On Tuesday night Katie Brennan’s dreams of leading her Western Bulldog teammates out in the AFLW Grand Final were dashed after unsuccessfully challenging her one-week dangerous tackle suspension. Unlike male counterparts Trent Cotchin and Barry Hall in recent years and despite an impassioned plea from her player advocate Sam Norton, that “she shouldn’t miss a grand final for this,” that is exactly the fate that has befallen the Bulldogs skipper. It is a particularly devastating blow for Brennan, who after recovering from serious injury after seeing her 2017 season cruelled by injury, has had her Grand Final dream ripped from her grasp.
The history of Australian Football is filled with similarly unfortunate tales, come with PinchHittersOz.com.au as we take a look at a few of these tales of players who missed their ‘big dance moments’.
1977 – Phil Carman
Carman was a superstar from the moment he broke into VFL ranks, in his debut season he missed out on the Brownlow Medal by a mere 3 votes – after missing 8 games! He was a driving force in Collingwood’s rise to the top of the ladder in 1977 and was a key player in their Second-Semi Final win over Hawthorn. Also during the game, he struck Michael Tuck and was subsequently suspended for two matches, with the Magpies already in the Grand Final this was the end of his season and he would miss the Grand Final. When Collingwood and North Melbourne drew the Grand Final it meant that Carman’s suspension would, in fact, see him miss not one but TWO Grand Finals. The heaviest of heavy blows.
1967 – Neville Crowe
In 1967 Richmond won their first final in decades when they defeated Carlton by 40 points in the Second Semi-Final. With their victory, the Tigers booked a ticket to the Grand Final but they would make the journey to the big show without the services of Neville Crowe. The star ruckman ruled ineligible for the Tigers date with destiny due to a four match suspension handed down for ‘striking’ AFL Team of the Century John Nicholls.
Unfortunately for the big man video evidence wasn’t allowed in tribunal hearings, with Nicholls falling to the ground after Crowe missed him by (conservatively) a country mile. Crowe watched his Tiger team-mates claim the flag from the MCG stands and did not play League Footy again.
2003 – Anthony Rocca
The most recent player to suffer the same fate as Brennan, Anthony Rocca saw his date with destiny disappear after a Preliminary Final collision with the head of Port Adelaide’s Brendan Lade in 2003. Despite having the full force of Collingwood behind his defence, it wasn’t enough to spare Rocca from the same fate that befell his teammate Jason Cloke a year earlier. As a result, he had to watch on from the MCG stands as Collingwood fell to Brisbane in the Grand Final for the second year in a row.
1951 – John Coleman
Despite it taking place nearly 70 years ago, the four-week ban of Essendon Champion John Coleman that saw him miss his team’s 1951 finals campaign, is still perhaps the most famous tribunal suspension of them all. In part, because many believe it cost the Bombers that season’s flag but mostly because of the distraught figure Coleman cut in the photos of the tribunal’s aftermath that graced the front pages of Melbourne’s Newspapers the following day.
Having pleaded for leniency due to provocation, the goal-kicking superstar was hopeful of a positive result when the tribunal panel returned with their verdict after 12-minutes of deliberation. Unfortunately for him and the three-peat seeking Bombers, it was the worst possible news with the four-week penalty bringing an end to his season. It was reported that upon hearing the news a devastated Coleman, sat with his head in his hands for 20-minutes before building up the energy to face the assembled press on his way out into the night.
If the Bulldogs were to overcome the loss of their leader to claim victory in the Grand Final on Saturday, it would prove an unlikely trifecta of heartbreak tinged Premiership victories.
1954 – Alan Trusler
Alan Trusler’s story is an interesting one and a little hard to believe. After playing all season Trusler was unavailable for the Bulldogs drought-breaking premiership win to be best man at his brother’s wedding! What was his brother thinking?
Bob Murphy – 2016
The Bulldogs remarkable run to the 2016 Premiership is one of the most heartwarming of recent times. While the football world revelled in the unlikely triumph by the sons of the west, it was tinged with a sadness for the man who represented the club’s heart and soul.
One of the most beloved players in the competition, Bulldogs Captain Bob Murphy was a spectator on Grand Final day after having had his 17th season come to an early end as a result of a knee injury after just three games. Despite the sadness felt for him, Murphy did not express similar feelings when his team won the ultimate prize without him.
Jumping to his feet upon the final siren he lifted his tracksuit top to reveal a Bulldogs jumper beneath it. The joy on his face made for an iconic image that was only topped when coach Luke Beveridge called his skipper to the dais and gifted him the Premiership Medal he had received moments earlier.
As a result of Tuesday’s Tribunal finding it is to this group that Brennan will be forever linked. With many more years of her career ahead of her let’s hope that she write her name into the happier chapters in the seasons to come.