Finals! Come at me!

I’ll be honest, when I arrived in Australia as a young thing, I didn’t get the idea of finals.  I was used to League and Cup situations and I couldn’t understand why you would want to mix the two concepts up.  Strange though, Spurs might actually win some things if we had finals in the UK.

Wind forward a few (many) years, and… I LOVE FINALS!  I simply cannot get enough of them.  Mainly of the hockey variety, but I even watched some footy finals this weekend, and boy wasn’t that exciting.  For all that my excessive Britishness glows from me most of the time, and for all that footy for me should involve a round ball, I do know an exciting AFL game when I see one.

And as a Bombers fan I also know when to switch to another channel during the first quarter.  Bombers hockey socks packed away for another year.

Following on from the first weekend of finals, midweek the Brunswick Women’s Masters stepped out for their qualifying final against Greensborough.  When we turned up on the cold night, and I saw Coach Tony all dressed up and ready to go, I realised an unusual thing.

If I was to say to you “Name the Brunswick Hockey coach who has guided a team to a minor premiership, has a beard and is a Richmond fan” what would you respond with?  Because believe it or not, there’s more than one.

I have drawn parallels between the Men’s VL1 side and the Women’s Over 35s side before, but here is another similarity.  Honestly, you couldn’t pick young Coach Jack (of VL1 fame) and grandad Coach Tony (of Granny hockey fame) apart in a line-up.

So anyway, Coach Tony turns up ready to go in his yellow and black scarf – so nearly the Brunswick colours – and we are as keen as mustard to get going, even turning up a full half an hour before the start of the game to do something akin to a warm up.  Greensborough are referred to as Yesterday’s Heros (spelling their fault, it’s not a typo) and it was Eloise’s son who had apparently said “they maybe yesterday’s heroes, but Brunswick are today’s.”

With that poetic thought in our minds, we charged into the game.  Sadly so did Greensie.  I can’t type Heros any more it annoys me.  As I would have mentioned many times before, they do have a premier league player in their side, let’s call her Cuz, and wonderfully for us in the home and away bit of the season if she turned up, she just played a lazy game.

Not so on Wednesday;  Greensie really turned up to play.  And not just Cuz, they have a couple of players in the defence who read the game beautifully and no matter what tactics we tried in the first half we barely had any decent possession in our attacking game.  From a dubiously awarded PC a fine initial save from Dayle was followed up with some sort of illegal play (too far away to really comment) and a stroke was blown.  Dayle again did well reading the play but whilst getting a hand to the ball the save wasn’t to be and Greensie went 1-0 up.

Still, we felt at half time that for as long as the score was 1-0 we were in with a chance.  We had been defending valiantly, and despite Cuz running rings around us all her shots on goal had been stifled.  Sadly though at the start of the second half the score was doubled.  Our opposition players were very good at running off out of position, and when you’re not used to zoning or if the calls from behind aren’t heard until too late, we were caught flat-footed as their CH moved to their attacking left, zipped in a stunning ball across the D for their postie to deflect the ball into the goal.  It was a good goal, but we should have shut down the play long before the pass went into the D.

And as the CH is my opposing player, I felt pretty rotten.

But not as rotten as a few minutes later, when I set off from a free hit tracking from right to left across the top of our attacking goal (to attempt a Max Toma Special) their full back ran through me, tipping me on my side with my broken foot sliding down her stick as she carved me up, and I landed heavily on my right side… dozily I realised I should probably play no further part in the game, with my broken foot tingling and the rest of me going in to some kind of Shock-Shut-Down.

Embarrassingly grandparents Coach Tony and Annie carried me off.

The girls readjusted and played well, we had plenty of legs on the bench to keep rotations healthy.  We just couldn’t get on the scoreboard, and I again rued our missed chances (we did have a couple of PCs in the first half but couldn’t convert).  Two nil the result finished and I was pretty low and fed up.  Thanks to all those kind and lovely people who wrapped me up, kept me warm and fed me lollies, and advised me not to drive home.  Probably should have listened to them; I nearly stacked the car in the supermarket carpark later that night.

With my physio reading me the riot act on Thursday (after I said something along the lines of “Well I got body-slammed, I’m feeling quite dopey, the clouds were too bright this morning and I have a bit of a headache, but the foot’s feeling great!”) I effectively got red carded and was sent home from work where I stayed, rested up until the hockey finals started again on the weekend when I got myself back to the state hockey centre.  First up, the under 12s who had been unbeaten all season and were facing Essendon in their GF.  It wasn’t their day, however, and went down 1-0 having defended stoically for a lot of the game.  Brunswick captain’s speech far more gracious in defeat than the opposition’s in victory, in my view.  (Woah, more controversy, look out.)

Next up, I returned to resting on the couch at home and watched some premier league live streaming (my hockey tragic self knows no boundaries).  In one of the women’s matches Greensborough (who finished 7th on the ladder) were up against Doncaster (2nd) and somewhat to my satisfaction Cuz once again carved up the opposition, even noticed by the commentators who said “Pickford has been fantastic from the first whistle to the last”.  It was nice to see such a high-ranking side as Donny come as undone as us Brunswick grannies had done during the week.  Greensie won on the shoot-out.  Why did she have to peak this week of all weeks?!  That’s finals hockey for you.

Vote count in the evening, and I surpassed all my expectations by actually appearing in the top 3 until round 9, thanks to random maths and the fact that we simply didn’t vote for some rounds.  Clearly, it is time to retire.

Sweeper the cat seriously unimpressed as I head out to watch yet more hockey

Sunday – back to the SHC to watch my old club in action in the morning, their Women’s VL2 Reserves were playing Monash.  In league placings, whilst Monash were 2nd and MHSOB 3rd, there was a significant 18 points difference between the two sides.  It was a big game for MHSOB to win.  But never say never.  Some incredible defending from them saw the team hold on for a 0-0 draw and so on to a shoot-out.  Last year, this side won their first final on a shoot out but lost this equivalent final on a shoot-out the following week…. Could the curse be broken?

It most certainly could.  Their goalie, who had pulled off some amazing saves in the second half, was fearless and Monash were only able to get one past her.  Three from four, with friend Lissa not required to show off her silky shooting skills as #5, meant MHSOB secured their GF spot.  It was an emotional moment!! Well for me anyway.  It is an awesome achievement for the team, coach and support crew, and kudos to them.  Very well deserved win, despite being the underdogs.

And on this I will just say, that while I don’t regret moving to Brunswick HC (having moved from south of the river to north of the river), MHSOB HC have totally nailed the mascot situation, and Brunswick needs to step up in this department.

Unicorn looks over the team

Having merrily trolled up and down the Upfield bike path several times already over the weekend, I had to return home again because in the excitement of the MHSOB game I had spilt my coffee all over me.  It also meant I could reassess the clothing situation for the mega-game of the weekend; the VL1 preliminary final between Brunswick and West Vic.  I had decided that the theme clearly had to be black and white – so I finally remembered to put the lucky ribbons on, the Brunswick jumper had to be worn, despite the aroma of l’eau de skinny latte, and I put on a pair of daisy earrings to try and channel my inner hipster. Come to think of it, smelling like a skinny latte is probably also quite hipster and Brunswick-esque (although cold-drip would likely be more in keeping with that genre).

I also decided to wear my favourite lucky socks – my “Germany 1 England 5” socks, from 1st September 2001 when England won in Munich (soccer that is).  Whilst that’s unusual you might say for a hockey final, last time Brunswick Men AND Women played West Vic, both teams had won 5-1 away from home!

I am all about the lucky charms and the omens.

In the women’s equivalent match up, Geelong got a winning goal in the dying seconds of the game to get themselves into the GF – and that’s from having lost last week in their qualifying final.  Would the same result happen in the men’s game?

While the pitch was being excessively watered, the Brunswick posse collected above the dugout, with Maria hiding her flag away from people’s general viewing and Pres JV having honed his photography skills.  The game started, and the usual commentary began.  Colour of shoes, taping of numbers, hair styles etc.

Tight-pants umpire was absent, which I appreciated as I didn’t want unnecessary distractions again.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the umpires even looked chilled and relaxed and I felt it was going to be a more level playing field than the previous week.  In the first minute I squealed with delight as Brunswick won a free hit.  Wendy told me off “Rachel! Calm down, shhh!”

“But I’m commending the umpires” I replied.  However, conscious that I didn’t want to be a Brumbies fan in disguise, I dialled back my enthusiastic cheering.  In the second half, I barely whispered three “Deliberates!” as I felt for sure West Vic were deliberately tipping the ball over their back line (surely the GK’s tap over the line was deliberate?)

Not surprisingly the excessively watered pitch was causing some trips and falls, Grinham-esque really (see, more parallels between masters and VL1), and West Vic were reading the play quite well when Brunswick took them on.  Both granny Annie and myself got a little confused and shouted “Go Vics” instead of “Go Wicks” but I blame Victoria hockey for that, cos that’s what I’ll be cheering at the end of the month when we both head off for nationals, granny style.

Brun went 1 up after some amazing play down the left side of the D.  The team held on until the dying minutes before half time when West Vic got a crucial equaliser after Brun gave a turn over trying to get the ball out of defence.  Could the team put the game beyond the Ballarat boys in the second half?

Drag flick and amazing save

Well, they didn’t put the game beyond them but they certainly created the chances.  And it was a superbly finished Lachie Date toma (move over Max) that got the second goal for Brunnie and despite tense moments as the clock ticked down the boys held on for the win!

And absolutely no cards for Brunswick.  It got close towards the end when the calls didn’t seem to go in our favour but hats off to the lads, they mainly kept their cool and the umpires were cool too and let it all go.

So – can the grannies replicate this in our preliminary final on Wednesday?

I write this knowing that I have been declared – unfit to play.  Sadly, it takes a few solid days of post-concussion activity and build up to be able to do contact sport again and my Irish physio, who must despair of me, has said “No.”

Which I am interpreting as No, but list me and if required I’ll do the shoot-out.

Sitting sadly at my desk this afternoon, with a colleague trying to cheer me up, I said “what with a knock on my head, runners’ knee and broken toes I am just shoulders short of becoming a song with actions.”

(Yes, it is my foot that is broken, but never let a fact get in the way of a good song.)

Wednesday night, 8.30pm, SHC, please cheer for the Brunswick ladies and masters of the universe and heroes of today either with your presence or your spirit.  I’ll be on the bench… but I have a cunning plan.  Mudlark mascot suit, anyone?

Winner, winner, chicken dinner…. or hipster coffee?

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