It started out with a KISS, how did it end up like this?
The 2023 AFL Grand Final kicked off with a bang, as legendary rockers KISS gave Gil McLachlan his 48th, and hopefully final send-off, as the now former CEO wrapped up his Farnham-esque farewell tour. The fireworks wouldn’t cease at the pre-show’s conclusion, as the first quarter was underway, it took only four minutes, six possessions and three free kicks from high tackles for the goldsmith to begin etching the name NICK DAICOS onto the Norm Smith Medal. A fresh graduation from the Lindsay Thomas School of Football Craft had the younger Daici dropping faster than Collingwood’s decision to honour Simon Prestagiacomo’s sacrifice.
The Lions clawed their way back from a two-goal deficit on the back of some creamy Baileys brilliance, as Joe Daniher reminded everyone except Essendon supporters that he makes the improbable look simple, and the simple look improbable. But with an offseason trip to Bali now merely hours away, Jordan De Goey gave the Lions a timely reminder that he was the trade price they paid to recruit Dayne Beams back in 2014, by sending home a long-range bomb after the quarter-time siren to wrestle back the lead for the Magpies.
If the final result had differed, I’m certain that Eddie McGuire would forget about Collingwood’s stolen MCG seats for a minute and promptly launch an inquiry into which audio technician allowed John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads to be played during the quarter time break, as the timeless classic and the Lions supporters raucous renditions seemed to spark Charlie Cameron to life, with the flashy forward kicking two goals early in the second quarter and setting up yet another. The true forward half spark, however, ignited like a propane-fueled inferno as Bobby Hill, son of Hank, ran riot in a goal-kicking, high-marking blitz that would ultimately pry the Norm Smith Medal from the cold, dead hands of every punter that had backed one particular son of a gun in their multis.
Jack Ginnivan momentarily sprung to life after seeing teammate Nick Daicos brandishing a bag in the middle of the MCG, as more back-and-forth lead changes played out through the second term, before Jack Crisp would carry out a jump scare reminiscent of his TikTok antics, with the former Lion and universally acclaimed set of Dayne Beams steak knives’ second goal, paired with a little Good Land from Brody Mihocek once again wrestling the lead back for the Magpies on the half time break.
Billy Frampton popped up heroically in the first minute of the third quarter, registering his first possession of the game and scoring a behind to ensure that his Grand Final effort would out-do that of Cam Mooney in 1999, as the former Crow unselfishly sacrificed his own potentially all-time greatest ever Grand Final game to keep himself, and opponent in Harris Andrews, from kicking a goal all game. A dreary 0.6 from Collingwood soured what was a productive third quarter, until Bobby Hill popped up once again, like Uncle Colin on camera behind a prominent figure at an AFL event, setting up his side’s only goal for the quarter with a brilliant kick to Scott Pendlebury as the Magpies just couldn’t find the composure to put the Lions away, but once again took a late lead into the final quarter break.
With their chances of winning beginning to thin like Tom Mitchell’s hair, the Lions continued to fight back hard, but a string of behinds to both sides marred the first 22 minutes of the final term, as Eric Hipwood began to regret not touching the boxing gloves on his way out of the Lions rooms, with no side registering a goal until Charlie Cameron broke the drought with his third major to give the Lions a moment in the lead, before de Goey snatched it back only moments later, and Steele Sidebottom shook off the rust and kicked truly, giving the Magpies a ten-point buffer late in the final term. Some Oleg Markov brilliance showed the world that the moustachioed circus ringmaster could certainly tame the Lions, the former Sun’s decision to ride a penny-farthing or a unicycle down from the Gold Coast and straight to his converted warehouse apartment with communal art space in Brunswick, paying dividends for the Magpies.
A goal to Joe Daniher, who surprised by being with Keidean Coleman as two of the Lions’ best players for the game, got Brisbane back in the hunt for the final minute and a half of the game. But 2023 wouldn’t be complete without a questionable umpiring call rearing its head, and not even the Grand Final is safe from such an occurrence. Regardless of how you felt the final minutes were adjudicated, the Magpies managed to run the game out better than Campbell Brown’s Grand Final Sprint against the Taxi drivers, as Craig McRae’s one-step-at-a-time approach to football proved too good in the trenches, once again, this time seeing the Lions go to water at the last minute like the 2022 Grand Final parade.
As Nick Daicos pledged his allegiance to House Baratheon by bending the knee, the Magpies would finish the game as four-point winners over the Lions in what was a thrilling contest. Bobby Hill broke the hearts of every commentator, punter, pundit and all and sundry, by rightfully earning a Norm Smith Medal that was prophesied and destined to be draped upon the shoulders of a certain second-year teammate.
A lack of Chris Judd may have meant that chicken wings were off the menu for post-game celebrations, but thanks to Jeremy Howe’s courage, tender ribs were certainly on offer, with Brayden Maynard going as far as suggesting that his teammates deliver their direct opponents flowers and red wine after knocking them out of the big dance.
Rumour has it that Jarrod Berry won’t be joining his teammates and coaches on the long flight home, instead being made to walk back to Brisbane 50 metres at a time, whilst everyone keeps a close eye on where Hugh sits, with Qantas’ penchant for losing McCluggage the last thing Chris Fagan wants to deal with.
A long offseason awaits as we return to do it all again next year.
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