Last week in the AFL...
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Around the grounds - Weekly Wrapup

AFL Grand Final

A thousand apologies (or about 500, in reality) but I drove to Newcastle on Grand Final day for a conference and my foolproof plans for sending the report as per normal encountered a novel and particularly virulent type of fool. However I watched the big game in the Goulburn RSL and report appears below. The Roos won, if you hadn't heard already.

The tribunal dominated the early days of GF week. Firstly Blue Aaron Hamill copped two weeks for kneeing Dean Wallis in the head the previous Saturday. The Blues were outraged and appealed immediately. And successfully, the next day. Grounds for dismissal were - a mystery. Hamill himself put it best: "The club came up with a great story." Back to Tuesday and Roo Jason McCartney got four games for whacking Clark Keating. He pleaded guilty, but that didn't help really. Neither did his five previous suspensions. The Roos briefly considered appealing, but thought of better uses for the 15 grand. The leeg decided not to charge Mick Martyn over the Black/smashed face incident. Micky was very, very lucky.

Hawthorn's rover Shane Crawford won the Brownlow Medal, fairly comfortably with 28 votes from Bomber Mark Mercuri (22) with Matthew Allan and Nathan Buckley equal third on 20. Once again Wayne Jackson's vote-reading was a highlight. He's still struggling with the word "versus", it emerges as "verse" - tricky one that, with two syllables and all. Melbourne's Scott Chisholm came out as Ches-howellem and poor ol' Wayney broke down completely when Richmond's Mark Dragicevic came outta the box. To Jacko's credit he did get Camporeale right. But he capped off by announcing the winner as "um...Shane Crawford". Nice scenes then with Crawf speaking to his mum in Finley (southern NSW) via video hookup.

Coaching positions are resolved. Collingwood came out and announced Mick Malthouse as their new coach, a 3-year contract. In further sign of the clubs' upward social mobility under McGuire, Malthouse and captain Buckley leaped out of a jet-black Volvo sports car (new sponsor). Malthouse revealed his intentions to not only manage a few more wins for the Pies but to make Collingwood the Manchester United of Australian football. They've started down the right path by placing a surly, whinging git in charge of the team. Mind you, what Mick actually said was "like Manchester in England". Perhaps he meant City? West Coast ended the farce and appointed Ken Judge as coach for the next three years. Richmond revealed former St. Kilda captain Danny Frawley as their next scapegoat - er, coach. Danny's been assisting Tony Shaw at Collingwood. Didn't they do well. Before that "Spud" captained the Saints who often finished with the tree-derived kitchen implement. Well, he can only improve.

At the MCG:

North Melbourne 3.3    9.4    15.6    19.10.124 
Carlton         1.3    5.8     7.11   12.17.89

Carlton went in as the strangest underdogs in history. We were reminded of their poor, struggling, long-odds status every minute on TV, the radio and in print. All the while images of Carlton's mega-successful history, huge support, fantastic prelim win over the Bombers and "momentum" spilled out too. Questions weren't "Who will win the Grand Final" but "Can Carlton win" etc. Apart from the odd interview with Carey and Pagan, you could've been forgiven for forgetting North were in it. But most ex-spurts picked the Roos and they duly won, deservedly too and claim their team of the decade status. A good Grand Final if not a great one, they fought off a worthy Blue effort and went comfortably to the line. In selection North replaced McCartney with young forward Cameron Mooney. Anthony Stevens was retained after training well enough on the Thursday, although it'd be fair to assume he had half a pharmacy injected into his ankle beforehand. John Longmire played his 200th game after missing Grand Finals in 1996 (injury) and 1998 (form). Carlton dropped Adam White and the unfortunate Simon Fletcher for tagger Anthony Franchina, returning after suspension, and Adrian Hickmott was surprisingly called up after doing a hammy 10 days prior. As things eventuated, he was used very sparingly.

Can't remember anything from the pre-game fluff, apart from Lockett's lap of honour which Plug himself enjoyed hugely, in particular the re-enactment of his record-breaking 1300th major. Except this time Plugger wore a suit and kicked a white footy. He was grinning most broadly then. Down to business and no surprises in the match-ups, North placed hard man Archer on Whitnall, hard man Martyn on Hamill and cream puff Pickett on Lappin. Blue Manton started in attack again, but did little. The Blues put Silvagni against Carey - standard - and Koutoufides back to CHB on McKernan. Carlton, kicking to the burnt-out scoreboard end, began with an aggressive spell. Ratten won the hard ball and Camporeale had a field day against the hobbling Stevens, Murphy drifted about collecting the spoils of Silvagni and Kouta. First goal came for the Blues when Roo David King's indecisive kick-in went straight to Ratten, he popped it through. North's forward line of big galoots seemed leaden but eventually Carey managed to out-position SOS and mark Pickett's long kick, then convert from 30m. By the way, Pickett was playing very well, his surety of handling a delight. North went forward from the restart, Christou was too casual and fumbled, Shannon Grant pounced for the Roos and snapped left-footedly from a tight angle. Pickett had a hand in the next Norf goal, doing very well to tidy a kick-in and find Grant on the members' wing, he passed to Sholl on the lead. Sholly punted the Roos 10 points up. Kanga ruckman Capuano drifted back to take a series of marks, stopping Blue thrusts. Sometimes the Blues didn't need the opposition to thwart an attack, Whitnall spilled an uncontested chest mark and Manton coughed one up in the goalsquare. The Roos led narrowly at the first break but seemed to have weathered the early storm.

The Blueboys redoubled their efforts in the second quarter, their runners from defence in Murphy and Bradley continued to go well as the key backmen held Norf's twin lumps, Carey and McKernan. Early on a Roo clearance went awry and the ball returned to find Archer surrounded by four Blues, Fraser Brown took the mark and kicked the goal. Rice executed a superb SOS-like smother on Bell, I think, then Sexton missed badly when he could've steadied. All Carton and they received reward when Pickett's kick-in from the Sexton miss went straight to Camporeale, he goaled and Carlton led by a point. Ratten marked on the boundary and lobbed it into the goalsquare, Lappin roved the big pack and snapped the Bluies 7 points clear. The sparse Goulburn crowd erupted in support for the Navy Poos. You just can't escape the bastards. But it wasn't all good news for them, the rugged Brown was forced off with a damaged shoulder. No sooner had Seven's battalion of commentators opined that McKernan had done nothing than he did something, marking in the centre, wheeling about and thumping a massive 65m drop-punt goal. On-ball injuries were squared when Kangaroo Anthony Stevens departed, not with the ankle but a shoulder. A six-bounce David King run came to nothing but soon McKernan reared again, marking Simpson's kick close-in and banana-ing the pill between the sticks. North back in front, by 4 points. Pickett found the winning Capuano at CHF and his kick was marked by Scott Welsh in the goalsquare, another major. Next came a familiar North move at a bounce in their forward line, Simpson climbed over the ruckmen and punched it goalwards, Bell was already running to gather and kick accurately. North by 16 points. Hickmott postered for Carlton before Roo Grant had a quick, low snap take a series of fortuitous bounces to trickle through. Irresistable Sydneyroo momentum took 'em 21 points up. Carlton managed to clear to subsequent centre bounce, Lappin gathered the loose ball at CHF and snapped a good goal. But the Roos replied, a rubbish free to Archer on half-back led to Grant scoring his third goal. Bloo coach Parkin repeated his Big Move of last week, Koutoufides into the centre. No impact before the main break though. Or after it, for that matter.

The Blues roused themselves for one more crack in the third. North scored first, clearing the opening bounce and having Abraham waltz into an open goal and thump the ball into the stands. The Blues' rally was accompanied by a terrible setback, Justin Murphy flew for a mark in Carlton's attacking goalsquare only to catch his boot in the turf on the way down and wrench his leg sickeningly. Murphy needed the stretcher and will miss all of the 2000 season, they reckon. In the same incident Harbourroo Mick Martyn was done for shovelling the ball out o'bounds on purpose and Rice slotted the free kick between the big posts as Murphy was carried off. A minute later Beaumont raised the twin calicoes with a dribbled snapshot and the Blues were just 13 points behind. But as he did in the the second quarter, McKernan stood up for the Roos. He marked strongly 45m out and punted the goal. Carlton's losses had worked to the advantage of North across the centre, with Brown off his erstwhile opponent Simpson ran wild and Peter Bell lifted to have 15 touches in the third quarter. Pagan also shifted Carey away from Silvagni into the middle, a move hailed excessively as "genius". It was standard Pagan and successful as Wayney got a few touches while SOS seemed as lost as that cow at the Show. North had lost Capuano with knee soreness, Longmire trundled on to do some rucking and wasn't too bad. Anyway. North spurted. Motlop, off the bench, roved to McKernan and goaled. McKernan marked, played on and wobbled a left-foot kick which Abraham read best, diving for a low chest mark. He goaled and it was Roos by 32. Splendid play between Pickett and Martyn in Norf's backline created the next Roo goal, for Bell. Carlton's Whitnall took his first mark for the day, 25m out on a tricky angle. Much ironical cheering from the Blue fans. Whitnall missed. North went down and scored a behind but the Blue kick-in routine faltered, allowing the excellent Grant in for his fourth goal. Carlton looked beaten, 43 points down at the final break.

It just remained to see whether the Roos could hang on. In the early final stanza Carlton were given a series of weak frees for some reason, but wasted 'em. Whitnall kicked two behinds, Allan one and some other Blue also missed before Abraham created another goal for Bell. Thereon the pace of the game slowed, goals were swapped. Camporeale snapped one for the Blues, Grant tapped on for Motlop to canter into the empty goal. Whitnall, led, marked and finally booted accurately, Bell replied for North. Whitnall and Allan goaled for Carlton. My interest was still intense as I'd picked North by 43 points in the pool. "Lift, Roos" I cried to the RSL's big screen. Sure enough Carey juggled a one-hander behind Silvagni and punted a vital six points. But Hamill, completely slaughtered by Martyn, decided to kick his only goal a minute later. Bah. But good on the Shinboners.

The Norm Smith Medal for best player afield went to Shannon Grant. Granty had a big first half with 13 possessions and 3 goals from the wing, ending with 19 disposals and 4 goals. He added speed and life to the midfield and forward line when there wasn't much early. Byron Pickett must've gone close to the gong, his first half was also outstanding as he held the Roo defence together. Pickett had 16 disposals and laid 5 tackles, equal highest for the match (with Ratten). His only blemish was allowing Lappin a bit of space. On-baller Adam Simpson was also busy in the first half and got better in the second, ending with 27 disposals (25 kicks) and 8 marks. Diminutive Peter Bell had 31 touches, 22 after half time, and also bagged 4 goals as the Roos took charge. A relief after his 1.4 (?) in last year's Big One. McKernan's stats were meagre (9 possessions, 6 marks) but his 3 goals were timed perfectly, from a North point of view. Praise also to key defenders Martyn and Archer, giving up 2 marks and no goals between them in the first 3 quarters. Capuano played an excellent first half in subduing Allan and King (23 disposals) is worth mentioning honourably. Abraham, Motlop and Carey each kicked 2 goals. Carlton's best was probably on-baller Scott Camporeale, who was everywhere early and finished with 27 disposals (20 kicks) and 2 goals. As usual Brett Ratten ploughed into packs for 28 possessions (18 kicks, 10 of the other) and a goal, he played a tough, selfless game. Silvagni claimed Carey's scalp. There was discussion about throwing the All-Australian CHB into attack again, but Parkin decided agin it, reasoning that Carey may fire. Matthew Lappin was the most effective Blue forward with 19 possessions, 5 marks and 2 goals. Half-back Murphy had 15 disposals in a two quarters and was playing well, poor bloke. Down back solid Andy McKay (22 disposals with 13 handpasses) was good against Abraham (I think). Bradley collected 25 touches as usual and Kouta had 22. Neither influenced events much. Allan won hitouts but the Roo rovers got to them first. Whitnall kicked 2 goals. The Blues would point to the injuries and poor goalkicking - same number of shots as the Roos - but in truth they were beaten by a better team.

Responding to the suggestion that Carlton had succeeded by simply reaching the Grand Final, Parkin said "It ain't much fun to be sitting on the end of defeat on Grand Final day. Once you get here and lose, it's not a great feeling, I can assure you. There was a real desolation out there on the ground afterwards...I've stressed to the club the need to find a key forward. If we'd had Carey and McKernan, we would have won. In retrospect, I should have moved Kouta away from McKernan earlier. Nobody could have stopped him taking those marks. We struggled to match them, especially in the middle. They were so totally disciplined and had a couple of dominant players we weren't able to contain.". As usual Parko was honest, responding to questions about the injuries and goalshooting with "well, we used up a fair bucketload of luck last week to get here". He ventured that ruckman Allan was exhausted by quarter time after rucking alone all year. Parkin finished by asking his aging senior players - Bradley, Silvagni, Brown, Sexton, McKay and Ratten - to carry on. "We really need them, they're very special guys."

Pagan was bullish. "We mucked up badly last year. We thought we were the best side in the competition...and we may have been, but we weren't the best side on the day. It put enormous pressure on us to win this game and I thought our players handled that pressure superbly. Never will they have to ever concern themselves with being chokers under pressure, no matter what happens from here." Pagan praised Grant. "Shannon has grown as a man since being at North Melbourne, he has matured. To have to go into a Grand Final with the stuff in the press this morning (poor performances in the 96 and 98 GFs) placed him under enormous pressure." On selecting Stevens he said "We knew Anthony's ankle was 65-70%...he really played his heart out, unfortunately he did his shoulder too." Pagan even had a few words for the AFL. "There are plenty of people out there, some quite high up in running football, who don't want clubs like North Melbourne to succeed. Well, we have." Good luck to him. And North.


St. Kilda 11.10.76
Essendon  20.13.133

Ess: McVeigh 4, Grgic 4, J. Johnson 3, Milne 3, Doolan 2, Ramanauskas, Ladams, Jacobs, Sheppard.
StK: Cranage 4, Schwarze 2, Carr, Pickford, C. Gowans, Davis, J. Gowans.
Ess: Doolan, Eastaugh, J. Johnson, Milne, McVeigh, Dimattina.
StK: Pitts, Davis, Knowles, Carr, Cranage.

Just to note that this was the last-ever AFL reserves game, with the comp. being absorbed into the VFL next year. Also, Essendon finished sixth in the reserves' final-six format.

TAC Cup:

Prahran Dragons 16.8.104 d. Gippsland Power 8.6.54

Well, that's it for another year. Thanks again to everyone for their support and messages and I'll be back next millennium with the ground-breaking 2000 season. And Spud - get stuck into those Tiges!

Cheers, Tim.

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Author: Tim Murphy Email: []
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Last Updated: 1 October 1999 
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