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The Age

Pert defies pain, and Ablett, to help Pies stay on track

Date: 21/08/1994
Words: 803
          Publication: The Age
Section: Sport Extra
Page: 33
Gary Pert is the ultimate perfectionist, but his courage was never more evident than in Collingwood's narrow win over Geelong at the MCG on Saturday.

Playing with a suspected broken thumb, an extremely painful injury, the Magpie full-back never deviated from his well-rehearsed game plan - to prevent Gary Ablett from influencing the result.

Late in the third quarter, Geelong coach Malcolm Blight made a strategic move that brought Ablett out to a flank. And it was always the Collingwood game plan that should Ablett leave the goal square, Gavin Crosisca would be his opponent. Within three minutes of making that move, Ablett kicked two goals and the Cats went to the three- quarter-time huddle almost level-pegging and on a confident roll.

Pert had earlier restricted the AFL's leading goalkicker to two goals in almost three quarters, one of which was a free kick.

After the game Collingwood coach Leigh Matthews revealed that at the final change Pert requested to be placed back on Ablett, whether he played across half-forward or full-forward. Matthews agreed.

That was to be the end of Ablett's goal-scoring for the afternoon, and the end for a gallant Geelong in a wonderful game of football in which the result could have gone either way.

With his thumb heavily strapped and sore, Pert turned in his best quarter of football, picking up five possessions and taking three telling marks. And just into time-on he almost won the game single- handed, but his shot for goal was just off line. Minutes later, he marked and instigated the passage of play that took the ball from defence and into the reliable hands of Nathan Buckley, who kicked the final and matchwinning goal of the day.

Gary Pert did not come close to a Brownlow Medal vote, nor did he even earn many Dreamteam points, but be assured he was one of the main reasons why Matthews carried an ear-to-ear grin long after the showers were empty and the players had departed.

The performances of ruckman Damian Monkhorst, midfielders Tony Francis, John Hassall and Mick McGuane, and forward Buckley paved the way for a Collingwood win. It was Buckley's fourth goal from a difficult angle that earned the highest praise from both Matthews and Pert. ``It was a great goal," Pert said. ``The pressure on those guys that are expected to be kicking goals all the time is immense and for Bucks to kick that goal really shows what forwards are made of."

Pert showed delight about his own injury problem when discussing the remainder of 1994. ``We can't look any further than next week. There will be no planning about the finals, we are just focused on St Kilda.

We are playing for our football survival at the moment. Every game is virtually an elimination final and that's been shown in the last three weeks.

``If we want to stay in control of our destination, we've got to win every game. We put ourselves in this position because we lost some games earlier in the year that we thought we should have won, and we are stuck with a situation where we don't have a high percentage, so really at the end of the home and away, we have to be points clear."

The 1989 best-and-fairest winner at Fitzroy was not with Collingwood in its 1990 premiership season and he certainly hinted on his ambition after 13 senior seasons. ``The guys here that experienced the premiership say it's the greatest thing in the world. Call it curiosity, or whatever, I just want to be part of that, but that is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

``But that's not even a reality if we don't win every game. I can tell you now, no players are talking about making the side each week. It's making sure the team wins. We are as desperate now as we've been at any time since I've been at Collingwood. Out focus is very direct and it shows in the way we are playing."

Collingwood's win promoted it to fourth on the ladder, but to ensure it remains in the top eight it must win one of its final two games against the Saints and North Melbourne.

The Cats were unlucky to lose full-back Stephen O'Reilly with a hamstring strain in the second quarter and Peter Riccardi at three- quarter-time with a groin strain. Wingman Riccardi, who had the honor of having Gavin Brown shifted off him earlier, had been vying with Garry Hocking as Geelong's best.

Geelong, despite winning its previous four matches, slipped to eighth.

It finishes the home-and-away season against Sydney and Richmond.

     COLLINGWOOD  15.17 (107)
     GEELONG  16.8 (104)
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