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Yes or No: Was the '07 flag the best?

February 3, 2016 9:05 AM

Magic moment: 2007 premiership The Cats end a 44 year wait for the flag with a record win over Port.
AFL 2007 Grand Final � Geelong v Port Adelaide

2007 Norm Smith Medal winner Steve Johnson holds aloft the premiership cup after the win over Port Adelaide

We here at geelongcats.com.au can't get enough of reliving the Cats' three premierships that were won in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

But we've found ourselves pondering a big question: Which one was the best?

The most fanatical Cats fan in our office, Tom Peeters, is adamant that 2007 was the best one.

But Adam McNicol and Mitch Broughton are not so sure.

Yes - Tom Peeters

Only a true Cats fan would know that the 2007 premiership was the best of the three premierships of the 2000s.

Only someone who had experienced the Grand Final losses of 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 (Ansett Cup) and 2004 (Wizard Cup) would have felt the joy of 2007 in that special way. For so long we associated the last game of the season with dread. Sometimes we had the best side. Sometimes we didn’t. But it never changed the pain.

Despite a scare against Collingwood in the preliminary final, many neutrals had Geelong as favourites heading into the Grand Final. Driving to the ground that day, I had no such feelings of confidence. In the back of my mind was the little voice saying the season of beautiful, attacking football, which showed the Cats as by far the best side in the competition, would somehow, someway falter on the biggest day.

Heading into the third quarter, that voice was still there. What if we have too many players on the ground and lose our score. What if the stand catches on fire and the game is called off. As a person with experience in losing grand finals, nothing was impossible.

But then it was over and we had won. Not just won, but won by the greatest ever margin. It took a while to sink in. Tears of despair in the stands from previous Grand Finals were replaced with tears of joy. Utter joy. Such joy that the most spoken phrase over the next month in Geelong was “I can die happy now.”

The win meant everything for the town. Watch the celebrations on YouTube and you can see what it meant to every single person in the town. Equal parts pride and elation.

I haven’t even really mentioned the game. But it in itself was spectacular. Chappy’s flying grab. Otto’s chase down the wing. An 18-year-old Joel Selwood taking his first steps to greatness.

But for any Geelong fan, the best part of the day was that final siren. It meant redemption. It meant closure. It meant something special. That’s why the 2007 grand final was the greatest of all.

No, 2009 was the best - Mitch Broughton

Put the flags of 2007 and 2011 to the side for one minute and cast your mind back to something you’ve tried to forget… the 2008 grand final loss to Hawthorn.

It hurts, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, however, the pain of 2008 and the redemption of 2009 are invariably linked and together they make the victory over St. Kilda the best of the three premierships.

If you don’t believe me, remember this passage of play.

At the 23-minute mark of the final term with scores tied at 67 apiece, Steve Johnson had ball in hand and looked to pierce the corridor with a floated punt to Gary Ablett Jr.

From here, it could have all gone wrong.

The Sherrin looped its way through the air as every one of the 99,251 fans inside the MCG held their breath – knowing full well Saints defender Zac Dawson had left his man to charge down the errant kick.

Dawson affected the spoil; Ablett slipped and was left hopeless.

Had it not been for the creative right toe of Matthew Scarlett putting the ball back where it belonged – in the hands of Geelong’s favourite son – another premiership could have gone begging for the Cats.

But instead, Ablett was off to the races.

It all seemed too good to be true, even for no. 29 who was forced to do a double take when he mistook the trailing Scarlett for a St. Kilda opponent.

Ablett soon realised it was the same teammate who had saved the day just seconds earlier, and put the foot down for a few more steps to launch a long ball to the top of the goal square.

That ball could have easily gone through off hands for a behind, but instead it fell in the lap of unsung hero Travis Varcoe.

He took possession of the water-sodden leather as if it were brand new out of the box, and handed it across to the soon-to-be Norm Smith medalist Paul Chapman.

The rest they say is history. But it could have and should have gone wrong for the Cats at every stage of that play.

Had it been 2008, it most certainly would have. But on the coldest grand final day on record, the heavens were smiling as the Cats sought redemption.

You can ignore Jimmy Bartel’s monumental effort to shutdown a rampant Lenny Hayes after his 11-touch first term.

You can ignore the work of Harry Taylor to keep Nick Riewoldt to just a single major when the key forward was at the peak of his powers.

You can ignore Tom Hawkin’s second quarter smother and ignore – like we all have for years – the fact his kick slammed into the post.

You can even ignore the fact it was arguably the most pure and brilliant game of football ever played.

What you can’t ignore is that without 2009 there is no dynasty.

What you can’t ignore is that there was a prophecy at work that day in October 2009, when the Cats redeemed themselves from the horrors of 12 months prior and etched themselves a place in history one of the greatest teams of the modern era.

Relive the highlights of the 2009 Grand Final

No, 2011 was the best - Adam McNicol

For me, it has to be the 2011 premiership. It’s easy to forget how many “The era is over” stories were written after the Cats were poleaxed by Collingwood in the 2010 preliminary final. Add to that the fact that the club lost its best player, Gary Ablett, and its two-time premiership winning coach, Mark Thompson, at the end of that season. It really did seem like the Cats were about to be sent back to the wilderness.

Instead, Chris Scott breathed new life and new tactics into the team and the Cats defied their doubters by winning their first 14 home and away games under his watch. And Scott’s men timed their run towards the Grand Final superbly. They demolished Collingwood in the last round of the home and away season, fixed up Hawthorn in a qualifying final and then breezed past West Coast in a preliminary final to set up a meeting with the Magpies on the first Saturday in October.

The build-up to the game was filled with drama, most of it surrounding Steve Johnson, who had appeared to suffer a serious knee injury in the win over the Eagles. The work that Johnson had to put in just to be selected in the team was immense, as was brilliantly captured in Two Hours, Pete Dickson’s documentary about the 2011 decider.

The game started in perfect fashion for the Cats, with Travis Varcoe slotting a goal in the opening seconds, but there was a time during the second quarter of the game when the Magpies looked set to run away with it. Yet the game changed after Tom Lonergan was moved onto Travis Cloke and the Cats were able to get on top in the midfield. The Cats held sway in the third quarter, then won their third premiership in five seasons by kicking five unanswered goals in the last term.

There were many heroes. Lonergan was one, Jimmy Bartel, who won the Norm Smith Medal was another. Tom Hawkins came of age on the big stage, monstering Ben Reid in an extraordinary performance of power forward play. And Cameron Ling, the club’s ever-popular skipper, fittingly kicked the last goal.

Then there was Stevie J, who kicked four goals in an unbelievably resilient effort that restored his reputation as a big-game player. And I repeat, the win was achieved just one year after the club lost the best player in the competition. Given all that, it just has to be 2011 - the bonus flag - for me.

Relive the highlights of the 2011 Grand Final

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