Perth Footy Live Scully’s Recap: B Grade Grand Final: Wembley versus West Coast
The Perth Footy Live team sharpened up their commentary skills, slipped into professional media mode and headed off to East Fremantle Oval for the B Grade Grand Final between Wembley and West Coast. Now, to be fair, what I actually mean by ‘team’ is Cam Robbins who could be heard before the game rehearsing classic lines like “sold him some candy” and “gave him the ol’ don’t argue” in preparation for the lion’s share of the commentary that day. The rest of us were just there for grassroots footy at its finest and to make the most of the community spirit. The Perth Footy Live tent also had the day off because we were perched at the top of the commentary tower, teetering like Mrs Cam after a few too many Carlton Draughts (Nice to meet you on the weekend, Mrs Cam). As it turned out the game was a thriller so we didn’t have time to worry about our fear of heights. Well, except for four-foot-two-inches Craig Wilson who can’t really avoid that occurrence in his daily life.
It seemed fitting that West Coast and Wembley were competing against each other in the Skill Hire B Grade Grand Final, seeing as the teams finished first and second on the ladder respectively. While West Coast defeated Wembley in their season encounter in Round 8, Wembley turned the tables on them in the second semi-final to advance straight through. All but the Rocket Man tipped the Magpies for the grand final win. Cam and Ward determined their favourite based on expert knowledge and identification of Wembley’s top end talent. I simply consulted the oracle, that being the Club Lotto, which divined that the Magpies being last out to win the top prize was enough of an omen for the day’s game. Also, it’s magpie swooping season, and those buggers are ferocious this time of the year.
Wembley were up and about early in the first quarter. Their first goal came from a bouncing ball read best by Hornby who delivered a slick handball to Humble to direct it fast and low through the big sticks. With 12 minutes left on the clock, the ball finally made its way into West Coast’s 50 for the first time, and then went straight back out again. The Magpies punished West Coast’s lack of intent with a second goal from a boundary kick-in to the safe hands of Hanbury who put it out in front of Grulich for the pirouette and pierce. Hanbury decided he’d have his own unassisted swoop at goals not long after, managing to direct the ball through his head, shoulders, knees and toes all the way from beyond the 50 into kicking range of the beckoning middle posts. The Tigers fortunately avoided the Eagle Rock and pinned one point on the Skill Hire scoreboard, but the first quarter was all Magpies.
The second quarter was an opportunity to determine whether Wembley were actually on top of the game, or if it was simply the wind fanning their dominance. The first seven minutes of the quarter saw the ball bounce back and forth until the Tigers’ captain coach, McHugh, decided he’d had enough stuffing around and ignited their fightback with a one-handed mark followed by a centring kick to Fleay. From there Fleay delivered to Ashby who turned Seal into a ladder so that he could outmark him. Now, between the ball leaving Ashby’s foot and ending up in Devitt’s hands, there was a blur of bodies and Burley that I couldn’t separate. The most important thing is that Devitt hit West Coast’s first goal.
The celebrations were short lived though, because within minutes the ball literally bounced itself straight into the charging hands of Nitschke off the half back flank. Nitschke decided to turn the oval into the Fremantle café strip, revving the engine of his hot rod down the main drag to the cheers of the latte sippers. No, that’s a lie. The crowd were drinking anything but lattes. And they certainly weren’t ‘sipping’. Anyway, like any good mate, you let your passenger beep the horn, and so Nitschke handballed unselfishly to Charlesworth who notched up the goal. Still reeling from the cardiovascular feat I’d just witness, I can’t recall a damn thing from the rest of the second quarter, except to say that the Magpies were still up by 18 points at half-time.
Once again, there wasn’t anything of great note for the first seven minutes of the third quarter, aside from a dodgy one-liner by Rocket Man that might even challenge some of my worst. Alex Devitt gathered the loose ball as he went over the boundary line, to which Craig remarked, “He carried that through like he was delivering a package for eBay.” Fortunately, our attention was drawn away from debate about Rocket Man’s age off the back of that anachronism, to the supernatural ability of Wright to run through a gauntlet of flying arms and come out the other end with his head still attached. Even better than that triumph, was McHugh’s mark at the back of the pack where the Burley seemed to warp drive through the solid state of ten human bodies and dock in his hands. This mark led to West Coast’s first goal of the quarter, and a desperately needed update to the Skill Hire scoreboard, through the smooth movement of the ball down the corridor to Devitt who nailed it.
Buoyed by his teammates, Simmons got the better of Magpies ruck extraordinaire, Nathan Francis, with the next centre bounce to make room for Nisbett to rove it to his teammates, deliver to the hard lead of Mackenzie, and light up the scoreboard again. Jefferies was able to foil the Tigers’ next advance, allowing Wembley to send it down their end and have a couple of cracks at goal. As we know, intense pressure creates diamonds, and Wright plucked one out of his howdy-doody when he long bombed the Burley through the sorting pans. West Coast peppered the goals a few more times before the siren went but they weren’t able to convert, and these inaccuracies came back to haunt them in the final quarter.
Wembley went into the last quarter nine points in front with the same score line at the start as at the end. They didn’t manage to increase their lead, instead grinding West Coast into submission. For their part, West Coast increased their tally by another three points instead of three goals, and that hurt them. In the final five minutes of the game, it was clear that the result would come down to whether the Tigers could punch through for goals, or the Magpies could stagnate the ball’s movement. Hanbury nearly put the game beyond West Coast’s reach, but 2020 had different ideas for him while unhindered running into goals when the Burley popped out of his hands and his feet slipped sideways, reminding all of us that nothing is as easy as it should be this year. In the end, Wembley celebrated a slog of a win by six points.
When I reflect back on April of this year and the first steps towards Covid-19 lockdowns I couldn’t have imagined how significant a day at the footy would become. But significant it is, and even more so when it’s grassroots footy and so closely connected to the heart of a community and therefore the wellbeing of its local people. The identity of the clubs, the pride of the players, the colours of the strips, the running of the ball, the waving of the goal flags, the cheers of the crowd, the almost uninterrupted commentary of Cam Robbins, and the clink of Carlton Draughts were significant to me, and are significant to us, and I’m ever so thankful for what the Perth Football League has put together during such a shit year. Go amo footy.
So, there’s never been a better time to get your boots, blundies, sneakers, sandals, platforms, high heels, TNs, Crocs, slippers, classic double pluggers or whatever your preferred footwear is, on the ground tomorrow for the A Grade Grand Final between North Beach and Scarborough at Steel Blue Oval. The Perth Footy Live team will see you there.