Is there a more famous victory in football folklore than the 1970 Grand Final?
For those unfamiliar, it was Carlton’s come from behind win over a steamrolling Collingwood side after reeling in a 44-point half time deficit.
Without any hint of hyperbole, peradventure we have finally seen a rival – or perhaps a game even more astounding.
The round 5 clash between the Dingoes and Goannas was, by all indications and accounts, a famous victory.
It was a gargantuan stand-off between the two best sides in the league, both of whom were close to full-strength, undefeated, and hell-bent on destroying one another.
It was a game that deserved no second places but as is the norm, one will receive all the spoils.
And on the day it was the Goannas.
It took career best performances, kamikaze intent, and a whole entire mills worth of steel.
It also took fire and brimstone. As evidenced by a crazed Bash Brother (James Dennier) so whipped up in competitive fever and murderous intentions that he bellowed out a Rick Flair styled ‘WHOOOO!’ after a lunging tackle on Dingoes star ruck John Cooper, then proceeded to let him know it would happen “All day, baby”.
Although Cooper responded with a commanding display of ruck work the gamesmanship harked back to the Hawks of ’08 and their unsociable football.
Speaking about the win coach Rob Scarlett was typically pragmatic, trying his darnedest to keep a lid on the hype.
“The boys were understandably pretty happy with the win. It is never easy to win on tour and to come from behind like that gives the boys a lot of self-belief about how they can fight back when under pressure. ”
‘Pretty happy’ seems a bit of an understatement given the dramatic scenes after the siren. Scarlett was so immersed in his game zone he was still giving instructions toOceans whilst players shook hands at games end – just in case it was a rogue siren set by the opposition to sneak in a few goals.
7-goal hero Dan McGrath said it all when he claimed it was one of the best wins he has been involved in. This is coming from a hall of famer that’s played more matches than most of the team combined.
Asked about the importance of the win though and Scarlett could not deny where the Goannas season is headed.
“That self-belief (gained in the win) will be very important coming into the end of the season.”
Yes ladies and gentlemen, barring an act of God, the Goannas should feature prominently in this years Grand Final. A game where that self-belief will be very much needed.
Yet, Osaka could have very easily had the result sown up before the last change and the whole finals landscape would be vastly different to it’s current Goanna-friendly version.
The men from Kanto way have a few defensive heroes to thank for that. Chiefly Jimmy Morvell and Huddo (Craig Huddleston).
Alexander Suvorov once said, “There is nobody more terrible than the desperate”.
And as Osaka’s much vaunted forward line of Drew Moon and his cohorts can attest, Huddo and Morvell were the most terrible of men that late Saturday afternoon.
“(They) were fantastic in the backline playing on some very talented players”, Scarlett said after the game.
Huddo’s head first lunges into packs. The last ditch spoils from behind. The frantic goal mouth scrambles. They were what kept the Goannas in with a chance as any less of an effort would have seen many a more Dingo goals.
What further helped was Dan Atkins playing one of his best games for the year, a presidents game, and the return of Andy P (Peyton) who provided a cool head down back with assured ball use and a general’s voice. At times the ball was bouncing around like a hot potato in an impoverished crowd down there.
Despite the resolute backline and the best efforts of Scarlett, Luke Eyes and the ultra impressive Mitch Ainsworth who booted three important goals playing just forward of the middle, it looked like Osaka was winning a ligament-stretching arm wrestle slowly but surely.
Enter a spine tingling three-quarter time address from Scarlett and McGrath. Not dissimilar to Ron Barrassi in 1970. Scarlett spoke about showing some steel. He backed in the players that were struggling. He stressed the importance of playing with confidence. Seize the day.
Then caution was thrown to the wind and Milts, playing on a leg and a wooden peg, found himself thrust into the ruck for the last quarter.
With the Goannas 2 goals down and lacking momentum, it was a risk that had to be taken by the coaching brains trust.
What ensued after some classic Luke Eyes stoppage work was 2 scintillating Michael Milton goals inside the first 30 seconds. Both on the run.
Game. Broken. Open.
Asked about his inspired decision, Scarlett told about his worries.
“Milts was carrying an ankle injury so we were protecting him a little by playing him in the forward line. At three-quarter time he put his hand up to go into the ruck and while Big Tex had done a great job for us in the ruck, the fresh legs of Milts gave us an edge and allowed us to dominate the clearances and break the game open. He was electric.”
Indeed, Tex keeps getting better. He had his biggest task thus far trying to negate Dingo man mountain Cooper and superstar jumping jack Snowy. What he lacks in protein he makes up for with calcium. His ribs have taken a pounding with the lack of natural padding this year. Yet he keeps bouncing back up.
Even Bash Brother, ably supporting Tex in the ruck, showed his aptitude when (taking Luke Eye’s instructions too literally) he tried to run straight through the opposing ruckman at the centre bounce. It looked like something out of an NFL textbook.
“(The first year players) were really solid across the board really. The old heads combined well with the youthful enthusiasm”, Scarlett remarked afterwards.
Besides Tex and Bash, those first year players included Richard Braveheart, and debutants Mark Graham and Hughesy.
Braveheart has certainly taken the game in his stride. He wears his man like a glove and doesn’t panic with the ball.
The debutants, well, the coach was more than impressed.
“First gamers Mark and Hugh both showed you don’t need an AFL background to play well in the JAFL”.
It is amazing to note all five of the new recruits playing this game were converts from other sports. They’ve done in a handful of games what Izzy Folau has failed to do in much more.
The big money needs to be redistributed.
After Milts’ opening exploits, it was spearhead McGrath who iced the game kicking truly from set shots. Coming out of retirement, the sticky-fingered forward could be the man to lead this team to the ultimate glory in 2012.
To do that, the Goanna’s will most likely need to bypass the Dingoes one more time. Not just any Dingo unit but one which will be out baying for the ultimate redemption.
Will the red and white stripes have the stomach for it? You should ask Rob Scarlett’s toenails. They’re probably still buried in the astroturf somewhere in Osaka.
Next, the Boat Race. Almost as enthralling as the main game albeit not as close a finish, it deserves a separate article. Stay tuned.
Thanks goes out to the Osaka Dingoes for a magnificent match, sausage sizzle, and night. Let the next encounter be the same. In every way.