An Oral History of the Geelong v Hawthorn Rivalry Part Two - 1989

There have been drawn Grand Finals, one-point nail biters, and games that have gone down to the wire, thrilling both fans of the clubs involved, and neutral supporters alike, but the 1989 epic between the Geelong and Hawthorn Football Clubs was something to behold.

With the Hawks withstanding the torrent of aggression from the Cats early to snatch a big lead, and the Cats’ superstar, Gary Ablett running rampant against anyone Hawthorn threw at him, the game is an undoubted classic.

Many games feel dated when you watch them years later. The 1989 Grand Final is not one of them. It holds up. Many think it is the day football peaked.

It was brutal, it was violent, and by Gary Ablett, it was wonderful.

PRE GAME

“We had played Hawthorn in Round 9 at Princes Park, the game they ran over us. Brereton ran through Yeates at two boundary throw ins. Jumped into him with his knees, into Yeatesy’s ribs, just picked him off.” – Greg Wells Geelong Assistant Coach
“We’d played them earlier in the year. Mr. Brereton had damaged one of my testicles.” – Mark Yeates. Geelong 1980-90
“I just walked alongside (the stretcher), and badmouthed him. We did stuff like that in those days. – Dermott Brereton. Hawthorn 1982-92
“Maybe on the Tuesday of that week we were thinking about the teams and what we were going to do. Mark had the darks on Brereton for cleaning him up, because he missed a state game, and he was really proud about playing state footy. So he didn’t take any convincing. He was going to pay Dermott a visit.” - Malcolm Blight. Geelong Coach 1989-94
“In the Grand Final, I thought he’d come for Couchy.” – Blight
“I guess I was the bait to an extent,” Paul Couch. Geelong 1985-97
“I have to be brutally honest and confess that I wasn’t looking for Couchy at that first bounce,” he said. “I just ran in off the line knowing there was four targets inside the centre square. Whichever one got in the way was the one I was going for.” – Brereton

If there was any question about how much thought Blight had put into the attack on Brereton, his actions during half time of the reserves Grand Final dispelled them. He walked Yeates to the spot he wanted him to stand and marked a cross with his feet, indicating where Yeates would be launching from.

“If we’re going this way, here’s the mark.” - Blight
“Whatever happens, just play the ball. Let football do the talking. Don’t concentrate on the man.” – Alan Jeans. Hawthorn Coach 1981-87, 88-90

In the pre-match address, Jeans targeted Brereton himself.

“It may have happened to someone in your family, but today someone has a loaded gun and it’s pointed at your head. How do you respond?” – Jeans to Brereton.
“I remember thinking I can’t wait for the centre bounce. Yeatesy’s going to be ready. Dermott’s not going to be ready…”- Billy Brownless. Geelong 1986-97

THE FIRST QUARTER

“We lined up and charged in to try and make a contest. I took off at a good clip and watched the ball get kicked in the opposite direction, then saw Yeatesy coming at me, which is all she wrote.” – Brereton
“I saw him very briefly ... maybe a second. Just enough time to hold my breath before impact”. – Brereton.

As the Geelong coaching staff watched Andrew Bews gather the ball and boot it forward to a streaming Gary Ablett, Blight’s eyes were elsewhere. Greg Wells turned to the coach.

“How’d it go?” - Wells

“Perfect.” - Blight
“It cannot end here. This has to be the most important two hours of my life.” - Brereton
“Get him off! Get him off!” – Jeans
“I made up my mind I’d try as hard as I could to stand up, but I was in too much pain. I couldn’t breathe in and my knees went on me. I went down on one knee but I still couldn’t breathe so I rolled straight out flat on my back.” - Brereton
“I’ve seen what he has been doing, running through and cleaning blokes up, so I thought I will make him think twice about doing it. That was the evener-upperer for round six,” he said. “He probably expected it.” – Yeates.
“His eyes were rolling back a bit, and I said: ‘How does that feel?’ And I thought of that pain I was in back at Princes Park,” – Yeates
“It was a balancing of the ledger. It was the moment they recognised I’d copped my own whack and not whinged about it.” - Brereton
“Dermott was famous before that. His reputation didn’t need to be enhanced by him getting up. It’s unfortunate that it became public that it was premeditated, but I regret it.” - Blight

With help, Brereton got to his feet and gingerly made his way to the forward pocket, still struggling for breath, but refusing to come off. Within minutes, the ball came in, and Brereton marked over Stephen Hocking and kicked the second Hawthorn goal of the game.

“Inspirational. Stay on.” – Hawthorn Runner George Stone
“The most thrilling thing I’ve ever seen.” – Robert Dipierdomenico. Hawthorn 1975-91
“It almost worked brilliantly” - Blight

The Hawks piled on eight first quarter goals to the Cats’ two, but the injuries were mounting. Brereton was hurt, and Dipierdomenico’s lung was slowly deflating thanks to Gary Ablett. The Cats were behind on the scoreboard, but had significant man power at their disposal.

“Ablett’s behind me, telling me what he was going to do. ‘I’m coming to get you big fella.’ I did hear my ribs break, and adrenaline takes you to places people don’t know they can get to.” – Dipper
“My first instinct was to crack into the Hawthorn blokes. It was the last game of the year and I decided, as most blokes did, to let them know we were around.” – Garry Hocking. Geelong 1987-2001
“We had never really been challenged like that for a long time, because we were so dominant.” – Gary Ayres. Hawthorn 1978-93
“I got some curry for after an incident with John Platten, who finished the game on the bench with concussion.” – G Hocking.
“Dipper was the one to get them going. The one who would never, ever flinch, no matter what.” – Wells
“They just kept the footy. We gave away some silly frees and things like that, but we just couldn’t get the footy. Their kicking was perfect.” – Blight
“It’s bloody hard to come back from that far down. Almost impossible.” - Mark Bairstow. Geelong 1987-94

SECOND QUARTER

“Even when Hawthorn was six goals in front it always felt like the scores were level. That was the quality of the football. Retrospect is a beautiful thing, but even at the time it felt like something special.” – Bruce McAvaney
“We knew while we had him (Ablett) on our team, we were always a chance.” – Yeates.
“I was in trouble. I needed the supply to Gary to be poor.” – Scott Maginness. Hawthorn 1988-96
“The ball came down to a contest and I was holding on, and I really retarded his (Ablett’s) run and he turned around to me and said if you do that one more time I’m going to knock you out, and I said ‘Gary, that wouldn’t be a Godly thing to do, would it?’” – Scott Maginness

HALF TIME

“(At half time) I sat in the toilets by myself, and I’m pressing my body and thinking what the hell is going on?” – Dipper.
“He mentioned his age and said when we was 11 years of age he wanted to go and buy this beautiful pair of shoes for five quid. He got to the shoe shop and thought ‘No, I can keep two quid and buy the cheaper pair. In a couple of months’ time, the three quid pair started to fall apart. He said ‘I wish I had of paid the price at the time.’” – Brereton on Jeans’ half time speech.
“Do you intend to pay the price? Are you going to pay the price and not be regretful tomorrow?Will you pay the price? Will you? Will you?” – Jeans.
“It was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever been involved with from a footy team perspective.” – Darrin Pritchard. Hawthorn 1987-97
“PAY THE PRICE! PAY THE PRICE!” – Jeans
“I’ll never forget it. None of the guys will.”- Jason Dunstall. Hawthorn 1985-98

THIRD QUARTER

“I got fixed up by Robert Dipierdomenico and needed six stitches in my lip. That happened as I was chasing Chris Wittman near the boundary line. I was just focusing on him and as I turned, I saw Dipper coming for me. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground and had blood streaming from my lip.” - G Hocking
“I just wanted to kill him. I got him an absolute ripper.” – Dipper on his elbow on Garry Hocking. Dipper was reported.
“If Leigh Matthews is at the top of the tree, Buddha is in the top ten of toughest blokes I’ve ever seen.”- Brereton.
“The coach (Blight) was quite critical of me for the way I handled being belted by Dipper. When I went down, I was a bit groggy from the whack in the mouth and then my free kick went out of bounds on the full. Blight got stuck into about wasting the ball, instead of composing myself, being strong and not showing the opposition that I was hurt.” – G Hocking
“I was shellshocked by Blight’s criticism because I thought I had done all right. But from then on, every time I’ve been bowled over, I’ve made a point to get up, regain my composure and prove to myself and the team that I am still focused on footy.”- G Hocking.
“We just couldn’t get within that two goals (margin).” – Brownless.
“You knew you were playing against the title holder. They weren’t gonna give it up.” – Andrew Bews. Geelong 1982-93
“I remember going to three quarter time and Yabby having a go at me. ‘Pick up your game, son.’” – Dipper.

FOURTH QUARTER

“Who said we can’t?” – Blight.
“I reckon we’re going to get these pricks.“– Dennis Davey. Geelong Assistant coach, five minutes into the last quarter.
“Every time we’d get two, they’d get one. They’d just stop us a bit.” – Blight
“They’re dropping off here boys. They’re going down.” – Brownless
“We could not stop them. The only thing we could do was give it to Pritchard, Wittman or Anderson and they could run and carry for us.” – Brereton.
“I was thinking draw. For the first time I was thinking ‘We can draw this’” – Blight
“Someone blew the bloody siren.” – Blight

POST GAME

“One bloody kick.” – Blight
“If we just got it down to Gazza again… what if?” – Yeates.
“I remember Dipper grabbing me, bearhugging me and saying ‘Sorry mate, there can only be one winner.” – Bews.

ON ABLETT

“I’m really proud of his performance.” – Bews
“One of the greatest single efforts I’ve ever seen.” – Yeates.
“The real showstopper was his snap over his shoulder after taking the ball from the boundary throw in. That was just astonishing.” – Dunstall.
“He kicked nine and we got beat.” – Blight.
“From a football lover’s point of view, the highlight of the 1989 Grand Final was undoubtedly Gary Ablett’s nine goals. That was vintage Ablett on the big stage.” – G Hocking.

 THE AFTERMATH

“Whatever they say about Dermie, on this day when he copped it, he won more people over because he got up. You always get knocked down in life. It’s how you get up and what you do after it.” – Jeans.
“I didn’t see the game again until ten years later. It was the last of the seriously brutal games of football I’ve seen. – Blight.
“You’d love being part of it. It is a significant point in AFL history, but it’s also very hard to live with coming second.” - Bews
“This is the thing that I didn’t understand in that game. We had played with basically attacking flair all year, and then in the Grand Final (Blight) made a lot of changes in the biggest game of the year. In my opinion, I thought we made mistakes, worrying about knocking bloody Brereton over, worrying about players playing in different areas. Let them worry about us and let us go. We might’ve been down, but we certainly wouldn’t have been 43 points down. ” – Bairstow
… to turn around in the Grand Final and to basically try to be the aggressor not so much at the ball, but at the man? I thought it cost us early, and it cost us badly.” – Bairstow
“The most brutal game I’ve ever been involved in. It was like carnage out there. I think there were like 13-14 injuries in that game.” – Couch
“God, it hurt. Anyone who has been through the same experience has surely vowed, like I have, to avenge their defeat. But while the losing feeling sticks in your gut, atoning for it is never simple.” – G Hocking.
“I never thought we would lose but it could have been a draw. We were very fortunate to win. John Platten, who had concussion, can’t remember the game, getting the medal, or anything at all.” – Michael Tuck. Hawthorn 1972-91
“While it obviously hurts, we couldn’t match Hawthorn’s evenness around the ground. We gave it a good shot and ran them really close, but they were back-to-back premiers,” – Gary Ablett. Geelong 1984-97
“I asked Gazza after the game how many goals did you kick? He said ‘nine’. I said you’re kidding, I thought you only kicked one or two, it’s just the game was intense.’’ - Couch
“We all got swept up in it … and I reckon we made the grand final day, probably didn’t prepare as well as we should have, a couple of us. We had a few beers, after the prelim final. We had a good drink, like we’d made it I suppose. We trained all that week, but knowing the Hawthorn side, they would have been in bed ready to go. We were just kids. – Brownless
“(In) ‘89, we didn’t really know what we were doing. When we won the preliminary final, everybody went out and had a few drinks like we did every other week, enjoyed each other’s company. We just went out to play in ‘89,” - Couch
“It was frustrating to watch and not be able to do anything. There was a few of us that day…we did have this absolute desire to win a Premiership.” – Damien Bourke. Geelong 1983-92
“We had six players out of that team that couldn’t have played the next week. Stephen Hocking played out the match with a ruptured testicle! Heaven-forbid it was a draw or we would have had the seconds playing the next week,” – Bourke
“If there was one oversight in the whole thing, it was that Mick Schultz or Yeates didn’t go to the forwardpocket with Brereton while he recovered from the bump. They could have maintained the pressure on Brereton and made sure he never got to those couple of contests that made such an impact.” – Hocking.
“To lose it and lose it so close, it was hard,” Bourke
“If you ask Malcolm why we lost, he’ll tell you that we just ran out of time.” - Wells
“When anybody asks me about 1989, I think of the sublime skill of Gary Ablett with his nine goals, to the war of attrition that it was, starting when I got knocked over and managed to get up again. It has stood the test of time.” – Brereton

THE FINAL WORD

“That fact that the ‘89 grand final is held in such esteem by most people that love the game of football … it was a joy to be involved, for all the good and bad of it. It’s just that every time we talk about it now, we still can’t win the bloody thing.” – Blight

 

 

 

Part Three coming soon - The Curse

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