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

 

 

POLITICAL FOOTBALL

sacking coaches

While the talk about this Sunday's grand final will centre on the make up of the Port Melbourne and Sandringham sides, there's more to it than meets the eye. As Port coach Gerard FitzGerald prepares for the grand final is he a man who knows he's loved? It's well documented how David Dunbar, despite taking Port to the grand final in 2002 and the preliminary in 2003, was shown the door with a year of his contract remaining.

What might trouble FitzGerald is that the VFL rumour mill says he'll be at North Ballart (they've not approached him or compiled a list of candidates) in 2005. By contrast, Zebras General Manager John Mennie tells me Mark Williams has a verbal agreement to coach the Zebras next year. Might this give Sandringham a psychological edge? Given Fitzgerald has lost a preliminary final (1998) and consecutive grand finals (1999/2000) with North Ballarat and an elimination final by 100 points at Springvale last year he doesn't need any added pressure. Nothing cuts deeper than losing finals matches. And Fitzgerald knows this is one he can and must win. Port president Peter Saultry says that after the Dunbar 'problem' they chose a policy of one year agreements reviewed at the end of the season. Equally, Saultry says he doesn't want anything to unsettle his players. So, has someone started the mind games? Every grand final is a battle of wits and a psychological war that thrives on nerve and cunning and an absence of distractions.

When Williamstown coach Terry Wheeler looked into the ABC camera a few days before the 1988 grand final and said 'we're ready for them (Coburg), but the question is, are they ready for us,' it produced an irresistible adrenalin rush. We showed that clip and we won. Sometimes in football, as in life, perception can be everything. With so little separating these two great sides Port needs a coach to radiate poise in the lead up to what will be a classic VFA/VFL grand final. That's one for the coach and the 'pres' to sort out.

 

A wet day in Port, and the grandstand behind which Stevie Wright copped the bad news. Now for the grand final.

THE WRIGHT DECISION

If Gerard FitzGerald's position at Port is perplexing, what about Stevie Wright's exit from North Ballarat? Although the board decided at a meeting on the eve of the finals not to renew his contract, Wright wasn't told until the Sunday after the club's loss to Tasmania in Bellerive. The message was conveyed to Wright by club president Peter Wilson behind the Port grandstand after the reserves match. Interesting!


THE GRAND FINAL WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR

During last week's preliminary final we broadcast an interview with former Zebra star Anthony Allen and footage of the 1994 Sandringham v Box Hill grand final. It should remind people of the place VFA grand finals have in the football psyche. For so many reasons this Sunday's is as anticipated as the classics of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. It has two men who between them have coached for 15 years and tasted grand finals. Mark Williams was a Zebra player when the late Trevor Barker lifted the premiership cup at Optus Oval in 1992, and Gerard Fitzgerald has tasted the bitterness of grand final defeat.

The difference for the genial 'Fitzy' is that he now has a real chance. In 1998/1999/2000 he took brave but undermanned North Ballarat sides into the finals. This time he has the irrepressible midfielders - Steve Lawrence, Jeremy Clayton and Eddie Sansbury - at his disposal and the highflying Nick Gill and dazzling David Pitt to kick goals. And as he's shown with the VFL representative side, when given quality players he doesn't leave supporters guessing.

Unlike some of the grumpy men who frequent coaching boxes in the AFL, FitzGerald and Williams exude personal warmth that pervades their teams and builds solidarity. This is no more evident that in Sandringham's back half. While many commentators can't see past stoppages and midfields, grand finals are still won inside fifty. It's here that the Zebras pose a real threat to Port. Williams has players - Ryan Ferguson, Chris Lamb and Nathan Carroll - capable of stifling Gill, Chad Jones, Pitt and David Hale should he drift up forward. And while Port has the effervescent Josh Rudd and the sublime skills of Anthony Aloi to inspire them, Williams has the prancing David Gallagher and brilliant Adam Fisher to raise the Zebra spirits.

Will this be the game where six-time Frosty Miller medallist Nick Sautner 'kicks a bag' to rival the six goals he kicked in the 2000 premiership? Sautner worked hard for his three goals last week. If the corridor opens up, his 100th game with the Zebras might be one to remember. Tasmania had no one to combat the mountainous Mark Jamar. But Port has Hale, and Jones if necessary. Neither coach can say they don't have the players to win what should be a titanic struggle. And each, through their work on interstate games, has an intimate knowledge of his opponent's tactical mind. Drama, passion and a 12/10 rule that ensures fairness means this will be a real VFA/VFL grand final.

SANDRINGHAM v Port - OPTUS OVAL - 2.10 PM

Last Saturday's ABC broadcast attracted a peak audience of approximately 250,000 people across Victoria and Tasmania.

 

 
 

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