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

 

 

 

THE 2009 VFL GRAND FINAL

Teague or Fitzgerald

Whose VFL cup will it be

The tears in Cory McGrath’s eyes and the look of exhaustion and despair in Toby Pinwill’s face told the story.  Inspired by the impassioned words of their coach, Gary Ayres, Port had stared down a humiliating defeat and produced a second half of football so driven by heart and soul, the 4 500-strong crowd was simply stunned.  Had they witnessed a prelude to one of the great VFA/VFL grand finals?  The 21-point defeat at the hands of the brilliant Bullants – after trailing by as much as 48 points - might have shattered the dream of a grand final rematch with North Ballarat, but it was probably a blessing in disguise. Weary, and without captain, John Baird, and big man Adrian Deluca, Port did not look capable of going the distance with North Ballarat. The stand-alone Port has been an inspiration over the past two seasons, but my considered eye imagined a grim picture on the wall.

On Sunday the Bullants were irresistible.  With the terraces awash with red and white and 1983/84 premiership coach Ray Shaw riding every twist and turn destiny looked to be on the side of this famous football club.  And what a side David Teague has at his disposal.  Is there a more courageous VFL player than Brent Bransgrove? Even after his eyelid was opened up in a tackle on ruckman David Fanning the diminutive Bransgrove continued to charge headlong into the packs. And Chris Yarran (Carlton) with three second quarter goals and five for the match showed that Gerard FitzGerald’s back six cannot afford to blink when this elusive beautifully, balanced player is around.

 

Brent Bransgrove leads the boys in at three quarter time in the preliminary

There too was Cameron Cloke, big and confident, marking imperiously and kicking long goals. And those who thought the loss of ruckman Robert Warnock might weaken the Bullants soon learnt otherwise.  The VFL-listed Shane Neaves and his Carlton mate Sam Jacobs never let David Fanning influence the stoppages on Sunday or create havoc inside fifty and will surely test FitzGerald’s strategy of rotating ruckman Orren Stephenson with key forward Josh Smith. Stephenson was a star at Etihad last year, especially when stationed a kick behind the play. However, such is the speed of the Bullants midfield he might not be such a stumbling block on Friday night. 

At 28 years of age David Teague is possibly the youngest ever coach to take a side to a VFA/VFL grand final.  How ironic that Ray Shaw, a former Collingwood captain, was only 28 years and six months (a month older than Teague) when he coached the Bullants to the grand final in 1982.  After losing that grand final to Port he steered the Bullants to consecutive flags in 1983/84.  There’s been neither a flag nor a grand final since. Teague has been a revelation as a person and a coach. Growing up in the bush town of Katandra, where his father Geoff played 300 games, Teague quickly understood how ‘football brought the community together’.  It probably explains why he speaks warmly of the moment 1969/71 Liston Medallist and Bullants premiership player (1969) Laurie Hill shook has hand amidst the celebrations. ‘I can see what this means to older Bullant supporters and past players such as Laurie.  And it was great to see them and so many Carlton people at the game,’ he says.

David Teague at work

Yet, for all the euphoria of Sunday, the Bullants must now find a way through a team Teague acknowledges is ‘extremely well coached and drilled’. Yes, the reigning premiership coach has never been more masterful.  Like Teague the Ballarat boy sees football as a microcosm of the community.  It’s why Gerard FitzGerald wants to tell you about the model being developed at North Ballarat. It’s a model where the overwhelming majority of his players work or study in the city – invariably at the University of Ballarat - and the only imports are Kangaroo listed players.  This sense of place – a crucial ingredient in our back to back premierships at Coburg in 1988/89 – surely explains why the Roosters play with such cohesion and purpose.

Fitzy after the 2008 triumph

After a decade in which uncertainty has too often afflicted the VFL this grand old lady of football is riding a wave of expectation created by a riveting finals series and is stirring with the ghosts of the past. It’s hard to imagine we won’t have in excess of 20 000 people at Etihad on Friday night or that this won’t be one the great grand finals.  In round 14 the Bullants defeated North Ballarat by 4 points and such is their form - and eight consecutive wins against the Roosters - it’s impossible to see them being swept away.  They simply have too much talent. It will be breathtakingly close, but I think ‘Fitzy’s’ team will prevail.

NTH BALLARAT v Northern Bullants –

7.10 pm – Etihad Stadium - Live on ABC HD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 


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