SMS taste Grand Final defeat again


"The most solemn humbug which does duty as a profound historical reflection is, that history repeats itself." Never has a quote been so true, and so painful as it was for the SMS Masters I team on Sunday night. Having given their all for the opportunity to finally end a horror sequence of three consecutive Grand Final defeats, SMS lined up against LTR in what promised to be a fierce encounter. LTR had finished top of the league and, with just two defeats in 12 matches, were the strong favourites to win the final after a strong, consistent, albeit physical, campaign. SMS, on the other hand, had a mixed, inconsistent run to the final, really only starting to play with any real purpose at the tail end of the season. A storming 15-1 semi-final win, somewhat against the odds, against Dave's Army had been the highlight of an otherwise ordinary and unspectacular campaign.

However, form counts for little in a final, the margin between success and faiure is negligible, and so it appeared as the final sprang to life. A nervy start by LTR allowed Daniel Agius to slot home an early goal for SMS. One became two a few moments later as Bobby scored a second as the LTR keeper advanced too early and was left embarrassed as the ball made its way through his legs and into the back of the net. Taking a lead so early can prove dangerous, and LTR, as they so often do, used their niggling, and mostly unfair, physical approach to start to push SMS back. As frustrations increased, LTR capitalised by snatching a goal back before the end of what had become an ill tempered and ill disciplined half, peppered with poor tackles, flailing arms and questionable tackles. The second half saw LTR continue where they left off as they pressed SMS back and attacked in numbers. SMS were simply unable to defend against the waves of attacks and conceded three quick goals in the space of five minutes to trail 4-2. A combination of tiredness and defensive naivety had left SMS on the brink once more. With five minutes remaining, LTR smashed home a fifth, and the writing was on the wall. A spirited, yet fruitless, fightback saw SMS grab two late goals to make the score 5-4 to LTR, before a moment of controversy with just thirty seconds remaining on the clock. Bobby, clean through on goal, saw his goalbound shot stopped illegally by the hands of the goalkeeper, who had ventured outside of the area. As Bobby appealed for a clear cut penalty, the referee had other ideas, awarding a free-kick instead. It would prove to be the last real chance of the match, as SMS once again experience the bitter taste of defeat.

There have now been four Grand Finals and four defeats, all by a solitary goal. However, it would be harsh to label the SMS team as bottlers. It takes grit and determination to reach a Grand Final. Four defeats by the narrowest of margins could, so easily, have been four championships. Instead of pondering what could have been, we could easily have been lauding the achievements of a multiple championship winning team. But sport is cruel, the winners take it all and the runners up are forgotten. The runner's up medals, and even the Player of the Final award for SMS captain Bobby, will provide little consolation. The only thing that is certain is that the desire to win that elusive first championship will be greater than ever before, and it will come, it's just a matter of when, not if. Until then, the hurt and the disappointment will be very real and very raw.

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