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Post by Lee Harradine on Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:12 am

This is a beautiful piece of writing by Dave Brown on the 'Footy Almanac' website:

SANFL Grand Final – Woodville West Torrens v West Adelaide: Rubbers’ Grand Day Out

September 29, 2015 by Dave Brown

SANFL Grand Finals are pretty good. In your AFL Grand Final 100,000 people, some of whom follow one of the teams involved, pay a small fortune for the privilege to say they were at the Grand Final. As they soak in the atmosphere they manage to passively subtract from it at the same time. If you want to go to a footy game with the best part of 100,000 people, there are quite a few opportunities in the AFL calendar.

By contrast, your average crowd at the SANFL these days is a few thousand. It’s a long way from the twenty odd thousands that packed various suburban grounds in the mid-1970s. Nonetheless the SANFL Grand Final presents the opportunity to be part of a crowd that is dramatically larger than normal. It is an opportunity for people to pull out that old scarf, wander down to one of the best stadiums in the history of human existence and cheer on the team they might only follow passively across the season.

Pre-game

Today, we have almost 26,000 people at Adelaide Oval as two of the lesser supported teams get their opportunity for a premiership. The West Adelaide Bloods, the sentimental favourites, aiming for their first flag since 1983 against the Woodville West Torrens Eagles, the dominant team of the competition in 2015.

As groups of children, branded with some junk food company’s logo, do footy related things on the ground, You Am I emerge on a stage at the northern end. They work their way more than competently through a short, sharp set of oldies (by my count two songs from Sound As Ever, two from Hi Fi Way, one from Hourly Daily and one from #4 Record).

Playing a footy stadium is a tough job – the unmiked thud of the bass drum runs interference with the rest of the performance. Those of us of the appropriate age are briefly transported back to various gigs at Thebby Theatre and Big Day Outs (or is that Big Days Out?) at Wayville Showgrounds.

First half

The game ball arrives via helicopter. Blighty (the man, not the statue) tosses the coin to the advantage of what is kind of his former club and we are underway. 24 degrees with just a whisper of a breeze is perfect for footy fans, not so much for players who will be feeling it later.

Delightfully, the teams start off one-on-one and West take the early advantage of an apparent ruck superiority with goals to Green and Fielke. Michael Wundke picks up the next two for the Eagles before West get them back for a 13 point quarter time lead.

There are competing stories today but it’s not yet clear which will be the headline. West Adelaide are winning the footy and trying to handball to release runners. They refuse to kick and hope, preferring to accept the risk of over-using the ball. They could blow this game open if their field kicking was as good as the Eagles. By contrast, the Eagles are relying on their structures to win the ball on turnover and try to get to Wundke or Ainger one-on-one.

Wundke has the potential to turn back the clock – not his own specifically but ours collectively – to a time when big, burly, full forwards could win the game off their own boot. After West threaten to get away, out to a four goal lead early in the second quarter, the Eagles drag them back again. Freedom versus process, again and again.

Wundke’s story continues – he takes a run up the wing and spends the next five minutes paying for it. He then misses a set shot after copping a high knock – he is the heavyweight fighter, slumped in the corner one moment and up connecting with punches the next. Just before half-time he gets another contested mark and puts it through. He looks crook but, perhaps, the key story today will be his. West Adelaide by eight points at half-time.

Second half

Early in the third Wundke again goals and it is back to two points. Both teams drop a man back intermittently as the game ebbs and flows. West’s ruck advantage starts to tell as they win the clearances and do just enough to stop the Eagles getting the ball into space. The game is breaking down and some players are already starting to cramp.

After a long period of scrubby play, Kaine Stevens kicks a goal late in the quarter and West Adelaide take a 15 point lead into the final break. West Adelaide look the fresher of the two teams, but we have been fooled that way many times before.

A glance around the stands and it’s worried West Adelaide faces that grab the eye. Men of a certain age watching the game through the eyes of a younger man. Men on the cusp of middle age through the eyes of a boy, including the big one next to me. Mentally preparing themselves for the worst because that is what they have come to expect. 32 years will do that to you.

The Eagles get on top early in the last quarter – the first five minutes spent almost exclusively in their forward half. The Bloods hold them and hold them, ably led by Porplyzia loose in defence and Schmidt loose at the clearances. Something’s got to give and eventually it is the Eagles as West switch the ball quickly down the ground for Beech to kick a tough goal from deep in a pocket.

The Eagles are now winning the ruck but every time they kick it forward, Porplyzia is there to greet it. It is mystifying that, three goals down with 10 minutes to go in a Grand Final, the Eagles make no attempt to make him accountable. Wundke cannot win the game for them under such circumstances.

Meanwhile, down the other end, West miss three opportunities to finish the contest as they break through the Eagles’ lines. That is until Shannon Green runs onto a loose ball and kicks the sealer from 45 out. West Adelaide have come from ninth in 2014 to win the premiership by playing an attacking, attractive brand of football. Today’s story belongs to long suffering Bloods fans and Mark Mickan.

The contemplation

Rubbers Mickan, the man who missed West Adelaide’s 1983 premiership through injury; who was sacked by Glenelg as coach because they didn’t believe his brand of footy could take them to a premiership, finally gets a medal around his neck. The satisfaction he feels must be immense and to do it at his home club, all the better. One of a long line of Bloods players from the Riverland, including Ricciuto, Modra, Tyson Edwards and Grantley Fielke.

West Adelaide may not be the biggest or most successful of SANFL clubs but today they are the best. To many present, SANFL footy is about much more than this year’s premiership. It is about our past and the way that links to the present.

To those moist-eyed men and women celebrating around us it is as much about 1983 as now and all the spaces in between. Those spaces occupied by family and friends, those present and those no longer with us. West Adelaide fans celebrate with Ian Borchard and Chris Schmidt (both captains, both Jack Oatey Medallists), with Aaron and Grantley Fielke, with Geoff Morris and Jason Porplyzia – Neil Kerley and Mark Mickan.

How the SANFL will remain relevant and vital in current times remains an open question. However, while we are still upright, those of us who remember a time before Ross Oakley paid a visit, this competition and its Grand Final will have an undeniable appeal. After the 1990 Grand Final, Graham Cornes walked into the Port Adelaide dressing rooms and said thanks to them the good times were now over – he was only half right.
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Re: Premiership Articles

Post by Lee Harradine on Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:14 am

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Re: Premiership Articles

Post by Oldfella on Wed Sep 30, 2015 2:14 pm

great article
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Re: Premiership Articles

Post by Lachlan on Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:21 pm

What a great read
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Re: Premiership Articles

Post by Second Team on Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:16 pm

'The Eagles are now winning the ruck but every time they kick it forward, Porplyzia is there to greet it.'


You got half of that comment correct. Shocked Shocked Shocked

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Kick it forward. It's the new game plan.
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Re: Premiership Articles

Post by aldo russian on Wed Sep 30, 2015 7:34 pm

Yes I don't think they were on top in ruck at any stage. They started getting more clearances at a couple of points but it wasn't because of winning rucks.
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