Geelong’s day in the sun

The Grand Final may not have been close but the win was immensely satisfying.

Like a Christmas lunch. Several helpings of the crispy skinned lamb and roast potatoes drowned in gravy. And then the compulsory Christmas pudding with custard. I should be satisfied. But I want to write about it. I want to let it out.

This football season is the first real one since the COVID shutdowns. I have been very busy with work, but I could feel the excitement build. Always in the back of my mind. We can win this one.

The Collingwood final was exciting, a spectacle. The Magpies were determined to steal it from Geelong’s grasp. A last-quarter fling looked like taking the match. Jordan De Goey and Jamie Elliot and 65,000 Collingwood supporters conspiring to defeat the Cats at the MCG, again. But no, the Cats rallied and closed it out.

The Brisbane preliminary final was pretty comprehensive. It only took me until the third quarter to quell my fear of losing. Now for the big one. That excitement is building.

Geelong has won the last 21 games. We are the minor premiers. We have been here before. Let’s see how it goes.

Just a freak of the scheduling, Geelong hasn’t played Sydney since Round 2, where they were soundly beaten by 30 points. That is 22 games and 26 weeks ago. Since that time, the Cats have an exciting new game plan. The Cats had a magnificent run of victories. But only has Sydney.

Tom Papley of the Swans celebrates a goal.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Towards the end of Grand Final week, my 23-year-old son said he was scared. If we don’t win this one, we won’t have another chance for 10 years – at least.

Ten years is a long time. Will my kids still have their hopes and dreams? Will they have kids? Will I even be here? Well, put that on your shoulders Joel Selwood and Chris Scott. Put that in your backpack, Patrick Dangerfield.

Only Melbourne could hold a public holiday for a football game. I watched the floating parade. They floated right up to me in my lounge room. I’m not sure if it was the bright sunlight or a trick of the Swans’ red clothes but the team looked ripped. They looked fit and strong and powerful.

Isaac Heeney is meant to be a skinny little goal sneak. He is tall and he looks like he is in his absolute prime him.

I woke up on the big day and peaked out of the window. The sun was defying the weather forecasters and peeking out from behind the clouds. I rewarded the dog with a walk. I popped on a Geelong scarf just to show everyone that I was a Geelong trojan ensconced in South Melbourne.

By the time I reached the first café, the sun was fully out. I saw a team of middle-aged bike riders. They had squeezed into their South Melbourne District jumpers. They turned to see my scarf. Instead of scowling like a mangy dog, they smiled. Everybody was smiling, soaking up the sun and soaking up the atmosphere.

The day had arrived. The contest had arrived. Bring it on.

The time before the match passed slowly. I went out to buy frankfurters and party pies for the occasion (much to my wife’s chagrin as she is a gourmet cook). Fortunately, the first supermarket was sold out so I could waste some more time going to the second.

Finally, the pre-game entertainment was on. Apart from poor Robbie Williams looking terrified of falling off the platform, the entertainment was just a marker on the sun dial indicating the approaching match.

Finally, the siren sounds. The Cats are on the prowl. Apart from a wild kick out of bounds by Sam De Koning and an obligatory Tom Hawkins set shot point, the Cats looked on. The applied pressure was enormous. Everything was going just right.

Isaac Smith fumbled the ball, knocking it forward, about to be knocked into next week but somehow slithered through and pierced the goals. They are on.

Isaac Smith of the Cats celebrates kicking a goal.

Isaac Smith of the Cats celebrates kicking a goal. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

The beast of a man, Tom Hawkins stole the ball out of the ruck and snapped truly. And just to show that it was no fluke, just to show that he could do what he wants, he did it again. They are on.

Patrick Dangerfield bursts to the 50 and pinpoints a pass to Mark Blicavs 20 out from goal. The Blitz actually slots the clutch goal. They are on.

A six-goal advantage at the end of the quarter and I think we are about 50 per cent chance of winning the match. We are Geelong.

At half-time we still had the six-goal lead. I confidently tell anybody listening that if we can hold the lead until three-quarter time we will win.

A few goals into the third quarter, maybe 10 goals in front, I remember the lesson from 2007. We have won. The rest of the world already knows that. Enjoy the game from here on.

Above the tension of the moment, the Cats’ sleek feline skills showed out. Their pressure, diving, tackling, closing speed pressure was immense. It was a team effort and there were no passengers.

Patrick Dangerfield was fast, powerful and strong. His clearances were telling. He is one of the few players who can dive on the ball and jump up and handball before he can be restricted in a tackle.

Selwood, as you would expect, showed courage and endeavor. He kicked a beautiful goal in the last quarter. He even managed a little blood for the after-game pictures.

Jeremy Cameron. He is built like a slightly tall midfielder. He plays like a midfielder. It is fast and delivers nicely. Then he goes goalward and marks and kicks with precision. Currently the best player in the AFL.

Brad Close specializes in rundowns, intercepts and in slotting goals. He is the essence of Geelong’s intent.

Mitch Duncan showed he could still deliver beautifully. He did get caught a few times, as you do when you get a bit older, but he took the hit for the side. He was also rewarded for a great tackle with a set shot goal himself.

Cameron Guthrie seemed to run through on coming Swans like he was Casper the Ghost. His brother Zach inflicted a mean hard bump on a hapless James Rowbottom. Last year he would have been the one manhandled.

Tom Atkins and Jed Bews are the rooks of the Geelong chessboard. They have taken the spirit of Paul Chapman and distilled it. They tackle, hard. They run hard. They run through players who are trying to tackle them.

Stewart and Henry were very quiet. This was because the ball was locked in the Geelong forward line. Jake Kolodjashnij stepped up. He marked and kicked well with a sweet run-down tackle and free kick.

Tyrone Stengle was unfortunate not to take home the Norm Smith Medal. It was a dim week for the AFL and its treatment of Indigenous players.

: Tom Hawkins of the Cats is congratulated by Tyson Stengle after kicking a goal during the round four AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Brisbane Lions at GMHBA Stadium on April 08, 2022 in Geelong, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The Geelong Football Club, Eddie Betts and Stengle, you are all stars. It is hope for the future. But Tyson, you are the superstar. You might have had help and guidance but you are the one who has turned your life and career around.

The Swans players did it hard. Heeney tried to elevate his side of him. He completed a magnificent tackle against Rhys Stanley. Stanley is the ruck man and bench press champion of the GFC and was taken down like he was lightweight rover.

Luke Parker and Chad Warner had impact but they were lonely. Tom Papley did break free to goal. Was it in junk time? Was junk time the whole second half?

The post-game speeches were kind and respectful. It showed that you can be driven person on-field and a good human being after the war is over.

There were some serious celebrations after the game. It was all in good humour. There was no broken windows or no idle didgeridoo bashings. But there was some late-night raucous cheering after the Cats kicked another goal, in the third replay of the game.

There were some very late-night renditions of “We Are the Champions” that butchered the Queen classic. Perhaps that was just at my house.

I woke up on the morning after. I took the dog for a short celebratory walk. On the front porch, the paperboy had deposited a random gift. The Herald Sun premiership edition paper with the team photo.

I had given up real papers years ago. Maybe we received the paper because of the Geelong flag over the door. Maybe it was a sign from God. Maybe it was a personal gift from Rupert Murdoch. But I took it as an omen.

Everything will work out for the best.

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