St Kilda v Fremantle
What’s the point of Tasmania? We can grow our own apples, all their animals are feral and no one is likely to dip into the puddle they call a gene pool. It’s just a parasite feeding off the belly of Australia. It’s no wonder then that whenever two sides are drawn out of the hat to head down to Parasite Island they show up angry.
It was on before the siren had even started. No surprises that the Carr brothers were in the middle of it all but the Saints were left standing simply by the fact that Doddy had started on the bench. The umpires wanted to stamp their authority on the game early, so they gave St Kilda a free kick out of the centre to make sure the Dockers knew where they were going to stand for the afternoon. It wasn’t a big problem for Freo because the Saints chipped the ball down the boundary before putting it out of bounds on the full.
Kicking in into a 6 goal breeze, with a chill factor of -10, Fremantle brought the ball down the ground with confidence. Des Headland struggled to kick the ball from outside fifty into the wind but as the Saints tried to take advantage of his short kick, Matthew Pavlich threw his arms up and brought down a strong grab. He dobbed the goal and the Dockers had the first points on the board.
Back in the middle and the umpires were keen to stamp their authority on the game once again, so they gave St Kilda a kick. The Saints went down the boundary again but this time managed to keep it inside the line, then kicked it long to the square and Fraser Gehrig tripped over the footy, knocking it through for a goal.
St Kilda didn’t get a kick out of the centre at the next bounce but, because the umpires didn’t want to appear to be over officiating the game, they let half a dozen Dockers frees pass by. As a result, Freo had to slog it out as they gradually moved the ball forward, lacking feeling in their backs and heads. An ambitious kick from Peter Bell hit the point post on the full but Jeff Farmer was on the scene, ran fifty odd meters to intercept the returning kick, tapped it in front of him before picking it up and dobbing Freo’s second.
Not surprisingly, the centre bounce resulted in a free kick to St Kilda. The Saints didn’t get very far though, with Antoni Grover on hand to mop up and send the ball forward. A bit of fiddling about with the ball on the boundary gave Aaron Sandilands a chance to show his wares. He put the ball down Josh Carr’s throat, Carr sent it long to the goal square and Luke McPharlin took a screamer over the top of Vossy’s little brother Brett. McPharlin kicked the goal and the Tasmanians were checking their Footy Records to check that it was the same Fremantle that had played there a few weeks earlier.
Fremantle were battering the Saints when they had the ball and moving the ball on at a frantic speed when Freo had the ball. For some reason though, only known to him and his hairdresser, Gilmore put the ball deliberately out of bounds as he was running the ball into an open wing. The Saints got the kick, Peter Bell’s short legs let him down, and the Saints got their second lucky goal through Blake.
A couple of goals against the flow of play weren’t going to worry the Dockers though. As they skilfully avoided any centre bounce free kicks by giving St Kilda the ball, they defended well as the Saints struggled to get any flow happening in their game plan. When Freo won the ball and Matthew Pavlich got his hands on it in the centre, he went long and high to the forward line. McPharlin took another big grab but in the time the ball had taken to reach him, Pav had run down the wing. He had up a full head of steam and gave McPharlin little choice but to handpass to him. So Luke dished of the handpass and Pav booted the goal from 45 out.
Fremantle were looking menacing. Their forward line was back in action with Pavlich and McPharlin holding onto their grabs and kicking it straight again. The Saints forward line on the other hand were looking very ordinary. Johnson had a leash around Riewoldt and Grover had Gehrig in something similar to the Hannibal Lector gear.
The move had been made though, to get Gilmore out of defence, after a couple of costly mistakes, and into attack. It paid off, and in the shadows of the quarter time siren he slotted one through to give the Dockers a handy 15 point lead.
What a great place Tasmania is. The jewel in Australia’s crown. They’ve got a beautiful venue for footy and Fremantle were loving playing there. They had their backs up and, after 5 Tasmanian losses in a row, this looked like it was going to be their day.
Then the V’s struck – not scaly green rat eating aliens disguised as humans (well they could have been – they’re hard to detect) but Voss and Vhitey Rievoldt. Not surprisingly the umpires were involved in both incidents which saw two goals go St Kilda’s way and brought them within 2 points of the Dockers.
It was a worrying sign. Fremantle had lost their way in Tasmania before and a few slack minutes saw them give the game away to the Hawks in Round 1. What they needed was someone to stand up. Someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck – or in the case of a game in Launceston, the scruffs of the necks.
Luckily Fremantle have a few blokes capable of doing that. You may have heard of one of them, he goes by the name of Pavlich. With a big kick from big Aaron Sandilands going deep into the forward line, Pav was onto it like a Tasmanian onto an attractive relative. He grabbed the ball out of the air, looked around to see if anyone was game to chase him and, seeing no one was, dobbed the goal.
Another bloke who can’t get enough of grabbing things by the scruff of the neck is Jeff Farmer. When Graham Polak had a brief episode of suffering delusions of grandeur and tried to kick a goal from outside fifty, The Wiz was on the scene. The ball spilt in the goal square, it was Farmer and Cook versus 5 St Kilda blokes. Cookie bowled a couple of them over, Farmer picked up the ball then managed to kicked it straight back over his head (just over his head, he was a few inches away from having the word NIREHS emblazoned on his forehead) and through for a goal. The Dockers were back out to a 14 point lead.
It was time to consolidate. The tackling in the middle was ferocious. Sometimes it seemed like Freo players were letting the St Kilda blokes get the ball first just so they could grind them into the dirt. When they decided to get the ball and kick it forward, it landed in the safe hands of Graham Polak who marked in the pocket. Still suffering from those delusions, he tried to play on and snap a Farmeresqe goal but unsurprisingly he didn’t pull it off.
As the Saints tried to clear it they hit a Fremantle wall so strong you’d swear it was built with forced convict labour. As the Dockers rebounded back into the forward fifty, Pav swooped on another one and snapped his 4th. As a result, he was officially given the nod as being back in town and the bookies started winding his price in for every bet they on their books (he’s now paying $1.20 to win Ice Skating With the Stars).
The Dockers were on a roll and it seemed their leading goal kickers had decided to wax with each other. Another screamer from McPharlin saw him set the trap for St Kilda by missing the goal – forcing them to have to try and get through the Fremantle forwards who were running back to the centre and giving the backline a much deserved holiday. As Des Headland brought the back down the ground with a kick that was both booming and raking, The Wiz made a mockery of Blake’s extra height, grabbed the ball and snapped his third goal.
They’d shot ahead to 28 point lead, there was only one thing that could stop them now – a free kick out of the centre. It almost came on queue, and Robert Harvey got the ball out to Hayes who put the ball down the throat of Fraser Gehrig (which was no mean feat because he is completely devoid of a neck) who kicked the Saints 5th.
It was just a blip on the radar though with the Pav/Wiz rotation moving back to Matthew Pavlich. Pav did his bit, kicked goal number 5 and sent Grant Thomas’s bottom lip so low that it required a special harness to get him down to the rooms for the half time break. He needed have been that sulky though, the umpires were practically keeping his team in the game and as he was climbing down the stairs, the umps missed three free kicks and Blake kicked a late one to get his side within 22 points.
It seemed the fresh air, delightful people and beautiful surroundings of one of Australia’s greatest cities was suiting the Freo players. The midfielder were hard at it, quick to move the ball and prepared to run to help out, the defenders were harder to get past than a Bob Brown picket line and the forwards were showing why the chicks dig them. Another half of good honest footy and Fremantle would be taking their first points away from Tassie.
Fremantle started out like a team with a good lead. They took their time and made the Saints earn their kicks. Happy in the knowledge that the Saints had the breeze at their backs and a lot of ground to make up. They were as ferocious as ever when the Saints got the ball but seemed in no hurry to take on the St Kilda flood when going forward. It took ten minutes before both of the goal umpires flags came out, Des Headland got on the end of a St Kilda defender’s attempt to clear the Fremantle forward line, and the rest was easy.
If it was back in Perth, the Freeeee-ooooooo chant would have started echoing around Subi Oval. They were powering over the top of St Kilda. Even the umpires were struggling to do anything to help them. When St Kilda finally got a break, Michael Johnson brought down a mark over the top of Vhitey on the St Kilda goal line. It was embarrassing for the poor Sainters. So much so that Fraser Gehrig lost the plot. He started swinging his fists, and pulling hair, grabbing blokes in headlocks. Poor old Antoni Grover couldn’t stop laughing – and that just made Fraser angrier. In the end the umpire had no choice but to give Johnson fifty metres, then he had no choice but to give him another fifty, then he had no choice but to give him another fifty. If there was any further to go, he would have had no choice but to give him another fifty. As it was Johnson was struggling to believe his luck – marking on the last line of defence and taking a shot for goals as a result. He dobbed the goal, the Dockers went out to a 33 point lead and the Fremantle runner had to take an oxygen tank out to Grover who was rolling on the ground laughing so hard and a bit of Elastoplast out to Johnson to tape up his split sides. It was a one clown circus.
With the Freo players at a milk-out-of-nose level of laughter from watching Gehrig’s antics and the Dockers well in front, the sting quickly disappeared from the game. Freo stuck to their guns, playing patiently and waiting for their opportunities to come but with less conviction than at the start of the quarter.
But while Fremantle were putting in the short strokes, the Saints were regrouping. The rope-a-dope was being enacted as Fremantle ran themselves ragged through the middle of the ground, hanging onto the ball and not making much progress through the St Kilda flood.
The umpires got a whiff of what was happening and they started to enact what was given the somewhat uninspired name of Operation Not Have Grant Thomas Abuse Us After the Game. Milne and Voss were helped to three quick goals before the siren and all of a sudden the Saints were back in the game.
The pressure was back on Fremantle. Losing the game from here would be worse than getting pumped from the start. They’d had the game in their grasp and should have been able to cruise through the final quarter for a percentage boosting win. Instead, they had a 16 point lead and needed to get goals on the board before their tired legs gave way.
What the Dockers have lacked all year is a match winner. Well, not so much lacked as been unable to find. They were in luck this week though, Pavlich had remembered to bring his cape this week and was running amok for Fremantle at both ends of the ground. A quick kick from Dodd out of the centre was all it took. Pavlich forced Gram to give the ball to him by shear mental intimidation and from there it was a simple job of snapping the goal from fifty metres out on his wrong foot.
It was a much needed steadier for Fremantle but the Saints weren’t beaten yet. A free kick out of the centre had become such a routine for the umpires that they’d stopped even bothering to have a bounce and just started giving St Kilda the ball. It didn’t get them a goal this time, with Freo putting the clamps on in their backline but what followed was some scrappy, tight footy. The sort of pressure footy that sees two teams desperate to get a score but neither able to come close to achieving their objective.
The Saints were getting very desperate. Time was running out and they needed to do something. So they made the only move left to them – they brought Crazy Fraser back on the ground.
It proved to be a stroke of genius. Antoni Grover was unable to look Fraser in the eye without laughing. At the start of the game Grover had seen a worthy opponent and was diligent and determined, now he just saw a fat bloke with a stupid hair cut who cracked the sulks every time something went his way (the same thing most people see when they look at Grant Thomas). So when the ball came Crazy Fraser’s way, he ran off Grover, picked it up and, despite running into an open goal, just snuck it through.
Freo needed another steadier but were struggling to run out the game. They’d stacked their defence to try and see out the clock. Duffield wrapped Milne up in a tackle, brought him to the ground and every Freo player in the near vicinity appealed for the free kick. Common sense told them it was either a free kick or a ball-up because firstly, Milne had both his arms pinned and both legs tucked under Duffield, and secondly because if the umpire didn’t step in soon, Milne was going to run out of air. But the umpires disagreed and decided to look the other way while Milne threw the ball out to Goddard. Goddard fired off a handpass to Dal Santo and he snapped another St Kilda goal.
It was hard to believe but the Dockers still had a 10 point buffer to work with. Matthew Pavlich didn’t think that was enough and when the ball got in the near vicinity of him, he hunted it down, forced Clarke to give it to him, then shoved him to the ground and set Luke McPharlin up for a screamer in the goal square. McPharlin kicked the goal and Freo looked safe.
Five minutes on the clock, three kicks clear, what could go wrong.
A late one from Barker was nothing to worry about. Fremantle were still two kicks up and the clock was rapidly ticking down. Freo counted it down like the professionals they are. Peter Bell marked the ball in defence with a minute left on the clock. The Dockers couldn’t lose it now. He kicked it to Josh Carr. Carr held it for a while then went long to Gilmore. A long kick down the boundary and the Dockers were home. But instead he made the unusual decision of going short to a St Kilda player. Montagna got hold of it and put through another goal with just 40 seconds left.
St Kilda still needed a goal to win, and a score to draw but Fremantle were confident they could see out 40 seconds. They flooded back and they put the pressure on. Ball up to ball up ate up the clock.
It was down to 8 seconds and the Dockers had it wrapped up on St Kilda’s fifty metre line. They pounced on it at the bounce and chewed up more seconds before they erupted in excitement at the sound of the siren. Freo had won, Scotty Thornton went mad. Des Headland started hugging people. What a win for the ages.
But something wasn’t right. They hadn’t started playing the song yet. Something the AFL hadn’t taken into account when they started playing games in Tasmania, they turn the sirens down because the locals all have 4 ears and were complaining about the noise. The siren had sounded but the umpire was so far up himself that he couldn’t hear the thing.
Graham Polak heard it, he was down in the change rooms, halfway through the entire teams supply of oranges, wondering where everyone had gotten too. Luke McPharlin and Jeff Farmer had heard it, they had their arms around each other in the middle of the rooms, starting on the rarely heard second verse of the club song…We’re the rovers we’re the ruckers and we’ll beat those dirty …”. Aaron Sandilands had completed his rub down and was sitting on the team bus telling the driver the story about the time he tried to ride Wild Chipmunk at the Royal Show.
But down on the ground, the umpires were refusing to admit the siren had gone. Fremantle players pleaded and begged with them. Byron Schammer was jumping around so much he should have been wearing a pair of parachute pants and thrown an MC in front of his name but still the umpire wouldn’t listen.
He bounced the ball as if it was all just a clever ruse by the Fremantle players. A clever ruse that most of the crowd, the entire Fremantle coaching box, the police, the officials and, of course the time keeper, were in on.
He bounced the ball and the Fremantle players couldn’t believe it. Sandilands was sitting on the bus showing the driver the scar on the back of his neck and Freo had no ruckman. They weren’t sure if it was for real or some sort of Candid Camera setup. It didn’t worry the St Kilda players though, they weren’t going to tell the umpire the truth. They kept playing for fifteen seconds after the game and Baker kicked a point. It was a draw. The umpires had let the score stand. It was a new record for umpiring stupidity.
A new record but a very short lived one. Not happy with giving the Saints another fifteen seconds of the game, they gave them a free kick as well. Baker had a chance to kick the goal and win the game that Fremantle had already celebrated winning. Somewhat thankfully, he missed but the draw stood. Chris Connolly was breathing fire, Cameron Schwab looked like he was going to pull a gun out of his pants and go Robert De Niro on the place, Des Headland was just confused.
They argued with the umpires until they were blue in the face but you can’t argue with umpires – they’re idiots. So St Kilda picked up the two points. Some would call getting the two points that way dancing with their sister, but in Tasmania that’s a ripper of a night out.