We've got the close one

Thursday, June 20
Geelong Advertiser

GEELONG has won two in the past two weeks, Carlton has lost two in two weeks.

Sydney has been involved in five this season but has won only one, while Fremantle has won the two it has played in.

To date there have been 14 heart-stopping AFL matches - those won by a mere six points or less - in 2002. That is, 15 per cent of all games in season 2002 have been decided by one kick.

The game is still a long way from the record year of 1916 when an incredible 32 per cent of matches were decided by six points or fewer.

Not since 1989 has there been such a high percentage of games so closely contested, and this year's figures are almost 50 per cent up on the average of the past 20 years (10.6 per cent of games since 1982 have been decided by six points or less, compared with 15 per cent in 2002).

Geelong coach Mark Thompson, who has watched his side get across the line by four and two points respectively in the past two weeks, said such games were good for footy.

``There are three things we want to see and they're exciting football, hard contests and we want to see close games,'' he said. emThompson said that while winning thrillers could shape a team's season, to be on the losing end of such games could do more harm than a 10-goal thrashing.

``The ones that are close are the ones you appreciate,'' he said.

``But you are absolutely devastated when you lose them. If you lose by 60 points, you know at three-quarter time that you've lost. If you lose right in the dying seconds, it's a killer.''

But he said there was much more to be gained by being a part of the winning side in a close contest, and that even the most experienced players benefited from such situations.

``It's the ultimate test mentally, to hold your game plan together when there's only a couple of points in it,'' Thompson said.

``In that situation everybody wants to get the ball. But the moment you do that, your game falls apart.

``The pleasing thing for me in the past two weeks and last week particularly, was that we did really control our game.''

But while he said the increased amount of close games in 2002 was good for the sport, Thompson wouldn't mind a few bigger margins occasionally.

``Close games are great, but I don't enjoy it when we're in them,'' he said.

Geelong v Carlton, round 11 - Matthew Lappin kicked a goal to give Carlton a two-point lead with 45 seconds left. A quick centre break and mark to Peter Riccardi led to a goal from 55m out after the siren and victory to the Cats.

Port Adelaide v Collingwood, round 9 - With six points the difference, big-kicking Anthony Rocca had a shot from 40m late in the game. He kicked a point and Port won.

Sydney v Essendon, round 9 - Swans young gun Ricky Mott had the opportunity to cause one of the upsets of the season when, with Sydney down by three points, he lined up in the dying moments from 30m, directly in front and missed.

His shot under pressure missed and the Bombers stole a two-point win.

St Kilda v Sydney, round 5 - St Kilda's flooding tactics, although ugly, looked like resulting in victory. Sydney bounced back to be one point up late in the final term, but with seconds left Saint Daniel Wolf marked close to goal. He played on and his kick hit the post, the resulting point ensuring the match ended in a draw.

Sydney v Kangaroos, round 4 - The Swans' Daryn Cresswell was awarded a free kick after receiving a knock above the shoulders while awaiting a ball up in the Swans' forward line. With his side trailing by three points, Cresswell's kick from 30m out after the siren was on target and handed Sydney a three-point victory.