It wasn't Paul Kelly's fault. It really wasn't. The Swans captain had been on fire during the first quarter. Now, about 8 minutes into the second quarter, he had the ball and spotted Tony Lockett nicely placed in the forward line. Kelly aimed and delivered his pass. Gravity gave a wicked giggle and dragged the ball downward just a bit quicker than Kelly had calculated.
It fell short of Lockett. The North defenders swooped. In a flash the ball was with Wayne. It seemed to bounce off his foot and slide towards Glenn Freeborn in the North forward area. Freeborn snapped off his left foot and the ball sailed through for a goal.
In a cruel 30 seconds a 12 point turnaround for Sydney; the missed 6 and the 6 that North got. Sydney coach, Rodney Eade, nominated this as the turning point.
But, don't let the scores fool you - this wasn't a one-sided game. Indeed had North not grabbed 2 quick goals in the last minute of the match, the score line would have been 17.17 to 13.10.
Up until the 10 minute mark in the first quarter Sydney had the pundits scratching their heads. Could this be an upset? Could the Swans keep up their ferocious determination? Was this to be the long awaited 'close' Grand Final?
It certainly appeared that way. The 93,102 fans at the MCG were roaring themselves hoarse during the torrid - but clean - opening quarter. Sydney blew away all fears of a one-sided-game as they threw everything at North.
An incident at the 29 minute mark was representative of just how things were travelling for the Harbour City lads. Plugger Lockett won the ball in a pack near his goals. He spun around to favour his left foot and kicked. GOAL!. Swans up 6.2 to 3.2. Siren sounds not long after.
The 2nd term wasn't even a minute old when Sydney's Jason Mooney swoops on a free ball within the Swans 50 meter zone. He kicks true and the Swans are now 4 goals up. They couldn't have asked for a better start. The people in my lounge room can't believe what we are seeing. By the looks on the faces of Mooney, Lockett et al, neither can they.
Some 8 minutes of pressure pressure pressure now tick over. Neither side scores a goal; but the Roos have stopped the Swans run. OK; cue the change of plot. It's now that the 12 point turnaround occurs.
Freeborn gets his goal. 3 minutes later Wayne goes for a mark in a pack. He spills it. Freeborn has the ball and snaps with his right foot. It's another 6 points to drag North that step closer.
10 (!) goal-less minutes of desperate play follow. Despite another Lockett goal at the 22nd minute mark, it's North who have their momentum surging and will firing. In 5 minutes, late in the term, they kick 3 goals.
At half time the Kangaroos walked off holding a 2 point lead; 8.7 to 8.5
The buzz in the air was real. This was something magical.
If ever a 3rd term lived up to the term "Championship Quarter" this one did. After neither side scored a goal in the opening 10 minutes, North decided that they did want this game after all. Goals to Sholl (2), Bell and Crocker give them a lead of 12.14 to 9.7 at 3/4 time. Bell's goal, at the 17 minute mark, was stirring and put the Northerners 20 points up. He was about 50 meters out and lobbed a tumbling shot toward goal. It seemed to be going straight to Sydney defender Andrew Dunkley. Dunkely, inexplicably decided to punch the ball. He totally missed it. It bounced and went through for a goal.
Lockett got the Swans only major for this term. The Swans cause wasn't helped when late in the quarter Maxfield and O'Loughlin both missed goals in the space of about one minute.
The final quarter opened with 2 North goals in the first 6 minutes. By this stage they were some 38 points up and looked home. Halfway through North were still 38 points up and it was Goodnight Vienna. Besides the last minute 2 goals by the Roos, it was pretty much goal-for-goal for the term.
Ian Fairley, North's oldest player, hadn't kicked a goal all year. But, then again he is one of their key defenders. At the 29:30 mark, Fairley finds himself in the forward line and the ball coming his way. He marks and goals, putting North 43 points up.
The siren sounds and the tears start.
North have a lot of celebrating to catch up on. It's only their 3rd ever flag. Not a bad record for 7 appearances.
Better players for North included Wayne, Archer (North Smith medal), Mick Martyn, Corey McKernan, Anthony Rock, Wayne Schwass. For Sydney: Paul Roos (great game!), Daryn Creswell, Plugger, Dale Lewis and Paul Kelly.
In the post-match celebrations two things stand out. Firstly Wayne called his players up to the dais in the middle of the ground. The boys broke into a spontaneous and spirited rendition of their club song (the modified version; "premiers in 1996"). It was great.
Secondly, he asked for the microphone and then paid tribute to teammates unable to play. He told the spectators and huge TV audience that "Ross Smith, John Longmire and Matthew Armstrong....were a huge part of the team - they are part of this flag.."
That he was able, in the midst of all that adrenalin and madness, to think of fallen comrades is an outstanding gesture.He also said that word "team". Now that really sums up the lads from Arden street.