GISBORNE’S Rod Sharp knows “that kick” in this year’s Bendigo Football League grand final will eat away at him for the rest of his life, but he’s doing his best not to dwell on the missed opportunity.
Sharp will forever be part of BFL folklore when he had the result of this year’s grand final between Gisborne and Golden Square resting on his boot at the final siren.
In one of the greatest BFL grand finals on September 22 at the Queen Elizabeth Oval, Sharp – with his team trailing the might of Golden Square by three points – launched a 50m shot at goal after the siren to win the Bendigo Advertiser premiership cup.
But his kick fell agonisingly short in the city end goalsquare as Golden Square clung on to a famous victory and a fourth-straight flag.
Just over two months on since the epic clash, Gisborne is back training, with the disappointment of the grand final defeat helping convince 32-year-old Sharp to play on for another season.
“I guess you don’t want to finish your career the way it did in the grand final... it would have been a disappointing way for it to end,” Sharp said yesterday.
Sharp can still vividly recall the dying seconds of the grand final as Gisborne surged the ball from the half-back line and down the grandstand wing, before David Antonowicz marked on the pressbox flank boundary and passed inboard to a diving Sharp 50 metres out from goal.
The ball couldn’t have been in better hands. Sharp is the longest kick at Gisborne and only a minute earlier had nailed a 55m set-shot goal to bring Gisborne back within three points.
Moments after Sharp marked the ball and as he walked back to take his kick, the siren sounded at the 31-minute mark.
“The thing that sticks in my head the most before I began to focus in on what to do was the noise from the crowd,” Sharp said.
“I’ll never forget the noise the crowd made... it was almost like a massive collective sigh of disbelief from the crowd that the game was coming down to the last kick.”
While many would struggle to cope with the pressure of a grand final result resting on their boot, Sharp relished the opportunity that was presented.
“As I lined up, I wasn’t thinking it’ll be the end of the world if I miss it... it was an opportunity that I wanted to kick,” Sharp said.
“People have tried to make excuses for me, saying it was late in the game and I would have had tired legs, but there was nothing like that.
“I was more thinking in my head that I didn’t want to go for too much distance and spray it out on the full or straight through the points.
“I was more focused on accuracy rather than distance, and in the end, that is what has probably cost me those couple of metres.
“All those things are easy to say in hindsight, but what it comes down to is Golden Square are the premiers for 2012 and that’s footy.”
Off the boot, Sharp’s kick looked headed straight through the goals as Gisborne’s coaching and support staff burst onto the ground from the interchange ready to celebrate a premiership.
However, the ball dropped short and was punched clear by Golden Square ruckman Zac May on the goalline.
“For a split second I thought it was going through. I think a lot of other people were thinking it was through more than I was,” said Sharp, who had he kicked the goal would have become the first seven-time premiership player in Gisborne’s history.
“I was happy with the line of it, but in the end, I got underneath the footy as I was concentrating on the accuracy, rather than just going back, relaxing and sinking my boot into it.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose like that. I’m shattered by it and it will eat away at me forever, but life goes on.
“At the end of the day I didn’t kick it and Golden Square won the flag.
“I’ve since heard so many circumstances over the past few years of blokes kicking goals after the siren to win grand finals.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get that fairytale.”
While Sharp’s chance to win the grand final fell short, his efforts throughout the game were instrumental as Gisborne battled valiantly to overhaul a 34-point deficit early in the second quarter.
Gisborne has returned to training in preparation for the 2013 BFL season and its crack at redemption.
Gisborne has a new coach, with Kevin Fitzgerald stepping up from assistant to take over from Luke Saunders, who had been at the helm of the Bulldogs for the previous two years.