AFL Grand Final: Go St Killdog! Having two teams leaves me doubled up in pain

By Andrew Gigacz

If there’s one piece of advice that’s been delivered ad nauseum to investors, it’s that they should diversify. Put all your eggs in a single basket, they say, and you’ll be regretting it when that basket falls under a steamroller.

But put a little here and a little there and if one punt cops a hiding the other one will probably deliver the rewards you’re after.

And there can be no doubt that it’s good advice for investors. At least financial investors. But I’m here to tell you that maxim does not successfully translate to emotional investment. And I speak from experience. Diversify emotionally and your most likely return will be a double dealing of pain.

When season 2009 began, the depth of feeling I had for a couple of Saints friends led me to make a decision that would be understood by few, and frowned on by many. And that decision was to barrack like never before, not just for my beloved Bulldogs, but for the suffering Saints also. When I revealed my dual loyalties to a select few, the responses were predictable.

“But you can’t barrack for TWO teams!”

“That is sacrilege.”

“You are betraying the Doggies!”

I copped it from everyone, everywhere. But it didn’t bother me really. I thought about what led me to this seemingly bizarre decision. And I realised that the root of it was really what probably led me to become friends of these Saints fans in the first place. I think there is a certain pain that is unique to Footscray fans and St Kilda supporters, one that we alone understand. It’s a pain borne of long premiership droughts. But it can’t be the droughts alone that unite us. Otherwise Melbourne supporters and pre-2007 model Geelong fans would be in our group

I think what sets Sainters and Doggies apart from other drought-stricken supporters is that we have only one flag each. One single solitary premiership in more than 110 years for the Saints, and in 80-odd years for the Dogs. It’s a small but critical difference. Even fans born after Geelong’s last flag in ’63 and Melbourne’s last flag in ’64 could draw on the successes of a mere generation earlier: Geelong, dual flags in the early ’50s, plus their 1963 one, and Melbourne, sustained success over 10 years in the same period.

What did we Saints and Dogs have? One flag each. And the Saints by just a point. Some would say they were lucky to get that one.

I was comfortable with my decision. Anyway, I bought a Doggies membership only, not a Saints one. My plan was to support the Dogs in person and follow the Saints with Ted at his house. While Ted’s partner Vic goes off to watch St Kilda, he stays home and supports them (no less passionately) at home. I couldn’t see a problem with joining him.

During the home and away season, the Dogs and Saints met twice. By the first meeting, St Kilda was already on a roll and I had no real expectations of a Footscray win. For the first time in several years I actually sat with Vic and other Saints. Maybe it was the several beers I had but by the game’s end, I felt no remorse when the Saints had beaten us easing up.

In the second meeting, I watched the game with my Bulldog buddies only. I have to admit that, surrounded by them, I swayed in a decidedly Doggy direction. But once that game was over, my passions once again became equally divided.

The Dogs finished the regular season looking very good, and the Saints, despite a couple of hiccups, finished clear on top by the length of the straight. And so the finals series would truly test where my passions lay.

In week one of the finals, I was confident we (the Dogs) could get over the Cats. And I was sure St Kilda would knock off the Pies. That would mean that the Dogs and Saints could meet only in the Grand Final. In all honesty, I felt that that was one Grand Final I could handle the Dogs losing.

But the Dogs messed it up. A sloppy first half saw us fall fourteen points short of Geelong, condemning one “us” to meet the other “us” in a Preliminary Final instead of a week later.

And so we did. Every footy fan knows what a titanic struggle that Prelim was. Watching with my Bulldog mates, I barracked for the Dogs like there was no tomorrow. Alas, for the Dogs there was no tomorrow.

But for me there was. Not that I wasn’t hurting. I was. But while my Doggy mates bounced around emails full of liberal serves of large-fonted expletives betraying pain, frustration and utter despair, I was already thinking ahead to the Grand Final and how my “side on the side” would fare.

I had already convinced myself that the winner of the Saints-Dogs match would go on and take the flag. And with the Dogs gone, the Saints were MY team, and MY team was gonna win the premiership.

To such an extent did I adopt the Saints-fan persona, I found Grand Final week to be as nerve-wracking I’ve ever experienced. By the time of the opening Grand Final bounce, I was as anxious as I’ve ever been before a match. Surrounded on the couch by Ted and a calendar of other Saints, I felt as much a St Kilda supporter as they were, though they probably didn’t see me that way.

And so to the game. Three quarters, nearly four, of believing that the Saint drought was to finally break after 43 years. Even throughout the shanked shots and other missed opportunities, I believed St Kilda’s destiny was the 2009 premiership. But the Saints squandered one opportunity too many. And with scores level deep into time-on, Geelong got one final opportunity of their own. And they grabbed it; via a toepoke, an Ablett bomb to the square, a scramble, a handball and a Chappy snappy.

Another minute or two of play remained but in reality, the 2009 premiership was lost to the Saints in that pivotal, practically penultimate passage of play.

A deathly silence descended on Saint Ted’s loungeroom. The next few minutes lasted forever, the sonic vacuum pierced only by the clink of glasses, plates, bottles being whisked away; and by a faint, conviction-less promise from someone: “We’ll win it next year”.

Ted and Frank and the kids drifted outside for a final, front-yard kick-to-kick session. I couldn’t even join them for that. A couple of handshakes and goodbyes and I was in the car and home, completely and utterly gutted.

So this was my reward for having a fling with another team. Pain. Pain when the Dogs dipped out and more pain when the Saints slipped up at the most vital stage of the season. Many would say I deserved it. Maybe they’re right. Can anything but heartache result from dividing one’s loyalties? Perhaps not.

But you know what? I don’t care. The Saints deserve a flag. And so do the Dogs. And I’m sticking with them. BOTH of them. I don’t care what footy etiquette and protocol dictate. I love these two teams and I’m gonna get behind the two of them until their next flags are flying.

And for 2010, I’m buying a Dogs membership AND a Saints membership. Say what you like, I declare St Kilda and Footscray to be MY TWO TEAMS.

COME ON ST KILLDOG!!

Or is that Bull-Kilda?

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Andrew Fithall says:

    Gigs,

    As a Ballarat boy, St Kilda was my second team for a long time. Ballarat was in St Kilda’s zone and I knew many who went down to play with the Saints in their very unsuccessful period of the 70s and 80s. However, their “second-team status” was never close to being on a par with my Magpie allegiances. As two in our family are Cats supporters, I was okay with either team on Grand Final day 2009. In the first part of the game, I felt like I wanted St Kilda to win. Until both Schneider and Milne feigned injury from slight contact. From that point, I started barracking vehemently for the Cats. And was pleased for St Kilda to lose.

    Andrew

  2. John Butler says:

    Gigs,

    I admire the spirit, sentiment and resolve of your commitment.

    But be warned, either of these teams, individually, has broken the back of many a strong man.

    You’ll need to be made of stern stuff to avoid your personal theme song becomming “The Tracks of My Tears”.

  3. Thanks Andrew and John.

    Andrew, can’t say I paid particular attention to the incidents you raised. But I was watching through glasses made of Saints halos so would never have seen them in the way you did…

    John, thanks for the admiration and warning. I understand that I have embarked on a journey that could, indeed probably will, result in The Tracks of My Tears becoming my personal anthem. Appropriate that it was The Miracles who originally recorded that song too, because I think I’m going to need a couple to make it through this journey without ending up a broken man.

    Rest assured that I will keep Almanac readers abreast of the journey as it unfolds.

  4. John Butler says:

    On the bright side Gigs,

    You could have decided to barrack for Richmond.

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