“I’m still tingling,” I said in numerous conversations after the event. Maybe it betrayed my meagre vocabulary. But it was accurate. I was tingling and it came from an unexpected source. The 2010 WAFL grand final was played between Claremont and Swan Districts. I barrack for East Perth who had been beaten by Swans in the preliminary final a week earlier. I had no emotional attachment to this game.
There was no doubt that the best two teams were playing in the grand final. Claremont finished on top with just two losses for the season – round seven to Swan Districts and round 23, the last home and away game, to East Perth. They drew with Swans in round 18 and thrashed them in round 21 and the second semi-final.
The revival of Swan Districts, which began in 2008, had stirred long dormant fans and crowds were strong.
The narrative of the 2010 season revolved around one player – Andrew Krakouer, son of the brilliant and troubled Jim, a star with Claremont and North Melbourne. It was a redemption story.
In December 2006, while still on Richmond’s list, Krakouer was arrested for assault after a payback fight outside a Fremantle nightclub. He was delisted at the end of 2007 after 102 AFL games and began the 2008 season with Swan Districts in the WAFL. In July 2008 Krakouer was sentenced to 32 months prison with a minimum of 16 for the 2006 assault. Outside the court his father Jim said: “Lots of friends are supportive of him. I’m supportive of him. It’s a pretty tough sentence for a first offence, but that’s the way the court sees it.”
His football season with Swan Districts came to an abrupt end.
In 2009 it emerged that a team from Wooroloo Prison was dominating the Mercantile Football League. The star of the team was Andrew Krakouer who led his team to a grand final victory just a couple of weeks following his release after serving 16 months.
Swan Districts welcomed Krakouer back into the fold and as the 2010 season progressed it was clear he was a different player. At Richmond Krakouer was an opportunist forward; he did some clever things, including goal-of-the-year contenders, but really didn’t get hold of the ball all that much – he averaged 10 disposals a game.
The 2010 version of Andrew Krakouer was a head-over-the-ball midfielder who averaged 26 disposals a game (he had 51 in round 23 against Peel) and kicked 39 goals. Such was his determination to get in after the ball that Krakouer spent much of his time in the last few games of the season with his head swathed in bandages to stop bleeding.
At the start of grand final week he won the Sandover Medal as the WAFL’s fairest and best player and there was speculation that he might make it back into the AFL, “This is the best footy I’ve ever played,” he said after winning the medal, “This year has surpassed my expectations and I have to pinch myself to realise what I have achieved so far this year. But there are more important things at the end of this week and that is what I’m looking forward to. That’s why we all play football, it is a team sport and the group of boys we have down at Swans are great and hopefully this Sunday we can achieve something special together.”
Pressed on Sandover Medal night about a return to the AFL Krakouer said, “I just love playing footy.”
In hindsight we probably should have realised the 2010 WAFL grand final wouldn’t be just ordinary.
There were unusual factors…
• Like the fact neither coach, Simon McPhee (Claremont) or Brian Dawson (Swan Districts), had been a prominent player. McPhee never played a senior WAFL game while Dawson played just six games for Swans in 1977-78.
• Like Professor Dawson’s August announcement that he would be stepping down as coach of Swans at the end of the season due to work commitments in Japan in 2011.
• Like the presence of the Sandover Medal winner (Andrew Krakouer) and runner-up (Luke Blackwell) and the fact both are sons of members of Claremont’s premiership team of 1981 – Jim Krakouer and Wayne Blackwell.
• Like inspirational former Swans captain Adam Lange being an assistant coach at Claremont and Greg Harding, who began his career at Claremont, being an assistant at Swan Districts.
• Like Peter Matera having a role with Swans and Phil Matera with the Tigers.
• Like Blackwell, who started his career at Swans playing the Tigers, and Ben Colreavy, a former Claremont stalwart, playing for Swan Districts.
• Like the presence of 16-year-old Stephen Coniglio in the Swans line-up. He’s the second youngest player to appear in a WAFL grand final behind West Perth’s Geoff Hendriks in 1975.
• Like the absence through injury of the WAFL’s leading goal scorer for 2010 Chad Jones. He kicked 85 goals in 16 games.
• Like the absence of Claremont captain Clancy Rudeforth with a broken jaw and Luke Pratt of Swan Districts, who was suspended for breaking Rudeforth’s jaw in the second semi final.
The Tigers went into the game as firm favourites after winning the second semi final by 50 points. The crowd was always going to be in favour of the underdogs. The cruel truth is that hardly anyone barracks for Claremont while the Swan army had been roused.
Claremont led at quarter time but only because Krakouer (three) and Ashley Hansen (two) combined to kick five consecutive behinds (a poster each) for Swans. Krakouer first got hold of the ball at the three-minute mark and two his behinds came from brilliant interceptions. It seemed he might have missed the opportunity to have a huge impact on the game.
The game began willingly and Claremont ruckman Andrew Ruck was awarded two free kicks within the first 30 seconds. Nic Chidgzey kicked the first goal of the game, the first six scoring shots by Swans were behinds before Hansen got things underway with a powerful set shot from 50.
Claremont 3.1 (19) Swan Districts 1.6 (12).
Andrew Krakouer: seven kicks; three handballs; two marks; 0.3 (3).
The Tigers got away to the perfect start when Rory Walton ran onto a loose ball in the goal square to get the first goal of the second quarter after just 35 seconds.
However, with Hansen providing a big central target, Swans began to take control. They fluffed a couple of chances before Michael Walters slammed through a goal and then Coniglio displayed speed and evasiveness to kick two in a row and put his team in front.
After Coniglio’s second goal came a decisive moment. Claremont went to the centre bounce without a ruckman, Swans got their first proper take away of the game and Krakouer floated across in front of a pack close to goal to mark overhead. His goal put Swans nine points up.
Both teams missed opportunities as the quarter progressed. Defenders Tallan Ames and Graham Jetta were playing strongly for Swans as were Ian Rowe and Beau Wilkes for the Tigers.
There were some interesting one-on-one duels: dangerous Claremont forward Ian Richardson vs Paul Richardson; equally dangerous Tiger Jarrad Ninyette vs Jetta. Honours were even in those battles in Claremont’s attack. Prolific Claremont midfielder Ryan Brabazon vs Travis Casserly with the Swan on top; Blackwell started on Krakouer but it just meant the Tigers were sacrificing their best player to no effect. In the Swans forward line Tim Geappen (67 goals for the season) had been shut down by Wilkes.
As the siren sounded a shot from Hansen smashed into the post. It was a fitting end to the half.
Claremont 5.6 (36) Swan Districts 5.10 (40)
Andrew Krakouer: 12 kicks; nine handballs; three marks; 1.3 (9).
Swans began the quarter in rather rugged and ragged style. Casserley gave away two free kicks to Brabazon inside the first minute and Claremont had all the play. Chidgzey kicked his second and then an inelegant left foot snap from Kane Mitchell found the target and the Tigers were back in front.
At the eight-minute mark blood inevitably appeared on Krakouer’s head. He went off to be patched up. Not long after his return he was involved in telling piece of play when he outmarked Claremont ruckman Ruck one-on-one. Krakouer is 172cm tall, Ruck 196cm – the mark sent out a message to team-mates and opponents alike. Midfielders Josh Roberts, Wayde Twomey and Tom Roach began to take control and Claremont made a move they were to regret. Wilkes went forward and Geappen enjoyed the change. The Tasmanian kicked two goals, Coniglio kicked a left footer and Swans shot out to an 18-point lead at the 25-minute mark – the biggest of the game.
The leaders had no time to enjoy their superiority. Goals to Schammer and Crawford put the Tigers back within a goal and if Richardson had converted a relatively easy set-shot they would have been in front at the last break. Each team had kicked 4.5 for the quarter.
Claremont 9.11 (65) Swan Districts 9.15 (69).
Andrew Krakouer: 19 kicks; 10 handballs; seven marks; 1.3 (9).
Just 45 seconds into the quarter Krakouer received a slick handpass from Walters and put his team 10 points up. There was no time to feel comfortable. Chidgzey found himself in the right place and kicked his third goal. With Blackwell coming good, acting captain Andrew Browne effective in bringing the ball out of defence and ruckman Tom Derickx doing some nice work Claremont began to gain a measure of control. At the 11-minute mark Tom Swift, an unreliable kick if ever there was one, made perfect contact on a set shot from 40 metres and the Tigers were back in front.
Pace through the middle of the ground from the youngster Coniglio brought the ball to Geappen and on to the Krakouer whose third goal put Swans in the lead.
There was a blow for Swans 16 minutes into the quarter when Jetta was caught in friendly fire from Richardson near the boundary line and knocked out. There was lengthy delay as he was carried from the ground on a stretcher. Jetta had received jarring bumps in each quarter but this one finished him off. His opponent Ninyette was also left dazed and confused by the Richardson bump but was able to return.
Sloppy defensive work by Swans provided Andrew Foster with a chance to snap and change the lead again and moments later he kicked a beautifully balanced running goal from 50 metres and Claremont were eight points in front with 20 minutes gone.
Five minutes later Swans were in the lead again. Coniglio set up Geappen for a goal and then Krakouer took a strong overhead mark and set up Coniglio who kicked his fourth. AFL talent spotters would have been looking longingly at the teenager sad in the knowledge that he was too young for the 2010 draft and haunted by the possibility that he may never be available. Coniglio is a talented cricketer who would soon need to make a sporting choice.
David Crawford knows all about Claremont’s difficulties in the 2000s. The Tigers lost the grand finals in 2004, 2005 and 2007 and he was part of each of those losing teams. At the 29-minute mark of the last quarter had the most significant moment of his career. An ugly pack flew for the ball just outside the goal square and somehow the out-of-position Crawford grabbed hold of it. He slammed through the goal, Claremont were five points in front and simply needed to hang on.
This is how play progressed for the next two minutes. Centre bounce…scramble towards Swans’ goal. Bounce down…bad bounce…throw up… scramble Swans’ way. Bounce down… scramble. Bounce down… ball edging towards Swans’ forward flank. Bounce down… still no one had had a kick or handball since Crawford’s goal. Bounce down… free kick to Crawford for kicking in danger. Claremont kicked the ball forward but advantage wasn’t allowed. 32 minutes had gone.
Crawford, a left footer, can kick long distances but this kick came horribly off the boot and gave Swans a chance as it bounced on the wing.
Coniglio gathered and handpassed to Roach who handpassed to Towmey who threw it onto the outside of his boot and shunted it forward. The ball came off a Claremont hand straight to a waiting Swan Districts player. There was no rush or panic and 33 minutes into the last quarter Andrew Krakouer kicked the winning goal. Redemption. Emancipation. How else could we have expected this game to end?
The final siren sounded after 35 minutes.
In a post match interview Andrew Krakouer said: “I just wanted to make a contribution.”
Claremont 14.15 (99) Swan Districts 14.16 (100).
Andrew Krakouer: 29 kicks; 14 handballs; 11 marks; 4.3 (27).
WAFL grand final
19 September 2010
Swan Districts 1.6 5.10 9.15 14.16 (100)
Claremont 3.3 5.6 9.11 14.15 (99).
GOALS: Swan Districts: Krakouer, Coniglio 4; Geappen 3; Walters, Hansen, Simpson 1. Claremont: Foster, Chidgzey 3; Crawford 2; Walton, Richardson, Mitchell, Schammer, Swift, Derickx.
BEST: Swan Districts: Krakouer, Roberts, Coniglio, Twomey, Ames, Pearce, Roach. Claremont: Browne, Schammer, Rowe, Derickx, Franz, Walton.
Umpires: Hendrie, Parry, Statham.
Simpson Medal: Andrew Krakouer (Swan Districts).
The 2010 Swan Districts premiership players: Tallan Ames, Travis Casserly, Ben Colreavy, Stephen Coniglio, Ryan Davis, Tim Geappen, Ashley Hansen, Clayton Hinkley, Graham Jetta, Andrew Krakouer, Clancee Pearce, Paul Richardson, Matt Riggio, Tom Roach, Josh Roberts (captain), Brett Robinson, Justin Simpson, Llane Spaandermann, Matthew Spencer, Wayde Twomey, Michael Walters, Brett Wolfenden. Coach: Brian Dawson.
• Andrew Krakouer was recruited by Collingwood who gave pick 25 to new AFL team Gold Coast.
• Tom Derickx went to Richmond with pick 63 in the AFL national draft.
• Wayde Twomey was taken at pick 51 in the AFL rookie draft by Carlton.
• Swan Districts defender Travis Casserly tested positive to a performance-enhancing drug – pseudoephedrine (cold tablets) – after the grand final. He was suspended for two years.
Swan Districts players who were on AFL lists in 2010: Troy Banfield (Brisbane); Dennis Armfield, David Ellard, Jeff Garlett, Chris Yarran (Carlton); Jarrad Blight (Collingwood); Clancee Pearce, Michael Walters (Fremantle); Jamie Bennell, Neville Jetta (Melbourne); Alex Rance (Richmond); Luke Miles (St Kilda); Lewis Jetta (Sydney); Andrew Embley, Ashley Hansen, Nic Naitanui, Tony Notte (West Coast).
Note: Hansen, Pearce and Walters played in the WAFL grand final.
Claremont players who were on AFL lists in 2010: Harry O’Brien, Alan Toovey (Collingwood); Travis Colyer (Essendon); Matthew de Boer, Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle); Jarryd Morton, Carl Peterson (Hawthorn); Cale Morton (Melbourne); Mitch Morton (Richmond)’ Michael Gardiner (St Kilda); Lewis Broome, Brett Jones, Eric McKenzie, Patrick McGinnity, Ryan Neates, Lewis Stevenson, Tom Swift, Gerrick Weedon (West Coast).
Note: Neates, Stevenson and Swift played in the WAFL grand final.