EA­GLE SPIRIT TRI­UMPHS

The Sunday Times - - News - BRADEN QUAR­TER­MAINE Ade­laide Oval

HIS­TORY re­peated in the most ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances as West Coast over­came a week of trauma to record one of the club’s most fa­mous vic­to­ries at Ade­laide Oval yes­ter­day.

In an eerie re­peat of last year’s elim­i­na­tion fi­nal when Luke Shuey kicked the win­ning goal af­ter the siren, de­fender Jeremy McGovern — not noted for his set-shot kick­ing — was the hero at the same end as the Ea­gles beat Port Ade­laide by four points.

Mark LeCras and McGovern kicked goals in­side the fi­nal two min­utes for the Ea­gles to steal the lead for the only time in the match.

“I had to kick it. It was pretty sim­ple, mate, just go through your rou­tine, that sort of stuff,” McGovern said of his 45m set-shot win­ner. “Gotta love your footy, though, don’t you?”

West Coast had been in the news all week for the wrong rea­sons af­ter An­drew Gaff’s eight-week ban for punch­ing An­drew Brayshaw in the western derby last Sun­day.

“It was a good op­por­tu­nity for us to unite,” McGovern said of the trip to South Aus­tralia. “We’ve been a pretty united group.”

The stun­ning up­set goes a long way to­wards seal­ing a top-two fin­ish for the Ea­gles, which would bring a pair of his­toric fi­nals to Op­tus Sta­dium next month. It was a cruel blow for the Power, who lost three play­ers to in­jury dur­ing the third term, in­clud­ing star pair Paddy Ry­der and Char­lie Dixon.

“It’s been a big a week . . . in a sense we brought it upon our­selves,” Shuey said. “We’ve had a lot of things ques­tioned this week, one of them cul­ture, and I don’t think there is a bet­ter way to re­spond than a per­for­mance like that.”

Coach Adam Simp­son added: “It has been a big week for ev­ery­one, the whole club. Port were down a few men in the last quar­ter, I think we’ve got to ac­knowl­edge that, but to win it like that just shows great spirit amongst the play­ers.”

McGovern’s goal prompted wild on-field cel­e­bra­tions as they pre­vailed with­out Gaff and in­jured pair Nic Nai­tanui and Josh Kennedy.

Ten­sion in the crowd built through­out in a re­minder of the last time these teams met at this venue, when the Ea­gles pre­vailed in an epic ex­tra­time clas­sic in last sea­son’s elim­i­na­tion fi­nal.

There were boos yes­ter­day for Shuey, who shrugged Jared Polec’s tackle around his neck in the dy­ing sec­onds of that match be­fore kick­ing his win­ning goal af­ter the ex­tra-time siren.

The Ea­gles ran out with­out Gaff for just the sec­ond time since he was a teenager. The in­dus­tri­ous left-footer has played 169 games since then.

There was sym­pa­thy for Gaff in Ade­laide yes­ter­day, where South Aus­tralian footy leg­end Gra­ham Cornes used a con­tro­ver­sial col­umn in The Advertiser to ar­gue Gaff was as much the vic­tim as Fre­man­tle young­ster Brayshaw.

Cornes said the Dock­ers should share the blame af­ter Gaff was “im­peded, checked or scragged by Brayshaw and other Fre­man­tle play­ers be­fore that fi­nal brain ex­plo­sion”.

“If that spec­u­la­tion about po­lice charges be­ing laid was to progress, Gaff could quite eas­ily claim self­de­fence, as he was con­tin­u­ously knocked from pil­lar to post,” Cornes wrote.

“Over the decades, foot­ball had had its share of thugs. We all knew who they were and while they served

their share of sus­pen­sions they got away with so much more.

“An­drew Gaff is not one of those foot­ball thugs. A punch swung in frus­tra­tion, con­nect­ing where he least ex­pected, will hound and haunt him for­ever. It should not, how­ever, de­fine him.”

A small but loyal group of West Coast sup­port­ers sat be­hind the goals un­der the fa­mous old cricket score­board yes­ter­day.

They agreed Gaff de­served his eight-match ban, but also had sym­pa­thy for the for­mer club cham­pion. They hoped Gaff would re­main at West Coast and be­lieved there was a strong chance he would sign a new deal, but had mixed views over whether the Ea­gles could win the premier­ship this sea­son with­out him.

Craig Chat­field, a for­mer Esper­ance lo­cal who now calls Port Lin­coln home, made the seven-hour drive to be at the game. He said Gaff was the last player he would have picked to be in­volved in on-field vi­o­lence.

“I couldn’t be­lieve any­one would do it ac­tu­ally. And un­for­tu­nately, I reckon with tag­gers in the game, I think it will hap­pen again,” Mr Chat­field said. “They just get frus­trated with stuff off the ball. I just think the tag­gers are re­spon­si­ble for a lot of it.

“But for peo­ple to turn around and say he (Gaff) de­lib­er­ately did it — I don’t be­lieve that for one sec­ond. He re­tal­i­ated when he shouldn’t have. I think ev­ery­one be­lieves that he was aiming for his chest.”

Ade­laide-based broth­ers Brian and Aaron Wor­thing­ton share a blood­line but when it comes to footy they were on op­po­site sides of the fence yes­ter­day. West Coast fan Brian de­scribed Gaff’s punch as a “pretty bad hit” but be­lieved it was “to­tally out of char­ac­ter”.

Ea­gles fan Craig Bin­der, who played for West Perth and Nor­wood in the 1980s, said the in­ci­dent didn’t need ex­plain­ing to his two teenage sons be­cause the vi­sion spoke for it­self. “I thought the de­ci­sion on his sus­pen­sion was fair,” he said. “When some­thing that se­ri­ous hap­pens, the pun­ish­ment fits the crime.”

It was a good op­por­tu­nity for us to unite . . . we’ve been a pretty united group. Jeremy McGovern

Sol­i­dar­ity: West Coast play­ers take the field. Fam­ily ties: Broth­ers Brian and Aaron Wor­thing­ton. Oh baby: Holly and Craig Chat­field with baby Camp­bell. Go Ea­gles: Ju­bi­lant West Coast fans cel­e­brate an­other goal. Pic­tures: Bren­ton Edwards Vic­tory dance: West Coast play­ers swarm over Jeremy McGovern af­ter his match-win­ning goal. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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