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Masters advance to the Big Dance

So apparently, we have a new Prime Minister… News of SCOMO’s sudden elevation to the pantheon of political poobah-ness would have come as a complete surprise to every SKOB Masters player who had adhered to the strict edict of Interim coach SOC to apply a full media blackout for the week leading into the do or die Semi Final against the Mudlarks of Brunswick. Yes, whilst every other Australian over 35 got up on Sunday and eagerly tuned in to the latest from Barrie Cassidy and his cohort on the ABC’s Insiders, the SKOB Masters awoke with only one thought on their mind – progression to the Grand Final. The rumblings and ructions of Canberra were a million miles from the feisty fields of everyone’s backyard – Chirnside Park – the venue for the penultimate showpiece in the AFL Master VIC Metro Football League Central Division and the boys had come to play.

Coach SOC has proven to be a canny calculator of the Masters mind, and it was his remit in the absence of Coach Rock – currently sunning himself in the former Dutch Colonies – to have his charges ripened to the minute for this massive clash. On their previous two visits to the Semi Final stage, SKOB were unable to graduate to the big dance and it was incumbent on the 24 chosen to not make this a third trip up at the tricky hurdle. With a whiff of early spring in the air, the SKOB Masters made the journey out along the Maroondah highway chock full of confidence after a dominant season in 2018 that saw them top the table. But at finals time this counts for naught and the Mudlarks were intent on spoiling SKOB’s day and assigning them to the scrapheap of finals failure.

Shark Makohon was back in the line-up and so were his block rockin’ beats. Going for a more traditional line up of pre-match fire up tunes, Shark leant heavy on the legends of rock and hence the Stones, Bowie, etc were rolled out to stir up the troops – although his choice of Queen / Bowie's “Under Pressure” was a little questionable for a couple of SKOBs dealing with butterflies in the belly. Rubber Man O’Halloran got the last minute call up and although he was happy to play was slightly perturbed that he hadn’t enough time to organise the entourage bus out to Chirnside Park. Penguin Sheehy was delayed giving last minute instructions to the under 11 Knights of Malvernia, while this scribe had put way too much faith in his Google Maps Sat Nav and ended up in the back blocks of Joel Godde only knows where. It wasn’t exactly the best prep. The first Semi Final played prior to our game was coming to its own controversial climax and perhaps was a slight distraction as the SKOB Masters watched the thrilling finish decided with a kick after the siren. Coach SOC and Grandmaster Lucas (in town to support the coach and sample the BBQ onions from the Chirnside Park grill - which were reportedly top notch) were urging the SKOB lads to focus on our task and not the goings on from the early game – their fears of a distracted group would prove warranted.

Captain Lars Marchesani did the right thing and won the toss (even though he didn’t call it) and SKOB would kick with the aid of a steady 2-3 goal breeze in the first. The Mudlarks disputing of the toss itself would be a precursor of things to come for the officials, but for now we were ready to kick this thing off – or at least we thought. It was the Mudders who blasted out of the blocks and were hitting the contests hard. SKOB were all over the shop early and finding it hard to settle, whereas their opponents were far steadier and soon had the first goal on the board into the breeze. The Brunswick tactics of slowing the game down and chewing up the clock was paying dividends as the precious minutes ticked by. SKOB had launched the spinnaker but couldn’t make it fill. It was no time to panic and SKOB certainly didn’t, starting to win a few contests and having some good forward 50 entries.

Unfortunately, the forward line was spraying like a crop duster in a hurricane and precious opportunities were being squandered. Goals were harder to find than the last few pieces of the Coles Little Shop mini-collectible set and a return of 0.6 was scant reward for having the lion's share of the ball. “Sunny” Ray Short was short changed by the officials who missed seeing defenders climb all over his head and to cap off a shaky start, SKOB were stung by another goal to Brunswick late in the quarter. Things were looking bleak at quarter time.

If there’s one thing they say about SOC, it’s that he’s a cooler than a Kelvinator when it comes to the crunch. He called the lads into the first huddle and talked about the opportunity ahead of us. What a great challenge we were being presented with by the men of Mudlark - we should relish it. With these inspiring words, the SKOB men lifted in term two. The Cage Man Cornell was showing the kind of courage we needed and with piercing runs off half back both he and Benny from the Bronx Marchesani were bouncing back Brunswick balls with bravado.

The Trenfield Saddler was huge as he bustled across the backline blocking all opposition advances and Joel was showing that in Godde we trust - especially with those extended tentacles that pulled the pill out of the air like a giant squid plucking sailors off a ship’s deck. At the other end, the shrewd move to place Joyce up front was something even our last PM wasn’t prepared to do, but the leaders of this SKOB party knew the move would bear fruit and Barnaby delivered not one, but two legitimate babies that no-one saw coming. It was only after receiving a 25m penalty that Brunswick were able to manage a goal with the aid of the breeze, and when the Mudlarks missed their next chance after the siren to end the half, SKOB hit the sheds knowing that it was truly game on. Only a pair of points separated the sides at the break, and SKOB had willed themselves back into the contest.

At the half, the jubes were dispensed in their usual bountiful numbers, but noticeably the take up of jellies was less than normal. It seemed the SKOB boys were more intent on focusing for the big second half than scoffing sweets to satisfy their sugary hankering. The break was kept short by SKOB and they quickly returned to the field, beating the umpires back onto the ground such was their urge to get things started again in the second half. Sermon Mount tried to rev up the boys by saying “We’re not going home…” I was waiting for him to say “...without winning this game” but given his predilection for hanging back at the away teams change rooms until way past closing time, I wasn’t so sure - maybe we weren’t going home? The breeze by now had dropped significantly and neither end seemed favoured (although 4 of the 5 goals kicked to date had been into the breeze - so go figure that one). We had a whiff of momentum and we wanted to consume as much as we could. Big Mike McCullagh - who had been one of our best lifted again from the get-go. Dancing Ricky Caldow decided enough was enough and he banged one through from distance. Chichy Campagna and Frankie Four Fingers were waxing up and down the far wing and causing headaches for the ‘larks. Penguin Dave Sheehy, on the back of his interrupted preparation was slowly coming in to the game and was backing back into packs like a man who wanted to spend the night at the Chirnside ER such was the disdain for his own safety. Then there was little Tommy Simpson dominating the centre breaks. Like Liam Neeson our Tommy has a very particular set of skills. Skills that allow him to navigate the tightest of traffic and gain clearances that not even Jarad Kushner could get. Another foray forward and Pete Muzz was on the end of the scrap snapping a lovely round the body goal. The purists all cried “should have been a drop punt”. But this is the modern game. It might be Masters footy, but some of these old dogs can be taught new tricks.

As the SKOB lead grew, the Brunswick mudders switched tempo and started to play a faster brand. The game opened up and the opposition had a few late raids on the SKOB backline, but they all seemed to run into (Patty) Mount Impassable who took advice from Godde and began his own movement named “None shall pass”. Meanwhile Shark was feeding off the chum and booting left foot booming barrels from which Jay Mac “n Cheese” and Ian “Craig” Parry kept driving on forward. Jake “Three Mile” Ireland was causing a melt-down for his opponents and Chris “thanks for strapping my thumb Foges but you did a lousy job” Morley was just as radioactive - causing seismic waves of terror as a cloud of uncertainty swept across the Brunswick bench.

With a final opportunity to address his players, Coach SOC used the ¾ time huddle to remind his troops what was at stake here. A chance to play in a Grand Final? - yeah sure - but more importantly a chance to extend the season by one more game - and allow the man of the hour - and the past 28 years - Dave “Shutdown” Sheehy to bring up 300 games in the big dance. Could there be a greater incentive? Jesse “I’m presenting, but they’re just not sticking” Seven was asked for a huge effort in the last and boy did he deliver. Standing up like a goliath up forward, the Magnificent Seven booted 3 big goals as SKOB put the foot down on this contest and said get outta the way, we’ve got a formal to get to. Estonia Rosenstein then capped off a big last quarter by slotting the goal of the day from way out on the boundary and SKOB were home in this one. The Brunswick boys fought it out hard to the end, especially after they were reduced to 17 when the umps got too much of an earful from one player and decided enough was enough. SKOB maintained their discipline right to the end and kept the focus on the footy. The siren sounded and they were through to the GF in 2-weeks time. It’s a 9:30am start mind you, so no Barrie Cassidy for the SKOB boys - will need to catch up on iView.

Scores SKOB MASTERS 0.6 2.6 4.8 8.8.56 BRUNSWICK 2.0 3.2 3.6 3.6.24

Goal Kickers: Jesse Seven 3, Tim Joyce 2, Rick Caldow, Pete Murray, Matt Stonehouse Best Players: Joel Godde, Michael McCullagh, Nick Trenfield, Tom Simpson, Rick Caldow, Jesse Seven

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