As it did when Sydney won in 2012, this year the premiership will feature New South Welshmen. But the question is, how many?
Today though, presents an opportune time to reflect on the best performances by New South Wales players in some VFL/AFL grand finals.
1. Lenny Hayes (Pennant Hills) – St Kilda v Collingwood, 2010 (drawn grand final)
Lenny Hayes produced the greatest grand final performance from a New South Wales player when he starred in the 2010 drawn grand final.
In the process, Hayes received the honour of being the first player from NSW to win the Norm Smith Medal “ a clear winner by six votes over the next best player.
The statistics confirm Hayes’ dominance in this match, as he was the leading possession winner on the ground with 32, as well as racking up a game-high 12 tackles.
2. Tom ˜Tomahawk” Hawkins (Finley) – Geelong v Collingwood, 2011
The high rating for Tom Hawkins is due to his momentum stealing second half in the 2011 decider.
Every time Collingwood gained the momentum in the third quarter of this grand final, Hawkins kicked a goal to keep his Geelong team in the contest. The match see-sawed as a contest until Hawkin’s third goal in the quarter put the Cats up by eight points, and from that point onwards Geelong seized control of the match.
The marks that Hawkins took in the last quarter had the commentators in raptures. “He’s playing out of his skin, Tom Hawkins,” said commentator Anthony Hudson after Hawkins took a strong contested mark in the last quarter.
Just a few minutes later, Hawkins took a one-handed mark while fending off his opponent with his other hand. “Hawkins again, oh this is amazing, who is this man?” Hudson said.
3. Chris Laird (Paddington) – South Melbourne v Collingwood, 1918
Chris Laird has generally been overlooked as a great grand final player due to the passing of time since the 1918 grand final, yet he kicked one of the most important goals in grand final history.
If the VFL had awarded a best on ground medal back in the 1918 grand final then the Sydney recruit would have been in line to take that award.
He kicked the winning goal for the red and whites against Collingwood with just 30 seconds remaining in the match, and was also the equal top goal scorer in the match with three goals to his name.
Without Laird’s final goal, Collingwood would have most likely won this match, so Laird’s influence could not have been more pronounced.
4. Gordon Strang (East Albury) – Richmond v Carlton, 1932
The Sporting Globe’s W.S. “Jumbo” Sharland listed Gordon Strang as Richmond’s best player in the grand final of 1932 as a result of his dominance in marking contests.
This high rating was also backed up by the report in The Age, which wrote “One of the most outstanding was G. Strang, who was unbeatable in the aerial duels, and who pulled down sixteen marks.”
To put this feat in perspective, no one player since the 1990 grand final has taken this many marks in a grand final. For his aerial dominance alone, Strang deserves his spot as one of New South Wale’s best grand final performers.
5. Jarrad McVeigh (Pennant Hills) – Sydney v Hawthorn, 2012
The 2012 AFL grand final is the high point in Australian football history for New South Wales.
For starters, it legitimised the 2005 grand final victory as being more than just a flash in the pan moment. The players recruited from Sydney football clubs such as Kieren Jack and Lewis Roberts-Thomson also had a significant role in the match.
Furthermore, important history was created when Craig Bird became the first player to achieve premiership success after being recruited directly from a mid-northern NSW club (Nelson Bay).
Yet there was one New South Welshmen who, more than any other, led the way in the 2012 grand final – Jarrad McVeigh.
McVeigh accrued 21 disposals, laid nine tackles and, most importantly, kicked two goals. One of those goals was scored while he was matched up against Cyril Rioli and the other, when Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell gave away a 50-metre penalty during the third quarter, became the turning point in the match.
The ultimate team player, McVeigh had as many as 36 pressure acts against the opposition as well. The football purists say one-percenters, pressure acts, tackles and smothers win you football matches.
McVeigh’s performance in the 2012 grand final was one for the football purist.
The other players considered were Brett Kirk (for his role in the 2005 grand final for Sydney), Bert Clay (pictured – the 1944 ruckman for Fitzroy), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (the 2005 and 2012 premiership player from the North Shore), Frank Gumbleton (for his role in the 1975 grand final for North Melbourne) and Leo Barry (2005 premiership defender for Sydney from Deniliquin).
In this case, they fell just outside the top five.
Article, courtesy of Miles Wilks