The Sydney Swans finished the premiership season in third position, behind Adelaide and West Coast, and were drawn to play the Eagles in a qualifying final at Subaico.
There could be few more daunting tasks than crossing the nation to play West Coast at Subiaco against a backdrop of ferociously vocal local fans. Yet the Swans coped well against the Eagles in their qualifying final there and could have had the match wrapped up in leading by 14 points at the final break. However, the Eagles used their old ploy of moving Adam Hunter from defence to attack to get them back in the match. The Swans also were shattered by a vital free kick against defender Leo Barry which the AFL umpiring department later ruled was incorrect. To make matters worse, the Swans’ Adam Goodes was running towards goal with his side trailing by less than a goal with only a minute or so left to play when he was tackled from behind, and apparently, around the calves. No free kick was paid and the Eagles scrambled over the line by four points in a highly-controversial final. The Eagles therefore had a rest the following week while the Swans had to play Geelong in a Friday night semi-final at the SCG. The Swans’ best against the Eagles were Brett Kirk, Nick Davis (three goals) and Tadhg Kennelly.
The Swans looked flat in their semi-final against Geelong at the SCG and could manage just two goals to half-time. They trailed the Cats by 18 points and did not look like getting back into the match as the Geelong defence was water-tight. The Swans still trailed by 17 points at the final break and, early in the final quarter, the Cats extended their lead. The Swans’ 2005 ambitions looked dead as the final siren loomed. However, Nick Davis bobbed up to kick three quick goals for the Swans to leave them trailing by three points with just a minute or so to play. Davis then won the game for the Swans when he snapped accurately from just 15 metres after a clever ruck tap from Jason Ball. The Swans led by three points and the final siren blared just seconds after the restart of play. It was one of the most incredible wins in finals history. The Swans, in snatching an unlikely victory, had hit the front for the first time since the six-minute mark of the opening quarter. The Swans’ best players, apart from the match-winning Davis, were Jared Crouch, Amon Buchanan and Jude Bolton. Apart from Davis, the Swans’ only other multiple goalkicker was Michael O’Loughlin with two.
As St Kilda had defeated Adelaide by eight points in their AAMI Stadium qualifying final to march straight into a preliminary final, the Swans and Saints played off in the Friday night preliminary final, with West Coast scheduled to play Adelaide at Subiaco the following afternoon. The Saints were the overwhelming favourites as they had had a week’s break after defeating the Crows, while the Swans looked sluggish in shrugging off the Cats in their semi-final. The Swans, however, took it right up to the Saints in the first quarter, with Barry Hall outstanding. The Swans led by 12 points at the first break, but there was consternation in the Swans’ camp throughout much of the match as Hall had punched St Kilda defender Matt McGuire in the stomach.
St Kilda reacted to the Swans’ great start by temporarily switching Fraser Gehrig from full-forward to mind Hall. The move had only limited success, but the Saints managed to reduce the Swans’ lead to four points by the main break before taking control in the third quarter. It looked as if the Swans were tiring because of their heavy finals schedule and St Kilda fans were congratulating themselves when their side led by seven points at the final break. The Swans, however, had kicked a late goal in the third quarter to give them hope of overhauling St Kilda.
The final quarter saw the Swans overwhelm the Saints with seven goals to just four behinds. The Swans kept sweeping the ball forward and were rewarded with goals from Michael O’Loughlin and Adam Schneider to silence St Kilda fans. The Swans were irrepressible over the final quarter and won by 31 points to enter their first Grand Final since going down to North Melbourne in 1996. It was also the Swans’ most realistic chance of winning a flag since it last, in 1933. The Eagles the next day struggled to shake off the Crows by 16 points and the Swans went into the Grand Final slight betting favourites but the overwhelming sentimental favourite.
Grand Final week started brilliantly for the Swans through Barry Hall being cleared of a charge of striking St Kilda’s Matt McGuire in the preliminary final. The Swans successfully argued that contact was made “in play” and Hall was free to play in the big match. Naturally, newspapers in both Sydney and Melbourne filled page after page with features, predictions and off-beat reports.
The big match opened at a frantic pace, with West Coast scoring the first goal through Mark Nicoski after just two minutes. The Swans did not score their first goal until ruckman Darren Jolly converted from a free kick six minutes into the match. It was already a tight, dour contest and the Eagles were dealt a savage blow when star midfielder Daniel Kerr was forced off the ground with a leg injury. The Swans’ star was Lewis Roberts-Thomson, who kept ramming the ball forward from defence for the Swans to lead by two points at the first break.
The Swans scored the first goal of the second quarter through Michael O’Loughlin to lead by seven points and Swans fans hardly dared dream of victory, even though a Tadhg Kennelly goal stretched the lead. The Swans led by 20 points at half-time and, for about ten minutes towards the end of the second quarter, looked capable of breaking the Eagles. However, the Eagles fought back in the third quarter and the Swans might have been fortunate to hold a two-point lead going into the final quarter as Eagle Adam Hunter missed an easy shot for goal 20 minutes into the third quarter.
After leading for most of the match, the Swans found themselves behind three minutes into the final quarter after Luke Ablett tried to pass the ball across goal to Leo Barry, only for Ben Cousins to intercept for an Eagle goal. Four minutes later, Hunter kicked another goal and the Swans, after looking comfortable at half-time, trailed by eight points and the premiership dream appeared to have turned to dust.
Although the Swans appeared to be wilting, Hall stepped up to kick a goal from outside the 50-metre arc to give his team hope. However, the Eagles still led by five points 16 minutes into the final quarter and the Swans desperately needed a lift. They got it from a set-play, with Jason Ball tapping to Amon Buchanan who snapped a goal to put the Swans a point in front with about 12 minutes to play. No one knew it at the time, but it was the last goal of the match.
Both team attacked frantically over the final minutes, with several acts of individual heroism. For example, Brett Kirk dived headlong into a pack to knock the ball clear and Adam Goodes was knocked to the ground after taking a mark. The Eagles attacked relentlessly as the time-clock ticked past 30 minutes, with Swans fans wondering whether the siren would ever blare. With just 10 seconds left to play, the Eagles mounted one last challenge as Dean Cox pumped the ball forward.
A huge pack formed in the Eagle forward pocket about 25 metres from goal and, just when the Eagles’ Mark Seaby appeared likely to take a big pack mark, there was a red and white blur across the front of the pack. It was Leo Barry, who flew to take a spectacular and courageous mark. It was THE mark, the mark that won a premiership. As he was going back for his kick, the siren blared. The Swans had won by four points for their first premiership since 1933.
The sound of the siren opened a floodgate of emotion. Long-time Swans fans broke down and wept openly, unashamedly. The MCG became a sea of red and white as scarves, beanies, caps and jackets were waved in jubilation. The win wiped out 72 years of pain and misery. It was time to celebrate. Appropriately, former club champion Paul Kelly presented the premiership cup to coach Paul Roos and captain Hall.
Players, coaches, administrators, sponsors and supporters celebrated the victory at the Crown Palladium, while South Melbourne’s Clarendon Street was awash with red and white and the raw emotion of a long-awaited premiership.
2005 Grand Final, at MCG, September 24
|Sydney Swans||3.0||6.3||6.5||8.10 (58)|
|West Coast||2.4||2.7||5.9||7.12 (54)|
|Goals: Hall 2, Goodes, Schneider, Buchanan, Kennelly, O'Loughlin, Jolly|
|Best: Roberts-Thomson, Fosdike, Barry, Crouch, Kirk, J. Bolton|
|B:||Craig Bolton||Leo Barry||Jared Crouch|
|HB:||Ben Mathews||Lewis Roberts-Thomson||Tadhg Kennelly|
|C:||Paul Williams||Adam Goodes||Sean Dempster|
|HF:||Ryan O'Keefe||Barry Hall (Capt.)||Jude Bolton|
|F:||Nick Davis||Michael O'Loughlin||Amon Buchanan|
|Foll:||Darren Jolly||Luke Ablett||Brett Kirk|
|I/C:||Jason Ball||Paul Bevan||Nic Fosdike|
|Leo Barry's iconic match-winning mark in the 2005 AFL Grand Final|