As we prepare for a top of the table clash between the Cats and Saints on Monday, Cats Media takes a look at the biggest clash of all between the two sides, the 2009 AFL Grand Final.
Played out in wintery conditions that only relented at the end of the game, the match was a true heavyweight bout. The match during the season between them has often been touted as one of the greatest home and away games of all time with the Saints narrowly winning under the roof in the Docklands.
The Grand Final would be every bit the comparable match as the two sides displayed courage, skill and tenacity across the ground. In the end a Max Rooke goal would give the Cats are 12 point victory and their second flag in three years. To prove the evenness of the contest, the match finished with the Cats having 38% time in possession, the Saints 37% and 25% of the time the ball was in dispute. In the second half, 50% of possessions won were contested.
The Norm Smith voting for the game showed the true even performance of the Cats with no less than seven Geelong players receiving votes. Paul Chapman would in the end be awarded the medal after a two-way tie with Saint Jason Gram was awarded to Chapman due to his superior amount of three votes from the judges.
John Worsfold, Chairman
P Chapman, J Gram, J Corey.
J Gram, J Bartel, G Ablett
P Chapman, D Milburn, J Gram
H Taylor, M Rooke, J Gram
P Chapman, J Gram, G Ablett
9 Paul Chapman, Geelong (3, 3, 3)
9 Jason Gram, St Kilda (3, 2, 2, 1, 1)
3 Harry Taylor, Geelong (3)
2 Max Rooke, Geelong (2)
2 Gary Ablett, Geelong (1, 1)
2 Jimmy Bartel, Geelong (2)
2 Darren Milburn, Geelong (2)
1 Joel Corey, Geelong (1)
But being such a close finish to the voting we explore how it may have panned out with the benefit of time.
In my voting for the game, I’m going to do something that doesn’t happen enough. That is defenders receiving the credit they deserve.
Let me first begin by saying the Paul Chapman’s grand final performance was extraordinary and deserving of the Norm Smith medal. If anything, the benefit of time assists Chapman due to the fact that Norm Smith judges were unaware that Chapman had strained his hamstring just prior to quarter time. His final quarter was sublime and included nine disposals and a goal. His final tally of 26 disposals, eight inside 50s, four tackles and three goals was a stat line any forward would be proud of.
But the fact that I believe there was a performance even more impressive says a bit. On that day, a 23-year-old Harry Taylor playing in just his 43rd game shut down Nick Riewoldt, a player at the point as dominant as any in the competition. In the lead up to the match, Riewoldt had almost singlehandedly won the Saints other finals for them. In the qualifying final against Collingwood, Riewoldt had 19 disposals, 10 marks and five goals in a 28-point win. Backing up in the Preliminary Final, he tallied 18 disposals, 11 marks and four goals in a game where both sides combined for 16 goals and the Saints ended up winning by seven points.
Taylor’s performance against Riewoldt was devastating. By the end of the day Taylor’s restriction of Riewoldt to 13 disposals, five marks and one goal was the difference between the Cats winning and losing. Taylor himself was able to tally 14 disposals and five marks including a strong grab from a Cats kick-in with less than a minute to go, releasing all the pressure on the Cats. This is why I believe Harry Taylor was deserving of the three votes, his performance was a match winning one, albeit in a negating way.
The one vote for the Cats could have gone to many players, but Gary Ablett’s 25 disposals, six tackles, six clearances and a goal was him at his brilliant best.
3 – Harry Taylor
2 – Paul Chapman
1 – Gary Ablett
“When you looked down the race before big games, and looked across to see Chappy there, you knew things were going to be okay.”
Those words were spoken by captain Tom Harley.
Paul Chapman was born to be a big game player. His physicality, football intelligence and arsenal of skills were matched by an unrelenting desire to win.
When I reflect on the 2009 Grand Final victory it’s hard to disagree with the judges in awarding Chapman the Norm Smith Medal.
When you think of all of the big moments, when the Saints had the momentum and the Cats needed someone to respond, or when the game was on the line and commanded a match winner, Chapman put himself in those positions and owned those moments. Three brilliant goals, 26 disposals and six clearances didn’t paint the full picture and highlight the deft touches and body of work he did around the stoppages to help out his teammates.
Harry Taylor was equally important shutting down the Saints biggest weapon in Nick Riewoldt. His final quarter mark was Leo Barry esque and helped the Cats hold on in the final stages.
Geelong had match winners on every line and my one vote could have so easily gone to Gary Ablett Jnr who racked up plenty of the ball and kicked a goal, Max Rooke who set the tone early with a brilliant chase down and applied plenty of pressure throughout, or a young Joel Selwood who finished with a team-high 13 contested possessions.
However, my one vote went to a player that sacrificed his own game for the greater good of the team. That man was Jimmy Bartel. His selfless role in shutting down star Saints onballer Lenny Hayes from the start of the second quarter helped Geelong’s midfield gain ascendency. Not to mention the body of work Bartel did inside the contest with a game-high 16 tackles, which at the time was an AFL record.
3 – Paul Chapman
2 – Harry Taylor
1 – Jimmy Bartel