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Wow! the game was a real hard battle


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Ron Barassi played a shocker on grand-final day 1964. He kicked four points and one out of bounds. The surviving TV footage shows him missing the run of the ball, and the Dixon kick (which fell to Crompton). Perhaps Ron's mind was elsewhere- where he was going to play in 1965.

Wow! The game was a real hard battle

By Ron Barassi, in collaboration with Tom Prior

It’s a pity sometimes, on very special occasions, that two teams cannot win a Grand Final. Because Saturday was one of those occasions, and if every a team deserved to win, Collingwood did.

The Magpies showed what the old football expression “G, and D” – guts and determination – was all about. They were a team to be proud of, a team I would have been proud to have played in. But Melbourne deserved to win too – and DID WIN only because it could match Collingwood’s greatest assets – its fanaticism and refusal to admit defeat. It’s not easy to come from behind in the last few minutes of a Grand Final against a team like Collingwood. I’ve known pressure in football before, but nothing like that last quarter on Saturday. It would have been a tragedy if we had lost after holding the lead for about 80 per cent of the game, and missing goals with so many easy shots. I’d have felt like cutting my throat. I’m not too happy even now. Five misses from five shots with plenty of time to steady myself and get everything right. How about that? And how about that beautiful pass to Ray Gabelich, who was standing on my mark? If you want to know what it feels like to have 70,000 people laugh at you and another 30,000 curse you, just look me up! Norm Smith sent out a runner with a gem of a message: “Cut out the the short passes to Collingwood.”

They were playing well.

What was happening elsewhere on the field where my teammates were carrying the load, playing really well to stay in the game and win the flag? I have only a hazy idea. Most of my memories have to do with a Collingwood jumper with a big 29 on the back. That’s all I saw of it it – the back! Kevfin Rose, the magpie in the jumper, did everything right, and he’s my all-the-way selection for best man on the field. Even conceding he mightn’t have had much to beat on Saturday, Kevin must rate as the most improved player in the League this season. His hard work and constant training (not forgetting some secialised coaching from brother Bob) have paid off. On Saturday he had the ball on a sgtring. No matter how well you thought you were positioned, no matter how big the apparent “jump” you had, he’d be there to chip in ahead. And hwen he had the ball he’d always do something with it – something intelligent, something downright dangerous. It was no picnic, I can tell you. And when I’d stagger off Rose to “lost” I was on Laurie Hill, Collingwood’s second best player for the day.

What a wrap-up

That’s a nice wrap-up if there ever was one. Your two main opponents the best two for their team! The constant defeaning roar of the crowd was like a wall around you and at times, panic seemed only a single stumble or mis-kick away. Then Ray Gabelich grabbed the ball for himself from a throw-in and ploughted off on his own for a brilliant individual goal. You can only shake your head with frustrtation when a really big man does that. Nobody can stop him unless they’re right on him, directly in his path and able to grab him before he really gets going. It’s hopeless from behind. I was thinking all this and realising Melbourne was only three points ahead, and there was Gabbo again. Somehow the ball went over some players and through the legs of another, and the big fellow (I may have used a different expression at the time) was out on his own with only the goals – about 100 yards wide it seemed – ahead. I was praying for him to have a kick as soon as he got the ball as he could easily have missed from 40 or 50 yards out. But on he went, one bounce and then another and another. Four bounces it was all told, an anyone of them could have gone wrong. The huge crowd was going mad and there he was kicking from dead in front. We were three points behind and, while I still couldn’t believe it, I knew we were in real trouble. One thing about playing in good weater though – and playing in a team that you know will keep trying- you still have the change of a quick, match-winning burst.

I thought we had it.

I thought we had it when Hassa mann, who had been playing a great game, marked for a kick at point-blank range. When Hassa missed, I thought to myself: “That’s the way it happens. Hassa kept us in the four with a ‘miracle’ goal against Hawthorn, won all day on Saturday, and then missed a certainty. There just isn’t any justice in football… I guess the Collingwood players and supporters still feel the same way. But, for Melbourne at least, that winning goal from Neil Crompton was the sweetest, truest, most glorious kick of the whole darn season.

Best – MELBOURNE: Dixon, Mann, Adams, Anderson, Williams, Crompton, Wise, Johnson. COLLINGWOOD: Rose (best on ground) Hill, Gabelich, Tuddenham, Waters Graham(?) Henderson.

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