Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Retro review - 1994 Semi Final

Other than people complaining about the Victorian premier 23 hours a day, there's not a lot to compare 1994 and 2021. The international villains are different, you can watch old TV shows without having to buy them three videos at a time from the ABC Shop, and on average you'll see five less goals in an AFL match. The one constant - as it has been for 57 years - is that we haven't won a premiership since. If you're reading this at any time after Saturday 25 September then I hope like buggery that we've rectified that slight on history.

Standing in the way of a drought-breaking flag is Footscray (or if you prefer, and I do not, the Western Bulldogs), a side who erased the worst of their own painful, fiasco-ridden recent history in 2016. For that reason, the most polite thing to do would be stand aside. We might complete the circle by doing the same for St Kilda in a few years. and in about five years we'll probably do the same for St Kilda. Not to mention how we offered minimal resistance when they won their inaugural flag. It's just good manners to let us win now, preferably in a landslide.

We haven't got much of a finals pedigree against the Dogs, it will be just our fifth against them from 90 played. Helps that they weren't in the league for its first 28 years, and didn't finish in the top four until 1938, but of the other 1925 debutantes, the Grand Final will only draw them level with finals against North, and leave them two behind Hawthorn. Since our first September meeting, in the 1946 Semi Final, our three other meetings have been well spaced out, with none between the 1961 Prelim and 1994 Semi. In that time we didn't even make the same finals series. Mind you, for most of it we didn't make any finals series. Even when we got going 1987-1991 they had dropped back into mid-table mediocrity.

Our paths finally crossed again in the second week of the 1994 finals, and incredibly even year where third and ninth were separated by one win. Footscray finished fifth with 13 wins, while we'd stumbled in the last round courtesy of a) thumping a woeful Sydney (Schwarz kicks nine, all rejoice) and b) Richmond dropping dead against Geelong. Thank god for the newly introduced top eight, it would have all been for naught a year earlier.

This didn't bode well for playing a 15-7 Carlton side that finished second on the ladder, but strange things were afoot at the MCG. When they led by 25 points in the second quarter it looked grim for us, before nine goals by the unusual combination of Sean Charles and Martin Pike saw us home comfortably

Our game was the dullest of four on the opening week. North and Hawthorn went to extra time, Bill Brownless sunk the Dogs with a kick after the siren, and West Coast beat Collingwood by two points. With the original recipe top eight eliminating the two lowest ranking losers, the Pies were already out. Our win tipped Hawthorn out, setting up a meeting with the highest ranked loser from week one, playing for the right to lose to minor premiers West Coast in a Perth Preliminary Final.

The Dogs had already beaten us twice, a three point thriller in Round 8, and a more comfortable 40 point win in Round 23. Based on that, and their narrow loss a week earlier, they might have been started favourites if not for losing three players (including Luke Beveridge) to injury. It left us preferred 2/5 to 13/8 (or in modern language, 1.40-2.62). No idea if I was that confident, I can't even remember it happening. Definitely wasn't at the ground, and with the teenage sooks already starting to bubble, the best I can do is imagine listening on the radio. Seems like a good opportunity to watch it in full for the first time then.

You know things are heading in the right direction when coverage opens on a none-more-90s scene. It's not just the COLOSSAL font used for the quarter time or the commentator profile shots tilted at a jaunty angle, it's the beer ad on the wing, and an MCG centre wicket resembling the Gobi Desert.

With possible showers and hail on the agenda, Paul Hopgood, Andy Lovell, Jason Norrish, Glenn Molloy (a late replacement for Sean Charles, who was literally never as good again) and David Schwarz all go for long sleeve jumpers. We know that's the weather forecast because it's presented in a fashion that takes up a third of the screen.

In the tradition of umpires letting players do whatever they want in a final (which will bode well for 2021 Footscray tossing the ball around like rugby leaguists), Todd Viney opened proceedings by swiping one closed fist at a ball and getting away with it. Elsewhere Tingay flattened Simon Atkins with a hefty hip and shoulder.

Footscray's first attack was turned back by David Neitz, not even 20 years old yet but already looking a brute of a man. After achieving the number of the beast by kicking 6.6 in his sixth game, he'd found a home in defence, and was on his way to All-Australian selection the following season. I suppose he had a lot more defending to do when we went back to being shit.

Our first sscore came from a lovely Tingay kick that left Matthew Febey in acres of space at half forward. He went for Lyon in the square but it was rushed through for a point - about the only win their defence has against him for three quarters. 

By modern standards, it's weird seeing fence line ads stay the same all game (in this case Fosters, and a request to please consider the Mitsubishi Magna. Thank you, I will, before buying almost any other car). For years it felt odd that they changed, now they've either been scrolling or digital for so long that it seems normal. You'll also notice Crown Casino proudly displaying their full name, a couple of years before they were discredited by people leaving their kids in the car and switched to simply Crown, playing up the entertainment, and down the losing your life savings.

All our early rucking was done by Dean Irving, drafted by us in the pre-season after the rock bottom rubbish Sydney turned him down. Took him a while to get going, but he broke into the side just in time to play finals. You know Jim Stynes is around somewhere, because he always was.

We certainly won the sponsor battle, with Tooheys front and back against ICI Chemicals on the front, and ICI's Dulux paint brand on the back. People like to drink beer, even if it comes from New South Wales, nobody queues to buy solvents (insert your own joke about the western suburbs in the space provided). If it was about flogging paint, why not put that on the front? Unkind people would say ICI's products taste better than Tooheys.

Six months into the season, there are still a few awkward pauses early in the commentary as they leaf through teamsheets to try and work out who the more obscure players are. Like when Molloy was called Phil Gilbert, or Hopgood 'Jeff Hilton'. Even with the liberal interpretation of deliberate in those days, the commentators were still all over Hopgood's blatant hand over the line in the back pocket. No interest from the umpire, who has already turned a blind eye to about nine other frees. The chances of anything being called deliberate were demonstrated a couple of minutes later when Kym Koster casually punched a bouncing ball over the line without an opponent anywhere nearby. After the early attempt to grass up Hopgood, they never try and get deliberate paid again.

If anyone was going to kick double figures, the smart money would have been on Richard Osborne, who'd plundered us for 11 as a Fitzroy player in 1989 and 10 a year earlier in that famous loss to the Swans. He had an early opportunity, marking a quick kick out of a pack by Neitz on a slight angle. 

There's so much wind about that he doesn't trust the first lot of grass thrown up in the air, but when the second also flings off over his left shoulder he's well aware of what he's in for. Not many players would have kicked 10 at three different clubs against the same opposition, and Osborne isn't one, missing here and kicking 0.3 in total. With zero respect to the tricky conditions, Ian Robertson spends the next 30 seconds hanging shit on him for missing.

Somebody's holding a banner off the fence, but they don't write it big enough so all you can see is '4 sale'. What '4 sale' I don't know, and they probably should have either sprung for an ad in the Trading Post or waited for the internet to come along. We do get a look at this rozzer, who looks like a kid posing in a uniform to sneak in for free.

Meanwhile, nothing says The 90s like somebody in a Charlotte Hornets hat. And the all-yellow tracksuit on the right is a nice touch.

The ball barely went down our end for the first five minutes, and the Dogs were only denied the opener when Sean Wight flew through the square to glove the shot through. That miss proves costly, with the ball going straight down the other end for Schwarz to take a delightful one-hand contested mark and stick it down Martin Pike's throat. After his four goal haul a week earlier he's off line here, possibly distracted by the red and blue balloons that wafted into his eye-line.

For a while everyone was mad for kicking points. Including Chris Grant, who led flawlessly for Scott West but missed. That finally led to the opening goal, and if you've forgotten how good The Ox was before his knee fell apart, watch him grab the ball out of the ruck and hold off his opponent, eventually allowing combined Lovetts to move the ball inside 50, where Lyon gathered, spun through two opponents and snapped from 30 metres out.

As Stynes finally comes on to replace Irving, there are farcical scenes at Footscray's end where Osborne gets a free for high contact that didn't go anywhere near being high, and is forced to take it from outside 50, even though his original kick landed with a teammate in the square. Maybe that would have changed the course of the game, we'd have lost, and been inspired to win the next seven flags. 

There was much booing from the crowd when his shot was rushed, but they stopped whinging when it turned into a seven point play a few seconds later. This was great news for both the person who got a professional banner done to celebrate Chris Grant's 100th, and somebody who ran theirs off on a dot matrix printer.

To complete the set, there was also a hand-drawn sign featuring much canine jowl.

At this stage the Dogs looked much better, so it'll be fun watching us rampage past them. We're lucky not to concede again when Norrish first shoves Neon Leon Cameron after a mark, then takes his time complying with the umpire's direction to move backwards. Was probably distracted by thinking about playing for Freo in '95. Leon's kick misses everything, further wasting their early dominance.

A moment please for our funky tracksuit top, expertly modelled by Jeff Hilton.

Schwarz was in absolutely everything all day, arguably having a better game than the guy who kicks 10 in three quarters. Here he gathers along the boundary, and even after kicking on the full, recovers with a screamer from the kick-in. Things are going so well that even when he flubs a kick, it rolls straight to Glenn Lovett. He's immediately tackled, but gets away with an 'interesting' attempt at handball. Mark Hunter believes he should have had a free, so strongly that he goes off his nut, with veins popping from his neck, at the umpire, shoving a teammate out of the way to get to him. In the era before the phrase 'bad look for the game' was invented, he got away with it instead of conceding 50.

Insert vintage 'free kick Footscray' reference here.

Our first free led to another stuff up that accidentally worked for us, with Stynes almost rolling the ball along the ground from a standing start before it bounced perfectly off a lunar crater and into Tingay's hands. He put it on a platter for Lyon, who kicked his second and everything was coming up Melbourne. Except if you're Glenn Molloy, who spent the next two minutes being rorted by umpiring decisions.

When Lyon kicks his third not long after you can see Steve Kretiuk losing the will to live. We almost get another one straight after, with Tingay and Molloy both failing to shamble the ball through from the line. Still, after Footscray's early domination it's all Melbourne here. This feeling is confirmed when Lovell snaps his first. This goes down well with the old bloke but not Saddam Hussein.

Another great moment for the fans of homemade signs.

When Kretiuk is seen in the hands of trainers the first thought is that they're asking him R U OK? after being thrashed to death by Lyon, then we see a replay of Martin Pike doing the sort of head/ground interface sling tackle that would get you multiple weeks these days. He might not even have realised Kevin Dyson was kicking our fifth over his head. As concussion hadn't been invented yet Kretiuk stays on for the rest of the game. "Should he have a spell on the bench?" ponder Robertson and special commentator Bernie Quinlan, as Steve wanders about like he's just had a lobotomy.

The Dogs missed a shot on the quarter time siren, and after having the game all their way in the opening minutes finish 23 points down. We'd blown bigger leads to worse teams in recent years, but it was a handy buffer in a final.

Whatever Alan Joyce said to the Footscray players at quarter time it didn't help, with Glenn Lovett setting Lyon up his fourth. Now the Dogs were in the deepest of shit. Even Matthew Febey joins in for a shot on his wrong side, missing but furthering the idea that we'd piss it in. Matthew Croft decided that if they were going down they may as well do it in style, casually pushing Lyon over after his next mark, giving away 50 that made Gaz's fifth a certainty. For that I'd have not only dragged Croft but traded him to Fitzroy for Nigel Palfreyman. The Dogs were a touch more forgiving, keeping him until 2004.

"What are we going to see here, a slaughter or a Footscray fightback?" asks Robertson. Looks a lot like the former when Pike nearly pulls another mark down in front of ground. When Irving bumps Steve Wallis so hard Mitch can still feel it today, Dog fans started to realise where this was going.

You know how good all these players were, but watching this was a reminder of Sean Wight's delightful runs.

No sign of the promised rain yet, but we do give away a few more frees, until eventually a comically young Brad Johnson gets the ball inside 50. That goes about as well as their other entries, immediately sent back the middle of the ground. The best they can do is pump it back in, and watch Jason Norrish kick the ball on the full at an almost 90 degree angle. That only leads to a point as well, putting them on 1.7, 34 points down, and quite frankly stuffed. 

In 1994 I'd still have been worried. Especially when Koster finally got reward for repeat inside 50s and kicked their second. He briefly thinks about celebrating before realising the state his side is in. Lucky he doesn't, because we go straight out of the middle for Lyon to mark again. Despite having been beaten all-ends-up, the piss-tip haired Keenan Reynolds thought it was a good idea to give Garry a mouthful. He then has to stand there and watch the ball go over his head for Lyon's sixth. Bad luck Keenan, made to look foolish for reasons other than his hair. He never played for the Dogs again, going to North for two seasons on the outskirts of their list.

Our goals was wiped out equally as quickly through Chris Grant. There must have been birds nesting right next to the Channel 7 effects mic, because he lined up to the sound of a nature documentary. Meanwhile, tis is one of the widest crowd banners I've ever seen...

... and I also enjoy the understated simplicity of 'LEON'.

For all the wrist-slashing about how footy is not as good as it used to be, there is an outrageous number of shamleless toepokes to the boundary that you wouldn't dream of getting away with now. Maybe stoppages aren't such a bad thing after all? You'd never know, the way the AFL treats them like Satan.

Things started to get ropey when Brad Johnson kicked their second in a row, reducing the margin to 22 points with 6.30 remaining. Barry Standfield, who looks like he should have stopped playing in 1982, kicked another one almost instantly and it was brown undies time for Melbourne fans everywhere.

In the immediate aftermath of the goal the classic MCG public address system tone plays and somebody's summoned to the Bay 6 Administration Office, Ground Floor, Olympic Stand. Every time it went off my mum recounted the story of a guy who found out that way that his whole family had died in a car crash, which was not the sort of heavy discussion I went to the footy for.

The sense that things were turning against us continued with Lyon plucking a loose ball, and missing to an open square from 20 metres out. They burst straight down the other end where Neitz absolutely murdered Chris Grant by introducing shoulder to head in a marking contest. While Grant tried to work out where he was, we whisked the ball away from danger. Hopefully this game is a metaphor for Saturday night, MFC cup-presenter elect Garry Lyon triumphant, with his Bulldog equivalent in disarray. 

Play stopped for Grant to be carted off the ground on a stretcher, giving him a 100th game to (not) remember. Bernie Quinlan was incredulous that he didn't get a free, and once Dogs fans see the replay they join in too. And even by the free bumping standards of the day, they had a point. Then they had a goal, with Brad Johnson's second making it an 11 point game. David Schwarz said "fuck that" and took a one handed mark for the immediate reply. He followed with a beautiful one hand gather of a bouncing ball, before wheeling around, and setting Lyon up. He misses, taking him to 6.2, but the way Schwarz moves here makes me sad about him doing his knee x3 all over again. The bulkier 1997-2002 version is how I best remember him, but if he'd stayed upright and kept playing like this there would have been queues a mile long to get into the MCG.

For the first time all day Dipper is called upon to boundary ride, letting us know that Chris Grant is conscious.. He's not only conscious, but back on the ground to set up Footscray's next goal, traumatic brain injury or not. Danny Southern clearly plays on after marking, but Glenn Molloy doesn't realise what he's about to do and pushes him over for a free. Molloy then does his block and looks like he's about to shank somebody. Glenn has a good game, but after giving away four frees it's no surprise that he makes with Charles again for the Prelim.

At 12 points, we would seem to be in a touch of difficulty. And only desperate defence against a Dog heaving it out of a pack like David Campese stops us conceding again. There must be some rain about now, because a pre-umbrella policy patron put theirs up in the front row. Doesn't last long, and by the end of the quarter we're playing in lovely sunshine. Lovell even sheds his long sleeves to go au natural.

Their challenge doesn't get very far, and Brett Lovett soon floated a kick over a pack for the reply. Even though he hasn't been seen since Round 17, there's a reminder that Jako is the man that makes our hearts flutter. Shame the next time he plays in an AFL game it will be for the Dogs. Regardless of that, please enjoy how well constructed this banner is. Leading, kerning, font, size and alignment of letters. Absolutely textbook.

That's about as far as Footscray go. Steve Kretiuk goes back on Lyon, and is immediately torched on another lead for goal seven. We then rush the ball straight towards goal again, but a Glenn Lovett snap goes wide. Hilariously, this leads to another goal for Lyon, as the hapless Kretiuk shit himself and grabbed at Garry's jumper instead of simply being beaten to the mark. Bernie Quinlan risks losing his Forwards Union ticket by suggesting it shouldn't have been a free because it didn't impede Lyon - as if that makes up for pulling him back like he was trying to stop him falling into a swimming pool.

For the second time, Footscray had stuffed the game up, and there was worst news for Matthew Croft, who did a hammy in the most painful, Todd Rixon-esque way.

"Our boundary rider will check him out" says Landy, and we don't hear from Dipper for the next 10 minutes. Then he disappears for the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, the biggest injury is to Steve Kretiuk's dignity, as Lyon floats in front of him for another mark. He unselfishly tried to chip over the top to Schwarz but gets it completely wrong and instead rolls it along the ground in front of him for no score. Lyon gets the goal anyway, courtesy of another stuff up by Reynolds, courtesy of a botched kick by Leon Cameron, who is described as having "a very poor afternoon". Garry's ninth means things are getting a bit silly, but appropriately for the leader of the AFL Squadron, the kids bloody love it.

Footscray are all at sea now, and Lyon immediately gets his next shot from a free. It's made by Schwarz pirouetting through the midfield in the most majestic fashion. This makes me want to go back in a time machine and stop him from playing on the day he did his knee the first time. Over to the Bulldog bench for reaction:

The misery is temporarily halted when Gaz gets excited at the idea of 10 and misses to the right. Joyce tried Danny Southern on him instead, only for the captain to hit double figures on the very next inside 50. The master of misdirection signalled for Brett Lovett to have a shot, then dashed off to mark. With 11 minutes left in the quarter he was on all sorts of record pace. Then, because Melbourne is the home of pain and suffering he clutches at his hammy. It doesn't instantly put him away, and he contests the next mark before Brett Lovett scoops the ball off the deck and kicks a fierce snap around the corner to make it 51 points, with Melbourne kicking the last six goals.

Tingay is the next in the queue, selling a dummy so violent that his opponent may have required surgical extraction from the MCG turf, before thumping it through from 50. Random crowd member, please describe that passage of play in one word:

Footscray are falling apart at a rapid rate. Croft's hammy is in tatters, Grant is feeling the effects of being clobbered by Neitz, and Kretiuk is described as 'ill'. Probably sick as a parrot from being made to look silly by Lyon. On the other hand, we were taking the piss, with Schwarz taking one handed marks. Everywhere. God knows why Lyon is still on at this point, but he has a shot at #11 while Joyce tries to transmit some inspiration via the medium of nose-picking.

In the interest of balance, we have to point out that Balmey also considered cleaning house, before pulling away at the last minute.

Here's Bulldog great Gary Dempsey. "Looking respledent in his.... baseball cap... and.... Bluey jacket." says Robertson, officially ushering in junk time. I'm more interested in the aerodynamic hair on the guy to his left. Also features another kid who could only be more 90s if he was pictured playing NBA Jam.

Before we have to fill time with any more heroes from the losing side, Kevin Dyson wallops another goal from 50. The person who put the 2 on his jumper must have walloped a slab.

This is a very enjoyable romp, but it lacks the sheer comedy value of third quarter in the 2021 Prelim. So far there hasn't been a goal half as funny as Gawn running riot. Unlike last week, we also conceded in the middle of the rampage. Who knows how many goalposts Chris Grant was seeing, but he aimed at the middle two and kicked truly. 

It ushered in a few seconds of silence, before they tried a tricky kick into the forward line and only succeeded in landing it with a grateful Wight. We go down the other end, Schwarz takes the ball out of a ruck contest, and turns in one movement to set up Brett Lovett from the square. "He's better than Nureyev" says Landy, in an amusing matter-of-fact fashion. A brief discussion about Nureyev thankfully steers away from the manner of his death, a subject that you'd struggle to get enlightened conversation about in 1994.

Anyway, who needed Rudolph, we had Dirty Harry.

Inspector Callahan once offered his boss a seven point suppository, and we were giving similar to the Dogs. They tried to do something different by pitting Leon Cameron against Stynes in the ruck. That didn't work. Lyon then turned provider, shepherding to allow Lovell to mark Todd Viney's kick uncontested and boot his second. 

And that's three quarter time, with a 68 point lead. We celebrate by sending out the world's most unusual boy band.

As much as you'd like to have pressed on and won by 120 points, there's always going to be an element of cue in rack during the last quarter of these games. One Footscray player tried to retain what pride he had by pulling Dean Irving's jumper over his head and punching him. Dean takes the view that the best revenge is living well, laughing in his face before kicking the opening goal. 

I would say this was some weird, Illuminati style shit, but if we were aligned with a shadowy cabal that controls the world they'd surely have slung us a flag before now.

With a landfill worth of rubbish now blowing onto the ground, Quinlan mistakes a few tumbling chip packets for hail, which stuffed his chances of getting a job reading the Channel 7 weather.

Knowing he's unlikely to play the following week, Molloy choose to go out niggling, giving Leon a mouthful of abuse at a stoppage. Stops short of belting somebody, but you know he wants to.

I always thought Lyon went off at three quarter time, but here he is in the early stages of the last, looking like he has absolutely no interest in doing anything that might cause further injury. Instead, Schwarz kicks one from an obscure angle. "We might call him Rudolph" says Landy. Nobody did. He tried to get the Nureyev angle up again later in the quarter and doesn't even get support from from his fellow commentators.

This finally prompts them to take Lyon off, exiting to a standing ovation while clutching worryingly at his leg. Not often you see the icepack attached with black electrical tape. That must have been purely for the comedy value of seeing him tear it off his exceedingly hairy legs. One of the Febeys enjoyed it.

We have plenty of chances in the last 10 minutes, but kick six behinds. Alan Joyce, does this give you any comfort? How about I just write down 'no'?

His side is so disinterested by this point that they don't even steam in to remonstrate when Viney sits a young Scott West on his arse. If he thought that was bad, wait and see what we did to him on 2000 Brownlow night. 

Most opposition players from this era ring a bell, but I admit to having ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA who Robert West was. And no wonder. Like Reynolds, he didn't play for the Dogs again. Unlike Reynolds, he didn't get a chance at another club.

The MCG surface was bad enough at the first bounce but by this point it's become hilariously bad, with potholes everywhere. Scott West rises above the treacherous conditions to kick the most token of consolation goals. And that's it as far as majors go. They don't score again, we get three more points, everyone of a red and blue (not white) persuasion goes home happy, while it was tears before bedtime for the straight sets dogs.

There's late injury drama when Schwarz's 13th mark is marred by some soon-to-be-forgotten fringe player called Anthony Darcy dropping a knee on his head. According to Wikipedia (and if you can't trust them etc...) he later married Dr. Katrina Warren, via her relationship with Craig Nettelbeck. And you thought I was overly fascinated by obscure AFL players. Like half his teammates, Scott never played for the Dogs again.

As much as the commentators tried to convince us that the contact was purely accidental, it was at a very minimum reckless. Which wasn't something for the tribunal back then, but morally I can pin the blame on a player I'd never heard of until five minutes ago for Schwarz ending the game looking like this:

As Schwarz is carted off, let's have another look at that fantastic tracksuit. And somebody's K-Mart shopping bag lower left.

God only knows what happened to Dipper, but for the first time all day, with about two minutes left, they throw to Neil Kerley for an injury update. I presume they both got to talk more during breaks on the original broadcast, because they haven't done the job of one man between them during the game itself.

With a minute left, the final score is a hurried snap from Andrew Obst, prompting footage of future Palmer United Party Senate candidate Doug Hawkins looking glum. I wish they'd balanced that with Jako looking happy, but he was probably already down in the Southern Stand carpark rooting by this stage.

Still no sign of Dipper, and Kerley handles the post-match interview with Lyon. The captain has no hard feelings about having to play the first ever Prelim in Perth, saying "you've got to go over there to win it." We went over there, but we most certainly did not win it. Come back in 27 years for us to finally beat somebody in a Prelim over there. Try explaining to the people of 1994 that the opposition will be Geelong. 

Your final results, courtesy of Demonwiki

Match Statistics

Melbourne win by 79 points

Goalkickers: Garry Lyon 10, Brett Lovett 3, Kevin Dyson 2, Andy Lovell 2, David Schwarz 2, Dean Irving 1, Stephen Tingay 1

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