Melbourne v Geelong – Everybody Loves Gawny

August 26, 2021 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 
Celebrating that goal

Liam Chambers

Chris Scott thought the Umpire’s decision to award a 50m penalty to Jake Lever when Brad Close hit the ball into the stands after it crossed the boundary was confusing. I think the Geelong coach was more confused about how his team had relinquished a 44 point lead to a side more used to giving up seemingly insurmountable advantages rather than reining them in.

That was the old Demons. The new Demons don’t see obstacles, they only see a pathway to victory. I haven’t been able to discover if any other AFL team in history has overcome a 44 point deficit in the third quarter and then score the winning goal after the siren to claim the minor premiership. With that in mind, I’m willing to bet that Melbourne’s win on Saturday night was unprecedented.

From the opening clearance, I thought it would be a close game. It was in the end but certainly not how I’d imagined it. The players were slow to get points on the board but Kysaiah Pickett collected the ball from the stoppage and made a brilliant run behind to score Melbourne’s first. Luke Dahlhaus returned the favour for the Cats after taking a mark 30m to the left of goal.

The Dees had a few opportunities to score but were unable to add to their goal tally before Joel Selwood added another from a set shot to give the Cats the lead. Ben Brown ensured Melbourne went to the break with a 2 point advantage when he had no bother marking Christian Petracca’s long kick from the centre square.

With the teams evenly balanced, there was no surprises at the start of the second and certainly no hint of the Geelong tsunami to come. When Jack Viney’s perfectly balanced kick sailed through the posts, Melbourne had back to back goals and looked comfortable. Even when Jeremy Cameron marked the ball on the edge of the goal square, it seemed like a minor slip up in defence. Then Tom Hawkins’ opportunistic soccer attempt gave the Cats a slim lead.

Not good, but no great cause for concern. Five minutes later, the floodgates opened. First Hawkins marked in the pocket and kicked round the corner to score. Then he marked again; this time just outside the goal square before he left booted the shot to get his hat trick. Just after the centre clearance, Patrick Dangerfield received the ball, ran on and kicked a goal from 60m. Another centre clearance and Dangerfield was off again. This time he got the ball to Brad Close who put it away, notching up Geelong’s fifth for the quarter.

Yet another centre clearance went the way of the Cats and Gary Rohan was the ultimate beneficiary who poured more salt on the Demon’s wounds. Just before half time, Jeremy Cameron bookended the term with his second goal as he pulled the ball back just before it crossed the goal line then tapped it over.

In Round 12, Melbourne had a famous victory over Brisbane after being 20 points down at half time. Now they were facing a 39 point deficit. How to respond? Max Gawn would later say that they drew inspiration from Port Adelaide’s win the previous night where the Power chipped away at the Bulldogs’ lead.

I remember Serena Williams once saying in a post game interview that she hadn’t wanted to lose the match 0-6, 0-6, which was a possibility half through the second set. She kept saying to herself “if I can win just one more game, it won’t be so bad”. Eventually she chipped away so much that her opponent was the one fighting to stay in the game and Williams finally prevailed.

It appeared that the Dees were about to embark on a similar trajectory. However when Tom Hawkins kicked his fourth to extend the lead to 44 points, even the most optimistic Melbourne supporter must have had their faith sorely tested. Clayton Oliver’s goal from a running 35m kick reignited a small flicker of hope before Gary Rohan tried to extinguish the flame with his second of the night. Margin back to 44 points.

Cue the camera to the unfortunate Simon Goodwin. You could just about make out the contorted facial emotions hidden behind his Covid mask. Still the Dees didn’t give up. The hand passing sequence that preceded to Kossie Pickett’s second goal showed a renewed determination to keep chipping away. With three minutes to go in the third, Oliver kicked the ball to Ben Brown who slipped and lost his footing but kept his head and marked the ball 30m out. When the shot went through, Melbourne were 33 points behind.

The Dees needed the perfect start to final quarter and they got it. Gawn won the clearance and Christian Petracca launched the kick to inside 50 where Pickett marked and claimed his hat trick. A 26 point game. Later Ed Langdon, aka the Running Man, thumped a long kick towards the goal square, seeking out Ben Brown. The ball was knocked to ground level and bounced towards the line where Charlie Spargo got a toe to it just before it crossed.

Margin down to 20 points and a camera shot of Chris Scott looking concerned. Clayton Oliver made it three unanswered goals when he snapped one through amid the frantic Geelong defence. Chris Scott was now shown sweating and sitting on his hands. Melbourne again won the clearance and Tom Sparrow took a nice mark before kicking long to the pack in front of goal. The ball was knocked down and Spargo pounced to snap a second and make it a 7 point game.

So many times in recent seasons, Geelong have whittle away a lead to take the game away from their opponents who’d believed they had it in the bag. So many times, we were that team. When Pickett’s kick soared behind the Cats’ defence, Bailey Fritsch was able to run on and gather the ball, taking it to the goal square edge before tapping it home in the nick of time. Now it was a one goal game as the Dees trailed by 2 points.

So it stayed until the last minute and what a minute that was. The ball was thrown in from the side line and Gawn tapped it down but another stoppage ensued. As the ball came out, Angus Brayshaw was pinged for kicking it over the line. Why would he deliberately kick it out of bounds when Melbourne had 36 seconds to win the game? Come on ump?! Cameron Guthrie took the free and then kicked it out on the full but not before Brad Close hit the ball into the lower stands after it crossed the line and was penalised in the process. Jake Lever got the 50m penalty and ran down towards the 50m line.

All eyes were on Lever and and Max Gawn was able to slip unnoticed behind Gary Rohan (not easy when you’re 208mm tall) before taking the mark. As Gawn walked towards the spot where he would take the potential minor premiership winner, the siren sounded. Later Max confirmed that the sound had calmed and centered him, allowing his mind to solely focus on getting the sherrin through the uprights.

Having missed a similar opportunity at the Cattery three years before and with all the Geelong players calling out to remind him of the error; the “cat calls” must have added to his stress levels. However, he didn’t miss this time and the goal meant the Dees had won their first minor premiership in 57 years.

I’m not religious but I’m convinced that something spiritual was happening on the footy field last Saturday night. I can’t shake the feeling that this is our year and we’ll be picking up a flag in four weeks time. It doesn’t matter where we play, we’ve proved we can beat any team on any ground in any State.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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