Welcome to the 1989 VFL grand final! What a wonderful feeling. Here we are again, on this final Saturday in September, readying ourselves for the final game of the decade – the grand final. The last match to be played under the banner of the Victorian Football League before the brave new world of the AFL arrives in 1990. And what better way to celebrate this golden era of Australian rules than the most dominant team of the decade, Hawthorn, taking on the highest-scoring outfit in the competition, Geelong?
For the Hawks, it is their seventh big one in a row. With champions on every line, they know all there is about winning premierships. If they can get the job done today, it will be their fourth of the 1980s and deliver the family club back-to-back success for the first time. If it possible to mean any more, it does because Allan Jeans is at the helm today, the man who coached the 1983 and 1986 triumphs but wasn’t there when they flogged Melbourne in last year’s decider, that season spent recovering from a brain injury. The players love the man they call Yabby.
Where all but two Hawthorn players turning out today have been there as winners before, the opposite is true of Geelong – none of their 20 have played in a grand final. And where Hawthorn breezed through September, taking care of Essendon by six goals in the second semi at VFL Park to qualify after a week off, the Cats are playing in their fourth final in four weeks after a long, wet season. But boy, they know how to kick a score; no team has kicked so many goals in one season. And Gary Ablett, the enigmatic powerhouse, kicked seven against Melbourne to get through the first semi with easy before going one better to annihilate Essendon in the preliminary final last week – a 94-point victory.
Only once before have these clubs played off in the grand final, back in 1963 when Bobby Davis’s men stormed home to claim their sixth cup. They haven’t added to their trophy cabinet since, though – the Sleepy Hollow faithful have been waiting so patiently for this day. Under Malcolm Blight, who took over as coach for this season, they have played a brilliant brand of high-scoring football.
The main question in the build up bas been whether the Cats can roll that out against such a formidable opponent. In addition to all that aforementioned experience – also having finished two games clear on top of the ladder dropping just three home-and-away games – they broke Geelong’s heart in round six when coming back from a 49-point deficit to run over them in a Princes Park classic.
There was plenty of spite in that affair too, not least when Dermott Brereton made a mess of Mark Yeates’ groin and told him all about it. Don’t doubt for a moment that, in addition to being a high-scoring grand final, this will be a mightily physical encounter as well. I absolutely cannot wait. Welcome to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for our goal-by-goal coverage of the day that matters most.