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

 

 

 

Time to send-off off the order-off

It was a Sunday. It was the master, Gary Ayres, versus the apprentice, Brendon Bolton. It was a wounded, defiant, Port Melbourne, once steeped in sometimes menacing working class values, face to face with what in the ‘70s would have been described as a class enemy, an imposter from the leafy eastern suburbs. History may have swept aside many of the old preconceptions but Sunday’s VFL semi final was one of those tribal games we’ll never forget.

Toby Pinwill - ordered off for the whole game after being reported twice before half time - heads for the coach's room at the long break.

Whether those who craned the neck at the three quarter time huddle to savour Gary Ayres’ words grasped their significance is a moot point. Many times I’d been there at Port, either as a player or coach, searching for that adrenalin rush that might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Ayres knew his side was in trouble. Sure they’d fought like men possessed in that third quarter. But how could his young side, already missing key midfielder, Toby Pinwill - ordered off in the second quarter – withstand the Hawks, who led by 5 points and had the breeze at their backs?

The aftermath of the 1986 order off. The despair of our 13-pont loss is unmistakable.

Ayres’ words and demeanour offered an insight into the unique traits that made him a champion footballer. It was sheer poetry from a man who’d laugh at the idea of being called poetic. It was, as I told ABC viewers, one of the most uplifting speeches I’ve ever heard. ‘Bonners (Adrian Bonaddio) you have 25 minutes to become the man I know you can be.’  Who wouldn’t puff out the chest at such words, part tribute part plea? ‘Don’t worry about the history of those blokes in the grandstand. Make your own history,’ he roared.  Who else but Gary Ayres – now out of contract - would utter such words in a Port huddle where every second face belonged to some proud old era?

What followed was one of the most passionate and emotional last quarters I’ve ever seen.  How ironic that we witnessed the same breathtakingly agonising finish, only with a different result, in last year’s final.  With a cursed wind to one end, the centre square a quagmire and mud heaps dotted across the ground it was a game requiring the decision-making and skill only elite players can muster. Port should have folded but such was the adrenalin rush that surged through the team they refused to surrender, until with a minute to go and scores tied the Hawks snatched a goal. No one deserved to lose.

If Ayres is already a master, what lies ahead for the Hawks Brendan Bolton?  At only 31 years of age Bolton has the Hawks in a preliminary after going within a kick last year.  Clear headed with his players and meticulously organised, nothing seems to rattle him.  Like Ayres, he knows how to gather a cluster of diverse footballers and find a path for them. Never does he overload them with two many facts. Equally, his boys not only play with discipline but form one of the most dangerous teams in the VFL on the rebound from defence. 

On a good track the Hawks brilliant foot skills will trouble any opponent.  Crushed by Williamstown late in the season they will most definitely test the reigning premier North Ballarat on Sunday. For Brendon Bolton this game looms as his greatest challenge since taking over as coach in 2009. If Ayres is a warrior, North Ballarat’s Gerard FitzGerald is surely a wise owl. But Brendan Bolton has wisdom beyond his years and must be relishing the opportunity to knock the Roosters off their perch.  Bolton deserves to be proud about what he has brought to the VFL. It’s always a good sign when a coach who has tasted defeat of the kind he endured last year sweeps away the pain with such a win. He might not have Gary Ayres history but he’s an A-grade student.

If there was a downside to Sunday’s game it was the order off – two reports and you are off for the game in the VFL - of Toby Pinwill. The video shows that Pinwill, a bruising, tough midfielder deserved to be reported in the second of the two incidents. However the first report looked soft.  What if he survives the first report and is only found guilty for the second offence? That raises major issues about natural justice.

CLICK HERE FOR THE SECOND REPORT - THERE COULD BE NO DOUBT IT WAS REPORTABLE, BUT THE FIRST?

After the send-off debates that rocked soccer during the World Cup surely we should have had a look at our rules. As captain coach of Coburg I was ordered off for fifteen minutes for little more than a minor wrestle in the 1986 VFA grand final, which we lost by 13 points despite defeating Williamstown twice during the season. As much as I was past my best, it didn’t help our cause. Pinwill was off for the whole game and it obviously hurt Port.  Even if he deserved to be reported it should not have resulted in a send-off. We don’t have it in the AFL. So why does it exist in the VFL? 

PS I watched the tribunal with great interest!

 

  
 

 
 

 


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