GANMAIN THE '69 CHAMPION - Jack Luhrs eats "humble pie"

(By Jack Luhrs)

Boy, is my face red - after rubbishing Ganmain's preliminary final win over Ardlethan last week, the Maroons made me eat my words as they brilliantly stole yesterday's South West League grand final from Griffith 10-16 (76) to 10-14 (74).

Few grand finals have had a more sensational finish on the Narrandera Sportsground.

Five minutes from the siren, the Swans had Ganmain packaged and labelled as 1969 runners-up and portions of the $3424 paying crowd began to leave. Griffith led by 16 points - their fans were wild with the delight of three premierships in the one day and it appeared a formality to wait for the end of the match.

However, to Ganmain's credit, what was to happen in the next two and half minutes can only be described as fantastic.

Jim McCaig, one of the Maroons' stars of the match and the best rover afield, slammed home a goal, Peter Carroll, on as a reserve, magnificently duplicated the feat and when Ross Reiher booted the third goal, Ganmain were two points in front and the siren was only two minutes away. But it was sheer brilliance of the play that scored the winning points.

Ganmain uncoiled into a magnificent chain of marks and the forwards did the rest.

Ganmain is the deserving premiers, (it was almost a replay of the 1964 Grand Final all over again) but Griffith was equally deserving combatant.

Played in typical Grand Final fashion with quarter shared and seldom spared, fans were treated to a match that had everything, including the incredible climax.

Umpire Graham Huggins played a major role in the days drama. Fans of both sides roared their disagreement of many of his decisions, but to blame him for defeat or victory, lacked justification.

And the final seconds with Ganmain two points in front and neither side able to score again, rocked the Narrandera ground with the thunder of the crowd's enjoyment.

A major feature of the play was both side's backlines, each forward division in turn slaughtered scoring with a long succession of wasted opportunities.

Ruthless defenders made it so and the match was riddled with individual clashes with beamless changes in control.

From this the day's stars emerged. Ganmain had a match winner in fullback Graham Buchanan.

From the moment Griffith skipper Ron O'Neill, Buchanan and umpire Huggins became the central figures with the awarding of a free kick to Buchanan midway through the second quarter, Buchanan never slipped the halter held over O'Neill.

The Swans coach booted his first goal in the first quarter followed this with four more singles in the next two terms before striking pay dirt again in the final quarter.

Ironically, O'Neill next two goals appeared to seal the result. His third major for the day, boosted the Swans lead to 16 points. The most brilliant player on the day simply because of his great marking was Frank Gumbleton.

He and Sid Robins spared nothing in their clash. Gumbleton excelling in the packs and Robins equally successful as a kick-getter amid the crushes.

Gumbleton and Phil Gehrig changed rucks at centre half forward and both players finished as stars of the Ganmain win.

Mal Brauman likewise showed his aerial artistry with fine marking around the ground.

The Swans opened play full of purpose and with Bruce Forbes prominent in his ruck rover role, switched that player to centre half forward and Geoff Martin to the flank.

Eric McCaig and the hard running Garry Liersch had the Lion's share of Ganmain's defence as the Swans followed two great goals from John Scott to lead by 10 points on the first change.

Neither side looked over impressive in the first half of the second term, but Ganmain was first away from a quite session, mainly on the play of Gehrig, Frank Gumbleton, Dan Carroll and Liersch.

The Maroon's shot to a seven-point lead, Mal Brauman hooked a left foot snap goal to reduce Ganmain's lead to one point at half time.

The third term was full of fire and brimstone. With John Foley shifted to the flank and beginning to star along with the magnificent defence from Phillip Smith, the Swans jumped to a conclusive 18 point lead.

A goal each to Gehrig and Frank Gumbleton, followed by Angie Maloni's major for Griffith, reduced the Swans lead to 17 points at three quarter time. Up until this point, Griffith looked set to repeat their 1968 premiership win.

Bill Biron held ruck sway, Frank Conlan and Bob Prenzel trapped most of Ganmain's forwards moves and two good goals from Ralph Robins assisted in their superiority.

Surprisingly Ganmain received little drive from where it was expected to dominate - across the wings.

Darryl Collis and John Candusso held the edge over Jim Winnel and Garry Carroll whilst the centre duel between Kevin Kirkpatrick and Bruce Irvine rated equal.

Ganmain kicked six straight singles to start the final term, easily the most thrilling for the match.

Appearing to have the booted themselves out of sight of victory, the Maroons looked defeat in the face when O'Neill increased the Swans lead to 16 points with only minutes to play. The rest became history.

Phil Gehrig began the boil-over when he raced through a group of Griffith players in the centre to send forward for rover Jim McCaig to goal. From this Ganmain was to go on to the premiership. I stuck my head on the block and said they wouldn't.

There players and fans gleefully rammed my words right down my throat.

The Riverina Daily News - Monday September 30, 1969