Glenelg v Norwood, Glenelg Oval 24 July, 2016
We stole this one. After a dour tussle carried out for three quarters in a chill, paint-stripping nor-westerly, that grew in intensity throughout the match, the Tigers had a lot of work to do at the last change: The Redlegs had a 25 point lead, having played the ground more intelligently and directly. In the first quarter, with the breeze blowing through all points of the compass at times, they snagged 5 goals without a miss. But the Bays kept at it, with the midfield (special mention to Snook and Earl) winning a lot of contested ball – 16 points down against the wind, 17 points down with it, and they needed (as some present will verify, I said at the time) to be within about 4 goals at ‘lemon time’. Which they were – Norwood’s aim went astray in the third, and that is (mainly) when they lost it.
The wind strengthened and spectators were treated to the Willie Rioli Show. He got 4 in the last quarter, including the last 2 that defied belief. After Terry Milera had put us within a kick, Norwood held on by their nails. (Ravaged by injuries and retirements as they are, one forgets that they have three engravings on the Thomas Seymour Hill trophy which are still warm.) With 5 minutes to go, a rushed kick forward was correctly attacked by the defender but a freak bounce put it in Willie’s hands and he tied the game.
The last 5 minutes were a nightmare for both sets of supporters. Glenelg controlled play near our goal but couldn’t find clear air to breathe, let alone score. Your correspondent started screaming (he thought helpfully, from the Function Centre balcony) suggestions to knock the ball through for a point, hoping momentum and the gale would prevent a counter-attack. Then a second remarkable thing happened. A Norwood defender dived on the loose footy and after players piled on, the umpire called a penalty for holding-the-ball. It looked a bit ‘red-hot’, but was arguably there. Of course, it was Willie Rioli who won the free, and he popped the ball through to give the Tigers a last second victory.
It was a very small crowd, given the extra-wintry weather and the game being broadcast live on TV. But as Peter Sellers said, there is nothing like being there. It was not a high standard game but an exhilarating one, that went down to the wire.
Lesley was appalled by the final umpiring call, but wisely decided that there is no benefit in raging at umpiring decisions – it changes nothing, and exacerbates ulcers. The Norwood FC blog sparked over the decision, but a substantial minority of Legs fans suggested, in effect, to best ‘get over it,’ [Which is something I must learn to do some day: after all, over 30 years ago, Clive James compared the tantrum-prone John McEnroe with the placid Bjorn Borg, pointing out that Borg “is just as aware as McEnroe that some of the Wimbledon line judges need seeing-eye dogs. But Borg last threw his racket away in anger when he was a teenager. Noticing that the gesture had no result beyond its cost in energy, he never did it again.”]
Late in the day, a rainbow had appeared over the southern end of the ground. It seems the Football Gods had cast the die.
Glenelg 10.9 (69) Norwood 9.9 (63)