This weekend is a critical time for Collingwood, Melbourne, Richmond and West Coast supporters. Traffic chaos is predicted for Melbourne for the blockbuster match between the Tigers and Pies at the MCG. Last week Demon’s coach Simon Goodwin called for more flights to Perth for fans to see the game against West Coast. For these four teams – there’s everything to play for and it seems we’re all working on the assumption that the games will be good.
In 1925 the scenario was somewhat different, and the poor state of footy in the finals was noted. Reporter J.W. in the Australasian was indignant – ‘although the weather has been all that could reasonably be desired … the play has been retrograding, going from bad to worse’. In fact, ‘Great games in the finals are a rarity’. J.W. explained that ‘the players being too worked up as a rule to do themselves justice’. Last week, we saw supporters were treated for ‘emotional exhaustion’, which we’re likely to see again, but we hope the emotional state of the players this weekend isn’t detrimental to the game (10 October 1925, p 36).
While not playing each other this weekend, Collingwood and Melbourne met in a preliminary final in 1925, and J.W. reported on the game: ‘It was not an enjoyable match’. The main issue, apparently, was injuries – and Melbourne was said to ‘only know one half of the game’ because of that. To combat this, it was proposed that an injured player should be able to be replaced by another player as ‘It would then make for fairer and less violent methods, would provide a good corrective, and be in the best interests for fair play’.
Current and recently retired footballers have described the beauty of preliminary finals, as well as them being the hardest games to win. Former Bulldog Bob Murphy said losing a preliminary final is devastating: it felt ‘like being impaled’. The Tiger’s Jack Riewoldt commented on the place of the preliminary finals in the season, describing it as ‘the purest weekend of footy’ (AFL 360, Foxtel, 20 September 2018).
We’re looking forward to some pure footy being played, hoping injuries are kept to a minimum and that the emotional scarring is not too long lasting for the teams that don’t make it through to the Grand Final next weekend!