Like ripping off a band-aid I am going to deal with this swiftly: we lost our granny grand final in a shoot-out, with my final shot (or rather complete lack of) sending our season to an end.
It makes no difference to me that only one of our five shoot-outs went in, I will forever feel that it was me that let the team down at the end of the game and for the last few days I have been trying to come to terms with the absolute feeling of devastation that is losing on a shoot-out. It is a glorious way to win; it’s the worst way to lose.
And that’s hockey. Sadly, Hockey Victoria had forgotten to leave the medals and pennant for a presentation, because the same organisation had, once again, scheduled the HV Awards night on the same night so without HV representation and without medals the evening fell flat. But rather than dwell on that – because most of the staff have apologised – I actually feel now that this was HV’s loss.
Because despite it being a horrible way to lose, it was a cracker game to be involved with. And that’s what I will try and focus on to move forward. This happened…
Last year when we played against the same team in the equivalent grand final, Yesterday’s Heros [sic… again] aka Greensborough, we started, middled and ended the game like we had already played our grand final. Greensie dominated us, got 5 (four of which I think were in the first half) and we managed to get 1 back, but it was too late. The prelim final the previous week had also been against Geelong – again like 2017 – and we had won that on a shoot out – again like 2017.
I was conscious that we shouldn’t make the same mistake again. But having had such an incredible shoot-out win against Geelong, was it possible to go one-better and lift our game another notch?
We did better than that. We not only lifted our game, we raised it so high we played on a higher plane (it felt like anyway). The Brunswick grannies, spurred on by an immense crowd (relatively speaking), came out of the blocks with spirit and determination. Key player Cuz didn’t start, but she hurridly took to the field once it became apparent that Brunswick meant business. Once she was on, we adjusted our plan and effectively double-tagged her. I tried to mark in front to starve her of the ball, and when she got it there was at least a couple of us running after her to try and derail her.
Eloise, magnificent on the wing again, was instrumental in getting the ball into our attacking D and winning a couple of PCs. The first one Ceitlin and I tried a one-two…. I got the shot on target but it was saved… a few moments later another attempt on goal was casually saved by Greensie on the line… with their foot. Lynnie waves arms around crying out “STROKE!!!”
Being British, I just calmly stood there provided some commentary; “Well that’s a stroke.”
And it was duly given. Which I really didn’t want. I hate strokes. I stood there once again facing the darkness of the zoo thinking “Why me? Again. Another stroke in another grand final.”
It previously had happened to me in a golden goal GF situation in 2010 and it played on my mind. I decided to do the same thing as then: aim for the bottom right hand corner.
The ‘keeper needed some help from another Heros player to tell her where to stand. Surely I felt confident?
I stared at the left side of the goal and hoped that that would make her think that’s where I was aiming.
The umpire called us to be ready. Whistle.
I stepped up….
AND AIMED DIRECTLY AT HER PADS.
It was the worst stroke in the world. I felt awful. I was so ashamed.
Because the keeper had lifted her legs, the ball actually went in – I had scored a goal in the grand final!!! Did I celebrate like I had?
Nope, I just high fived a couple of girls and wanted to disappear into the darkness. I gave myself a stern talking to. That went on for the rest of the game, and I’m still filthy at myself now.
We had an opportunity to double the score with a very well executed PC, Happy Lynnie was beautifully situated on the left post and I managed a close to perfect pass, and her push was fanstic and almost inch perfect… but found the post. The ball pinged across the goal line but there was no one running on to it from a decent enough angle to pop it in.
Half time came, I’m still beating myself up about the stroke, but we re-focused. Second half, Greensie came at us and at us again. We were finding fewer opportunities up front, and Cuz moved to various positions to get away from our tagging. This was good because it meant she went deeper into defence, however it did mean she had more space to pick the ball up and run at us.
With 6 minutes left on the clock we dared to dream. But another Cuz run through the entire team was leaving us exposed with the resulting PCs. There were some incredible saves made by the girls, including one on the line… could we hold on?
The inevitable came, and a goal was scored.
We tried to set off again with renewed vigour but the energy levels were flagging. I had already run myself into the ground, someone had even called out “Rachel can’t do everything herself!” but I should have kept something in reserve. I knew my calling was fading too as emotionally I was spent. With just 40 seconds on the clock the ball was hit into our attacking D and Sally nearly got on to the end of that, I nearly got onto the end of the clearance. But it wasn’t to be.
I won’t go into what happened in the shoot-out, other than Sally got her goal in, Dayle was immense again, but at 2-1 down with just mine left I knew I had to execute my plan. But the goalie met me further out of her goal than expected and while I was trying to drag the ball right she kicked it clear. Season over.
It was an amazing, end-to-end frantic game. I cannot thank the crowd enough, it was simply incredible to have friends and family supporting us, supplying us with compliments and cheering us up. Dayle was by far the most popular funky team member, I was labelled as a ruck rover which I had to get someone to explain to me later on (after a google I have discovered I am Chris Judd which I am happy about).
HV missed out on a ripper game. From Metro to Premier League, from mothers, sisters, aunts, grannies, the game had new players to state and even Australian reps across both teams. PCs, strokes and shoot-outs, physical and emotional exhaustion, what was missing was some controversy, which arrived in a mild and amusing format in the second half…
The umpires were also fantastic, again, and provided some mirth on the night which we unravelled at our vote count night on Friday. Eloise accidentally collided with a Heros player and Heros were correctly awarded the free hit. However the Heros individual started carrying on and on, like a pork chop, so much so she got called over by the ump who took her to one side. Ceitlin overheard the conversation and it went along the lines of “Calm down, it wasn’t deliberate, you don’t need to carry on like that.” This particular Heros lady is typically of the cranky type anyway hence we have now decreed the latest hockey rule to be “Cranky Granny Pork Chop Violation.” I am sure that will get some air time in future matches.
In my player bios last week I left off, quite accidentally, two vitally important supporters and some-time players – Karella and Monica, who were there again with unending support and positivity on the side line. They have been just awesome all year, Monnie was so helpful when I got knocked over in the first Greensborough show-down in the qualifying final, every-ready with the lollies and fetching jumpers and jackets to keep us warm.
Also on the sideline for the GF was Kylie, with a confirmed thumb break (and now confirmed quite seriously bad thumb break). Kylie not only won our best and fairest, she ran away with it Bolt-style. She has had a magnificent season, so Heros – know this, we were even missing our gun player so look out next year.
To our Coach Tony, thank you for the inspirational you tube video and I’m just sorry I couldn’t find those crucial inches when it counted – may Richmond go one further than we have done. And may the grannies go one better in 2018.
As we are left to rue what might have been, I shall sign off the season (pre Granny tournament in Newcastle that is) with a quote from one of the children who came to support their mum, and ran up to me after the shoot-out as I was somewhat emotional. And it doesn’t apply to me, it applies for us all:
“Don’t cry, you played great!”