The following information is provided by Tim Murphy - [email@example.com], distributed via news groups and email and is updated here Monday evenings after the weekends games. All credit for this information goes to Tim and is being used with permission.
400 BC: Collapse of Greek civilisation. AD 400: Gothic hordes invade Rome (bring loads of black eyeliner and crappy music). AD 1000-1400: The Dark Ages. 1800s: Napoleon detroys most of Europe and Russia. 1940s: Fascists attempt to conquer world. September 27, 1997: True Evil finally triumphs.
(Swallows hard, grits teeth). Congratulations to the Adelaide Crows, the 1997 AFL Premiers, the first flag for the club, the first team in VFL/AFL history to win 4 consecutive finals. They outplayed the Saints on the day, their stars did better than St. Kilda's, Mal Blight outcoached Stan Alves. Tremendous disappointment for the Saints, they just didn't perform on the day.
Monday's Brownlow Medal count was a night of high farce. AFL chief exec Wayne Jackson (another bloody croweater) stumbled through the vote-reading. He correctly pronounced Essendon (Essadun), but who are Pwadalay, Carton or the Wezzyn Bullders? We won't even mention the mangled player names. Ah, Jack Hamilton, where are you now? St. Kilda's Robert Harvey deservedly won the medal, the favourite polling 26 votes with 7 BOGs to win comfortably from Peter Matera and Paul Kelly (21 votes each), then came Mark Ricciuto and Nathan Burke (both 18). Footscray CHF Chris Grant actually got the most votes (27) but was ineligible due to suspension in round 7. Yet you'd think there'd been some travesty of natural justice. Jackson started the problems by mentioning Grant's ineligibility first, to booing from members of the public, making it seem as though Harvey had won by default. AFL Commission chief John Kennedy began his presentation speech by congratulating Grant on his "fine season". McAvaney's first question to Harvey was "how do you feel about Chris Grant?" No wonder Harvs responded by calling his victory "hollow". No it wasn't, but he'd been made to feel that way. The idiocy continued most of the week...the financial cost of Grant's loss, interviews with Grant at his house etc. etc. Can't recall an interview with Harvey, who also won the Player's Association player of the year and the Channel 9 award. Garry Lyon raised an interesting point...Grant received 3 votes in Footscray's round 4 win over Melbourne. Grant played most of the game on David Neitz, who kicked 7 goals. No mention of Grant in my report for that game...hmm.
Three big-name retirements during the week. Gary Ablett belatedly gave the game away, the greatest player to pull on a boot that I've seen. Ablett managed just one reserves game this year, kicking 7 goals and doing his knee in round 1. Heard this on the radio..."I see young people are turning away from God...Of course, he's just retired." Gazza rated his 9-goal effort in Geelong's 1989 Grand Final loss as his best game, a superb peformance I was privilidged to witness. Geelong are keeping him on in an ambassadorial role, whatever that is. Carlton had Greg Williams and Stephen Kernahan retire. Williams, discarded by the Blues early in his career, proved himself a superbly skilled player at Geelong and Sydney before returning to Princes Park for a second Brownlow medal and a Norm Smith medal and flag in 1995. Diesel was also an arrogant character not averse to sometimes snide violence in dealing with taggers, and was thus detested by most opposition supporters. Kernahan became Carlton's longest-serving captain and leading career goal-kicker this year and has been a great player for the Blues, but he's struggled with injury for the last 2 seasons. Slightly messy circumstances for both, with Williams being asked to do a pre-season by Parkin (re-appointed for 1 year) then receiving a "Don't Come Monday" letter from Carlton. Both retirements were seen as being slightly forced by the Blues' salary cap problems - Stephen Silvagni re-signed for 3 years during the week.
Adelaide 3.8 5.10 11.11 19.11.125 St. Kilda 3.6 7.11 9.13 13.16.94
A tense, physical and entertaining game in front of 98,645, the biggest Grand Final crowd since 1986. In the end the better side won on the day. The lead-up had most pundits (in Melbourne) tipping a comfortable St. Kilda win. Adelaide coach Mal Blight projected nonchalance and played down expectation during the week, although according to former North Melbourne teammate Alves, Blight betrayed his nerves by smoking like a chimney. The Saints were constantly reminded of the "heroes of 1966", the Saints' only other flag, and the recent deaths of Trevor Barker and Nicky Winmar's father (on Friday). In selection the Saints made one change, dropping defender Matthew Young who'd struggled recently with back spasms. His replacement was Robert Neill for his first senior appearance since round 2. Adelaide were forced into 2 changes with Modra's knee and the luckless Trent Ormond-Allen contracting glandular fever. Ruckman David Pittman returned from suspension and Brett James got his chance. Umpires were the reprieved Hayden Kennedy, Mark Nash and Bryan Sheehan. They had a good game.
Pre-game entertainment featured a warmly-received lap of honour by Ablett, Kernahan and Williams. Normally the Brownlow and Coleman medallists would accompany them, but Harvey was playing of course and Modra was getting about in a wheelchair. There were the usual cloth-waving displays by kiddies and mass balloon release. Colleen Hewitt sang some syrupy tosh...we wanted Angry Anderson doing "We Can't Be Beaten". Loewe and Burke won the toss for St. Kilda and they kicked to the Punt Road end on a windless, overcast day. The Saints, playing in their non-traditional "military-style" guernsey, lined up as expected with Andrew Thompson tagging Jarman in the centre. Tony Brown started on the bench and the stronger Keogh on the ground. The Crows had Pittman at CHB on Loewe, Smart on a forward flank and, surprisingly, Shane Ellen at full forward. Johnson played on Harvey. Adelaide won the ball early with McLeod starring across half-back and Peckett's nervous kick-ins locked the ball in the Camrys' forward half. But they missed a series of shots and St. Kilda got the first goal of the match, Loewe gathering a loose ball at CHF and breaking a Pittman tackle, a handpass to Heatley and he snapped truly. Heatley got the second goal too after accepting Hall's pass. Adelaide's Rehn won the next centre bounce and Koster pounced and lobbed high into the forward line. Ellen got there first, took a tumbling mark and kicked the 4th goal of his career. The Saints were enjoying a good spell though with Burke busy, Cook marked and missed, Johnson gave away a 50m penalty but Thompson missed the shot. The Crows came back, they got a goal from an excellent Bond kick, Rintoul hit the post, then Ellen snaggled another after being grabbed high by Daniels. Heatley still looked dangerous for St. Kilda, he appeared to be pushed by Jameson but no free, then "Wheets" led nicely but missed. After Bickley missed a rushed shot for Adelaide, Peckett was sacked from kick-in duties and Burke took over. He passed to Harvey, onto Jones who set off on a 5-bounce run around the outer wing, receiving a great shepherd from Cook. Jones seemed to have gone too far when he handpassed loosely to Thompson, but Aussi carried on to receive the ball back from Thompson and smack a great left-foot goal from 45m. Adelaide were in trouble as Jameson walked off with a hammy, to join Sampson (thigh). Neither reappeared.
Saints enjoyed their best spell early in the second term. With the Crow defence focussing heavily on Loewe, Hall and Heatley found space. Keogh and Harvey did well on the ball. A long run from defence by Peckett ended with a pass to Keogh, his excellent handpass found the running Hall who thumped it through from 50m. Moments later Harvey emerged from a large pack with the ball and handpassed to Winmar, he passed accurately to Hall. Goal. Hall kicked his third goal in 4 minutes when he marked Keogh's long kick between the goal and point-posts and screwed it through. Just as well it wasn't in front of the Crow folk or he wouldabeen pelted with fruit. Heatley marked but his shot hit the post, St. Kilda led by 17 points. Blight moved McLeod onto the ball and Hart onto Heatley, the Saints lost some drive as Cook went off for a rest. Adelaide defended stoutly before some good roving from Bond allowed Goodwin to snap a goal for them. Loewe took his first mark. Shanahan paddled the ball to the boundary but it took an eccentric bounce to stay in, Koster swept it up and passed to Bond who goaled. But Harvey put the Saints two goals up again when he snapped truly from a throw-in. Sierakowski, vomitting with nerves, went off. Sziller kicked badly from a running shot, Smart's long shot was touched on the line. McAvaney, not averse to showing his Adelaide roots, screamed "OH BOND TOO HIGH NOT PAID!!" as the umpires correctly rewarded a superb tackle by Thompson. Keogh missed a shot on half-time. Didn't see any half-time extravaganza as the corporate types in charge at Punt Road insisted on playing sponsor-related videos. Good move.
The Camrys turned up the heat in the third with some hard tackling and desperate midfield efforts. Half-backs James, Goodwin and Johnson were to the fore as St. Kilda resorted to bombing the ball in to the forward line. Troy Bond received a soft free early as Peckett tried to spoil, Bond goaled to cut the margin to 7 points. Stakilda replied when Winmar escaped from his minder Edwards, he passed to Loewe who converted from the pocket. Out to 13 points again. The Crows got the next 5 goals. Rintoul's long shot cleared Smart and Hudghton and bounced through, a long kick from James was marked by the unattended Ellen in the goalsquare, he booted his third to cut the gap to 1 point. Jarman (yes, he was on the ground) led from the pocket, marked Smart's pass and slotted to put the Cows in front. Next Rintoul kicked nicely into space for Ellen again to mark and bomb it through from outside 50m. Pittman drifted forward to mark over Burke, his kick into the goalsquare was roved and converted by Caven, down from defence. Late on Winmar snapped a much-needed goal for the Saints, Lappin returned after being slaughtered early by McLeod and his snap was going through but Caven just managed to touch it.
St. Kilda tried early in the last but a typical Jarman cameo, 5 final-term goals, finished them off. Caven and Ellen, now in defence, chopped off early Saint thrusts. Rintoul won a dodgy free against Cripps, from his kick Jarman received a rubbish free for holding against Shanahan and majored. Burke replied for the Saints with a good snap from Loewe's superb tap, the Saints trailed by 9 points. Sierakowski's shot fell short and Caven charged from defence, he got the ball to Koster and Jarman outwitted Shanahan to lead, mark and goal. Jarman snapped another moments later, he wheeled away celebrating and the Saints looked in trouble. Seconds later Rehn tapped for Connell, his long kick bounced off the pack and there was Jars again. Adelaide led by 27 points. Thompson handballed to Peckett, he lofted it high from 50m and the ball somehow avoided the pack and bounced through for the defender's second goal of the season. But Adelaide replied immediately as Rintoul gathered Jarman's spilled mark and handpassed to Ellen who strolled into the open goal for his fifth. Loewe missed a shot but Heatley roved a pack to snap truly and cut the margin to 20 points with 6 minutes left. Connell walloped the ball forward for the Camrys and Jarman came from nowhere to sweep up the ball and bang it through, moments later Bond roved Smart's marking attempt and steered through the sealer, to his great delight. Loewe kicked an excellent goal from the junction of boundary and 50m lines, but the 'G resounded to the Camrys' fingernails-on-blackboard song as Smart marked Caven's pass and buried the shot with 3 seconds on the clock. McLeod held the ball as the siren ran. While the Crows celebrated, Winmar had to endure being hugged by Wayne Jackson.
The Norm Smith Medal, for the best player afield, went to Adelaide's Andrew McLeod. He played brilliantly in the first quarter and had 10 possessions in the last, putting himself in the centre of packs and in the thick of the action both on the ball and across half-back. McLeod finished with 18 kicks, 11 marks and 13 handpasses. Jarman booted 6 goals from 15 kicks and showed sublime skill when it counted, former Bulldog Shane Ellen, originally from Melton on Melbourne's western fringe, kicked 5 goals. Troy Bond, dropped from Carlton's 1995 premiership side, bagged 4 goals from 7 kicks. After some early trouble from Cook, Rehn lifted to dominate the ruck with 5 second-half marks and 16 hitouts. Simon Goodwin had 16 kicks as an attacking half-back, Peter Caven improved after early difficulty with Hall. Edwards did a good job on Winmar, Johnson pressured Harvey and had 21 disposals himself. Hart did well, Pittman won kudos for his game on Loewe but the Saint forward was usually double, sometimes triple-teamed. St. Kilda's best were on-ball skipper Nathan Burke, who fought tremendously hard for 33 disposals (20 kicks, 13 handballs), and All-Australian winger Aussi Jones who battled in a good duel with Koster for 29 touches and goal of the day. Harvey finished with 23 kicks, 13 handpasses and a goal, but many of his disposals were under pressure and "Banger" couldn't find space and lacked his usual penetration thanks to Johnson's close attention. Barry Hall had a great first half with 13 possessions, 4 marks and 3 goals but he was beaten by Caven after half time. Heatley also kicked 3 goals but struggled after a good start, held by Hart. Thompson, Peckett and Sziller weren't bad. Loewe (4 marks, 2 goals) was swarmed upon by Adelaide backmen. Keogh fired his team in the second quarter.
St. Kilda coach Stan Alves said "Unfortunately we had too many players who didn't play well...but I don't want it to come across that I'm not intensely proud of them and I'm absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to be their coach. In the end we were 2 quarters away from winning the premiership and I'm immensely proud." Mal Blight, at last winning a flag after 3 failures with Geelong, said "I feel fantastic. To win four finals in all the circumstances, I would like to think it would go down as one of the great wins in the history of the game. Particularly when we lost 2 (players) in the first quarter...I thought 'oh no, here we go again'." Asked about playing Ellen at full forward, Mal said "I just thought he could lead a bit, he's a fair mark and would keep someone honest." A terrific coaching effort from Mal to win it all in his first season at the club, after dumping some Adelaide icons early on and drafting in some youngsters. There's no doubt the arrival of Port Adelaide helped focus a few Crows too, especially after the Cows' loss in the first derby. Hard not to feel sorry for the Saints though, who played the best football I saw this year. Ah well.
Richmond 4.2 8.4 12.5 17.12.114 Hawthorn 3.3 5.6 8.9 10.10.70
Goals: Rich: Jurica 5, Nichols 3, Plapp 2, Naish, Evans, Moore, Howat, Baldwin, Jewell, Griffin. Haw: Ridley 2, Thompson 2, Pritchard, Rawlings, Stevenson, Dixon, Gibson, Fraser. Best: Rich: Nichols, Moore, A. Kellaway, Evans, Jurica, Naish, Torney. Haw: Condon, Lloyd, Pritchard, Rawlings, Fraser.
North Ballarat Rebels 16.15.111 d. Dandenong Stingrays 10.16.76
Thanks to everyone's messages of support throughout the year. I'll be back with the fixture and some draft info and, with luck, in 1998 to see the Tiges claim the cup!!
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