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Remember when… ‘Miracle on grass’

When the second half of 2013 began, the Cats were on fire.

Sitting in second spot with 10 wins and only one loss, Geelong looked set for another flag assault.

The Lions, on the other hand, were toiling away in the bottom four. So when the Cats traveled to the Gabba for their Round 13 clash, many were expecting much of the same from both sides.

Each week, will bring to light the perspective of someone at the heart of a memorable moment from a game played between two sides before their upcoming clash.

It wasn’t any old game for the Brisbane Lions, though. Premiership player Ash McGrath was celebrating his 200th senior match, while club legend Simon Black became the Lions’ games record holder on the night, playing his 320th AFL game.

Geelong kicked the first two goals of the game before Brisbane etched their way in front. But the Cats kicked three unanswered goals late in the quarter to take a 13-point lead at quarter time.

The next two terms were all Chris Scott’s men’s way, taking a 27-point lead into half time before leading by as much as 52 points not long before the last change.

Two late goals to the Lions gave them some hope and the scoreboard was 38 points in favour of Geelong at three-quarter time.

Something clicked during the final break, however, as the Lions appeared to come out like a different side, kicking the first three goals to bring the margin back to 20 points.

Milestone man, McGrath told that a rousing three-quarter time speech from coach Michael Voss was the catalyst to Brisbane’s final quarter surge.

“Vossy’s three-quarter time speech was the turning point. He said we’re still a chance and we’d kicked a couple of goals just before the final break,” McGrath said.

“He encouraged us to stick to the game plan that we’ll give ourselves every chance because you never know, footy’s a strange game sometimes and there was a full moon out.”

The Cats got one back through Steve Johnson but it would be the last time Geelong registered a six-pointer.

When the Lions replied through Pearce Hanley minutes later, that’s when McGrath knew his side was genuinely a chance to win.

With Simon Black doing typical Simon Black things, while Daniel Rich and Brent Moloney started to dominate the midfield area, the tide was turning.

A goal to Moloney, Mitch Golby and a bomb from Rich leveled the scores with less than two minutes to go. It was anyone’s game.

Tom Hawkins would kick a behind from a tight set shot — an important point to give the Cats the lead.

Brent Staker went down the middle knowing this may be the Lions last chance at victory but it would pan out differently to what they had expected.

“When Brent Staker was kicking out, I thought I could slowly sneak out the back but Daniel Rich slammed it on his boot and it went a little bit too far and my opponent Josh Hunt marked it,” McGrath added.

“We knew there was only 30 seconds to go, so it was probably game over but, strangely, the Cats didn’t hold the ball up for long and they continued to play on.”

Daniel Merrett took an intercept mark in the defensive 50, played on, handballed to Elliot Yeo who chipped the ball to Black and he spotted up Joel Patfull at half-back.

Patfull kicked to Jed Adcock in the centre circle, who fired off a quick handball to Dayne Zorko who spotted up McGrath with a second left.

“There were a few times in the last quarter where I was able to get away from my opponent and lead up at the ball but we kicked it a bit longer,” McGrath explained.

“We still scored a few times out of it so you can’t be too dirty at that but Dayne Zorko is a smart player and usually picks the right option. Luckily he hit me up on that occasion because if he had kicked long, the siren would’ve sounded.”

The siren souned after McGrath marked the ball right on the 50 metre arc and the game came down to the 200-gamer to win the after the siren.

“I remember marking the ball and I actually cramped up in my left calf and I threw my head back because I was tight in my legs,” McGrath said.

“I knew I had the distance in me, even at that point in the game, it was just a matter of getting it on target. I’d done that set-shot 1,000 times at training, so it was a matter of not taking too long and going through the same routine. Some blokes will take longer than they normally would while kicking after the siren but I did the same things I always do.

“It didn’t come off the boot that well and was probably heading towards the right of the goalpost but it curved back a bit late and went through. It was party time after that.”

At the time, it was the eighth greatest comeback in AFL history and the biggest deficit the Lions had overcome.

The game sits comfortably in McGrath’s top three in his career — behind the 2003 Grand and Preliminary Finals — but none were closer to every boy’s dream than the game termed the ‘miracle on grass.’