The first hour of the telecast had a distinctly muted affair. Well, more muted than several segments of the public experiencing cataconic depression watching Rex Hunt.
Beautiful day, kiddies signing the advanced version of the National anthem, empty seats, two good teams, sinking VB's at 12.10 in the afternoon in the glow of the Socceroo's performances in Korea.. Strange experience.
The technical quality of the coverage was not matched by the technical quality of the teams. Wollongong were the more aggressive and a header from Petrovski that hit the most summed up their earlier endeavours. But the occasion was lacking that special something always inherent in the NSL Grand Final, which is rapidly consolidating a reputation for brilliance.
At half-time the atmosphere in the Arnold household was sombre. I was thinking "Poorest GF I can remember."
Then the second half. Two rapidfire goals as the VB's took their toll and sent the buzz into the red zone. Wollongong's second goal will long be remembered as the GF is played. I am not the person to adequately describe the picture in words, so you will have to see the GF highlights and say "yes, this is how the game should played."
South Melbourne will be disappointed with the contributions of several players. For me the sad sight came in the shape of their sweeper, one Simon Colosimo. The demi-god has a rough time of it. He could - should - be in Korea, but FF made another correct decision leaving him home to gain some confidence in what should have been yet another platform to demonstrate his putative greatness. Seeking treatment in the 2nd half, the unfortunate coincidence of Simon's disclination to prove himself against the very best AND South's medical officer being a middle-aged woman led to the instant flamebait across the Arnold living room "There's his mum!"
John Anastasiadis came on and did his job - score in an NSL grand final. But for South it was too little on the day and too late in the final to achieve a memorable comeback.
Wollongong are deserved winners. So too are SA, who made a bold and risky decision to host the GF in Parramatta on an unusual timeslot on Sunday. It paid off, in more ways than they can imagine.
The post match presentation may well prove to be a watershed in the administration of the game here. Matthew Horsely made a brilliant little speech, referring to "footballers" in it. This caused the contents of VB cans to emptied in salute and new ones popped open. As Marston and Horsley, two brilliant professionals from different eras, left the podium, the esteemed commentator Paul Wade was heard to introduce the chairman of SA.
The response was unusually derogatory. Wade, somewhat flustered, sought to introduce the match officials and then it was time for Tony Labbozzetta to make a speech. He will never live down his receptance from the crowd. Nor will he ever be allowed to forget his introductory speech.
"I know that you're upset".
It was the seal on a brilliant afternoon. Channel 7 decided to punctuate this poignant moment by cutting away, ensuring that Labbozzetta's podium appreance will go down in the annals of Australian footballing history.
The final sight as the AFL came on late into one of their games caused much jeering and merriment in the household. There are days, and there are weeks, when it doesn't get any better.