Last week in the AFL...

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AFL Grand Final

We need Frank Black and his mates down here, immediately. Back to back. That's the way they have sex in Adelaide. Ah, we'll knock off the stirring 'cause they are pretty damn good and because of Blighty, a true footballing genius. He could be the first coach to die in office, it's hard to see him being dislodged ever. The Crows' achievement, to finish fifth (one spot lower than last year), play four finals interstate (plus their round 22 game in Perth) and to come back after being outplayed in the first half needs no qualifying description. We even pulled the old cold shower trick, creating an elaborate gas explosion to do it.

A big last Monday for St. Kilda. Robert Harvey won the Brownlow Medal again, collecting votes like he does the ball. Thirty-two of 'em he got, equalling the most anyone's received since the 3-2-1 system was introduced, apart from the brief period when they let two field umps award votes. "Banger" got 6 BOGs and 6 two-votes, winning by a comfortable margin from Collingwood's Nathan Buckley (24, 7 BOGs), Dog Scott West (23) and Adelaide pair Shaun Rehn (22) and Mark Ricciuto (21). Wayne Carey, the popular tip, was equal sixth with Demon Todd Viney on 20 votes. Perhaps Carey's late season form obscured an ordinary (by his standards) first two-thirds. Before round 15, he had 7 votes. Earlier in the year umpire-turned-commentator John Russo suggested Carey's frequent arguing with umpires wouldn't help him - no-one cares about that, so why the heck do we have umpires decide our most prestigious award?

Earlier that day, the Saints had sacked Stan Alves. No official reason has been given as the Saints and Stan are in legal argument over his payout, but "club sources" said that senior players had led the revolt, reckoning that Alves had become abusive, irrational and uncommunicative as the season wore on and that their early season form was "in spite of him". Several players came out to deny that version and Stan himself has been dignified, saying only that he was disappointed and thanking the Saints for giving him the chance to coach. Alves's 5-year stint made him St. Kilda's second-longest serving coach. He was put on at a time when the Saints were broke, lost Lockett a year later and eventually got 'em to a Grand Final. No doubt this years' fade-out at the end didn't help. The Saints expect to name a replacement this week, suggesting they've already got someone in the frame. Demon Garry Lyon has been mentioned, along with Tony Elshaug again.

A few retirements during the week, West Coast captain and first-ever premiership leader John Worsfold gave it away after 205 games. Described as "the ultimate team player", Worsfold was sent a message when he was left out of the qualifying final team against Footscray. Richmond ruckman Justin Charles retired citing a chronic hip injury. The former Bulldog and baseball player will be remembered for his 16-week suspension for steroid use. Pity, he was an enthusiastic character. North Melbourne forward Darren Crocker hung the boots up, he played 165 games in an injury-interrupted 13 years with the Roos and was chaired off by Carey and Sholl at North training on Thursday night. Crocker was a good player and a good bloke, an unusual combination at North. After winning the reserves flag with Footscray full-forward Simon Minton-Connell retired, he had stints at Carlton, Sydney and Hawthorn too. On Friday Fraser Brown signed a new 2-year contract with Carlton, after his amazing turd of a manager told the media twice during the week that Brown had "definitely quit" the Blues. Hope he doesn't manage any Richmond blokes.

At the MCG:

North Melbourne  4.4   6.15   8.15    8.22.70
Adelaide         3.2   4.3    9.11   15.15.105

Adelaide too good. They'd lost their last six against North, but won the most important one with an irresistable second half. North dominated the first half but blew it with poor kicking (Pagan: "I don't think there are many times when you have 30 shots for goal and get beaten in a game of Australian Rules, but it happened to us today.") and strangely lost their defensive intensity after the main break. North didn't change their side at the selection meeting, leading to a wave of sympathy for John Longmire which angered Pagan. "There's four or five blokes who're unlucky to miss out, not just John. Why single him out?", he said. One change for Adelaide who dropped midfielder Chad Rintoul for ruckman Ben Marsh, recalling last year when big man Aaron Keating was plucked from the SANFL.

Warm, sunny day with a swirling northerly breeze. Pre-game entertainment had kiddies waving bits of cloth, Mark Seymour singing Holy Grail (Holding Down a D would've been more appropriate for us) and Muhammad Ali doing a lap of honour (in a car). TV constraints meant that we only saw half of The Black Superman's appearance. The teams emerged, North's Carey won the toss and kicked to the Punt Road end.

The Kangaroos were better throughout the first half, they tackled and harrassed the Camrys as per normal and the defenders held firm. No surprises amongst the match-ups, for North Blakey had Jarman again, Scott played on McLeod and Martyn took CHB on Robran, McCartney was at full back on Pittman, initially. The Crows had Caven on Carey, Pittman and Ricciuto started in the forward line. From the first bounce Abraham gathered and kicked, Carey marked and punted forward where the ball was rushed through. The Roo midfield dominated, especially Abraham. Carey missed his first shot at goal but Blakey majored from a free, pushed while accepting Harvey's pass, Sholl missed a snap. Adelaide's last line defended desperately, Hart the best. They hadn't been into attack in the first 10 minutes, when they did Thiessen kicked on the full and Ricciuto behinded from a long set shot. Ricciuto kicked their first goal after a push from his tagger, Simpson. Things were squared minutes later when Ricciuto thumped Bell and Simpson smacked the downfield free for a huge goal. Carey grabbed a throw-in and snapped high, Roberts marked and converted. Crow Thiessen kicked on the full again before Jarman snapped a brilliant goal, twisting away from Blakey and McCartney and bending a beautiful left-foot snap through the big posts. Carey responded with an equally spectacular, although more arsey, soccer-volley with the outside of his right foot. Another Crow goal followed, Goodwin's handpass allowing a comfortable running slot for James. Jarman planted a heavy bump on the prominent Pickett to end an appetizing first quarter.

North continued to worry the Cows out of it in the second term but they blew it with the 2.11 for the quarter. As much as bad shooting it was poor attacking strategy which cost 'em. Bombing it in, shots from distance, rushed snaps, an over-reliance on Carey. Still, it's always worked before. Hart and Smart applied admirable pressure, when they could. Blight moved Johnson onto the rampant Abraham but from the opening bounce Rehn fumbled and McKernan pumped the ball long to the goalsquare, Hart rushed it through. A magnificent defensive smother from Pickett led to a Roo goal, Grant passing to Pike and he dobbed it from 45m. North by 15 points. Grant bananaed a behind, the Crows got a sausage from a free, Pittman shoved by McCartney as he led to McLeod's pass. North led by 10 points and proceeded to kick 7 consecutive points. I got the culprits on video. Carey, Roberts, Bell from a free (Ricciuto thuggery), a rushed, Blakey, Abraham, a Carey snap which postered. Finally Bell kicked truly with a running left-foot, following another Crow move which had broken down under pressure. The Roos led by 23 points. Smart had his head crushed by King, staggered up to take the free and hooked it several rows into the member's stand. Smarty went off for a rest and Jarman, Vardy and Eccles all missed gettable shots, McKernan closed the quarter with another behind. Still, North'd so outplayed the Crows with 21 shots to 7 that it seemed they'd go on to win.

Blight tried to speed up his midfield in the second half, benching Ellen, Pittman and Connell and bringing on Eccles, Thiessen Ricciuto was moved to a half-back flank and McLeod to the centre. North had Freeborn and Rock come on for Pike and Grant. The Corollas started on the way back immediately, big guns Jarman and the sublime McLeod got to work. James won a free and kicked to Rehn at half-forward, he found the leading Jarman. Goal. McLeod missed with a snap but moments later handpassed for the passing Johnson to goal, the margin was back to 11 points. Rehn cleared the next centre bounce, the ball flew between Robran and Edwards before Vardy missed a simple shot - but things looked ominous for North. Their intensity had dropped, they'd stopped chasing and tackling in their normal fashion and Crows like Thiessen, Johnson and Eccles started racing through the midfield under little pressure. Ricciuto was getting it in defence. McLeod looked set for another goal but the umpire halted play for a Thiessen free, he missed. Johnson pumped long to the goalsquare where Jarman roved for a nice major, North by 3 points. Jarman and Marsh behinded from set shots. Smart levelled the scores with a hooked kick which smacked into the post, he appeared to mark behind the goal-line originally. Norf's Abraham stemmed the tide, kicking a great long goal following brilliant handling but Vardy levelled the scores again, McLeod creating the chance. Robran hit the post to put Adelaide in front for the first time in the game, by a point. Marsh marked King's kick-in and handballed to Bickley, onto the speeding McLeod who passed to Smart on a ridiculously tight angle when it seemed easier for Macca to boot it himself. Never mind, Smart checksided the goal. It was all Adelaide as they led by 8 points. Carey took a good mark in the dying seconds of the stanza and passed perfectly for the leading Allison. The siren went, Allison lined up for a while and speared it through to keep the Shinboners within 2 points at the final break. However it was their last goal, unusual for a team credited with being the strongest finishers in the league.

More McLeod brilliance opened the final quarter of the season, making a six-pointer for Thiessen. Next goal saw Thiessen pass to Jarman, he seized the ball fiercely in front of Blakey and dobbed it from 45m. Crows by 14 points. North missed more shots, they well and truly had the yips now. Sholl and Bell were the culprits, the Crows wasted chances too with points from Johnson and Jarman. Roo King blazed a running shot. Crows by 13 points with 10 minutes to go, not insurmountable if only North could get going. But they looked slow and tired. Simpson booted long at the goals, Carey clutched a diving chest mark just 20m from goal on a bit of an angle. He missed. Y'know, Chris Grant would've kicked that. Richo wouldn't have. Immediately Smart snapped a goal as he was slung in a tackle, the ball taking a fortuitous bounce. Further evidence that the Adelaideians have done a deal with the forces of Evil. McLeod swept the ball away from the subsequent centre contest and found the leading Jarman. He converted from a tricky position. It was the Crows by 24 points with 7:30 to go, that was it. You could tell when Mark Stevens was able to outmark Carey and play on with a few bounces. Bell hit the post before Smart and Vardy kicked celebratory goals, Blakey finished the game with North's 22nd point. "I always thought North lacked pace," stated Neil Kerley. Funny how he hadn't said that before the game. Or at half-time. Or ever before.

Continuing the back-to-back theme Andrew McLeod won a second consecutive Norm Smith Medal for the best player afield, the first player to do so. McLeod's speed cut North apart in the second half, he had 13 kicks, 14 handpasses and 19 gathers, the most of anyone on the ground. No goals, but he created about 6. Kane Johnson (24 disposals, 9 marks, a goal) played superbly on a wing, shutting Abraham down and getting the Crows going in the third quarter. Jarman saved his best for the biggest occasion again, booting 5 goals from 12 kicks and 8 marks after a slow first half (he had plenty of mates in that respect). Rehn dominated ruck contests after half-time and once again turned the game, 14 touches and 21 effective hitouts to North's combined 10. Smart was good defensively in the early part and after being belted by King he came back to play on the forward line, proceeding to kick 3 goals. Thiessen (13 kicks, a goal) and Bickley (23 touches) were important midfielders. Ben Hart (16

kicks, 6 marks) will probably be the unsung hero, his defensive efforts throughout the first half helped prevent a much bigger North lead. Caven (19 disposals, 5 tackles) won much praise for his efforts on Carey and he did well, although had Wayne kicked straighter it mightn't have looked so good. Vardy kicked 2 goals. For North rover Anthony Stevens kept running and collecting kicks all day, finishing with 22 kicks and 3 handpasses. Fellow rover Bell (26 possessions) also worked hard but kicked 1.3. Martyn beat Robran at CHB and rookie Pickett was very good again, although he faded after half-time - like many of his teammates. Abraham had 7 disposals in a blitzing first quarter but finished with just 13 and a goal. Ditto Harvey, good in the first half but not seen in the second, he had 22 disposals. Adam Simpson wasn't bad on Ricciuto. Carey had 21 disposals, 5 marks and kicked 1.4. Good for anyone else, but not for him. North had 8 goalkickers.

Pagan said "It's the first time we've been associated with  losing Grand Final (eh? 1974) It certainly hurts...especially how well we played early in the game, how well we've played for the last three months. Especially how committed and professional our guys have been....We had so much of the ball in the second quarter, but really didn't bury them when we had the opportunity. We (should have) kicked five or six more goals in that quarter and didn't. I don't know what goes on inside the mind of each individual, but maybe we got in front of ourselves. But you can't deny Adelaide, they were very slick after half time. Their midfielders were very good, especially through the centre square area. In retrospect, the first three goals after half time (meant) the whole psyche of the game had changed...They just got the ball first. They were very pro-active...Maybe at half time we projected an image of we're doing well, we're past the post sort of thing. I don't know..." On Carey: "I'm not going to sing about Wayne Carey...he's human and we can't rely on him all the time. He had 17 possessions, if anyone else played CHF and had 17 possessions no one would dare question him..."

Blight said "North were particularly tight early and we had to do something to break the game open. Then, all of a sudden, we started winning those shared balls. I thought we got on top in the 50/50s after that. Kane Johnson really got the thing going, but I was pleased to be able to leave Matthew Robran at CHF...he actually started contributing.. We might have been lucky to still be in it at half time, but they were lucky to still be in it at 3/4 time...when you get your turn, if you don't actually nail it, that's stiff because the other team will...we were in a spot of bother (but) there's a belief in the team now and a consistency. We've lost some close games this year, but not because we gave up. To come from fifth, it's never been done before. And to knock off one, two and three is not an easy task. You previously said that if you win two in a row, you're freaks. Does that still apply?"


Essendon   1.1    4.3    7.5     12.8.80
Footscray   4.3    8.9   13.11   20.16.136

Goals: Foot: Cook 5, Minton-Connell 3, Watts 3, Dooley 2, Quill 2,              Lane, Macri, M. West, Reynolds, Contessa.         Ess: Somerville 4, Rioli 2, Dimattina 2, DiRosa, Lalich, Ukovic,


Best: Foot: Brown, Cox, Alvey, Powell, Macri, Contessa, Reynolds,              Cook, Quill.         Ess: M. Johnson, Oakley, Somerville, Bomford, Wallis, Lalich,              Imbi, Dimattina.

TAC Cup Under-18:

Murray Bushrangers  17.18.120
Geelong Falcons      12.12.84

That's it. Thanks to all for the correspondence thoughout the year, it's been much appreciated. I've been slack in replying to some, apologies for that - try again if you like, I'll make more effort. But not for the next week, as I'll be away. See yez in 1999- the Year of the Tiger!

Cheers, Tim.

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Last Updated: 28 September 1998
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