WHAT A GRAND FINAL! Twenty-eight years have passed but few AFL followers will ever forget the brutal 1989 clash between Hawthorn and Geelong. STEVE PERKIN was a witness to the aftermath:
On Grand Final day, my main task was to track down one of our columnists, Hawthorn forward Dermott Brereton, immediately after the game and get a column out of him for the next morning’s Sunday Age.
Dermott liked to sit and handwrite his columns, but given the time constraints, this was not going to be possible, so I arranged to meet him in the rooms after the final siren and ghost-write him. Not ideal, but we had no choice.
This Grand Final was one of the greatest ever played. Hawthorn had finished the season two wins clear on top. Their opponents this day, Geelong, finished third.
From the outset it was brutal, the opening minute a precursor of what was to come. Gary Ablett marked and goaled at one end and only then did we notice that Brereton was in the hands of trainers, far from the action.
Geelong defender Mark Yeates had come off his man at the centre bounce and taken the key Hawk forward out with a hip-and-shoulder when he was wide open and not expecting it.
Brereton said later that it was a pay-back for something earlier in the season. Yeates thought he’d killed him.
“His eyes were rolling back a bit, and I said: ‘How does that feel?’ And I thought of that pain I was in back at Princes Park,” Yeates recalled some years later.
The medical staff went out and told the distressed Brereton to come off. “Just stick me in a pocket,” he insisted.
A minute later, he marked and goaled. Had Brereton been crunched in that marking contest, his afternoon probably would have ended, but he wasn’t, and his bravery seemed to lift the Hawks.
They took control of the game, but with Brereton still struggling, wingman
Robert DiPierdomenico suffering from a slowly leaking lung, and John Platten on the bench with concussion, the Hawks were running out of options.
The Cats were charging, but eight last-quarter goals was one too few and the Hawks limped to their eighth premiership by six points.
I made my way from the press box to the Hawthorn rooms on the centre wing in the bowels of the MCG. They were crammed with well-wishers.
I found Dermott, but the noise was such that we couldn’t hear anything. I wanted to tape record our conversation so we needed some quiet. Dermott, still wearing footy gear minus boots, suggested we go into the showers.
I gave Dermott my tape recorder and he sat on the edge of a large bath. I asked him a question and he started talking.
After a minute or two, he spat into the bath. It was all blood.
“Did you take head-knock?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “When I got cleaned up by Mark Yeates at the start of the game, he did some internal damage. At half-time I was urinating blood.”
Dermott went on to say that the doctor had wanted him to come off when he was originally hit, but he had refused. When Dermott had seen the blood in his urine, he’d kept it to himself and not told anyone. This was a Grand Final.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was urinating blood at half-time, I’d be putting up my hand and demanding an ambulance. I wouldn’t be putting my body on the line for another 60 minutes of bone-jarring Grand Final football.
I started walking back to the office thinking Dermott was a nut-case. Now, 28 years on, I’m envious that he had that opportunity to test his courage and that he chose the course he did.
Such courage is what separates some from others. That afternoon had helped confirm Brereton’s status as a true warrior of the game and I’ve been at enough events where’s he’s been guest speaker to know that people love hearing his story of that Grand Final.
And, I suspect, Dermott loves telling it. As he deserves to.
STEVE PERKIN had a long and distinguished career as a journalist, covering sport and general news and writing daily columns for The Age and the Herald Sun. He was also executive producer of The Footy Show on Channel 9 for three years.