17 February, 2000
The Wait Is Over – Eastwood Take a Bow
GRAND FINAL 1999
Eastwood v Sydney University 13 October, 1999
It was a 52 year gestation period and an 80 minute labour. Somewhat painful at times, there has been a lot of blood, sweat, tears and beer flow in that 52 years and that simply makes this all the more sweeter. The pride of Eastwood have made Eastwood proud. There were people in the crowd today that have never seen each other before and probably won’t see each other again but they will be united by the fact that they saw the team of 1999 under Super Coach McKee and Robinson and being led fearlessly by the Skipper Gricey take out that highly coveted prize of the first Eastwood Grand Final victory. When Nelson Mandela was released from gaol he was heard to ask, “Have the Woodies won the premiership yet,” well Nelie old boy, start partying because the lads have done it. I’ve been lucky as I haven’t had to wait all that long but there some out there today who has waited the full 52 years. How must they be feeling now.
It was a game between a team that had dominated all year and a team that scored more tries than any other but did have a few hiccups. One team played one game in three weeks and the other played three tough battles. In the end one team had guts and determination and the other team had no answer. The Eastwood defence stood tall and proud. They repelled it all and then bounced up to score an emphatic 5 tries to 1 victory to erase the pain and the torment of 52 years in the wilderness (the Jews only spent 40). A lot of this guts and determination stemmed from a talk by John McLeay to the team on Thursday. John is in a wheel chair but his achievements are breath taking. He spoke to them of pride passion and history and Ces reckoned that’s what got them the game.
Eastwood had a nervous start with three lineouts being lost or not in straight. The Students were first to post points when in the 6th minute Uni scored a penalty goal. The Woods had to watch this as Malone is the sort of kicker that will kick them from anywhere and he’d do it all day if given the choice. From the kick off the Woods penetrated deep into the Uni half and they received a penalty 20 out and only 10 to the left of the uprights. It was a nervous stab by Young Timmy Donnelley but he made it count so it was all square again at 3 all.
Young Malone showed some nerves by putting the ball out on the full. Eastwood didn’t make the most of this opportunity and it was the Students who put a penalty over in the 15th minute to regain the lead 6-3. The front rows were trying to sort out each other and some young upstart by the name of Geoff Mutton thought that he could out prop the super prop Rod Moore. Geoff didn’t know it at that stage but Rod was to be packing his bag and flying to the World Cup as a replacement for Noreiga. You see, Geoff, you don’t stuff around with boys like Rod because he’s made of that Wallaby stuff.
If anything was to be a consolation it was the fact that the lineouts were where the side was falling away but it was the same as against Easts so we knew that we had to sit tight and all will be well. All was well when Peter Miller used a step and his pace to score the Woods first try of the day. It started when Big Daniel Manu picked up the lose ball and went straight ahead. Dineen received it wide of the ruck, he hit the line but freed his arms to put Barr through. Matt then threw one over the top to Peter “Razzle Dazzle but show no emotion” Miller who stepped inside. At this point it seemed to be the wrong option but he had the pace to beat the three in cover and he raced away to score by the posts. Eastwood up by 10-6.
Again from the kick off they put the ball out on the full. A little bit of nerves from the young Malone perhaps? The Woods were sensational late in the second half when the Students had incredible field position. The defence was incredible and it forced Uni back. It didn’t only do that it also caused a few fumbles as the outside backs were a bit wary of the sting in the tackles. In the final minute of the half George found cause to blow his whistle and give Malone the opportunity to make it a one point game which he duly did.
The score at half time remained at 10-9 and the game was anyones. It was really going to be a case of who can calm down the quickest and stop making the silly mistakes. The jungle juice has been working well for the Woods in the later half of the season so there was a slight air of confidence around the traps.
But it was the Students who had the early opportunities with a good dash in the 2nd minute then finally a penalty only about 15 to the left of the posts. Malone had been sinking them from everywhere to date and I had scrawled the goal into the book when that sound of leather ball on timber posts (well, actually it’s more like synthetic on to aluminum) jolted me into declaring that he is mortal after all. A sitter was missed and the mistakes that Malone was making were rising. On hearing my tape back I even stated that if he missed the goal he should dack himself and run around the ground. We’re still waiting Chrisy boy.
In the 6th minute there was a big play. The Woods were on the roll with Paul Dineen out wide chipping ahead with a good chance of getting to the ball in time to score. However, the Uni winger Griffin forgot the fact that he’s not allowed a) tackle a player without the ball, and b) use only the shoulder in a tackle. Consequently George, on the advice of the touchie, gave Michael 10 minutes in the bin to write out the relative laws 50 times. The penalty was 5 or so out and the scrum option was the obvious choice.
The shove was on and the Uni spoiled but George was not to be detered as he awarded another penalty. The shove came again but the Students spoiled enough to stop it from being a pushover. But Manu from the back picked up and drove over to score the Woods second, taking them to a handy but not comfortable lead of 15-9. The Special Comments Man was so excited that he forgot that he was holding a bottle of beer in his hands when he started jumping around. Well, you guessed it the bottle was opened and the 12 rows in front of us all copped a bit, but I can also say that they didn’t care an ounce. The advertisement may have been for Earnst & Young but the SCM rightly pointed out it was Moore & Young that should be flashed across the screen.
From the kick off Dave Fryday took the ball and as he has done all year he put his life on the line. My expert opinion was that his shoulder went through his right ear and out his left nostril (I am an accountant by trade). Dave told me after the game that his shoulder, and I quote, “went up my arse”. This was a little bit too much for Dave and he called to the sideline for immediate help. Mel came and told him to keep moving it so he started to wiggle his bum. Mel then had to tell him not your bum, move you shoulder. Things were alright for him once he sorted that problem out. Drew Hickey had to leave the field for the Students. The two female runners were no help for Drew as they were about a foot too short so he had to limp off unaided.
Uni gained the benefit of another penalty and this was fast becoming the only way they were going to score. They bridge the gap with 25 to go to 15-12. As an aside, I had a look at the game on tele later and the commentators were singing the praises of the ruck and maul stat that read about 612 to Uni and 20 to the Woods. But their bloody ruck and maul went no-where, didn’t result in points so don’t you think that they were doing something wrong. Surely it has to add up in these intellects minds. Papworth summed it up by saying that you need try scoring potential to win Grand Finals.
Big Daniel Manu really steps up a notch in these big games and he didn’t let them down this time. He made a great busting run to get Eastwood deep into Uni territory. The ball was then spun wide to Matty Barr who bounced back on the inside only to be dragged down 5 metres out. Two more phases before Trav went wide where it looked liked he and Matt Miller were swamped by 28 Uni backs. But Super Woodie Trav should be a cab driver because he can find holes in the densest of traffic and he fed Matt Miller right through one and Cement made no mistake running in the try like only he knows how. The score was 22-12 after Young Timmy Donnelley slotted over the conversion and the fact that tries win matches was shining even brighter.
The panic buttons were pressed at Uni home base and the players had to start doing something they were unfamiliar with, ie throw the ball around in an attempt to score tries. Catch up football always causes lose ball and it was Matty Miller who picked up the lose ball and put a good kick in down field. It was weighted perfectly as the Uni cover had to take the ball over the line forcing the 5 metre scrum.
The inevitable happened with the Woods putting on the big shove. A few attempts were made and the third of these looked try bound when Catchpole jumped in a little early spoiling a certain try scoring opportunity. George didn’t panic he just headed for the posts and awarded the Woods a penalty try. That sealed it and the crowd knew it. There was dancing in the aisles (well at least I was dancing), there was cheering, there were tears of joy. Strangers were embracing because of the common Blue & White bond. The Eastwood piggies have to take a bow as they laid the foundations for this memorable win.
But it wasn’t over and the Woods had to keep putting in for another 10 or so minutes. Uni were not giving in easily and they put in a great kick off that went dead only 5 metres from the Woods line. The Woods cleared but Uni came back and finally scored a try with 4 to go. To little too late and the Woods were already tasting that Vimera Rd brew. Dave Fryday eventually stopped breathing so they had to bring him off. At least that’s the only reason I can imagine he would come off so that’s what it must have been.
Just before the bell a scrum was awarded and then the siren went. George wanted the scrum so a scrum it was to be. The scrum packed and Uni weren’t expecting what was to come. Manu off the back on to Trav and Matty Barr in the corner. That was the cherry on the icing on the cake that is the Grand Final. A five tries to one drubbing of the competition leaders was something that even I never imagined and it was something Skipper Gricey never imagined either. His first words to me are unprintable but he went on to say that his worst fear was that they were going to be beaten on penalties. “Uni are a dangerous team and had great field position. Our defence was great and luckily they could only get penalty goals. The backs, they’re 19 year olds and they stood tall. They’ll go a long way. The crowd that comes along is points on the board for me. They’ve been coming for years. Whenever we go to the club there will always be some stalwarts who come out of the corner they’ve been drinking beer in for the last 30 years. It’s something you can’t buy. It’s a respect for us and a respect for the club and on days like today it gets us across the line. I was nervous but I was a lot better than two years ago.”
Daniel Manu was the TV Man of the Match and he told me that the team deserved the win and the boys really played hard for the title. I walked up to the typically stoney face coach and said, “Super Coach McKee, how does it feel,” and at last I heard him laugh and saw him smile. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. There’s been a lot of people waiting a long time for this. It was a fantastic team effort today. There were times in the first half that we just couldn’t seem to get into the game and Uni were dominating. But we dug deep and just chipped away and chipped away. Our defence was great as we smashed them at the fringes. It was a good turn around in the second half. We really talked about the tasks and the marking of the players in defence was one of those things. We always had potential to score points either through the forwards or out in the backs.”
The day turned out to be doubly good for Super Woodie Rod Moore who after the game passed a fitness test that meant that he was on the plane to Ireland to join the Wallabies on their World Cup campaign. “It feels great. If you asked me last year if I was going to the World Cup I would have laughed at you. I had a call from Rod McQueen yesterday saying that I was in list of candidates. I had a medical after the game and then he just rang me to tell me I’m coming over. The Grand Final is great and its great for the supporters who have been there for 52 years. That’s what makes it most gratifying. I’m on top of the world.”
All the training I gave Gricey during the year in the post match interview and speech paid off as he gave a great speech up on the podium. He thanked the Uni side and commended them on the great year that they had. He also remembered being down there in 97. The sponsors got the usual trot and he acknowledged the supporters that come week in week out. Our away crowd would have to be one of the best in Sydney.
Post match I was fortunate enough to get on to the ground courtesy of the lovely Monique Cowper who sweet talked all the security guards. I owe you big time Monique. Here is a snippet of the comments I took from the players.
Josh Cullen – “I’m very excited, very excited indeed. Little bit of a wind in the second half helped but we planned to stick into their half as much as we could and that’s what paid off in the end. I feel very great. The party will be going for the next three days.”
Timmy Donnelley – “It’s awesome, a dream come true. First year in and I can’t believe I’m standing here. It will really sink in tonight. I was a bit nervous but it was different. I looked up when I took my penalty shot and it was 15 minutes gone – it only felt like two. It went so fast. We defended well and when they had it we stuck it to them. Our defence got us home.”
Matt Miller – “Sensational feeling. Never felt anything like this before. We struggled early but it was just a matter of settling down. Once we did this we got into the rhythm of our play and that’s why the second was very good. With the try I was trying to get as close to the goals as I could because Tim can’t kick goals.”
Matt Barr – “Cinderella story is the best way to sum it up. I just can’t believe it. It will probably be about Tuesday when I’ll be able to make sense of it.”
Dave Fryday – ” It’s been a long time you know. Thirty odd weeks with three training runs a week. So its 100 odd training sessions. It’s been long and tiring but its definitely been worthwhile.”
Scott Fava – “It was a great way to farewell the club. It was what I wanted to do all the way through. I love this club and I want to be here forever but I can’t do it. I wanted to go out a winner and if I never play for Eastwood again it will be a shame. The supporters at Eastwood are the best, mate. I reckon there’s 14,000 Eastwood supporters and 1,00 Uni.”
Paul Dineen – “I can’t believe it. I’m so glad they gave me a run in 1st Grade this year. I’d like to thank John and Robbo for that. It’s just a great start to a great career at Eastwood. The “pie chukker” that Timmy threw was not forward. I was going to brush off Phil Waugh no worries.”
Travis Hall – “I’m over the moon. It’s just great to get it out of the way. Lets hope next year we can back it up with another one. The forward pack got over theirs and I think that’s where it was different.”
Peter Miller – “I’m feeling very good. I’m lost for words. I wasn’t nervous until I came on to the ground and saw everyone here. The whole team seemed a bit like that. The start was nerves and then once everyone had a touch of the ball we started playing like we’ve been playing all year. I’ll be hanging around at the club tonight.”
Nathan Spooner – “I just wish I could have been out there, the guys were on fire. To make history like that today they played extremely well. The big difference [between 97 and 99] was the experience of the players. We haven’t formally invited “Sex” [Fava] to move in with us yet but on todays performance I think we might.”
Bill Young – “I’m feeling very good, mate, very good. It’s a great feeling. There’s going to be [very] big party so watch out Eastwood.”
Dan O’Hara – “I tried to lay one on my brother but I think he got a good one on me but now to worry. It was the best and to get on at the end was awesome.”
Matt Dunning – copped a bit of flack from other players when I suggested he was the super prop of the year. “Oh, they’re just jealous mate because I’m better looking than them. A big party tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night, the next morning. I just quit my job this weekend so I’ll be partying.”
Andrew Wisemantel – “It’s superb, sensational, unbelievable. I was pretty ‘casual’ there today, I went out for a few Tony Locketts on the SCG before the game and I was hitting them quite nicely actually. I thought it was going to happen today. I was predicting a fair bit to not much and that’s how it panned out. Scott found a pub to watch the game with the Japanese sub titles down the bottom. I say he’d be pretty tanked by now.”
Jeff Reid – “Yep it was Dan O’hara or big Deano as he is known by those around him now that won the Bench Lotto (see pre match comments by Alan Reid). He is now $65 the richer. I was pretty proud to be the bench captain there today. As a reserve I’m still honoured. I’ve been playing here since I was 9 and just to be a part of the winning squad is something special.”
Alan McDonald – “It’s just a dream come true. You can stuff the league, I’m glad I came to the Union. It feels so good. There’s been so much hype and talk about creating history, it just feels great. We decided to get it a bit wider to try and make some breaks and it worked.”
Anthony Reed – “It tastes even better out of this crystal. Beers never tasted so nice. It’s the best feeling ever. A dream come true.”
Just very quickly I would like to thank the Eastwood Rugby team for playing great Rugby and making my job nice and easy. To Gricey for talking to me even after being beaten by Penrith and Newcastle. To that Special Comments Man who is a special mate. Of course to Webmaster and very good mate Craig Fleming whose efforts have made this web site the best club rugby site. Monique “Super Sleuth” Cowper for helping out particularly on Grand Final day and to the supporters that had to endure my crap week in week out. Well bad news, I’ll be back yelling the same things next year.
See you up the back of the Grand Stand.
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The One Eyed Woodie.