All eyes Down Under focus on grand-final clash for cup

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2005, 12:00am

Forget the Ashes urn. Australians will today turn their attention to arguably the most coveted trophy cabinet adornment in Aussie sport - the AFL Grand Final premiership cup.

The loss after 19 years of cricket's holy grail will be a distant memory for the 90,000 fans crammed into the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Aussie rules' relative newcomers, the Sydney Swans, and West Coast Eagles battle for the 2005 flag.

If you believe the AFL's publicity spiel, another 50 million will be watching around the world.

Among them will be 1970s Aussie rules football legend and dual premiership player Barry Cable, in Hong Kong as a special guest speaker at the grand final day function hosted by Hong Kong's very own Aussie rules outfit, the Hong Kong Dragons.

The former North Melbourne rover and forward pocket parted from the prevailing view among bookmakers and media tipsters, predicting the Perth side would win their third flag since joining the competition in 1987.

Sydney have never won a flag under this name, although before relocating to the rugby league-mad harbour city they had won their last premiership in 1933 as South Melbourne.

'From a footy perspective, it would be good to see Sydney win but as a West Australian I naturally have a soft spot for the Eagles,' said Cable, who made his mark in the game in Perth's league competition before moving to the bigger stage of Melbourne in the early 1970s.

'The Eagles midfield comprises probably the three of the best half dozen players getting around today, in midfielders Ben Cousins, Chris Judd and Daniel Kerr.

'I just think they have the capacity to really get away from the Swans,' he said.

Known as the Little Master, the 1.67-metre Cable won three prestigious Sandover medals as the best player in West Australian football and played a key role in the North Melbourne Kangaroos 1975 and 1977 premierships.

Many an Aussie conversation over a beer has centred on the perception that Aussie rules back in Cable's day, with its long kicking and resultant spectacular high marking, was more attractive than today's possession-based 'keepy-off' style of football.

Reluctant to revel in 'back-in-my-day' tales, Cable insisted the fundamentals remained the same.

'The coach still has to look at two things when he chooses a player for his side - can he get his hands on the football and can he dispose of it, by foot or hand, effectively,' he said.

He feels that Aussie rules is still the best sporting spectacle around, but he does concede a strategic difference between the eras left him unconvinced.

'Coaches today argue they play the percentages with lots of short passing, especially in the backline, but the number of potential handling mistakes this creates means it is still better to take the simple option - kick it long and straight down the middle.'

Tickets for the Dragons' grand final function at the Holiday Inn, 50 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, will be available at the door from 11am.