Finals, Stats and Sorrow

Somewhere between midnight and 2am, whilst on the Brunswick hockey club pub crawl a few weeks ago, I was advised by Eliza to write something controversial in my blog.  I have dipped my toe in the water the last couple of weeks, but I might go a little further today and dip the whole darn broken foot.  We’ll see how brave I get.

It has been a week of Christmases for me, which sounds odd but bear with me.  Liaising as I do with the banking regulation people quite a lot at work, imagine my infinite surprise when last week they announced a whole pile of new regulation we had to report on in the next couple of years.  My bank mates from over the road declared it to be “Reg Christmas!”  I was almost as joyous.  Then, come this weekend just gone, Hockey Finals descended on Victoria.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: truly, Finals is the most wonderful time of the year and Grand Final day is itself is Hockey’s Christmas Day.

So, feeling somewhat full of the Christmas spirit I set about trying to get to as many finals matches as I could over the course of the weekend.  And massively stuffed up.  I got to see 15 minutes of WVL2 Reserves game out at H2 on Saturday, before having to extract myself for social commitments (yes, sometimes I have a life outside of hockey).  My old club, MHSOB, went 1-0 down when I was there, but went on to win 3-1.  Probably just as well I didn’t stay, maybe I was bad omen.

Sunday my timing was a little better.  I was able to get to the WVL1 qualifying final and saw Mo-town upset G’long 3-1 and in the process heave themselves directly into the GF.  But the highlight of the day was the equivalent final in the Men’s VL1 comp; Brunswick v Brumbies.  Both teams had close encounters during the season (she writes confidently, only having seen one of the games…), and in winning the first match-up effectively meant Brunswick ended the season unbeaten, with KBH just behind them on the ladder with their one loss being against Brunswick.

I’ve not even fact-checked that but I think that’s the case.  Clearly Brunswick were the boys to beat and it was likely going to be a heated affair on the turf.

Now, thanks to the stats of the VL Hockey Show (I love stats, me) there is another ladder Brunswick topped and it ain’t a pretty one.  It involves cheese – and of the card, not digestible, variety.  Fair to say that Brunswick has probably got itself a “small” reputation in that department, and whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were actually placing bets on who was going to get the first card of the game, I was mentally placing bets on the exact same thing.

Like any good Christmas gathering, the entire hockey family – or at least lots of it – was at the SHC.  Feeling that it was important to set up a Brunswick Hub, the posse I was sitting with moved to join the only other Brunswick supporter we could locate at the start of the game, ensuring we were sitting above the bench.

 “If we sit here, they will come.”

And so they did.  Both Coach Tony and Coach Nic from Masters and VL fame were there, with their entourages.  The Club Pres and his First Lady seated themselves gracefully in front of me, and gradually the Brunswick Hub got larger; we were still sitting feeling a little surrounded by the KBH fans.  That miffed us a bit, but kudos to Kew – if they have more fans at the SHC than Brunswick that’s not something I can criticise, only commend.

The game started. To my utter joy I realised that the nearside umpire was someone I’m pretty sure I wrote about last year in my Finals blog; in 2016 he was wearing exceptionally tight pants.  I was delighted to see that over the last 12 months he has either lost weight or got himself bigger pants.

(And that’s not the controversial part of the blog.)

I do tend to get myself distracted when watching hockey, whether it’s hairstyles or uniforms, I was determined not to let the umpire’s pants distract me for a second year running.

As I said, the game started.

Now, what I’m not going to do is comment on the goals OR the cards which followed.  As expected, sadly it did not take long for the lapses in discipline in Brunswick’s game to show; whilst Brunswick were down to ten men, KBH got their first goal.  But what did annoy me a tad was the fact that the umpires seemed to delight in the sendings off and went about as if they were notching up points for free beers post-game.  Naturally, I do get that given the season, Brunswick have a reputation that precedes them but it might have been nice if the umpires hadn’t gone about it so gleefully and free-spirited.  And so apparently one-sided.

Anyway, again, that’s not really my point of writing this.  What really irked me was the goading that came from the opposition crowd.

Like I said, Brunswick kinda have themselves to blame for the hole they have got themselves into.  But I think crowd behaviour should be more becoming of the sport and focus on their team’s play and as supporters, well, actually support.

A bit of banter will always form part of the game; goodness knows, I have been known to shout out a bit of “Deliberate!” in my time.  But don’t let’s turn the game into something we’re not proud of.  I spent years on the terraces of White Hart Lane cheering on my beloved Spurs, and I know how bad crowd behaviour can get, and I’d go so far as to say I’m actually ashamed of what I used to shout (in particular, at David Beckham in the 1998/99 season after he got himself sent off at the World Cup).  Hockey should be bigger than that.

The Brunswick crowd weren’t totally blameless, but efforts were at least made to stem that particular flow.  And like I said, some jeering could have been expected given Brunswick’s season, but it did start to feel relentless (probably because the cards we were receiving seemed to be as relentless) but extending the jeering to Coach Jack in the second half, just when the actual hockey game itself could have gone either way, was totally unnecessary, shameful and was not in the spirit of the great game that is hockey.  That’s my first controversial comment.

The second one, and I hate to reflect on umpiring decisions because I’m all for respect the umps and all that, with or without their tight pants, but this happened.  Brunswick won a free hit in their attacking 25.  Presumably some backchat from Brunswick actually resulted in a change of mind from the umpire and the decision was turned over AND the Brunswick player was yellow-carded.

I’m not disputing that, it’s fair enough if some lip was given but THIS is what gets me.  Whilst walking to the tech bench, a Brumbies player who stood on the sideline waiting to be interchanged on (and who had also himself been carded earlier in the game, it wasn’t all Bad Brunswick) visibly clapped and applauded, in a mocking manner, the offending Brunswick player.  The umpire noticed this… and shook his finger at him.

I’m sorry, but what part of FIH rule is “It is not acceptable for players to abuse opponents, umpires or other technical officials verbally or through body language and attitude,” does this behaviour get an exemption from?

Meanwhile, with the comments from the crowd getting a bit out of hand, particularly at young Coach Jack, one Brunswick supporter tried to take a photo of the abusers, but we are not convinced of the technical abilities of this particular person, also given a black and white flag was raised and waved in front of the camera at the same time.  If a complaint was made, it will likely feature, as photo evidence, a picture of a chequered flag or a selfie of John Vincent.

There were some other things that peeved me, but I’ll leave it at that.  The game finished 2-1 to KBH, but it was fought out right to the end.

Brunswick now have to play another game to get their guernsey in the finals.  I’m a big believer in bouncebackability; time to lull other teams into a false sense of security, get a bit of a better grip on our discipline and BOUNCE RIGHT BACK.  It’s a talented team, they deserve to have another go at the flag.  Time for the Brunswick Cheer Squad to get louder in their support, get behind the boys and for the team to show the community what great hockey they are capable of.

The only other thing I’ll say on the game is this.  I seem to spend my entire hockey life now either a) being injured or b) convincing coaches NOT to play me at full back because I HATE PLAYING FULL BACK.  There are only two people in the world that remotely inspire me to play this position.  One is Kate R-W, the former GB captain and Olympic gold medallist and general legend.  The other person is Dean, the Brunswick captain.  His second half on Sunday was truly a captain’s innings if ever there was one, and if anyone can inspire a team to get back into the Finals series it is him.  I am close to ringing up Coach Tony and asking him if I can play fullback in our Masters’ Qualifying final on Wednesday…

And now, some stats!

Since the VL Hockey Show have been statting their way through the season, I’ve been wanting to do something similar but have limited time.  But below is a Venn Diagram I drew earlier.

Brunswick’s women’s VL1 team missed out on finals by a goal difference of 5.  I wondered what I contributed to that.  Being a defender, aside from a couple of assists, my contribution lies in the defensive sphere.  We let in 36 goals in total this season.  Whilst I missed four games through injury they were all against lower-ranked sides, and only counted for 4 goals, so really, on an adjusted basis, I contributed to 32 of these goals.

But then I investigated further – and good job I write match reports – I was on the sideline (or dropped in the case of round 18) for 15 of these 32 goals.  I was only on the pitch for 17 goals.  Throw GK Maz into the mix, and this is the defensive outcome…

When Stonehouse and Grinham were both on the pitch this hockey season, only 10 goals out of a total 36 were conceded.

Quality Statistics

Just sayin’.

And now…. The sorrow. The physio confirmed today that my foot is likely still broken.  At least, not as healed as it should be.  Turns out a 6 week recovery for a critical bone is likely optimistic.  Nonetheless I will channel my inner Harry Kane, focus on bouncebackability – combined with yet more rehab – and get back on the turf soon.  And that will be tomorrow night for some Masters hockey training mastery, for our qualifying final this week.  Love a bit of shoot-out practice…

And finally… the last bit of controversy.  I’m supposed to be writing a season wrap-up report for Wendy and I’m clearly not.  Sorry Wen.  I’m being controversial instead.

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