Fairytales do come true.
Geelong superstar Gary Ablett will get the opportunity to play his final AFL game in a grand final after turning back the clock to help the Cats to beat Brisbane 11.16 (82) to 6.6 (42) at the Gabba last night.
Ten years after playing his last game in blue and white hoops during a preliminary final before moving to Gold Coast, the Little Master played the penultimate game of the season in Queensland and inspired the Cats to victory.
Ablett had 40 disposals in that 2010 preliminary final. He had only 14 last night but two of them were goals and they were both sensational.
The dual Brownlow medallist squeezed a goal through to give the Cats a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter but then he turned back the clock with a goal from 55m on the run after a centre bounce.
Throw in two more goals that he directly contributed to and it was obvious that Ablett wasn’t about to let his career end without another shot at premiership glory.
Patrick Dangerfield’s premiership dreams are also alive. His 269th game will be his first grand final after he ended his streak of four losing preliminary finals.
Dangerfield spent most of the game as a deep forward and while he didn’t kick a goal, his presence gave Brisbane massive problems and he had a hand in four Geelong majors.
The Cats were able to keep Dangerfield forward given their midfield was on top.
Geelong won the clearances 15-4 in the first quarter and by half-time the inside 50s were 26-15.
But despite that dominance, Geelong just kept wasting their chances with 4.8 for the half.
It seemed only a matter of time before Brisbane would make the Cats pay for not putting them away and Lachie Neale booted a 60m goal that bounced through to lift the Gabba crowd.
Neale had 10 disposals and five clearances for the quarter and was a key reason why the Cats led by just five points at the long break.
The game was searching for a hero and that was all Ablett needed to change the game and give Geelong the 18-point buffer they needed at the final change.
Neale tried to be that hero for Brisbane. One day before he is expected to win the Brownlow Medal, the midfield star had 24 disposals, eight clearances and kicked two goals in an inspirational display. Both goals were from outside 50 as he put Brisbane on his back.
But this was a night for Geelong’s fairytale. Brisbane’s Gabba grand final dreams are over.
There have been some brilliant throws at the Gabba over the years. Dangerfield found himself at deep square leg (AKA the forward pocket) during the third quarter and his one handed throw to Ablett had to be seen to be believed. The umpires didn’t see it, the crowd couldn’t believe it and Ablett kicked the goal to rub salt into the wound.
Against the odds
In a season compromised by COVID-19, both preliminary finals were won by teams who have lived in interstate hubs for more than 100 days. They beat opponents who lived in their own houses and played preliminary finals in front of their home crowds. There was talk of this being an asterisk year early in the season. Doesn’t that sound crazy now?