AGONY FOR FITZGERALD
ECSTASY FOR WILLIAMS
IN 2004 AT OPTUS
Football history is studded with images of a losing grand final
coach offering his outstretched hand, albeit brief and fleeting,
to the victor. However, the appearance of Mark Williams and Gerard
Fitzgerald together for the ABC cameras at the conclusion of the
2004 VFL grand final was truly remarkable. His face drawn and drained
of colour, Fitzgerald was palpably devastated by Port's four point
loss to Sandringham. Yet when asked by the ABC's Ross Booth about
his tenure on the coaching position at Port, Fitzgerald was, as
always, diplomatic and statesmanlike. 'People have made something
of it because I have a one year contract,' he said. The truth is
Fitzgerald entered the grand final wishing he'd been reappointed.
Although Port has said they only appoint coaches on a one year basis,
they had good reason to reappoint their coach before the grand final.
Might that have made a difference? Who knows? For grand finals sometimes
defy logic, and the slightest distraction can impact on the result.
There was nothing Fitzgerald could have done on Sunday to change
the result. Nor is there a single reason why he should not be reappointed.
Despite Williams describing him as the best coach in the VFL in
recent years many insiders believe he won't get the job in 2005.
Port needs to be careful. Professional coaches are highly suspicious
about taking on a coaching job that doesn't offer some security,
and premierships aren't won overnight. And they definitely aren't
won by coaches who don't feel loved. Given a grand final and a preliminary
in consecutive years (2002/2003) couldn't save another good coach,
David Dunbar, and Port couldn't find its way to reappoint Fitzgerald
before the 2004 grand final, the job at Port might begin to look
like a poisoned chalice.
Ironically, with the game appearing lost midway through the last
quarter it was Port's VFL players Anthony Aloi and David Pitt who
provided the goals that almost gave the Borough their first premiership
since 1982. And with minutes remaining it was VFL player Nick Gill
who went perilously close to marking at centre half forward on the
second attempt. There's no doubt Port's fiercely independent president
Peter Saultry will be asking why AFL-listed players Callum Urch
and John Baird didn't show more footy composure during a turbulent
Although Baird was desperately unlucky to have a
free kick paid to Nick Sautner after the Zebra full forward had
just dribbled a goal through at the Heatley end, it could have been
avoided. Two goals to Sautner when the Zebras were struggling was
the break they needed. It was a grand final the Port president desperately
wanted and genuinely deserved. A decade ago the once mighty Port
was almost lost to the VFA. Under Saultry the club has remerged
as a financially strong and brazenly independent VFL club. But while
it has four consecutive grand final losses (1987/93/02/04) to reflect
on, the Zebras have won six premierships since 1985. Sandringham
was a fitting winner in what was a great grand final.
OPTUS HAS HAD ITS DAY
When the VFA was renamed the VFL it was said to be a great marketing
strategy. It's a claim not reflected in attendances at grand finals.
On Sunday a miserable 8,000 people travelled to Optus Oval. The
crowd - on a beautiful day with no Victorian clubs remaining in
the AFL premiership race - did not reflect the quality or passion
of the game. The VFL must look for another venue. Optus is not liked
by football followers. Nor does it enhance VFL football. In the
absence of big marking forwards VFL grand finals on Optus are low
scoring affairs dominated by midfield scrambles and the rebound.
And while Optus is great for the ABC broadcast - whose TV audience
on Sunday exceeded 250,000 - and accommodates the VFL's corporate
requirements, there are other considerations. A crowd of 12,000
at Port Melbourne or a similar venue - for example, Coburg once
the grandstand is renovated - would enhance the VFL's distinctiveness
and help to market it as an alternative to the AFL. Whilst I appreciate
the issues faced by CEO Ken Gannon, the VFL simply can't continue
to play in front of grand final crowds of 8,000 at Optus.
|Big Eddie will be there in spirit.
While Nick Sautner's free kick on Sunday will be talked about for
a long time, it won't ever rank with Frosty Miller's free kick before
the siren in 1971. On Saturday 2 October Frosty is a certainty to
be named in Dandenong's Team of the Century at the Grand International
Ballroom in Dandenong. As MC I'm looking forward to the opportunity
to catch up with some of the monsters who terrorised us in the '70s.
I was just having a look around the web and looking for some solace
in regards to Port Melbourne's defeat on Sunday and thought your
site would be as good as any. I read you each week as one of the
highlights of inside football, along with Jimmy Main.
I totally agree with Optus Oval not being right for the VFL grand
final. It's a ground best suited to AFL players and well a more
suburban location would have made all the difference in the result
yesterday. And agreed on Port Melbourne having rocks in their collective
heads if Gerard FitzGerald is elsewhere next year.
On the Nick Sautner second shot at goal - my belief was that the
goal umpire has to have completed waving the flags for a second
shot to be awarded as a shot at goal (nowhere near) - not a free
kick from the centre as I would've assumed it should have been paid.
Soft as it was in itself, Sandringham got two good sucks on the
officials' sauce bottle. Where's Sautner gonna be next year with
his mercenary-like changing of clubs?
Anyway thanks for a good read in IFand passioned calls both this
year and in advance. Some of the boys think your favourite player
would be Anthony Aloi! Oh yes, I am one of the Port Melbourne fans
(spiky white hair) who presides behind the goals (with probably
too much to say), by virtue that unlike the AFL, you can have a
good yell out and cheer loudly. That's its greatest advantage.
What more to say? I guess there's next year. Gonna need some time
before that after yesterday though.
Mark Le Nepveu