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by Tim Murphy

“It’s the first time in over twenty years the same sides gave contested consecutive Grand Finals,” announced the Siddey ABC news. As I recall the Lyin’s and Magpoise contested the Big One in 2002/3. They’ve still a bit to learn about The Game up here but not much more about the Wiggles. Thank Richo it’s a replay of last year, no-one could stand the tedious Crobots being in it and Freo panicked on the big stage, they’ll be better for the experience. This Weegle side might do it, strengthened as they’ll be by the addition of Kerr, Embley and Seaby from the qualifying final.

Swan Adam Goodes is favourite for tonight’s Brownlow Medal, with Wiggle pair Ben Cousins and Chris Judd in the market, Bulldogs Scott West and Brad Johnson are also in with a chance. No news at Sinkilda regarding Grant Thomas’s replacement, Bulldog assistant Chris Bond was interviewed. And no real reason yet as to why Thomas was sacked - president Rod ‘Buttress’ Butterss went on TV’s ‘On The Couch’ but really didn’t say anything, apart from condemning Thomas’s management of his pet, training services.  Following an exhaustive post-season review, Geelong have confirmed Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson will remain as coach for 2007 (only, at this stage). Tom Harley will replace Steven King as captain, assistant coach Andy Lovell got the flick and the Cats will hire a football operations manager to relieve the pressure on Bomber. Richmond captain Kane Johnson won his club’s B&F. Pie forward Alan Didak will miss the start of the 2007 season (probably) after it was discovered he’d partially torn a knee ligament in the round 22 game against Norf, Didak requires a reconstruction.

At Stadium Australia:

Sydney     3.6   8.7   14.8   19.13 (127)
Fremantle  3.2   6.2   11.6   14.8 (92)

The Swans are there again. And Barry Hall didn’t even punch anyone. He would’ve gotten off anyway. The Bloods had to work hard against feisty Freo but Siddey’s class up forward counted in the end, as it did against the Wiggles a fortnight ago. Disappointment for the stage-struck Dockers, they had many players down on the night. But they had a fair crack and played pretty well, they’re a good side. At the mid-season break, when Fremandle had just been thumped by Geelong at Sooby, the Dorkers’ appearance in a preliminary final seemed the least likely thing in the world. Freo went on to ‘play properly’ with a faster, far more direct style bringing nine consecutive wins to clinch third spot on the ladder. Much of the credit, in Melbourne at least, is given to the influence of assistant coaches Mark Harvey and Robert Shaw. How many kicks did they get? Freo should be up there again next year. Neither side was changed from their last appearance, the biggest worry Dokka Luke McPharlin coming up following ankle trouble last week.

Freo navigated successfully to the ground at which they’d never played, fortunately after some statements following their semi-final win - Heath Black said “we see it every time we go to Sydney as it’s right next door to the SCG.” Er, no, that’s Aussie Stadium. Confusion is understandable though given Siddeysiders’ penchant for naming everything ‘Australia’ in the belief they represent the entire country. Body-language during the anthem suggested nerves on Freo’s part and they were very jittery in the opening minutes, committing a series of disposal errors. Following a rushed Siddey point the Swans had the first three shots at goal, Brett Kirk’s tight-angle miss and Nick Malceski’s hooked bomb were both followed by poor kick-ins from David Mundy. The second placed old Freo man Shane Parker under pressure, he was caught in possession by Ryan O’Keefe who free-kicked the opening goal. A minute later Amon Buchanan’s speedy defensive rebound led to Michael O’Loughlin marking on the flank, O’Loughlin lobbed a centering kick for Barry Hall to ride Shaun McManus for a fantastic pack-speccie. Hall converted and the Swans led by 15 points, Freo yet to score. Jeff Farmer gave the Dokkers a lift, Heath Black won the following centre-clearance and Farmer’s speed and persistence led to an accurate snap but it was (just) touched off-the-boot. The Siddey kick-in went to Leo Barry but Farmer’s speed again caused trouble, Leapin’ Leo was caught in Wiz’s tackle and Farmer free-kicked a major. The Swans were going well though, rebounding very swiftly from the back. Hall marked on a long lead and sent the ball in again, Ted Richards tapped down for Jude Bolton to snap truly. In the lead-up Shocker McPharlin had been kneed in the back of the head by Lewis Roberts-Thomson and McPharlin staggered off for a rest. All Swans as they bombarded the sticks, but scored behinds. Snapshots from O’Keefe and Adam Schneider were off-target and Nick Davis missed with a 50m set-shot. Swans by 16 points deep into the stanza. Dokka All-Australian Matty Pavlich had taken some great grabs already at CHF and set up a shot for himself with another, ahead of struggling opponent Roberts-Thomson. Pavlich’s shot dropped short but was marked strongly by Ryan Crowley, he played-on from the tricky angle and hooked it through. The Dokkaz won the following centre-clearance - ginormous ruckman Aaron Sandilands was going well - Farmer had a long shot and as players chased the ball back, Barry rammed Pavlich’s head into the goal-post (padded section). The classic pro-wrestling move was not appreciated by Pav or the umps, Pavlich free-kicked a goal and Freo trailed by just 4 points at the first break.

That scoreline flattered the Dokkers a bit and two quick Swan goals opened the second term. Schneider tumbled the ball forward from a throw-in and O’Loughlin was in front of Michael Johnson to hold a good grab and steer a decent kick for a sausage. Freo seemed certain to reply but Pavlich’s handpass ahead of Crowley bounced wickedly, the Swans cleared and O’Loughlin marked on the wing. He centered to Hall, Bazza kicked for Jude Bolton to juggle a sliding with-the-flight grab. Bolton converted and the Bloods led by 16 points again. As they would, the Dockulaters hung in. A series of chipped passes ended with a long kick from Luke Webster towards Pavlich, Pav climbed for a great two-grabber over Roberts-Thomson and booted a goal. That was it for ‘LRT’, Barry replaced him as Pavlich’s opponent. Freo soon had another goal, Pavlich kicking for Peter Bell to run onto the ball in the forward-pocket and bounce a great left-foot snap through. Freo were 4 points down again but they suffered a blow as Matthew Carr limped off with knee trouble, his game over. Carr had been tagging Adam Goodes. The Swans responded, Hall did well to keep the ball alive in the forward-line and O’Loughlin collected it just inside the boundary, he slipped a handpass for O’Keefe to run right in and thump it through. Jarrad McVeigh shanked a shot on-the-full and a bit later Farmer whacked opponent Craig Bolton in the face - with an open hand, probably. Cost a free-kick, though. McPharlin had returned for Freo but after he spilled a tough, back-pedalling marking attempt, Kirk scooped the ball and handballed to O’Loughlin, on to Goodes who sped away to slam it through from point-blank. A bit later Kirk roved a throw-in and kicked high, Hall marked behind Parker and popped it through. Swans by 23 points now but again the Dockerators managed a late goal, at a ball-up in their forward-line Swan man Richards tried to thump it long but hit the agget directly to Bell, the Freo skipper bounced another snap home for six points. Siddey by 17 points at half-time.

The Dokkers made a few changes for the third term, the strange move of playing Parker on Hall came to an end and McPharlin went onto Big Bad Barry, Crowley replaced the injured Matty Carr as Goodes’s opponent. The first half had been played in the Siddey style, slow with lots of tackles and stoppages, but the third term opened up as the Dokkers went more attacking. Swan O’Keefe booted an early goal, reward for terrific running as he mopped up a Freo attack and sprinted the length of the field to accept Hall’s pass. The Dokkaz replied as some good handballing from Parker and Crowley sent Brett Peake clear, he punted a very good goal from the flank. Pavlich missed appallingly from 25m out, right in front, before another Swan major as Buchanan and O’Loughlin combined to enable Hall to slot it through. Siddey led by 22 points. At the restart Justin Longmuir punted Freo forward, Pavlich gathered the bouncing Sherrin, turned away from Barry and booted a very good sausage. A bit later Longmuir collected Hall with a lovely shoulder to the chin, it went un-noticed by the officials and groggy Bazza fell to earth with the pill - ‘bawl’. Longmuir punted the free-kick towards Troy Cook, he marked and was clattered by Buchanan, adding a 50m penalty. Goal and Freo were 10 points behind. Pavlich saw a snap just dribble wide and the Bloods rushed a behind during a good spell for the sandgropers. Goodes marked a kick-in, ran afield to get the ball back and find leading O’Loughlin, ‘Molly’ punted it home from 50m. But a good Parker interception led to a grab and major for Bell and Freo were 8 points down again. A coupla weak umpiring decisions saw the Swans reply, a very harsh holding-the-ball decision against Dokka backman Steven Dodd allowed O’Keefe to kick long, McPharlin was pinged for holding Hall, very soft, and Bazza free-kicked a major. Still Freo came, a Sandilands shot was just touched on-the-line but a bit later Sandilands tapped a throw-in perfectly for Crowley to collect and snap through with a great kick. The Dockulaters were 7 points behind, but the Swans bagged two useful late goals as the rarely-sighted Nick Davis had a purple patch. Goodes out-marked Cook and passed to Davis, he passed on for leading O’Loughlin to mark and convert. At a throw-in Davis was tackled over-the-shoulder by Michael Johnson and free-kicked a goal on the siren, the Coathanger City men led by 20 points at the final change. Enough, you felt. Pavlich intercepted Siddey ruckman Darren Jolly’s handpass and stabbed a terrific goal early in the final Mario and Freo trailed by 14 points. But soon enough Jude Bolton roved a throw-in and gave the pill to Goodes, his smart kick was marked by Hall who majored. Farmer, who’d been very quiet, limped off. Buchanan had a two-bounce run from defence and kicked long, Johnson over-ran the ball allowing O’Loughlin to snap a goal, which bounced through into the goal-ump’s face. The Swans led by 26 points now. Ryan Murphy roved a pack to snap a goal for Freo but Siddey second-string ruckman Stephen Doyle punted ‘em forward from the restart, Hall marked ahead of McPharlin and booted another sausage-roll. When Sean Dempster marked 20m out and rammed it through the Swans led by 33 points and it was over. An O’Keefe major extended it to 39 before a goal in junk-time for Docker Cook.

The Swans have an very good collection of forwards who work together outstandingly well. Barry Hall (14 marks, 24 disposals) booted 6 goals, the gamble of starting Parker on him failed. Mick O’Loughlin (9 marks, 16 handlings) and the very good Ryan O’Keefe (8 marks, 23 kicks) bagged 4 goals each. In the midfield Brett Kirk (28 disposals) won a hard-headed battle with Josh Carr, Jude Bolton (26 disposals, 2 goals) and Adam Goodes (20 touches, a goal) were both good. Craig Bolton (10 touches) kept Farmer quiet and Adam Schneider and Amon Buchanan tag-teamed Dokker play-maker Heath Black. Freo received a superb game from Matthew Pavlich, 10 marks, 17 disposals and 4 goals. Peter Bell (24 touches, 3 goals) and Josh Carr (20 possessions) battled hard and the sharp improvement of Aaron Sandilands (39 hit-outs, 10 disposals) has been the biggest bonus of Freo’s best-ever season. Ryan Crowley (14 possies, 2 goals) played well and Troy Cook (13 handlings, 2 goals) made a bit of an effort. But several of the young Freo men seemed overwhelmed, your Schammers (no touches in the first half), Peakes and Murphys. McManus played most of it in defence, a strange move, and Heath Black was tagged out of it by Schneider and Buchanan. Des Headland was useless. "You don't prepare to lose," Connolly said. "You spend no time thinking about losing at all, so you end up gutted really. We didn't execute our skills well. But there's no excuses, we had the opportunity, you know we had a terrific opportunity and we let it slip and everyone is bitterly disappointed because of that." Next day McManus said "I think we were determined to keep competing, no matter what the scoreline might have been at any time, and they skipped away a few goals every quarter. We were able to kick a pretty decent score. They were just too good on the night, but we certainly hung in there and we tried to fight the game out . . . They (always) seemed to be 20 to 30m out from goal, it was a credit to the way that they moved the ball and the way they played under pressure and something that we will learn from. I guess the making of us will be can we move on from this next year." Paul Roos paid tribute to his forwards. "To kick six goals from centre-half-forward is really an elite performance. And we've also got four goals from our full-forward (O'Loughlin) and four from our half-forward flanker (O'Keefe) so the forward line has played particularly well." Roosy suggested his mob were more prepared this year than last. "I don't know if there's more pressure or less pressure (this year), but the pressure of 72 years, it was a fair bit of burden for everyone to carry around the footy club. The players would've felt that, the coaching staff would've felt that, but having won one, you are more matter of fact . . . I don't think you'll see the Swans cracking - I don't think either side will crack - but I can't predict the margin and I can't predict who is going to win. The Eagles are very capable and if they blow us away, it will be because they've played at their absolute best."

At Football Park:

Adelaide    3.3   6.5   8.8     11.9  (75)
West Coast  0.4   2.7   6.12   11.19 (85)

The Weegs confirmed a Grand Final rematch with the Swarns as they overwhelmed the Camrys. The Weegs’ midfield was and is outstanding, as a team the Wiggles over-used the ball in the first half but they straightened-up and used lots of runnin’ handball to grind past the Camrys after half-time. As they have done in most recent games against the Corollas. Devising a plan to defeat the Weevils is a task which’ll occupy Addleaide men over summer, the Weagles have beaten ‘em four times in the last 12 months starting with last year’s prelim final. The Crobots’ mauling from the Weegs at Sooby in round 17 this year signaled the end of the Cows’ flag favouritism. Camry fans may suggest the untimely unavailability of Mark Ricciuto and Trent Hentschel (and injuries to Andrew McLeod and Brett Burton) were ultimately too costly. You could add on an injury here to ruckman Rhett Biglands. Maybe, but it’s clear the Camrys have a problem with the Weegs. The Cressidas did select McLeod and ‘Birdman’ Burton here, playing them was seen as a risk but both performed pretty well. Kris Massie and junior Richard Douglas were dropped to make way. The Weegles lost injured David Wirrpanda (hamstring) and dropped Matt Rosa, in came Jaymie Graham and veteran Drew Banfield.

‘Twas windy again at Foopall Park, although it was blowing to the opposite end to that in qualifying final against the Shockers. The Camrys had first use but struggled to do much early as big packs of players swarmed around the ball. Nearly ten minutes elapsed with just a rushed Camry point to show, before Scott Welsh led for a diving grab on the wing. Welsh speared a pass for leading Nathan Bock, who thumped truly from 50m. The Weegs cleared the restart with some rapid, running handball but Chad Fletcher missed his shot, a minute later Weeg Ashley Hansen’s snap struck the post, the first of many posters for the day. Burton provided the first-quarter highlight as he managed a hanging ride on Tyson Stenglein for a spectacular grab, deep in the Camrys’ backline. Former Camry Stenglein was booed heartily all day by the 50,500 crowd. A great Cow move ended with Brent Reilly hitting the post and with 3 minutes remaining in the term we still had just one goal. Camry tagger Robert ‘Don’t Call Me’ Shirley won a free against Daniel Kerr, Shirley’s kick spilled from the pack and was collected by Welsh, who wheeled away from trouble and snapped a good sausage. Matthew Bode won the ball from the restart and his long, breeze-assisted kick was marked very well in the goal-square by back-pedalling Burton. ‘Birdman’ popped it through and the Coronas led by 18 points. Big Weeg forward Quinten Lynch missed with a kick hammered impressively long into the wind before the first break. The Weevils’ turn with the wind in the second stanza and Ben Cousins, who’d played in defence in the first term, moved onto the ball. They soon opened their goal account, Rowan Jones marked in the ‘impossible’ Tony Hall pocket and wisely centered the ball, it dropped from a big pack and Lynch handballed for Kerr to snap truly. Andrew Embley missed a long shot. But the Weegs were dithering and stabbing lots of short, sideways passes which led to frequent turnovers. The Camrys were more direct, as they attacked Weevil Graham collapsed on the ball just 15m from his defensive goal, a harsh ‘bawl’ decision followed and Bode free-kicked a goal. The Weegs replied, a very good, drilled kick from Brett Jones found Embley, he passed for leading Adam Hunter to mark and convert. Hunter played most of this one in the forward-line. At the following centre-bounce Camry ruckman Rhett Biglands injured a knee as he tripped over team-mate Nathan Van Berlo. Biglands’s day was finished and gave the Weegs a healthy advantage as Camry veteran Matty Clarke was forced to do all the work against Wiggle pair Dean ‘Big’ Cox and Mark Seaby. Sam Butler missed a shot for the Weegs before the Camrys managed another against-the-wind major, Bode dived to win a contested ball, leaped up, twisted onto his left boot and snapped a terrific goal. The Cows led by 16 points. The Coasters were a bit disorganized. Running forward, Graham found no target so kept running and exchanging handballs with Rowan Jones before slicing a kick on-the-full. Camry All-Australian backman Nathan Bassett’s good mark halted a Weeg thrust, Reilly punted the Cows forward and Burton clutched a very good one-armed grab as he held Adam Selwood off with the other limb. Burton converted, Camrys by 22 points. Soon Burton led for another grab, but his low mis-kick hit the post. Burton could’ve had another go before half-time but a clear over-the-shoulder tackle from Glass wasn’t punished. The Camrys had kicked three into-the-wind goals to the Eegs’ two with it, and led by 22 points at the long break.

The Weegs made one significant positional change for the second half, Stenglein sent to tag the very busy half-back Graham ‘Stiffy’ Johncock. Cousins and Chris Judd began to run a lot more, to move the ball forward more efficiently. Cox galloped about unhindered. Luck helped too. Pedantic ump Goldspink handed Michael Braun a very soft 50m penalty after Bode failed to retreat on-the-mark to Goldie’s satisfaction. Braun passed for leading Hunter to mark and boot a sausage. Lynch missed a set-shot but Johncock’s kick-in was poor, Cox drove the ball in again. In the goal-square Hunter couldn’t hold a grab under pressure but Embley soccered it through. A minute later Selwood used a free-kick for holding to centre the ball, it missed the target but Cousins gathered, sped clear and snapped it home. Quickly, the Wiggles had cut their deficit to 3 points. Great running from Judd and Cousins set up another grab for Hunter, but he postered and Cousins hooked a long, running shot wide of the big stick. Into time-on the Cressidas responded, Johncock ran from the back and found Jason Torney on the forward flank, his centering kick was marked strongly by Tyson Edwards. Edwards majored and the Camry lead was extended to 7 points. But the Eegs had the bit now, a typical running, handballing move featuring Stenglein a coupla times ended with Hunter marking on-the-lead again, he converted again. Camry Burton missed from a tough angle and Reilly added to the posters, some wayward handballing by the Eegs allowed McLeod to intercept and boot a running sausage. The Corollas led by 9 points and further postereds from Hunter and Bock preceded the three-korter-time siren.

Early in the final stanza Hunter dropped a simple mark as he led out, metres ahead of Bassett. The Camry man had struggled against Hunter and now he and Ben Rutten swapped opponents, Bassett picked up Lynch. Not to much effect, a bit later Embley launched a long wind-driven punt and Hunter drifted back for good goal-square grab, he poked it through and the Camry lead was down to a point again. A terrible, wayward centre-bounce followed (not from Goldspink), Cousins got the ball to Judd, he kicked wide to leading Hansen. Hansen’s long kick was marked emphatically by Lynch against the hapless Bassett, Lynch goaled and the Weegs led for the first time in the game. Steven Armstrong saw a snap drift wide but the Camrys kicked-in to a contest again, the Eegs won it and Lynch punted the agget long. Embley leaped for a great goal-mouth mark and he majored, the Weegs led by 12 points. The Weegs locked the ball in their forward-line now with a succession of behinds, two scored by Lynch including the obligatory poster and another effort called ‘touched’ which seemed through for a clear goal on TV replays. The Cows appeared to lack the energy or imagination to clear their defence, but eventually McLeod did and a gutsy bit of play-on running from Marty Mattner got the ball deep into attack. As Mattner’s kick dropped, Weeg defenders swamped Burton allowing Clarke to mark unopposed behind them. Big ‘Doc’ Clarke booted his third goal of the season. Camry fans were enraged when Selwood was clearly caught in possession, 20m from his defensive goal, but the umps waved play-on. Soon Stenglein roved a throw-in and handballed for Butler to bounce a snap home, the Weegs led by 16 points. A minute later Cox passed to Judd in the Hall Pocket, Judd finessed nicely and speared a smart pass to Rowan Jones, on the edge of the goal-square. The cup of grass about to be administered, we thought, but Jones managed to miss the unmissable. Sure enough the Camrys went forward, Van Berlo gathered a bouncing ball and wobbled an accurate pass for Bock to mark and steer through for a goal. The Eegs began to flood their backline as they led by 11 points with a few minutes remaining. Simon Goodwin’s high snap from a throw-in drifted wide, but good work from Van Berlo regained possession for the Coronas, Johncock passed for leading Bock to mark again, just in from the boundary, 25m out. Bock booted a great goal from that spot and the Crobots were just 4 points behind. Weegs packed the backline as Goodwin sped away from the restart but umpire Ryan’s whistle blew - for the weekend’s most debatable free-kick, a very technical one to Stenglein for high contact from Edwards. Stenglein kicked wide to Fletcher, he centered the ball for Hansen to mark. The siren sounded and Hansen goaled after it.

The Weegs have the best midfield group in the leeg and the renowned running of Ben Cousins (27 disposals, a goal), the skill of Chris Judd (29 possies) and unhindered Dean Cox (27 touches) provided the opportunities. Adam Hunter (16 disposals, 6 marks, 4 goals) again showed he’s the club’s best forward. On-ballers Daniel Kerr (25 touches, a goal) and Sam Butler (22 handlings, a goal) were very good too and Andrew Embley (24 handlings, 9 marks, 2 goals) was terrifically useful, as he often is. Brett Jones (18 touches, 7 marks) played well in the back-line. Camry man Graham Johncock (22 kicks, 2 handballs) was outstanding in the first half, slowed a bit by Stenglein in the second. Reliable midfield men Simon Goodwin (23 possies) and Tyson Edwards (24 touches, a goal) played well and Matthew Bode (9 touches, 2 goals) was handy again, particularly in attack. Andrew McLeod (16 disposals, a goal) and Brett Burton (16 possies, 7 marks, 2 goals) both played well, although both tired as the game progressed, understandably. The injury excuse. Brent Reilly (17 possies) wasn’t bad and Nathan Bock (10 marks, 14 kicks, 3 goals) bobbed up when it counted. Neil Craig said his players' “want and ability to tackle and pressure in the first half was very, very good but, our third quarter was very, very poor, particularly the first 10 or 12 minutes. In the end, we’ve fallen short again, so we certainly have some work to do. I've been proud of this playing group for a long period of time - certainly much longer than I've been the senior coach. So I don't question their effort. We've just got to get better in a whole range of areas. Whether it be training people up to be able to play in different positions, better execution under some real pressure and some fatigue . . . it can be so crucial when the best are playing the best." Craigy was asked about ‘premiership windows’. “I don’t agree with the premiership window. I think it’s a myth, it’s a cop-out. It is an easy throwaway line to say it will be too hard for us, so we will continue to build our squad, whether players are 30-plus or 18. We are not far off. Clearly we are not a top-two side. It's our responsibility to get better." John Worsfold said "We missed some fairly easy shots at goal (in the first half) which absolutely no doubt cost us being a little bit closer to Adelaide at half-time. I didn't think they were dominating the game to the level that the scoreboard showed, so I was very confident that if our players stuck to what we talked about and played a bit smarter that they would be good enough to outscore Adelaide in the second half." ‘Woosha’ professed to being ‘very confident’ going into the Grand Final. "We are very confident we can win the game next week. It will be very, very tough, but we know we are good enough. It's great to be settled and have a full squad to choose from. We just have to play our best football, but they are a very, very good side, so we look forward to that challenge of taking them on." So do we all.

Next week, Grand Final:

Sydney v West Coast, MCG, Saturday.

Curtain-raiser, TAC Cup Grand Final:

Calder Cannons v Oakleigh Chargers.

Cheers, Tim.

Article last changed on Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 4:12 PM EDT


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