Does Robbie Gray have ice water coursing through his veins?
After his team had missed four chances to take the lead late in the final quarter, Robbie Gray earned his team one last opportunity to steal the points at the Gabba. With time all but expired, the Port star had marked 45 metres out from goal and hard up against the boundary. Before he had too long to weigh up the situation, the siren sounded leaving him with the result of the match resting on his own boot.
While it was far from the easiest of shots for goal, and far more difficult than those the Power had squandered previously in the quarter, Gray was confident. “I knew there wasn’t long left. I’d missed one a couple of minutes earlier from a similar spot, but I was still reasonably confident going back though,” Gray told Fox Footy.
Another who was pretty sure that Gray would take his chance was Carlton Coach David Teague. “When he marked it, I thought he’s due, he’ll probably hit this one,” he told reporters post match. Power Coach Ken Hinkley, certain the ball was in the right players hands wasn’t as sure about the result. “You never underestimate what the champs of the game will do and normally the bigger the moment the bigger they get. I’ve been lucky enough to be around a lot of great players and Rob fits in that category of players. I have no doubt about that,” he said before admitting his doubt. “I wasn’t sure he’d kick it,” he said.
As the football world held their breath, Gray concentrated on what he could control. “I just focused on routine, making good contact with the ball – and luckily it went through.”
As the ramifications of the kick sank in for Gray and his Power team mates, David King summed up the mood in the commentary box. “How many players in the AFL would be able to kick that goal? That is an extraordinary kick. You’re a one in 20 chance at the best of times, let alone after the siren.”
The last word on the matter should be left to Hinkley whose euphoria was plain to see as he prepared for the post match interview. “Glad that’s over,” he told reporters. “It really was a “brave f***ing win, though,” he added before looking to confirm that he was off the record. We are pretty glad that he wasn’t because that is just the kind of response we want from a coach after a game like that.
How the Game Was Won
If you excuse our crudeness, this game was won because Carlton shat the bed. As special as Robbie Gray was to kick the winner, the Blues had the lead and the ball with less than a minute to go in the match. After metaphorically surviving two standing eight counts, victory would be theirs if they could just stay away from trouble and remain on their feet.
Yet somehow, despite a clever Sam Petrevski-Seton kick giving Sam Gibbons the ball with 50 seconds to go at half back, the Blues failed to kill the contest. While Gibbons would have been better served looking for a loose man, the Blues did have the outnumber at the pack he directed his kick towards. Even when Tom Jonas managed to beat the numbers and mark the ball the odds were still stacked heavily in the Blues favour with the Port captain at half back and with just 42 seconds on the clock.
Even given Jonas quick hands, and Peter Ladhams being able to find Zak Butters loose on the wing, Port were still ridiculously up against it. Having flown into Brisbane from Adelaide that morning, and with two players injured on the bench, they couldn’t possibly have the necessary run in their legs for the miracle play. With Butters left with no other option but to bomb the ball long, the Blues once again had the chance to kill the ball but failed.
Liam Jones and Jacob Weitering getting in each others way, and kept the ball alive, with neither was able to effect the strong spoil that would be the games killer blow. With two on two at the fall of the ball though, there couldn’t possibly be enough time for Port to pinch it. Nobody told Sam Mayes though who, after handsomely beating Jack Martin to the ball, looked up and was able to deliver the ball to the leading Gray.
As much as the Blues could still consider themselves unlucky that Gray would then thread the needle, the 50 seconds prior was straight out of the manual titled ‘how not to ice the game’. While there were 180 other minutes that contributed to the result, in the end, the way the Blues managed the last undid everything they had done beforehand.
What the Coaches Said
Despite the emotional manner of the defeat, Teague remained even keeled post match. “It was disappointing, but they (Port) had their chances to be honest, they had three or four chances late which were gettable,” Teague said. “In hindsight I wished they had’ve kicked one earlier and it might have sped our ball use up and we might have taken the game on a bit more.”
“But I thought our effort and intent was really good, we were off in a few areas and that was the disappointing thing, our ball use was a bit off and our defence we probably sat back a little bit too much. To the guys’ credit their effort and way they competed kept us in the game and even late they were hanging tough, but to Port’s credit they just kept coming at us and kicked the winner after the siren.”
An understandably excited Ken Hinkley praised his teams spirit. “It’s just incredibly brave, the way we fought it out as a footy team, there’s something about the team at the moment and the boys’ belief in themselves and their resilience,” he said. “We’re two men down, back to back travel games, up at 5am and on the plane in 25 degrees, there were a few things going against us and then … Robbie Gray.”
CARLTON 4.2 5.4 6.6 9. 7 (61)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.1 6.4 7.6 9.10 (64)
Carlton: McKay 3, Walsh 2, Betts, Gibbons, Martin, Newnes
Port Adelaide: Dixon 3, Farrell 2, Boak, Butters, Gray, Motlop
Carlton: Walsh, Weitering, Cripps, Curnow, McKay
Port Adelaide: Dixon, Byrne-Jones, Jonas, Burton, Butters, Marshall, Ladhams
Port Adelaide: Burton (quad), Motlop (ankle)