Grand Final Day, 9 September 2006, is arguably the Club’s most famous day, when the Demons toppled the mighty Eagles in a genuine ‘David and Goliath’ match-up that no one saw coming, least of all the people at East Coast Eagles. Senior Coach, Michael Cousens reckons that we “out-bullied and out-toughed a bigger, more experienced and stronger opponent – and they never saw it coming!” Two years later, in 2008, Pennant Hills repeated the dose but this time around it was a 104 point landslide. Rivalling the 2006 effort was last season’s epic battle, once again against the Eagles, in which the Demons were rank outsiders but hung tough for three quarters, then swept the opposition aside in the final term to achieve another famous victory. I leave it to others to judge which of the 2006 or 2015 Flags is more momentous? The Flag won in 2000, the Club’s inaugural First Grade Flag, is also a significant milestone in the Club’s history. Dear Reader, it’s your call?
Season 2006 was also the fifth occasion that the Club had three or more teams competing on Grand Final Day. Over the course of the Club’s history this has happened on seven occasions overall and in 2000 it was all four sides – First Grade, Reserve Grade, Under 18s and a third grade side that season. What we haven’t been able to achieve though is a clean-sweep on any one of these Grand Final Days, with our best result being dual flags on six occasions in 1975, 1994, 1996, 2003, 2008 and 2013. Overall, the Club has competed in 45 Grand Finals, winning 20 and runners-up in 25.
The Grand Final edition of The Football Record previewed the match:
“East Coast has been undefeated so far this season. Their professional attitude and fitness has raised the standard of Sydney Football, and set a challenge to other clubs to aspire to. Bouncing back from a disappointing 2005 but keeping their squad intact, the Eagles have shown a determination through the season to take out the ultimate prize. Spearheaded by Phelan Medal runner-up Jason Coulloupas, the midfield has consistently dominated, while Gus Seebeck at full forward was leading goalkicker (61 goals).”
“Joining the Eagles on Grand Final Day is Pennant Hills. The Demons looked low on form leading into the finals, but have bounced back brilliantly to play their best football when it matters most. Last week they played their best game for the season in a big win over Wests. Confidence is high at Demonland, believing they can take the next step.”
Pennant Hills finished 3rd in the H&A season, but were 6 games behind the Minor Premiers, East Coast Eagles. Western Suburbs came 2nd but were still 5 games adrift of the Eagles. Against the Demons, the Eagles won the two match-ups during the season by 35 and 52 points, respectively … comfortable victories. Against Wests and 4th placed St George, the Demons won away (34 and 14 pts) but lost at home (22 and 7 pts), respectively.
In the finals series played at Henson Park, East Coast kept its unbeaten record intact beating Wests by 31 points in the 2nd semi -final, advancing straight to the Grand Final. Pennant Hills took on St George in the elimination semi and had a good win by 57 points. The following week, in the Preliminary Final, the Demons had an emphatic 86 point victory over Wests. So, the stage was set for the Grand Final with East Coast inevitably hot favourites. But, according to Pennant Hills President, Leo Browne, many at Penno were “quietly confident of winning the big one” coming off two “outstanding” finals performances, and daring to hope!
In his end of season report, Senior Coach, Michael Cousens, said of the performances against St George and Wests:
The ‘knock out’ semi against St George “proved the most pivotal to our finals campaign. From the 20 minute mark of the second quarter in that game to the final siren versus Western Suburbs in the Preliminary final the following week we displayed what could only be described as ‘champagne football.’ We were quick, skilled, dogged, fierce and uncompromising. Our opposition didn’t stand a chance and throughout this period our boys established an incredible belief and resolve that they could achieve anything.”
Pennant Hills’ folklore has it that on the eve of the game at the Sydney AFL Grand Final lunch the East Coast coach declared “We’re under no pressure. The wetter and heavier the track the better for us. We’ll smash’em from the first bounce.”
Had the game been played in dry conditions on a hard surface, well who can say what the result might have been, but I’m betting that the Eagles would have romped home! As it turns out, Grand Final Day experienced a deluge of almost biblical proportions and Henson Park became a quagmire and according to the AFL Website at the time, the match will go down as “one of the Game’s classic matches played in appalling conditions.”
The circumstances are well described in the following entry in Wikipedia:
“Before the 2006 season, East Coast Eagles recruited heavily in a bid to get to the top. The Eagles had been close to the finals for years without making it into the top 4, but this was to change in 2006 and the Eagles took all before them in an undefeated home & away season. Sydney’s drought had a major bearing on this season, with several grounds being hardened dustbowls and the turf on many grounds going out of shape; so that even small amounts of rain caused puddles to form and the grounds to be closed. All clubs faced rising injury tolls due to the ground conditions. After an undefeated home & away season and an easy win in the major semi-final, East Coast Eagles went into the Grand Final at Henson Park against Pennant Hills as the hottest of favourites. But this was the day the drought was to break, with conditions more resembling water polo than football. The Eagles’ running game was negated by the conditions and by Pennant Hills’ pressure tactics, while the Demons’ tactic of peppering the goals from a distance and keeping the scoreboard ticking over paid dividends. Although the Eagles scored 2 more goals, the constant scoring got Pennant Hills over the line, 5.20 (50) to 7.6 (48). There have been many upsets in recent years in Sydney AFL grand finals, but this one more so than any of the others.”
The weather, particularly rain and wind, are the great levellers in any footy contest and no doubt evened up the stakes in the 2006 Grand Final, despite the East Coast bravado. The other classic refrain of course is that the conditions were ‘the same for both sides’ and the team that adapted to them best would likely win. But, when all was said and done, Coach Cousens’ was of the firm belief that “our boys were nothing short of amazing. Every single player did exactly what they were encouraged to do … We were young, few outside of our club respected us, we were playing out of our weight