Coaching Melb. at the time I have always look for different ideas rather than the norm. This was our preparation prior to the most important game in 23 years for the Melbourne FC.
The last game of the year was at Footscray against the Bulldogs.
This is as we all recall Gary Lyon broke his leg, Warren Dean moved from the wing to CHF. We were down during the third quarter when the silky skills of the great Robbie Flower produced two goals getting us back into the game. After a hectic last quarter we eventually won the game however we still weren’t in the finals, Hawthorn had to defeat Geelong and at this stage, Geelong were leading. In the outer at the Western oval a sea of red and blue, not one Melbourne supporter had left their post. Hawthorn kicked a point still trailing then Dunstall took a mark and kicked truly placing Hawthorn in front, then the siren sounded. Hawthorn had won. Melbourne were in the finals for the first time in twenty three years, celebrations in the outer kissing hugging, pandemonium in the change rooms a feeling I am sure no one had ever experienced before. Bring on the finals.
Our first final in twenty three years.
How was I and the match committee going to handle such a great occasion as well as not having any player with finals experience we thought long and hard, came up with the thought of having our psychologist John Cheetham speak to the players early in the week about getting in the faces of the North players, just to show them, this being our first final we won’t be intimidated.
On the day I felt we needed to keep the players calm for the event. After our warm up I took the players into the back room, lay them down in a circle and had John Williamson song in the background “True Blue”. I spoke to the players quietly casting their mind back to their younger days when Mum would call them in for dinner while kicking the footy, however they had to kick the goal to win the game while dreaming of the MCG, kicking the goal, the crowd going crazy then in for lunch. Having dreams of the future. This is now “reality”
Spoke of, the many generous volunteers at the club and the roles they all had, our staff, then the great and loyal supporters who have stuck through the thin times over the last 23 years. The honour board at the “G”, members of the club who have made the ‘Supreme Sacrifice” servicing their country which enabled us the privilege to play on the MGC. I felt I was now getting deep in their soul, I could tell they were focused and would give their all. In the background the music was just finishing and I said get up when you are ready, no rush. Last up was the great Robert Flower (a few minutes and down the race we go) looking at Robbie I saw a few tears dropping and the eyes welled up (no wonder, battled the club for a chance to play for Melbourne,15 years at the club over 274 games and this being his 1st finals game in that period), Come on “Swooper”, think I need to use this moment without embarrassing Robbie. We are ready to go, I told the players to circle up look each one in the eye just to see the commitment coming through, they all looked at Flower and the bond grew even stronger, they knew what this meant to Robert Flower. I felt my job was done in preparing our side for this most important game. A moment and a time I will never forget. Then onto the ground.
A very even 1st quarter (I think) then we belted Nth Melbourne in the first final, what a wonderful result for the club and in particular Robert Flower.