Sydney's triumph a classic among classics
'Of all the grand finals I've watched first-hand, Sydney's 10-point triumph will stay vivid in the memory as any, a classic among classics.' Photo: Justin McManus
WE'VE certainly been spoilt for grand final thrillers over the past decade or so. Saturday's epic made it six of the past dozen premiership play-offs (including a replay) to have been decided by 12 points or fewer.
So where does Sydney's 10-point win over Hawthorn rank in the pantheon? Pretty damn high for mine.
It was every bit as good as the historic Collingwood-St Kilda draw two years ago, and a worthy contender as one of the best handful of premiership deciders of all time.
Let's check off the appropriate categories of what constitutes a great grand final.
Close? Obviously, the match-winning goal kicked with only 34 seconds left on the clock. Quality? No problem there, 25 goals scored, Sydney's second quarter and final comeback exercises in both intensity and superb rebound football, Hawthorn's third-quarter burst of five goals in 10 minutes full of powerful scoring potency.
And heroics? Take your pick. Adam Goodes on one leg still involved in most of the game-deciding incidents, Dan Hannebery's courageous first-quarter mark, Brad Sewell's relentless work rate, and, of course, Nick Malceski's floating snap that sealed the Swans' fifth premiership.
What this version had, though, that nearly all its predecessors didn't, was not one or two, but several dramatic shifts of momentum.
The 1970 grand final between Carlton and Collingwood, perhaps the most famous of all, featured a side coasting to a commanding (and in those days seemingly untouchable) 44-point half-time lead before being mowed down in the second.
Ditto even those recent classics, Sydney in 2006 down eight goals to four in the first half and reversing those numbers in the second to fall agonisingly short of the line, St Kilda in the 2010 draw controlling the second half after almost losing touch in the first.
In Saturday's game, both sides relinquished control twice each, not through failings of their own as much as the opponent's capacity to wrest that advantage away again.
Hawthorn's four-goals-to-one opening probably should have been more, but its control of general play made Sydney's answer of eight goals without reply even more remarkable.
The Hawks' counter thrust of seven of the next eight goals came out of nowhere, the Swans in as much control in the first part of the third term as at any stage of the match.
Likewise Sydney's final rally. Which of even the most optimistic Swans wouldn't have agreed the game was just about up had Lance Franklin not pushed his shot to give his team a 17-point break with 15 minutes left a little to the right? Let's add lashings of character to that checklist as well.
They say the 1938 Carlton-Collingwood grand final was one of the greatest. Watch a full replay of Richmond's nine-point win over Geelong in 1967, and you'll see a superb exhibition of skill ahead of its time. Carlton's 1970 comeback against the Pies and St Kilda's one-point win and first flag in 1966 are great grand final stories.
But of all the 42 grand finals I've now been fortunate enough to watch first-hand, Sydney's 10-point triumph on Saturday will stay as vivid in the memory as any, a classic among classics.