Swans hand Brisbane passage into finals
From BERNIE SLATTERY
THE Brisbane Bears will make their first appearance in the Australian Football League finals thanks to Sydney ending Collingwood's chances at the SCG yesterday.
The Bears snatched eighth place, earning them a game at top side Carlton in next Sunday's qualifying final at Waverley Park.
Sydney made a remarkable comeback to win 19.13 (127) to 15.14 (104) after trailing by 32 points at the 11-minute mark of the second quarter.
Even at the last change the Magpies led by two goals and with their midfield monopolising possession they looked the better chance.
But, according to Collingwood coach Leigh Matthews, too many players 'ran out of legs', allowing Sydney on-ballers Paul Kelly and Derek Kickett to dominate centre clearances.
The upset Sydney win gave departing coach Ron Barassi the 274th win in his 514-game coaching career, which he began in 1965 with a win as playing coach of Carlton over Hawthorn at the Hawks' old Glenferrie Oval.
The Bears snuffed out Melbourne's finals hopes and showed they had arrived as a skilled, disciplined football force with a convincing 21-point win at the Gabba in Brisbane on Friday night.
After a tight early, struggle, Brisbane took control in the last quarter to run away winners 16.14 (110) to 13.11 (89).
Great inspiration came from the Bears' veteran captain Roger Merret, 35, whose four goals may cause him to reconsider plans to retire at the end of this season.
MEANWHILE, Carlton set a league record of 20 wins in a season by downing Essendon by 41 points in front of 87,000 fans at the MCG on Saturday.
But the Blues' victory was soured by the reporting of dual Brownlow medallist Greg Williams for alleged abusive language toward field umpire Darren Goldspink.
Williams was booked on a similar count last season and was fined but could face a stiffer penalty if found guilty by the tribunal tomorrow.
The report capped a controversial week for Williams who was forced to publicly apologise to West Coast Eagle Chris Lewis for alleged racial abuse in their clash last week.
The Blues ensured red-hot premiership favouritism by downing the Bombers 16.12 (108) to 9.13 (67).
Carlton set up the victory with a five-goal-to-two second quarter to establish a 21-point lead by half-time and sealed the game by restricting the Bombers to just one goal in the third quarter.
'We couldn't have asked for too much more in our preparation for the finals series than we've done,' Carlton coach David Parkin said.
Even beaten Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy praised Carlton's record-breaking achievement.
'It's an absolutely fantastic achievement,' Sheedy said. 'In this day and age and with the way footy is now its going to be a hard record to beat.' The loss means Essendon will play in-form West Coast in next weekend's first round of finals.
NORTH Melbourne rewrote the record books with a mammoth 30.24 (204) to 15.11 (101) against bottom side Fitzroy at Princes Park on Saturday.
The Kangaroos registered their highest winning margin against Fitzroy, kicked their third highest score in the club's history and boasted 13 goal-kickers as they became the first team to score a double century this season.