Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : AFL Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

Phil's AFL 2003 Grand Final Diary

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 a bloke called Mal Collins in the 1986 VFA grand final against Williamstown at the Junction Oval in St Kilda. Collins didn't get a kick and we lost by 13 points. It was the wrong selection. It happens.

THE GAME

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 PROPAGANDA

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. How does he do this, ask Collingwood loyalists? He's just passionate about Collingwood, say the faithful. Does Collingwood receive more publicity on Channel Nine than do 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 pastures.

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.

THE COACHES

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.

 

POSTSCRIPT

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.

 

Dear Sirs

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.

Yours sincerely
Kevin Rugg of Beaumaris

 

 

 

 

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