AFL Grand Final: It’s all about the love

“It’s all about the love” says Brett Kirk. That’s the message he left in his locker on departing the Sydney Swans in 2010.  For those of us who love the game, we all know that footy is more than a game. It’s about family, connections, community, belonging.  It’s a culture, even a religion.  It’s also about stories and memories.

The 2012 Grand Final and a second Swans Premiership in 7 years has delivered on all fronts, a classic game and a dream outcome for me and the Swans brotherhood.

The weekend starts early on Friday with the Almanac lunch at the All Nations in Richmond hearing great yarns from past players and umpires, as the rain pours down on the annex above the beer garden, and gathering with people who love writing about the game and sharing its stories.

At the lunch I manage to catch up with former Almanac Middle East correspondent and now Saigon based Rod “Rocket” Gillet.  I’ve known Rocket for about ten years through a mutual friend from their days at the Riverina College at Wagga.  That same mutual friend is up from Hobart and we head out in the evening to see one of our favourite bands Weddings Parties Anything at the Palace supported by the very impressive Even headed up by Ashley Naylor.  I worked with Ashley’s brother awhile back.  Small world.

On Saturday morning I head in to Southgate for our traditional Grand Final brunch.  Jumping off the tram in the Bourke Street Mall, I make my way through the lanes and arcades and over the river bridge from Flinders Street Station.  All the way the cafes and restaurants are overflowing with people, with plenty of red and white afoot.

The same core group of people, give or take a few, have been gathering pre game for about 20 years.  We kill the time dissecting the season and speculating on the game ahead.  A number of the boys are Cats supporters and have no love for the Hawks, so are hopeful of a strong Swans showing.

We are joined by my brother and one of his sons, the only one of his three boys who has adopted the Swans.   The time has passed and we walk up via the Yarra to the MCG.  I’m sitting with my brother in the second level of the AFL Reserve at the City end near the 50 metre line, close to where I sat with my other brother in 2005 with a perfect view of Leo Barry’s memorable mark.

As Paul Kelly skips through Leaps and Bounds we are nearly there, what we’ve been waiting for all week.  The game.

The opening is as you would expect for a Grand Final, hard and tight, a goal each in the first ten minutes highlighted by Mal’s amazing boundary line goal.  The Hawks gain  control around the packs and finish the quarter strongly.  Quarter time.  I love you guys, we’ve had an amazing year, however you need to find something quick.  Six unanswered goals in the second quarter, including two from the dancing Mitch Morton restore my faith.

Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition distracts me sufficiently over the long break.  The third quarter seems to be progressing equally as well and two more goals have me thinking that one more will break the Hawks.  Joey Kennedy hits the post with a snap, then all of a sudden the Hawks have slammed on 5 goals in 10 minutes and are back in front. A free to Macca, and subsequent 50m penalty due to Sam Mitchell’s errant ball return, results in a steadying goal that gets us back in front by one point at the last break.

My brother has made a late dash to the gents and by the time he is back in his seat, the Hawks have scored two quick goals and have gone to an 11 point lead.  A free to Franklin soon after now has me thinking this might be the goal that breaks the Swans.  He misses.

At the 15 minute mark I am remarkably calm, though feeling we need to get within a goal soon. It’s tight and desperate. We smoother, tackle, chase, harass and will the ball forward for goals to Hannas and Kizza and we are back level.

Soon after a one legged Goodesy dribbles one through from the right pocket after roving the pack and we have a 7 point break with about 5 minutes to play.  The Hawks are pushing and a series of points, including a poster to young Gunston, has it back under a goal.  The next period is a blur, though the ball ends up in Jetta’s hands for a set shot from outside 50.  The shot just falls short and is locked in.  From the restart, the ball is flicked to Mal and he snaps the ball high from about 15 metres out.  It seems to hang on the breeze and floats through post high.  We are home. I’m hugging my brother.  Swans supporters are jumping all over each other. It’s ours, we are Premiers!

The weekend winds up with a trip out to Albert Park early on Sunday to greet the players.  It’s a delight to again be walking over the turf that I walked on back in 1970 when I first ventured over to the Lakeside Oval with my older brothers, the year we broke a finals drought of 25years.  I am there with my mate Geoff and his kids.  I buy a Swans Premiers tee shirt for my 5 year old god daughter Ava.  Walking back to the car Ava says to Geoff  “Daddy do you know how I got the Swans to win?”. “How poppet?”.  “I wished them”.

It’s all about the love!

About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.

Comments

  1. Andrew Starkie says:

    Keiran, you’ve encapsulated what footy is about. Well done to you and the Swans.

  2. Matt Zurbo says:

    Good stuff!

  3. Hayley Trimble says:

    Love your work KC!

  4. gamesdownunder says:

    Nice work Keiran. You’ve captured what it means to be a supporter on a great day for the Swannies

  5. Andrew Kingham says:

    Lovely piece of writing Keiran.
    I watched the game slightly detached here in Bangkok and your description reminded me of all the incidental details pre and post match that complete the Grand Final picture.
    Bask in red and white glory young man!

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