Monthly Archives: September 2008

Hawkmania! (The Lost Weekend)

The Hawks touch down in Tassie…no doubt it was a day full of cheers, beers and jokes about ‘maps’…

Hawthorn’s premiership celebration tour has taken to the air, crossed the Bass Strait and landed in Tasmania! The Apple Isle has a unique sponsorship arrangement with the club and the Hawks delayed the traditional post-season Mad Monday craziness to show off the silverware in Hobart and Launceston. The club president/master spruiker, a number of coaches and players paraded the cup to a host of happy Taswegians; including local product Grant Birchall, who Kennett delighted in revealing to all that he gave his two front teeth for Tassie during the game. At least his friends will know what to get him for Christmas this year…

Full credit to the Hawks for ensuring they included Tasmania in the celebrations – it might have been a little pricey but that would not be a worry for them at this point in time. And to get down there so quickly after the win…considering that many of the players would be feeling a little dusty after a massive Sunday! This included a monster turn-out at Glenferrie with an estimated 20,000 fans in attendance…though we doubt that the terminally-sour Don Scott was there (or within a 100km radius of the place!)

The League, of course, would also have been pleased with the effort Hawthorn have gone to in Tasmania – and secretly wishing this would be enough to appease the locals and make them forget about launching a bid for a Tasmanian team in the AFL…which has zero chance of being approved by the AFL. Um…no! It only seems to be making them more determined – Andy D will be thrilled.

Who would want to watch the newly-crowned premiers belt out the club song in the rooms straight after the game? Answer: Everybody…except Channel Seven!

The champs now head back to the mainland to collect the keys to the city of Hawthorn and, more than likely, belt out the club song another 20 or so times! Which brings us to the telecast of the grand final on Saturday. Overall, it was more than satisfactory – the pre-match entertainment had its traditional array of eye-raising moments but the usual impulse to switch off the TV didn’t kick in this year. That must be a good sign…though not everybody felt the same way!

After a seven year “hiatus”, Channel Seven did a pretty good job with the game telecast and despite having an over-crowded commentary team, managed to integrate them all without flooding the airwaves with useless chatter. But just when you thought that Seven had ticked all the boxes for the day, they stumbled badly with two minutes left in the telecast when it became apparent that they would not show the Hawks singing the club song in the rooms.

NEWSFLASH: We interrupt this broadcast of Hawthorn winning the flag to announce…that Hawthorn have won the flag!

And sure enough, after teasing viewers by showing live footage of the Hawthorn boys gathering in a circle to belt out the song, they cut away to the news. The network have been bagged all year for leaving out the winning team’s song on their Sunday game telecasts and then faced with the decision on the biggest day on the footy calendar, they stuffed it up again! Maybe next year, huh? Or the year after? Um, 2011?

The Cats will be back next year…let’s hope Matthew Scarlett’s hair also returns in 2009!

Meanwhile, probably in a dingy pub at the gateway to the Bellarine Peninsula, the post-mortem for Geelong continues. The place must still be in complete shock at the loss and the players are either totally blaming themselves or sticking up for those teammates who didn’t fire on Saturday. But the Cats are talking redemption in 2009, which they are well entitled to do, and seeing this missed opportunity as a mere blip on the radar as they navigate the path to football greatness.

A good analogy can always come in handy when everything goes to tripe but Frank’s Costa’s attempt to relate Don Bradman’s final innings to Geelong’s plight doesn’t quite workthe greatness of the Don was undisputed when he fell for a duck in his final knock and we don’t feel that Geelong are in that position at all. This is probably the equivalent of the Cats whacking a quick-fire double-century in 2007 before copping a ferocious Harold Larwood-style bouncer from the Hawks that sent them back to the pavilion! Mark Thompson’s boys need to respond in 2009 if they want to be categorised with the Bradman-like greatness of the three-peat Brisbane Lions.

Now that footy is over with for 2008…Half Back Flanker has no idea what to do! There is trade week coming up…and it looks like there could be some real activity this year rather than the usual round of 100-plus rumours that result in less than ten actual trades. So we will keep an eye on the events of trade week and see which big names will reject Collingwood again find greener pastures.

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That’s What I’m Talkin’ About! (2008 AFL Grand Final)

If anybody was destined to go totally nuts on the podium today, it was Crawf…and you can’t blame him either!

Hawthorn have just upset the footballing applecart…tipped it on it’s head, in fact! Geelong failed to cash in on a season of rare dominance by falling short at the final hurdle and the Hawks now have a tenth premiership cup in their keeping. After losing just one match on the way to the grand final, the popular theory seemed to be that the match would be tight but Geelong would be the better side in the end…well, that idea went to shit in a series of failed forays forward and sprayed shots at goal from the Cats.

The stumpiest captain-coach combination in VFL/AFL history delivers another cup to Hawthorn…and Sammy Mitchell is so excited that he appears to be at half-mast!

With Norm Smith Medallist Luke Hodge directing traffic superbly from half back, the Hawks broke open a tight match in the third term with six goals and the misfiring Cats could not find a way to get back into the match. The win was a fitting reward for veteran Shane Crawford after 17 years service at Hawthorn. This may well be his final AFL game; as he has a long post-footy career of goofing off on crappy Channel Nine television shows ahead of him; but there could hardly be a better way to bow out of the game.

Bomber Thompson will be pissy at some of his players…but not this guy! Lil’ Ablett was Geelong’s best and nearly matched his father by winning Norm in a losing team. Head up, young fella!

Cats coach Mark Thompson was left to wonder whether the opportunity to win back-to-back was too great for some of his players.  They were more than competitive for a majority of the match but a surprisingly dysfunctional forward line and poor shooting at goal prevented them from gaining any advantage…and the Hawks made them pay big time! And when we say poor conversion in front of goal, we mean ‘record settting…try the third most behinds ever scored in a VFL/AFL grand final and the most by a losing grand final team!

So while Cats fans attempt to drown their sorrows, the Hawk faithful will be going completely feral tonight! As for Half Back Flanker, we will be sleeping off a big day of drinkies, home-made sausage rolls and some post-footy rockin’ out on Guitar Hero and will fully review the events of grand final day very soon. Until then; well done Hawks (have another celebratory Chang beer, DC…whichever country you are in right now!) and commiserations Cats (bad luck LuLi…and a shame Delta didn’t sing today. I love that bitch too!)

Man, You Footy Fans Are Crazy! (2008 AFL Grand Final)

These Hawk fans have gone to a whole lotta trouble…but then it has been 17 years in between grand finals for them!

AFL Grand Final – MCG, 2:30pm (local): Geelong v Hawthorn (SEVEN)

One more sleep, footy freaks! Septocemia has engulfed the self-acknowledged ‘Sporting Capital Of The World’ and with less than twenty-four hours until the bounce, the excitement for Cats and Hawks fans must be tough to contain.  To call September in Melbourne a “silly season” is an understatement of gigantic proportions…the place is more than silly right now; it’s completely freakin’ mental!

Silly season? What silly season? You find freaks like this every weekend in Melbourne!

If you needed any further proof, the place to be today was at the grand final parade!

Which bloke will be lucky enough to get that free hand on the trophy as well?

Of course, these two teams played out one of the best ever grand finals in 1989 and now Victoria has gone into some kind of late-80’s time warp! Plenty of reminiscing is going on…and don’t some of the old-timers love it! Since the Hawks held on to claim the flag in ’89, these two sides have also maintained a decent history of closely contested games – let’s hope this continues tomorrow. After all the whinging from the local media over the years about those pesky interstaters crashing the grand final party since the year 2000…it would really suck for them if we have another blowout!

Did Buddy try to disguise himself as a motorcycle traffic cop to avoid attention at the grand final parade?

So, the time for talk is over and the game is almost here! No matter which part of the world you find yourself tomorrow, there are ways to keep track of the events at the MCG, so there are no excuses to miss a second of what shapes up to be a gripping finale to the football season. If you are taking advantage of the occasion to crank up the barbie for the first time since last April, go check the gas bottle…right now! And if you have a ticket for the game, you are one lucky son-of-a-gun…or you must have connections!

And, for what it’s worth, our tip is back-to-back flags for Geelong…CATS by 27. Norm Smith Medal…lil’ Ablett!

Now grand final day is always a special occasion – exciting, dramatic, sweaty and bloody long! But when does all the interesting stuff happen? Well, Half Back Flanker has put together a complete run-down of the events on grand final day so that you can skip the crap that you don’t like but don’t miss any of the action!

THE 2008 AFL GRAND FINAL DAY TIMETABLE

9:00am: AFL Under-16 Championships Division Two Grand Final – Tasmania v Northern Territory. Winners each receive their first keg, courtesy of major sponsor Carlton Draught.

10:55am: AFL Under-16 Championships Division One Grand Final – Western Australia v Vic Metro. Winners each receive $10,000 from player agent Ricky Nixon and his business card. No obligations though…

12:55pm: Carlton Draught sky troopers parachute into arena.

Look out below…beer incoming!!!

12:58pm: Arena cleared of drunk bogans who jump the fence in an attempt to catch “all the giant beers falling from the sky!”

1:10pm: Delivery of match balls, beamed down from Lance Franklin’s alien spacecraft.

1:15pm: AFL Grand Final teams warm up in AFL-approved velour tracksuits.

1:35pm: Pre-match entertainment starts.

1:36pm: Pre-match entertainment cancelled due to lack of entertainment value.

1:41pm: Cavalcade of retiring players, 2008 Hall of Fame inductees, Olympians, Paralympians and the Terang Mortlake Bloods, Hampden Football League premiers, after a full week of non-stop drinking. The cavalcade will drive very, very slowly

The crowd will love Powderfinger…which makes you wonder how they found themselves on the bill! Perhaps the AFL were desperate when the Seekers pulled out at the last minute…

1:49pm: Performance by Australian Rock act Powderfinger.

1:50pm: Powderfinger performance cancelled after noise complaints from some of the AFL commissioners.

1:52pm: A 20-minute flag waving display from the Holden Precision Goal Umpires Team.

Some flag-waving fun…what a treat!

2:12pm: Delivery of 2008 Cup from ambassador Glen Archer to AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick. AFL chairman left to tip all the cold beer out of the cup.

2:15pm: Umpires enter arena under full police protection.

2:16pm: Teams enter arena.

2:17pm: Cyril Rioli exits the arena for a nervous wee.

2:27pm: Advance Australia Fair performed by Rocky Horror Picture Show star Derryn Hinch.

Think you’ve heard some dodgy renditions over the years? Well, just wait until you hear this!

2:28pm: Coin toss.

2:29pm: Another coin toss after Tom Harley successfully appeals for a ‘best-of-three’.

2:30pm: The 2008 AFL Grand Final.

3:40pm: Half Time AFL Grand Final Sprint; featuring the only eight AFL players who are currently sober.

5:15pm: Presentation of Norm Smith Medal for the best player, probably to Steve Johnson of Geelong. Presentation of premiership medallions, probably to Geelong. Presentation of Jock McHale medal to premiership winning coach, probably to Mark Thompson of Geelong. Presentation of premiership cup, probably to Tom Harley of Geelong.

9:30pm: A semi-conscious, half-naked Billy Brownless dragged off arena by seven burly security guards after going too hard too early with the post-match celebrations.

And The Unlucky Bugger Is…(Grand Final Week)

Number 53 comes in and number 65 misses out on a grand final spot. Whatever Tom Harley is saying to smooth things over, it seems to be working!

Ok guys…you can get out of the damn tree now! The teams for Saturday’s premiership decider have been announced and the answer to the big question of the week is…David Wojcinski! Paul Chapman is fit and ready to play in the grand final…or is he? Chapman’s apparent half-arsed appearance at training this morning did not totally convince some onlookers and so the speculation on him taking part in the grand final will continue tomorrow and, in all likelihood, right up until the start of the game. And would we want to have it any other way?

The Thursday of grand final week is traditionally the day that the fans flock to their club’s home base by the thousands to watch training and today was no exception! The Cats would have felt right at home with the masses of fans packed into Skilled Stadium, particularly after last season, while approximately ten thousand Hawthorn fans made the trip out to Waverley to see the Hawks train. It would have been a great thrill for the players to see so many supporters out there…but Luke Hodge was not quite as thrilled to have desperate journo’s running up to ask about his ribs every few minutes!

“Nah, mate…me ribs are shithouse! Don’t think I’ll play…”

Sure they have to ask the question but even if his ribs are cactus, what else is he going to say? They might be so busted he could hang his house keys of the end of it…“Yeah, nah, they’re fine mate. It’s all good.”

Anyway, here are the teams that will definitely most likely take to the MCG on Saturday afternoon:

GEELONG

B: Tom Harley, Matthew Scarlett, Josh Hunt
HB: Darren Milburn, Harry Taylor, Andrew Mackie
C: Joel Selwood, Cameron Ling , Corey Enright
HF: Steve Johnson, Cameron Mooney, Jimmy Bartel
F: Paul Chapman, Tom Lonergan, Mathew Stokes
Foll: Brad Ottens, Joel Corey, Gary Ablett
I/C: Mark Blake, Travis Varcoe, James Kelly, Max Rooke
EMG: David Wojcinski, Ryan Gamble, Shannon Byrnes

In: Chapman
Out: David Wojcinski

HAWTHORN

B: Stephen Gilham, Trent Croad, Brent Guerra
HB: Grant Birchall, Luke Hodge, Rick Ladson
C: Jordan Lewis, Sam Mitchell, Chance Bateman
HF: Michael Osborne, Lance Franklin, Cyril Rioli
F: Mark Williams, Jarryd Roughead, Campbell Brown
Foll: Robert Campbell, Brad Sewell, Shane Crawford
I/C: Stuart Dew, Xavier Ellis, Brent Renouf, Clinton Young
EMG: Thomas Murphy, Simon Taylor, Travis Tuck

No change

Somebody Call The Fire Brigade! (Grand Final Week)

THERE’S A CAT STUCK UP A TREE!!!

It wouldn’t be a fair dinkum grand final week without some old fashioned espionage! Yesterday was Paul Chapman Fitness Test Day down at Geelong and, not surprisingly, the media went into 1960’s style Beatlemania mode as they flocked to Skilled Stadium and tried everything they could to crash the closed training session. We love the camera man attempting to film training from up the tree wearing the Cats jumper…because that makes him look completely inconspicuous; just your average footy fan with a big-arse camera and broadcast van. A plain-clothed guy with a massive video camera filming from up a tree? Now that would just look suspicious…

Awwww, look fellas. There’s a die-hard Cats fan with a camera watching training from up a tree! How sweet!!! He must really like us…

Yes, the Channel Nine helicopter did make an appearance…as did aircraft representing every other network. And apparently, the whole entire world was watching Chappy train…but that’s the thing about the Melbourne footy media – the world only spans as far west as Geelong and as far north as Kangaroo Ground! But they, like a few of the players, will need to wait a little longer before finding out the make-up of the Geelong side for the big one. Will we see a major selection surprise? Like that guy in the 53 jumper?

Forget Chappy…that number 53 looks like a real goer. Give him a game!

Hawthorn didn’t train yesterday so it was left to publicity-shy president Jeff Kennett to create the Hawk-based headlines. Kennett is expecting victory from his side on Saturday afternoon…of course, he famously expected victory on a Saturday afternoon nine years ago. And look how well that turned out for him! Relax Cats fans, you’ve got it in the bag now…

Jeff wants a repeat of the success from 1989…but he might just find himself well beaten like he was in 1999!

Non-Grand Final news:

Rodney Eade manhandles Scotty West to ensure the reluctant retiree actually goes through with it and doesn’t run out of the room to hide behind a treadmill in the gym!

Would any clubs want a 33 year old with a bung knee? We doubt it…but good luck Westy!

Ablett or Bartel? How About Neither? (Media Street)

Sorry mate, wasn’t listening! What were you saying again?

Pfffft! It sounded like you said I’ve just won the Brownlow…that’s pretty funny!!

Oh, I did just win the Brownlow…frickin’ sweet!!!

Brownlow babes, botched vote counting, burger rings and a bloody happy Bulldog! That summed up last night’s Brownlow Medal count which was won by…somebody who doesn’t play for Geelong. Adam Cooney of the Western Bulldogs was rewarded for a fine season by squeezing past Brisbane’s Simon Black to win the 2008 Brownlow Medal by one vote. Cooney hit the lead with one round remaining and then endured an agonising final round of votes as, one by one, his closest rivals were left disappointed as they failed to poll in round 22.

Ablett falls just short again…and yes, Jimmy Bartel, it’s all your fault!

Of course, the evening started with that traditional display of football brutes and beauties, the Red Carpet special…which is meant to be all about what the girls look like in their frocks. However, Channel Ten’s focus was more on finding out who everybody was wearing rather than actually showing the whole dress. The cameras barely panned lower than boob level, meaning that you rarely caught a meaningful glimpse of any of the dresses. Not that we are complaining…

Oi! What are you lookin’ at? Eyes off the merchandise!

Ooops…sorry, Grammy! Anyway, once the medal count kicked off, AFL supremo Andrew Demetriou appeared determined to set a cracking pace as he powered through the early votes. Perhaps he wanted the medal count to end on the same day as it started, or maybe he needed to get home by 11:30pm in order to flick on Channel Seven and watch 30 Rock (awesome show, just won an Emmy…and Channel Seven play it around midnight? Idiots!) But by jumping straight into the round two votes, skipping the opening round entirely, the D threw the entire room into temporary chaos…and hysterics! Very entertaining…totally unintentional, of course, but great viewing!

Getting ahead of yourself, Andy D? Everybody know that you take footy one week at a time…even Adrian Anderson is laughing at you!

Once Channel Ten figured out how to get the count back on track, the votes started flying for the likes of Black, Cooney and Matthew Richardson – who appeared to be the people’s favourite judging by the screams of ‘Richo’ every time he chalked up votes. Bookies favourite Gary Ablett remained within striking distance while last year’s winner Jimmy Bartel twiddled his thumbs waiting for some love from the umpires.

Robert Harvey has now walked through more guards of honour than he has played VFL/AFL seasons!

After yet another tribute to retiring St Kilda great Robert Harvey, and some other puff-pieces, the countdown to the final rounds began and it was here that things got really interesting. Black’s early lead was slowly eroded away as Ablett, Cooney and Richo each made up ground before a best-on-ground effort in round 21 from the young Bulldog put him into the lead. That is where he stayed and it was champagne, speeches and that classic burger/engagement ring story.

Cooney was as shocked as those people who placed good money on a few Geelong players when he won the medal. It was clear that he didn’t have a speech prepared but, like the D’s vote counting stuff-up, it was refreshing to see something off-the-cuff and totally unplanned. Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade, who Cooney actually forgot to thank, believes that the Brownlow win will not change Cooney at all…we hope that he is right!

Don’t Call It A Replay! (The Lost Weekend)

It’s a rematch of 1989…without Gazza senior…and Chris Langford…and everybody else who played in 1989!

Well, now we might finally have ourselves a contest! The two raging hot favourites qualified for the 2008 AFL Grand Final after claiming victory in the preliminary finals and the two best teams over the year will fight it out for the flag. Sure – some footy boffins were shouting “1999” from the treetops last week in an attempt to keep everybody interested but there is a darn good reason why Carlton’s upset win over Essendon was so special…shit like that only happens once in a lifetime! But a select number of media types were not only floating theories that an earth-shattering upset could happen again so soon, but twice on the same weekend. Huh?

So forget talk of ’99…now it’s all about 1989! But, please…it’s a rematch, of sorts, from 1989 but it’s not a damn replay! And it’s not a tryst either…isn’t a tryst a meeting between two lovers? How does that even make sense?

While the result of the Cats and Dogs clash on Friday night had a sense of inevitability, at least it was somewhat entertaining as a contest. Saturday night, on the other, produced a total stink-fest with Hawthorn embarrassing St Kilda and bringing the remarkable career of Robert Harvey to a sad end. But while there has yet to be a classic finals encounter this September, the results properly reflect the performance of the teams over the whole season – Geelong clearly the best, Hawthorn’s rise to legitimate challenger, the Dogs much improved but just a shade below the top two and St Kilda fortunate to finish fourth and exposed as pretenders by the two best sides in the comp.

Expect to see the Channel Nine helicopter flying over Buddy’s house tomorrow morning to check the status of his wrist!

And now we can all look forward to one massive week of full-on Septocemia! Brownlow Medal madness (could be a busy night, Catters!), grand final lunches, throwbacks to 1989selection headaches, hourly injury updates and death-by-analysis! And we love every minute of it, don’t we!

Well, not always…not when supposedly intelligent football minds ask dopey question after dopey question i.e. Tim Watson pointlessly quizzing Mark Thompson as to which team he would prefer to play next week after Geelong’s win on Friday night. The fact that Bomber Thompson is a three-time premiership teammate probably saved Watson the indignity of being labelled a f@#$&%g idiot live on national TV. And even then, it must’ve taken a whole lotta restraint!

Um…we’d prefer to play Bendigo, actually! Nobody ever answers that stupid question…ever! So why f@#$&n bother asking?

FRIDAY NIGHT

Doggies fans will be filthy about this for a very, very, very long time!

First Preliminary Final – Geelong 12.11.83 def. Western Bulldogs 7.12.54

There was no repeat of the 1999 shocker as logic ruled on Friday night…well, apart from one glaring umpiring decision! This didn’t rob the Doggies, mind you, so comparisons with Wayne Harmes in 1979 lack a bit of perspective! But it did kill off any hope of them pushing the defending premiers to the absolute limit.

What cost them was poor kicking at goal in the second half… and the hospital pass that set up Brad Johnson for the Max Rooke contest wasn’t too crash hot either. But with the Doggies closing in on Geelong in the third term, a series of missed shots at goal from Nathan Eagleton, Will Minson and Mitch Hahn cost them dearly. Particularly when the Cats stung them on the rebound for Cam Mooney to score, prompting this Brady Bunch-inspired graphic display that captured the moment perfectly!

Here’s the story…of a man named Rodney..who was beaten by some very lovely Cats!

How the Bulldogs respond to their stinging loss will be an interesting storyline in 2009 as they try to back up their top-four finish. But for the Cats, who don’t seem to like these grand final qualifiers all that much, they are back in the big dance and look primed for back-to-back flags. Unless…

SATURDAY NIGHT

We knew Luke Hodge was tough but he went old school crazy tough to lead his Hawks into the GF!

Second Preliminary Final – Hawthorn 18.10.118 def. St Kilda 9.10.64

Hawthorn made a mess of St Kilda – the match was effectively over at half time as the Hawks proved to be too tough and too committed for the Saints. While the result would indicate that they are in fantastic shape heading into the grand final, they do have a number of slight injury concerns. And one of them is Buddy, so expect a dramatic week at Hawks training.

St Kilda may wonder why they have attracted so much criticism for a club that finished fourth but last night demonstrated exactly why they cop it. Yes, they did finish fourth…but it has clearly been a three-horse race since May! With an alleged ‘star-studded’ list, they have yet to make a grand final since 1997 and in the latest chance to go one further, they were kicking consolation goals ten minutes into the third quarter!

And thus ends any hopes of a fairytale finish for Robert Harvey. The curtain has been dropping on Harvey’s stellar 21-year career for two months now but it is well and truly done with now. And this might be the trigger for the Saints to look to their youth in order to maximise their talent and go to the next level. So with the departure of the much-loved Harvey, does this mean the end for one particular annoying little twerp?

Goodbye Harvs…you deserved a better send-off!

Goodbye Milne…you don’t! And yes, we are trying to retire you!