Ghosts of the past return in Carisbrook defeat
CARISBROOK’S loss to Navarre last weekend – is it the modern day country footy version of Essendon’s 1999 preliminary final capitulation to Carlton?
Considering the red-hot favourites the Redbacks were going into last Saturday’s MCDFL preliminary final, you’d say so.
I consider Navarre’s four-point win over Carisbrook central Victorian football's biggest shock result of the year, even more so than bottom side Castlemaine knocking off top side Strathfieldsaye in the Bendigo league back in July.
That’s no disrespect to Navarre, for the Grasshoppers have been the second best side this year, but recognition of just how dominant Carisbrook has - or had - been in 2013.
The Redbacks had gone into the game with 17 wins from 17 starts by an average of 116 points.
A fortnight earlier they had smashed Lexton by 132 points in the qualifying final, before a week off.
The Redbacks had barely been pressured at all this season, and perhaps that proved their downfall last Saturday when the Grasshoppers refused to wilt after a slow start.
Similar in 1999, Essendon – while it may not have breezed through the season undefeated – had waltzed through its qualifying final against Sydney, winning by 69 points, to earn a week off before the preliminary final.
The Bombers were unbackable preliminary final favourites against arch-enemy Carlton that fateful September day in 1999 at the MCG. But us of the red and black faithful know what happened that day, and the pain is still raw.
Fourteen years on, the one-point preliminary final loss to the Blues, who the Bombers had won six more games than during the home and away season, still stings like no other defeat in my time supporting Essendon, including the disastrous 1990 grand final loss to Collingwood.
The last-quarter memories of Mark Mercuri's missed shot on goal with 56 seconds left on the clock that would have put Essendon four points up; Fraser Brown’s game-saving tackle on Dean Wallis (pictured after the game) in the centre square with 35 seconds left; and of course, Carlton’s Justin Murphy throwing the ball in the air with jubilation at the final siren are still the source of nightmares.
Footy is all about taking opportunities and Navarre grasped its
You'd reckon by now I'd be over it, but no.
And I’m sure there’ll be plenty of nightmares for years to come for Carisbrook players when their 2013 season will be remembered like the Bombers of 1999 – the best side in the competition and a flag seemingly there for the taking, but faltering in what looked the unloseable preliminary final by less than a kick and not even getting to the grand final.
But footy is all about taking opportunities and Navarre grasped its against the odds and will now meet Lexton - another upset winner last week - in this Sunday’s grand final.
Good luck to both the Grasshoppers and Tigers.