailing by just 8 points and with the momentum.

The final quarter was a classic, the endeavour from both teams lifted a notch and it was frantic. The first goal was going to be crucial for either team’s self belief. It took 7 or 8 minutes to come, but Collingwood managed to kick it giving themselves a 14 point buffer. Five minutes later though, St. Kilda’s Lenny Hayes (awarded medal for best on ground) kicked a long bomb goal and the Saints got another in quick time! The margin now 1 point.

When Brendan Goddard lept up and stood on the head of his opponent and took one of the more memorable Grand Final marks and kicked the goal, St. Kilda hit the lead for the first time in the entire match! Being at the ground, you go the sense that it would be the moment that defined the match and I guess in a way it did, but not how we thought!

Travis Cloke managed to get another set shot at goal from just on 50, it feel short and got pushed through for a point, putting Collingwood within a goal. A few minutes later another deep ball into the Collingwood forward line fell to him at the back of the pack and he kicked it, returning Collingwood to the lead by one point, with 3:30 left on the clock.

Collingwood took another mark on 50 and another set shot fell short, this time pushed out of bounds rather than through the points, any score there and the game probably doesn’t end in a tie. With 2 minutes left the Saints worked it up the other end and a scrappy kick inside 50 that could have rolled any number of ways ended up not sitting up for an open Saints player and instead rolling through for a point, levelling the scores.

A hush came over the crowd of 100,016 for the last minute and a half of play. St. Kilda had the ball up their end, but couldn’t manage to get it through for any type of score. The siren went, players collapsed on the ground, everyone in the stands just stood up and murmured to each other, it was the most eerie thing ever, nobody knew what to do. The last time the Grand Final was drawn was in 1977 and before that 1948, so for a lot of us we were either too young to remember it or it happened before we were born.

Since the game, debate has raged whether or not we should have extra time in the Grand Final rather than a replay. It was such a bruising contest where both teams played like they didn’t have to play against for 5 months and now they have to do the entire thing again next week. i like the idea of a replay, but maybe that’s just because it was one of the best games of AFL I’ve ever seen and I want to go through it all again.

Who knows what will happen next week and how much energy players have left, it could end up being a one sided match if one team recovers better than the other. The general consensus about the game is that Collingwood should feel the most disappointed to only tie, if they had taken their chances in front of goal and been more damaging with their domination of possession they’d be premiers right now. Meanwhile, the body language and attitude of the Saints players post game was excellent, hopefully that translates into a win next week!

About the Author: Andrew Ferguson

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