Pies runner ‘shattered’ over Grand Final goal
SHATTERED Collingwood runner Alex Woodward says he is racked with guilt about his part in the goal that put West Coast ahead in yesterday's Grand Final.
Woodward told the Herald Sun yesterday he had been told by coach Nathan Buckley not to blame himself in the emotional moments after the Grand Final loss.
Woodward, still hoping to kickstart his AFL career again after four knee reconstructions, has been running for the Pies in between VFL commitments this year amid brilliant VFL form.
But attempting to get out of the way of a Taylor Adams free kick, he unwittingly blocked Jaidyn Stephenson from getting to the ball as it headed in Elliot Yeo's direction.
From the replays Adams' kick from defence skewed left off his boot, but Woodward still blames himself for the 50m Yeo goal that saw them surge ahead of the Pies in the third term.
"When it comes to my personality I am my own harshest critic," he told the Herald Sun.
"No one can make me feel any worse than I am right now. But this game is a game of inches and I am feeling a lot of guilt, I am still shattered right now.
"Bucks is an unbelievable character and for him to wrap his arms around me, he said I shouldn't blame myself.
"I really want to put myself in that headspace, but I couldn't help it. I am still a bit emotional about it.
"Bucks and I have a really good rapport so I have massive respect for him."
Former Hawks midfielder Woodward was trying to deliver a message to a Pies player in the central corridor, totally unaware Stephenson was behind him.
The irony is that next year AFL runners will almost certainly only be allowed on the field for the 45 seconds after a goal, so that situation will not arise again.
Told Adams' kick had played a big part in the incident, Woodward said he was still reluctant to even view the footage.
"To be honest I don't want to look back at it, I don't think it's a good moment for me and my footy career in general.
"I was caught by surprise, I tried to get out of the way as quickly as I could.
"I wasn't quite aware of my surroundings with Stevo being there. Just little moments like that, I think I will feel guilty for a little while."
Woodward started running for the Pies in the pre-season, put together a scintillating patch of form in the VFL when his knee was ready for a return, then continued running for Collingwood through the finals.
He is desperate for another chance in football but shattered to be involved in this incident after such an enjoyable year running for the Pies' senior side.
"I had started running in the pre-season and to be honest it was part of my rehab for my knee. It was really good conditioning. I felt like footy was quite cruel to me in a lot of ways.
"For me to find the passion again in that way through being a runner, it was something I was quite grateful for.
"I have received a lot of support (in the past 24 hours), which is something I appreciate.
"People realise my character is such that I judge myself quite harshly, but it is quite hard to be put under the spotlight like that after a game.
"I was on the skinny side and the majority of players were there. Next thing I knew the ball was coming my way and it caught me by surprise so it's a hard pill to swallow."
MEANWHILE, Pies defender Jeremy Howe has slammed social media warriors for their treatment of Woodward, saying the Magpies will wrap their arms around the shattered team official.
"He was pretty emotional after the game, but to be honest he got ... I don't know if I should say it, but social media is an absolute nightmare of a system, because it ridicules people when they shouldn't be," he said.
"Woody's one of the nicest, polite, genuine, loving guys I've ever met. And to see him that distraught after the game, that's probably one of the things that got to me.
"We love him as a bloke. And at no stage is there anything … if anyone even hints to the (idea) that it has anything to do with it, it makes me angry, because I love him as a bloke and it's affected him a fair bit."
Howe said the incident "had nothing to do with the result" and that the team would rally around their VFL counterpart, who has endured four knee reconstructions.
"We had plenty of opportunities to get the result done and we didn't get it done, but that's all right," he said.
"We'll move on, we'll support him, we'll hug him, I'll have a beer with him this afternoon and we'll forget about it."
- with LAUREN WOOD