BRISBANE TRIUMPHS YET AGAIN
Brisbane.....20-14 - 134
Collingwood 12-12- 84
When Anthony Rocca was suspended before the grand final the Collingwood
hiercharchy camouflaged its fears with emotionally charged talk
of injustice. Behind the emotion was a deep realisation that the
loss of Rocca would deliver the Lions their greatest chance of success.
No other player, not even Buckley, was as important to Collingwood's
fortunes. With Rocca at centre half forward the Lions were always
going to be stretched in the back half. With him missing, their
defenders, in particular Mal Michael, would become free spirited
and far more dangerous. Mick Malthouse and Leigh Matthews knew this.
But neither was prepared to tell.
With Rocca gone, Malthouse was forced to forage around for another
tall. He settled on Tristen Walker. It was a mistake. I'd seen Walker
in the VFL grand final the week before. If I'd been making the choice
I'd have picked Steve McKee. Malthouse's decision to play Jason
Cloke at centre half forward was a further mistake. Intent on stretching
Brisbane's defence Malthouse had gambled on a tall and rolled the
wrong dice. That's life.
If I had my way again I wouldn't have picked Mal
Collins in the 1986 VFA grand final - he'd been away for several weeks - against Williamstown at the
Junction Oval in St Kilda. Collins struggled and we lost
by 13 points. It was the wrong selection. It happens.
Brisbane played astounding football in the grand final. Their ability
to win the fifty-fifty contests and find targets was just amazing.
Despite having a stream of players - Lappin, Lynch, Voss and others
- injured, the Lions were too tough for the Magpies. Ultimately,
the Lions were simply too good. As many as six Collingwood players
will have a question mark over their head.
The spectre of an AFL president balancing his presidential duties
with that of of media star and commentator is new to football. Along
with Buckley and Malthouse, Eddie McGuire has become the face of
Collingwood. But while the coach and his captain are on-field symbols
of the club, McGuire speaks as the power broker; the bloke some
people are reluctant to cross. Gregarious and good natured, McGuire
was everywhere in the lead up to the game. On Monday night he hosted
the Brownlow and on Thursday night the hugely successful Footy
Show. On Saturday the Herald-Sun ran a two-page spread
on his activities in the week leading up to the big game. On Sunday,
not even Eddie McGuire could oust the Lions from the pages of the
newspapers. Winners are grinners.
In a sentiment totally at odds with the tribalism of football,
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks told Victorians they should barrack
for Eddie's side. Was it bad Karma? There's no doubt that many people
in the opposing football camps are casting a caustic eye over the
Collingwood-Nine-McGuire nexus. Forget the claims - raised so publicly
by Tim Lane - that McGuire is biased when he calls Collingwood games.
In the whole scheme of things it's trivial.
What's interesting is the claim, mainly made in private, that McGuire's
media work enables him to enhance Collingwood's position in the
football world. He's just passionate about Collingwood, say the faithful. Does Collingwood
receive more publicity on Channel Nine than other clubs? If so,
does this improve Collingwood's chances of picking up sponsors?
Does it create a winning persona or 'state of mind' as Eddie McGuire
calls it. Maybe it's just that he does what the others would love
to be able to do; speak like a teary eyed kid on the terrace.
Apart from the top bracket of well supported Victorian clubs -
Essendon, Carlton (once it overcomes the present crisis), Richmond
and Hawthorn - few clubs can compete with Collingwood in the corporate
world. However, commentators should note that Collingwood has had
a life without Eddie McGuire. It's always been (notwithstanding
the odd crisis) one of the most financially sound clubs. Two consecutive
defeats in grand finals should also remind us that football can
be profoundly problematic in a way the board room isn't.
Collingwood won a flag in 1990 and even without its president would
be a power club today. Right now it is the most powerful club in
Victoria. Collingwood rarely appears to have to worry about losing
quality players. A club that can take its players to an exclusive
Island after a finals win is a sexy club. If Doggies star Nathan
Brown was at Collingwood there'd be no talk of him leaving for greener
Unfortunately for the Magpies they happen to be great at a time
when Brisbane is regarded as one of the greatest teams of all time.
How lucky was Essendon to have Melbourne as its opponent in the
2000 grand final? The real test for football clubs is to defeat
great teams on grand final day. Carlton did it against Collingwood
in 1970 and Richmond in 1972. Essendon did it at the MCG in 1984/85.
And I can genuinely say that we did the same against Williamstown
in 1988/89 in the VFA grand finals at Windy Hill.
All the spin in the world is no substitute for playing the game.
While Malthouse spun the stories about Collingwood's preparedness
to play and the 'pres' talked the talk, Brisbane spoke in hushed
tones about injury and pain. Unfazed by the Collingwood propaganda,
the Brisbane players lay in wait. With the masses wedded to the
notion that Brisbane was vulnerable, Collingwood genuinely believed
they would win. By quarter time the pressure had begun to tell.
Even the president knew it was going to be tough. It was one of
the great grand finals, and the winners had treated us to the same
kind of football for which their master coach was famous. Powerful,
courageous and brilliant; the Lions and their coach were astounding.
Alastair Lynch was 35-years-of-age on grand final day. He is the
third oldest premiership player in VFL/AFL history behind Michael
Tuck (1991/1989) and Charlie Hardy, Essendon (1923/24). Hardy went
on to coach Coburg to the VFA premiership in 1926/1927.
Charlie Hardy and I (1988/89) are the only Coburg coaches to take
the club to consecutive premierships. I'd love to have met him.
Australian Rules showcase, the AFL Grand Final, once again failed
to live up to all the hype. I left at half time and went for a coffee
at Gloria Jean's.
The politically astute John Howard, once again, made the correct
decision. His daughter's wedding was a finer spectacle and once
the formalities were over, you could get a swifter drink at the
reception. I bet the speeches were more articulate, too.
Kevin Rugg of Beaumaris