One grand final down, but many more ahead.
It’s post Grand Final and I’m feeling melancholy. Yet, I’m incredibly proud of the boys, the coaches, the club and us fans for the incredible journey during season 2013.
The simple fact is that 18 clubs were all vying to get to the Grand Final and through grit and determination, skill and mental focus, we edged out 16 other teams and earned ourselves a chance to win the silverware, but came up just short of the win. That is an opportunity that comes rarely, particularly in a year where injuries like we had would have crippled the chances of most other clubs.
It was a massive ask to travel to Melbourne and beat the Hawks. They’ve been the best team all season, we were playing in their territory, we had a days less break, the boys weren’t in their own beds for a few days (interrupted routine), we had to play act for the parade and on top of it all, our players carried the weight of expectation. We’re a club which is hungry for success but the club’s first Grand Final after so many years proved too much and the nerves eroded our composure.
Hawthorn can thank their lucky stars they walked away with the trophy and the win. They were held to one of their lowest scores for the year; a score that should have seen them defeated. Their stars were held quiet; Roughead, Franklin and Rioli kicked just four goals between them. Sam Mitchell was well and truly beaten by Crowley and their usual route to scoring, marking inside 50, was denied as they only had 11 of those for the game. They did a few things extremely well on the day though. Most notably, they remained composed (as opposed to us) and in spite of the hit-outs being dominated by Freo, the Hawks bettered us in clearances and stoppages and in my own humble opinion, it is these things that gave them their superiority in the game and, ultimately, gave them the win.
If you’ve never had the jitters yourself, by all means cast the first stone, but I’m not going to join you. Nerves were present throughout the team and it’s pointless singling people out and naming/shaming. Quite simply, we had an obvious lack of composure and that hurt us on the scoreboard in what was an otherwise tight game. There was a huge impact on confidence as a result of the scores for the first half. At half time, we had just 1.6 plus a few gettable shots at goal that were out of bounds. On top of a goaless first quarter, it put Hawthorn in a winning frame of mind and kept them there where instead, they should have been nervous and probably behind on the scoreboard. Needless to say, the yips bred more yips and affected our ability to finish the game with a score that our opportunities should have given us.
Even with the yips, we kept their score right down and we had enough opportunities to have won convincingly. Even a moderate dose of the yips and we would have put the pressure on Hawthorn and would still have pipped them. Methinks that the Hawks were spared a spanking.
Could have been, would have been, should have been, doesn’t matter; the result is what it is and I’m thankful that we got there. I’m also thankful that we weren’t given a hiding and it’s probably better that we lost by 15 points than by one point as people would then be inclined to pick up their pitchforks and find someone to burn.
As amazing as it was to get to the Grand Final, the purple army itself was every bit as impressive. As a fan that resides in Melbourne, I can tell you all that the folks here were blown away. For days, all they saw was purple on every street and in every cafe. We out-manned the Hawks’ followers for the parade, and all that could be seen on the parade coverage on TV was purple. The people here were also impressed by our nature; people generally enjoyed us in good spirits and our respect of this city won them over. They are also sympathetic to the tales of what it took for fans to get here where they ordinarily wouldn’t care for anything outside of Victoria.
On a final note, as disappointing as the game’s result was, there is one thing from Saturday that I will treasure more than anything so far out of all my years in purple. It wasn’t making a Grand Final (though it would be close), but being in the purple army when it marched to the MCG.
My companions and I arrived ten minutes late to Federation Square where an informal walk to the ‘G had been pre-planned. I was sure that they’d all be on their way by then but we turned up and the Square was full, obviously they couldn’t have left yet?
The reality was that the march was already underway but the square kept on filling. There is a footbridge on that path to the ‘G and there was no experience like being on top of the bridge and seeing a crowd of purple stretching out to the bends before and behind me where visibility was cut. There were thousands of us in purple, in pride and passion. The first assault by the purple army might have stalled, but we will take its battlements, maybe next year, maybe the year after that.
We Will Prevail!