Grand Final day is the day heroes are made. “Hero”, from the latin of course, “her” – meaning she or female child, “o” meaning oh, isn’t she fabulous. The heroism starts early this day. Armo out of hospital between diagnosis and surgery on a buggered ACL – turns up to take on the role of deputy assistant coach. Sophia rises from her sick (non-covid related) bed of three days and plonks down on the bench the colour of one of those fancy candles you’ll be getting next mother’s day.
The coaches have been here since dawn. If Alan McConnell took the job as seriously as Greg and Jono do, the Giants would have won the AFLW by now. The Yates Banner Co has been busy and gone for quality over quantity in a very Lane Cove sort of way. The Davenport Photography Co has been accredited as the official GF photographer and following a recent takeover of the Mandy Drinks Co, turns up with a case of sweetly brewed product. When it became apparent that the GF was going to be on the first weekend of the school holidays, management swung into action. Calls to Dan and Anastasia kept borders closed, so no one could be a flight away and Gladys agrees to quietly pull the “one parent rule”, so the whole family will want to come. With cars full of tired siblings pulling up from all over the state, a team is formed.
St Ives have gone all out to create a grand final atmosphere: Proper coaches’ boxes and interchange areas; music in the breaks; hand sanitizer; check-in barcodes; security harassing the accredited photographer, cold pies. No warm beers in plastic cups, sadly. The teams are announced on to the ground, with the helpful recitation of the Tiger’s undefeated record. Final nervous toilet breaks are taken, the team assembles, the deputy assistant coach gives one last rev up and the banner is broken to the never ending glory of Up There Cazaly. We are on. The scribe takes a moment to gather his thoughts, looks around for a pen and paper and takes a seat on the bench. Glancing up, he wonders idly why the goal umpire needs to warm up by waving his flags all over the place – doesn’t he know the game has started? Bugger. Tigers goal in the first minute. The Tigers have come out firing and the Cats look a little overawed by the occasion. The Tigers attack on goal is continuous and it’s not looking good, but it takes more than that to worry The Bear and Chops, who are holding back the tide like a Dutch kid does a dike. The Cats aren’t getting much ball, so they respond with a defensive effort that is unlike anything that the Tigers will have seen this season. The Lucy+LilyS machine take on four tigers on the half back line and come away with the ball. The tackling is intense and while the Tigers are getting plenty of ball, they are getting caught with it plenty too.
The tide turns and the ball finds its way to the Cats forward line. Elin goes down in the forward pocket and takes a while to get up. She rises gingerly and walks off holding her arm fairly stiffly and in a bit of pain, but no histrionics. The runner has diagnosed sore fingers, the coaches point to the bench and the ice bucket and the medic comes to have a look. Lucy and LilyD both snap for close misses. The Cats are two goals down, but they’ve turned it around and matching the tigers through heroic defensive effort. Q1 LCC 0.2.2 v PWT 2.1.13.
The second quarter is more evenly matched and the games settles in to a rhythm. Krysta has a run and moves the ball forward. Maia is creating space in the forward line, but all of the forwards are being closely marked. Tipsy gets the ball to Byrna, who takes a good mark on the half forward line and recalling the deputy assistant coaches’ threat that the next person that kicked down the middle would wear a crutch, kicks to LilyS who has made space in the pocket. It looks a bit out of range, but its hero day, and she makes sweet connection and the ball sails through. The Cats are on the board and in the game. The strong defence continues and its keeping the Cats in the game. Graiceeee pushes up through the middle and gets the ball to Laces, who has a shot and hits the post. The Tigers get another, but the Cats are holding on. Q2 LCC 1.3.9 v PWT 3.4.23
The Championship quarter commences. Elin has sought out the medical guy to get her wrist strapped so she can go back on, but he recommends an X-Ray as a better course of action. Abby stays on to cover and Ash moves into the ruck after a strong game, while Helena moves into the crucial half back role. The backline is playing the game of their lives. Graiceeee’s racking up possessions, like the coaches are racking up nervous twitches. Chops and The Bear are tackling everything that comes anywhere near them. LilyS makes another good lead into the pocket and takes the ball. Too far out, she kicks towards goal which clean bowls everyone and takes another major. The Tigers are getting plenty of opportunities, but some kicking inaccuracy is keeping the Cats in the game. Another lead through the middle gets the ball to Jamie in the forward line. Jamie takes it back and kicks hard, straight and low. A hand reaches up and touches the ball, the crowd holds its breath, while the goal umpire thinks about it and then holds up two hands. The Cats go into the last quarter only two goals down. Q3 LCC 3.3.21 v PWT 4.9.33
The final quarter is a tense affair. Lucy has run so hard, her legs have turned to jelly. The Tigers have come out with defence in mind and its hard for the ball to go forward in either direction. The umps are letting it go near the end and while the Tigers refuse to seal it, the Cats just can’t get on the board. The final siren goes, with the Cats still two goals down. The Cats have left everything on the field and the coaches are satisfied – “couldn’t have played better”. Its clear within minutes that the team are happy with their effort as well. With a third of today’s team in their first season at the Cats it has been an outstanding season and the team can be very proud of their achievements. While the whole team have left their best games for the finals, only two names feature in the player’s player vote and LilyS pips Graiceeee at the post for the medal.
The board of enquiry at the Diddy afterwards is full of praise for the effort and the season – heroes one and all. This is how a grand final day should finish, with six girls kicking a sherrin on the Diddy lower green – an exhausted but happy band of sisters.
Till next season.
Final Score: Pittwater Tigers 4.12.36 d Lane Cove Cats 3.3.21
Goals: L. Sullivan (2), J. Morelli
Grand Final Players’ Player: L. Sullivan
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