The half-time break was both timely and tense, with the casualties assessed and assisted in withstanding the rigors of further punishment. With future captain & Bob Skilton Medalist, 19-year-old Luke Parker, waiting willingly for the call to join the fray and dispense of the substitute's vest, crucial decisions were made. As John Longmire's sentiments to 'reset and go again' echoed through the bowels of the MCG, the wounded soldiered on, keeping Parker in reserve for what would be a frantic finale.
After a sizzling second-half start that saw our lead extend to twenty-eight points, Hawthorn seized momentum and overturned the margin to take a lead of their own, until co-captain Jarrad McVeigh steadied the ship, moments before three-quarter time. The swings in momentum were wild, and Mike Pyke reflects on the collective spirit that bound the Bloods together. "We went in waves. Through that whole game, when some guys were struggling, or the team was struggling, others stepped up; LRT's physicality, Nick Smith keeping Cyril Rioli unsighted, all these things made such a big difference. Looking back on that, it was, as Bruce McAvaney said, 'the ultimate team.' It really felt like that."
"From a Canadian Rugby player-layman’s point of view, to win a Grand Final, I think everyone needs to do something really good. Even if it's one thing. In Grand Finals, where we've fallen over in '14 & '16, I don't think we could go through the entire team and say everyone did that. Whereas in '12, you could. Things like Marty Mattner's tackle, Sam Reid's goal on the run, Mitch Morton too, Mummy took a couple of great marks. I think we all did that, whether it be saving a goal or contributing to kicking a goal and when that happens, the coach and the team end up pretty happy."
Ted Richards agrees. "People speak so much about Malceski's goals, and rightly so, but I have vivid memories of other important team acts throughout the game by the likes of Hannebery, Mattner, and so many others."
It was this team-first ethos, this desire to dig-in, that inspired a final quarter surge that would ultimately deliver a premiership.
With half a quarter left, Hannebery goaled after Jetta hurled himself at the footy and a Hawk. Jack then goaled after he and Morton, hopelessly outnumbered, found a way to maintain momentum. The unyielding Goodes goaled with his injured knee riveted, snapping truly from a pack. And gloriously, with seconds to play and clinging to a four-point lead, Malceski's miraculous major sailed skyward and descended to deliver our fifth AFL/VFL premiership.
Eight years on, visions of those final moments remain lucid for Kieren Jack. "I think most players will remember exactly where they were on the ground when that happened to them. The play was all crash and bash, and I remember Alex Johnson, picking up the ball and hacking a ball forward from the halfback line." He continues, "We were scrambling and just chasing with every bit of energy that we had at that time. And when the siren went, I'd never felt more relieved in my life. It was a feeling of pure relief, which is strange. I know a lot of the boys felt the same feeling. We kind of thought maybe it was because you put so much pressure on yourself to get to that moment and as a kid, that you dream of playing in the Grand Final and then to realise that, and to have that come true and that siren was the sound that made it happen. It was just absolute relief."
That euphoric moment had instantly erased the pain of the ankle injury that had seriously threatened Ted Richards' premiership dream. "When the siren went, my first emotion was thoughts of 'we did it... it's over. They can't ever take it from us'. Doing the lap afterward was better than I could ever imagine."
"I remember it being a huge buzz. It certainly still resonates when I hear that siren go at the end of a game. I was reasonably near the ball because I remember seeing AJ kicking it when I wanted a handball so that I could finish with the ball in my hands! I just threw my hands up in the air, and it was pretty great," Pyke says.
"I have nothing but incredibly positive memories of that game. Also, looking back and experiencing over time and realising how hard they are to win, and seeing just how much joy it brings to so many people around the club. Being involved in such a game that was genuinely good to watch and probably one of the top 10 Grand Finals ever, leaves me feeling incredibly privileged."
With the on-field revelry including Ryan O’Keefe receiving our first Norm Smith Medal, concluded, the players shared sacred moments, as Ted Richards recalls. "I remember after the game, going into the meeting room, and it was the players and coaches only. We just had 15 minutes together to soak it all in." He adds, "That was pretty special. Then we went back into the change rooms, and it was packed with friends and family. My family was all there, including my older brother, who was living in Sweden at the time. Celebrating with them was just as special as they've been on the journey too. I remember Brett Kirk said that he didn't have a beer after the 2005 premiership as he wanted to soak it all in. II took that advice, I probably had one beer in the rooms and tried to soak it all in for as long as I could, but by 9 pm, it was enough of that!"
Kieren Jack will never forget those moments of mate ship. "Being 24 at the time, I just felt like I was on top of the world. You get to experience it with some of your best mates who, for me at the time was Dan Hannebery, Alex Johnson, and Craig Bird and these types. Yeah, it was special." He continues, "There were photos of me, and all the boys carrying on, standing up on the stands and me with some sunglasses on carrying on like a fool, but you deserve to have those moments. In the change rooms afterward, you sing the song, and there are just hundreds of people in there, and then it starts to become apparent that so many other people have ridden this journey with you. Everyone else can bask in that and enjoy that for some time."
However, the celebrations had just begun. "We went out the night of the Grand Final, and all of the buys woke up pretty dusty. We headed out that next day to South Melbourne at Lake Oval," recalls Nick Smith. "There was a big parade there, and I can remember it being just such a great feeling. I was pretty tired but just feeling on top of the world. We got on the flight back to Sydney; all the boys had their sunnies on; there's not a lot of chat on the plane and then straight to the SCG, where we could not believe the number of fans that were there as well. It was just awesome to be back up there."
"Then probably my best memory was of the Sunday afternoon at North Bondi on the hill. We were all sitting up on the hill, looking out over the beach, having a few beers; it was just awesome. We certainly enjoyed it. Later in the week, Goodesy organised for us all to head to a restaurant down south for some poker and prawns or something, but I think he was the only one who attended because I think everyone was just absolutely buggered by this stage!" laughs Smith.
It wasn't until the middle of the week that the team could sit down and watch their famous victory together. 'The best part of the week for me came when we got to watch the game at the club on the Wednesday night," recalls Jude Bolton. 'Most of us were yet to see the game. I had been concussed late in the final quarter, so to relive the key moments, like Marty Mattner's huge effort, as a whole team was brilliant. It is hard to replicate or find moments in life quite like standing on couches, arm in arm with your Premiership teammates singing Queen's 'We are the Champions.' Good memories."
The final festivities came with a ticker-tape parade through the streets of Sydney. "When we did the parade through Sydney, we got the keys to the city from the Mayor, and I remember driving down George Street and seeing people hanging out the windows, confetti everywhere, it was quite surreal. I felt like the whole of Sydney got behind us when we won that flag. It was ten-deep both sides of the street, people out windows, out of doors, there were people everywhere," says Smith.
Jude Bolton had experienced the same celebration seven years earlier, and the second time around was just as memorable. "The Grand Final Parade in George Street in the middle of Sydney was very special. I admit to being a little skeptical when we jumped in the back of the car after our success in 2005." He continues, 'Only a few Swans supporters were milling around at Circular Quay, and I started to feel that nobody would be taking any interest or come out on the street to see us. Only then did we head up the road to be swarmed and greeted by thousands of people. The reception on the steps of Town Hall was just awesome. So, when it came to 2012, I was just in a euphoric, but somehow familiar daze. Soaking up the fun and seeing the boys loving the whole experience, sitting back and watching the likes of Lewis Jetta, Rhyce Shaw, Shane Mumford, Alex Johnson, and Dan Hannebery running amok."
The bond of a premiership is profound, and as Mike Pyke explains, the connection lives on. "It's something that galvanized the club; everyone remembers being there and how they felt. It's great to be a part of it. I feel really fortunate to have gone through the club in such a great phase in our history. It binds you to the place. I have a real vested interest in seeing the club succeed and help the club succeed in any way that I can. That's probably the overwhelming feeling for most of the guys who took part in that game."
A win for the ages. Anytime, anywhere, they did it. Summed up best in true Ted Richards style – "We now have a Whatsapp group together, and the premiership will hopefully keep the group tight. You don't create Whatsapp groups for finishing runners-up."