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Sunday Age

Wild Fevola comes of age

Author: Mark Fuller
Date: 13/03/2005
Words: 607
Source: SAG
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Sport
Page: 8
IN THE days before he came of age, Brendan Fevola went to a laundromat with teammate Ryan Houlihan and was almost hung out to dry. These days, he takes opposition backmen to the cleaners.

The stains of Fevola's wild youth are fading weekly. They were mostly minor blemishes rendered darker for the fact that Fevola was feared to be in the act of wasting an immense talent. Many more nights like last night and Fevola's reputation, like his twinkling boots, might soon be whiter than white.

It is not so much that Fevola has become a model citizen. His hair, for one thing, suggests he would be insulted by such a notion. But in his 25th year, and his seventh as an AFL footballer, Fevola is in danger of becoming the model footballer.

There has been evidence enough to support the idea throughout Carlton's irresistible surge to its Wizard Cup final win, but nothing as compelling as the moment he conjured in the 11th minute of the second quarter last night. Scores were locked after a stunning first-quarter shoot-out when the Blues No. 25 charged out towards the 50-metre arc on the right half-forward flank, where West Coast's Brent Staker was about to take the ball in isolation.

The flying Fevola ripped Staker to the ground as Scott Camporeale arrived to assist, and the ball was knocked loose. Fevola, keeping his feet, swooped on it, made an arcing turn right towards the boundary line and, under pressure from a desperate Eagle, kicked across his body and goaled from 45 metres. He then arced again, this time past the Blues' fans on the fence, raising his right arm and wagging his index finger as he went.

This was at once the complete package and merely part of a larger one.

Three minutes later, Fevola sent Carlton fans into further rapture when he stood his ground under a high bomb from Matthew Lappin and took a powerful mark, despite the attention of his opponent, Darren Glass, and goaled. On this night, a glass-and-a-half wouldn't have stopped the big Blue. Certainly Adam Hunter, who had been led a merry dance by Lance Whitnall until Big Red was rested, faired little better when asked to stop Fevola in the second half.

But, like his six-goal performance the previous week against the Western Bulldogs, Fevola's value counted for more than the sum of the goals he kicked.

Staker's first encounter with the boy from Beaconsfield last night was a case in point. The Eagle had gathered the ball while sweeping in the goalsquare, only to have a flying Fevola smother his clearing kick off the boot. Later, when Fevola hit the post for what would have been a super goal after he received downfield free, he gave vigorous chase as the ball rebounded infield, and smothered the clearing kick of Eagle David Wirrpunda to keep the ball in Carlton's forward pocket.

It was these deeds as much as the goals kicked that won Fevola the Michael Tuck Medal for best afield in the final. What can be read into the fact that when Tuck himself spoke at the award presentation, he said he was pleased to present Fevola with the Norm Smith Medal? A premonition?

For that to happen, Denis Pagan's young Carlton side will have to come of age. Perhaps Brendan Fevola will show them the way.

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