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The 1989 Great Grand Final

21 Aug 2020 | Tony Wilson

For long-time football lovers, the 1989 Grand Final was one that was hard to forget. In 1989: The Great Grand Final, Tony Wilson takes a look back on one of the most spectacular games in footy history, from beginning to end.

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1989 the great grand final first pages extract image The round six game between Hawthorn and Geelong on 6 May 1989, stands now as a prelude to the larger story to come, and what Blight would  refer  to  as  “a  forerunner”.  But it’s  more than  that,  too.  It’s  in  the  ring  as  a  heavyweight  contender  for  best home and away game of all time. For one, it boasts the fifth highest total points (334) in a game. Geelong booted 17 goals in the first  half, Hawthorn 17 in the second. It remains the narrowest winning margin (eight points) of any others in the League’s ten highest scoring  games.  Gavin  Exell,  who  wouldn’t  even  make  Geelong’s best team in September, kicked nine goals in a performance that  won him three Brownlow Medal votes. Brereton booted five, as did Buckenara. Yeates kicked three. He also kicked a behind—a miss from ten metres out in the dying seconds, costly as it would have given the Cats one last chance to snatch victory. But as Yeates says in his laconic, Mount Gambier farm boy drawl: “It’s pretty hard to swing your leg around a swollen testicle.”

Brereton’s  hit  on  Yeates  at  the  beginning  of  the  last  quarter  is  a thing of horror. Yeates is competing with Hawks ruckman  Greg Dear at a boundary throw-in. The commentators mention that, off screen, Brereton has just been bowled over as the ball went over the line, thanks to a vigorous Ablett shepherd. No free kick is paid. There’s a close-up on an incredulous and angry Brereton. The ball spins into play. Dear and Yeates lock arms, eyes on the ball. Brereton comes roaring in from the boundary side, full speed, third man up. He doesn’t turn his body when he gets to Yeates, just collects him straight up the middle with his leading knee. Brereton also taps the ball, which adds a scintilla of legitimacy to what is a premeditatedly violent  hit.  Yeates  collapses  to  the  ground.  The  umpire  doesn’t award a free kick. Says Peter McKenna in the commentary box: “How could the umpires miss that, Bernie (Quinlan)? That was a dead set charge!”

“I was very frustrated,” admits Brereton. “I thought that the umpire had missed a free kick that was blatant. I argued with him … I’m  still to this day staggered that he missed the free kick, and I thought there was a personality component to it—as in ‘Cop that, Dermott, you’re loud and you’re this and that’—and that’s when I used to get a little upset.”

As Yeates departed the field with that ruptured testicle (“I’ve still got a lump,” he says), Brereton escorted him, letting fly with a few choice sledges. “I just walked alongside the stretcher and badmouthed him,” Brereton says. “We did stuff like that in those days.”

At the end of the game, Brereton approached Yeates with an outstretched hand. Yeates refused to shake it. “You’ll keep,” was the Geelong player’s tight-lipped reply.

Blight estimates that the action would cost Brereton six to eight weeks if assessed by the modern-day Match Review Panel. “He got him good—so good that Yeater missed the state game (on May 29). And Mark is a very proud man, and he loved playing State footy. We all did. So, he was really dirty, and I knew it.”

“I do regret not shaking his hand,” Yeates says now, “but I was just absolutely ropable … From that moment until the next time we played, I was hellbent on evening up with him.”

The next time Brereton and Yeates faced off would be in the 1989 Grand Final.

1989 cover with drop shadowThis is an edited extract from 1989: The Great Grand Final by Tony Wilson
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