The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Grand Final

Footy is a passion, not some cold hearted, spread sheet dominated rational exercise.

On a Monday you want irrational reaction. You want emotion to trump reason.

What you really want is idiotic hysteria.

You’ve come to the right place.

Sydney Swans (10.7.67) v Western Bulldogs (13.11.89)

If you’re a Bulldogs supporter, this was not a dream, this actually happened.

Grand Final day is always the best, and it’s not just because you can drink in public before noon. OK, it’s mainly that, but a game like this one is pretty great too.

I arrived at the ground, and the atmosphere was just electric. For South Australian readers, electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge. Electrical power is the backbone of modern industrial society apparently.

I take my seat, and there are Bulldogs supporters on either side of me and Swans fans behind me.

The Bulldogs fan to my left already looks like he’s run a marathon and the game is still an hour away. He is not coping.

I buy him a beer, partly because I’m a wonderful person but mostly because I worry he will die if he doesn’t relax a little. The beer cost me $80 if I remember correctly and pairs nicely with the $63 chips.

They have the lap of retiring players, and I see poor Ted Richards who never got to be coached by James Hird. I bet he’ll regret things not working out at the Bombers for the rest of his life.

The AFL entertainment is about to begin and is always an excellent way to find out who is still alive.

It turns out Sting is. Before he comes out, we get Vance Joy who does a perfectly reasonable job, not that anyone is paying much attention.

Then The Living End come out and play a song no one knows. They then play Prisoner of Society and people around me all say ‘oh, I vaguely remember that song’.

Sting is then announced and plays ‘Message In A Bottle’, ‘Every Breath You Take’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ (yes I’ve never heard of that last one either).

These are not really songs to fire you up before the big game.

At least Sting did well enough that in years to come we will never remember he did this. You have to be really awful for us to remember you.

I get chatting to the Dogs supporter, and he tells me that if they lose, it will be the worst day of his life. I say ‘how could that be when you got to see Sting?’ He stares at me for a long time, and we don’t talk again until halftime.

While the AFL run the pre-game entertainment about as well as they run the draw, there’s one area they never fail in, acknowledging sponsors.

It’s a touching moment when an executive from Toyota gets a chance to toss the coin. Imagine wasting this once in a lifetime opportunity on some sick kid or other undeserving loser?

Of course, the crowd really gets going when the two teams come out. The banners going up and the club songs are about a billion times better than the pre-game entertainment.

The noise in the ground is insane. It’s louder than Adelaide Oval, something scientists and the Channel Seven commentary team previously thought impossible.

Finally, the game is underway, after a solid national anthem from the Bull sisters.

Tom Boyd drops an early mark and a Sydney supporter behind me yells ‘that a million dollars wasted’. It’s going to be a bad day for him, the supporter that is, not Tom, who is about to prove everyone wrong and earn his entire salary in one day.

Early on, neither side is allowing the other to do what they want to do. It’s like watching a bad marriage.

Both sides are so well drilled that there are actual tactics going on. They both know what the other is trying and are competent enough to stop it.

To borrow a phrase from arm wrestling, this is a real arm wrestle.

As we plunge into the second quarter, the crowd is riding every bump. There are a lot of turnovers, but that’s mainly because whoever has the ball is about to be smashed by three opponents.

The Bulldogs get away early, but the Swans then get moving.

In the high-pressure atmosphere of the second quarter, Josh Kennedy and Tom Mitchell start to thrive. The Swans appear to be getting on top and look to be taking a good lead into halftime.

My Bulldog friend next to me looks like someone having their second stroke of the day.

Lance Franklin is throwing himself around but an ankle injury from the first quarter seems to be hampering him a bit, that and the fact the Bulldogs defence is insane.

Just before halftime, though, the Bulldogs get a goal through Toby McLean, and we go into halftime with everyone in the stadium stressed out of their mind.

It’s more tense than when Gerard Whateley interviewed James Hird on AFL360.

I try to cheer my neighbour up by telling him not to worry, as I’ve never seen the Bulldogs lose a Grand Final. For the second time that day he gives me a look you usually reserve for a crazy person.

Conversation dries up pretty quickly after that.

The AFL’s running of the halftime sprint is won by an amateur, but it’s hard to tell as most of the other competitors aren’t exactly household names either.

If there’s a less exciting sporting competition than the halftime sprint I haven’t seen it, and yes I did watch that fast tennis thing.

The third quarter beings and Marcus Bontempelli starts to have real impact. His possessions are all quality. His use of the ball is way more important than someone having a tonne of ineffective possessions. He’s like a surgeon, just slicing the Swans open.

Tom Boyd is also playing the game of his life. He’s marking everything and kicking goals. It’s another reminder that football has been invented to make us all look stupid at some point.

The Bulldogs enter three-quarter time with the lead but in some ways that’s worse. Ask Richmond fans; it’s the hope that kills you.

But something is happening. Sydney looks out on their feet while the Bulldogs seem to be gaining strength. You can see it across the ground. Hannebery is injured, the Bulldogs are running more freely. It appears the dam is about to break.

The Swans though may be out on their feet, but they’re very good, and twice they counter punch and pull within one point. These are two sides that don’t give up; you have to put the other one down.

The Bulldogs are the far more organised team as the fourth progresses, despite the Swans hanging in there.

Liam Picken kicks a goal on the run, and you can see Bulldogs fans begin to wonder if 62 years of being hopeless are about to be washed away in a sea of euphoria.

For me, the moment I knew, was when Tom Boyd kicks from 55m into an empty goal square and the ball bounces one way, then the other. Time stands still and then it bounces through. It’s destiny.

They’re now creating their own luck, and another Picken goal seals it.

It is pandemonium. People are crying, yelling, hugging, doing odd dances.

The siren goes, and the song is sung, and again and again.

My friend next to me is in tears. He is sobbing, and it is kind of awesome. We shake hands, and he hugs me. He hugs me for a long time.

Barely anyone leaves, Swans fans included. Everyone is doing the right thing, showing respect for what we have just seen, two teams give it their all and the breaking of a 62-year drought.

The medal presentation begins, and it’s great, but then Beveridge calls Bob Murphy onto the stage.

So much of footy these days is manufactured emotion, but this is raw, and people are getting even more emotional in the stands, something I wouldn’t have thought possible moments before. It couldn’t be more perfect if you’re a Bulldogs supporter.

It was a great moment, and as Easton Wood and Bob hoist the cup, the release is palpable.

As the Doggies begin to celebrate and circle the ground, a Swans supporter taps my Bulldogs neighbour on the shoulder and says “enjoy it mate; there’s nothing like it.”

Isn’t footy the best? I mean it just is.

They clasp hands and then the Swans fans leave. They are shattered. I know that feeling, and it’s not good. I don’t know what the Bulldogs are feeling, though, but it looks awesome.

What a day. It turns out that if you stick with something for sixty years, you can accomplish anything.

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  1. tassie_JR

    Titus, great description of one of the best GF’s of all time. Looking forward to reading your articles in 2017. Well done Doggies.

  2. JosephShizbags

    Cant type.  Can[t see thw kuys thyrugh the tears,

  3. DreuxyOpernfan

    As I was leaving the MCG on Saturday, I heard a Swans supporter say to an elderly Bulldogs fan pretty much the same thing. Hands were clasped and mutual recognition and acknowledgement were shared. Yes, footy is wonderful in moments like these.
    Great article Titus. Your Monday Kneejerk Reaction is the highlight of my post-weekend reading.

  4. Gazjin

    Brillaint stuff Titus!

    The GF description was wonderful but the bits on electricity and Ted Richards/James Hird are comedu gold!!!

  5. stevos

    Yes, Swans fans and the club itself are gracious and proud, even after being cheated out of a premiership. It would be nice if the non Swans footballing public and the AFL script writers got off our f**king backs for a season or two, instead of making us forever pay for recruiting Buddy. That would be real nice.

  6. ute1

    Great stuff Titus.
    Some great moments for me after the game, lots of hugs and tears including from Swans supporters. Shame that same sense of sportsmanship doesn’t apply to some who want to blame umpiring. What total flogs and reinforces what many suspect, that a lot of Swans fans do not ‘get’ Aussie Rules at all.

  7. kellyexeter

    Goosebumps Titus. One day I hope I get that tap on the shoulder at the end of a GF! And I really really really don’t want to wait 50 years

  8. Mark Warne Smith

    I am going to read this over and over (and probably watch the game over and over), this was best finals series ever (not involving MFC (winning)). Could I suggest a 2nd article about the Bulldgos finals campaign_ i feel the need to hear more and can’t bring myself to read the Hun.

  9. MchlG


    20 – 8
    Bulldogs were better team on the day but could they have won if the umpiring was fair.

  10. ute1

    MchlG ute1 
    I have watched the replay 4 times and I was there!  I know, tragic isn’t it? There were definitely mistakes made by the umpires for both sides

    eg. Matthew Boyd incorrectly disposing of the ball whilst having his head severed – directly in front of Swans goal at a critical time!
    The free kick count is not meant to be ‘even’ and will more often than not will favour the team that is hardest at the ball. 

    Have a quick look at another stat. Inside 50’s – 59 to 41 close enough to 50% less than the Dogs.  Hard to win a granny when you are restricted to 10-7-67

    Also while talking ‘fair’ We will never know, but would the Swans have even been in the finals, if not for the millions pumped in by all the other clubs, I doubt it. Talk about an uneven playing field.

    Another flog has started a Change.Org petition to the AFL re the umpiring – from the millions who watched the game and were horrified by the free kick count he has an amazing 450 signatures ! 

    The team thats been given everything were flogged by the team that gave everything.

    Whinging about umpires is sour grapes on a day when you were comprehensively out-coached and out-played.

  11. sheppo

    Why I loved the Bulldogs this season. Round one. Opened up my beloved Dockers like a Mack truck ploughing through a store full of pinatas. Carnage. But it helped rip off the bandaid that was covering our playing list, and now we can reboot/rebuild/rejig or remember what it feels like to win. Round 23. They couldn’t handle the blustery conditions in Perth, and a fired up Dockers outfit keen to send their champ Pav off in style. 1st elim final, and they humiliate the Wet Coke Weegirls. GOLD GOLD GOLD. Then they boot Hawthorn out of the finals- more GOLD GOLD GOLD. Then they beat the AFL/GWS Giants at Spotless. More GOLD GOLD GOLD. And finally they win just their second flag ever, after soooooooo long, and do it with such flare and courage it’s hard not to be impressed by them. Congrats Doggies, enjoy it while you can. There is a bloke called Nat Fyfe froffing to get back out on the paddock, and a few other lads we think can play a bit of alright footy too, beware the Purple train.

  12. ClarkeUmp51

    stevos In one sentence you claim to be “gracious and proud” and the state “even after being cheated out go a premiership”. Would be delighted if you could objectively review the game and highlight all free kick errors – both ways please – and whatever else was done to cheat you of your right to a premiership. I will respond, also objectively. 

    You raise the point of Buddy, the recruitment of whom I have no issue with at all. Have a look at what Tom Boyd has copped over his contract/salary… plays the best six+ quarters of his young career in the last 6+ quarters of the season and he helps deliver a premiership, albeit through cheating.

    I honestly thought Swans fans were better than that, well most I know are.

  13. stevos

    ClarkeUmp51 stevos Gracious and proud I am of the fact that I value a fair contest for all. What we saw on the weekend was not a fair contest. If you can objectively watch that match replay in full and say that the Swans got a fair go then you are either biased or blind or don’t know the game. In regard to Boyd, yes he played great and good luck to the kid, and who’s going to knock back that sort of money when your basically a teenager? It was always going to make him and his performance a target. Oh yeah, and Clarke, Boyd didn’t cheat, lol…..real mature.  But the fact is, because of his contract size, HE copped it, but with Buddy, the Swans as a club copped it, from the press, the fans, and the league itself……when we did nothing wrong. Ever since that day, the AFL, opposition fans and the Melbourne media have had it in for us, ignoring truth and following the majority. The ‘vibe’ has permeated all levels. You’re not a Swans fan obviously, so you wouldn’t understand (or care probably, like the ignorant masses). The Swans fans you know are like all Swans fans, gracious and proud, but also not blindly stupid like some people appear to be…..and we’re allowed to vent. Cheers…

  14. TimmyG

    Great summary as usual Titus but get stuffed about the SA blackouts! Do you not understand that aside from all homes, schools and child care centres the pubs were also shut over here?? Have some compassion man!

  15. MchlG

    ute1 MchlG
    From another site:
    North Melbourne supporter, “I’m serious this match needs to be investigated.”
    St Kilda supporter, “Given the game when it was in the balance, not one freekick for Sydney in the 3rd quarter?”
    Gold Coast supporter, “As a neutral this was some of the worst umpiring I have ever seen. Absolute disgrace”
    Essendon supporter, “If I was a Sydney fan my TV would not have lasted the game out.  The kicking in danger/50 metre penalty would have been the end of it.”
    Geelong supporter, “Glad the dogs won but that was a disgrace, I would be out protesting in front of AFL house if that was my side getting that sort of treatment.”
    Carlton supporter, “..there were multiple shockers that only seemed to go against the Swans …you are obviously biased or know nothing about the rules”

  16. stevos

    ute1 MchlG What a bias , dare I say it, FLOG. Mate you are an idiot who can’t see past his own prejudice…….Comprehensively outplayed but only one point down with ten minutes to play. Had the umpiring been fair, game over, Swans win. You are an tool!

  17. stevos

    MchlG ute1 ute1 strangely quiet on this one…..maybe supporters of all those clubs just ‘don’t know the game’ either eh?

  18. Hector

    stevos MchlG ute1  west coast fan myself.  that was the worst umpiring I have ever seen – and I watched the umpires fail to pay my side a kick for most the game in the first week of the finals.  west coast were never in that contest – but Sydney were out in front of this one thanks to JPK.  It wasn’t just the lopsided count or the two quarters where a single free kick wasn’t paid or the three incidents of sliding in that failed to be penalized culminating in a serious injury to a Sydney star (and one that was bafflingly paid against Kieren Jack) – it was the multiple incidences where a bogus call (the aforementioned Jack incident, the Rampe holding the ball, the Clay Smith head high feather) directly resulted in a Dogs score.  In a tight contest that was a MAJOR advantage to be gifted.

    1. Anthony

      Hector. If your first to the ball then you get the free kicks. The bulldogs have won just about every free kick count this year as well as inside 50s & contested possessions so the correlation is there. The dogs are also an extremely well disciplined team.
      Yeah there were mistakes, no doubt about it but every game does. Did it affect the outcome of the game? Absolutely not! Clearly the better team won.
      Also have a look at those 3 free kicks again regarding the sliding rule with the key word being SLIDING. In the first instance Maclean bent down to pick up the ball while Jack decided he wouldn’t bother with that and intended to pick the ball up on the run. Unfortunately for Jack, Maclean got their first so jack crashed over the top of him. There was no sliding to take Jacks legs out so that was a correct decision.
      The Morris one was a slide so potentially that was missed. But what you fail to mention is Biggs ends up with the ball and puts it down the throat of a swans player uncontested and that player drops an easy mark. You should be pointing the finger at him.
      The Easton Wood one is the toughest i reckon. I just think he went in harder, lower and slightly more earlier than Hannebery. The umpire just can’t pay a free kick because someone gets injured and an infringement is debatable, so the umpire has to pay the clear cut ones and that wasn’t clear cut for me.
      Also the Boyd holding the ball. Yep definitely holding the ball there but Jack was the tackler not Hewett. Hewett comes in later and wins the free, baffling really! Not an easy kick that one and considering Jack missed 2 easy chances in front of goal earlier, i can’t see him kicking that. So that was a mistake that benefitted the swans.
      The Rampe holding the ball was the worst decision of the day, no doubt.
      Smith one was high, soft or not it was a high so you can’t call that a mistake when it was actually correct.

  19. Gavan

    Swans wingers, I would possibly be whinging as a Bulldogs if the boot was on the other foot, if the count was the other way and we lost the GF. However what needs to be acknowledged is that the umpires obviously had a policy of letting the game go. There were free kicks that would have been payed in other games, in every pack in every contest in the GF. I think the umps thought that the game would be played as it was: fiercely contested by both sides for 100 minutes.
    They opted to let the game go and not pay the less obvious free kicks. The Bulldogs outcontested the Swans on the day as statistics other than the freekicks show. The freekicks reflect the Dogs were first to the ball. There were free kicks against the Swans that did not have to be payed and vica versa. The Dogs suffered from several non paid free kicks. Buddy got away with murder charging at the tackler and being tackled.
    Stevos and others you need to accept you were clearly beaten by a better team on the day.
    Whingeing is poor form. Be gracious in defeat even if you feel crap or else you expose yourself as lacking emotional intelligence and maturity.

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