The sweet and delectable taste of summer lingered as Hugo and I boarded the train at Caulfield just after 6pm on Easter Thursday.
We were in good company as the carriage was filled with like minded revellers draped in various garments that declared their football allegiance.
The Tiger colours probably outnumbered that of the Old Navy Blues. We were south of the Yarra.
There was lots of friendly banter and an air of nervous anticipation. Hugo was not confident of a win. He believes that the Tigers always lose when he goes to the game.
I checked my phone and looked for our mobile tickets delivered by text message a few days ago. I found them but they wouldn’t load.
I was met with a blank screen.
Telstra outage again, I thought.
I tried again at the ground; no luck. I peered into a ticket window near gate 5 and explained my problem to a haughty looking lady.
“The system is down, love, you need to go to the Ticketek box office…near gate 3 ………….there might be a queue”
She may have appeared haughty, but she was certainly friendly. I thanked her and pushed through the 75,706 people trying to gain entry, as we looked for the box office window near Gate 3.
It was 7:15pm. The first game of the season was to kick off in 5 minutes. In each direction I looked queues extended across every square meter of space along the MCG concourse. Most were for the standard security checks. They seemed to be moving.
Our queue, however, was almost stagnant. We were amongst the hundreds of others waiting to collect the hard copy version of the mobile ticket that failed to download.
Some around us were annoyed and agitated, and prodded sharply at their hand held devices, updating their Facebook status and tweeting their frustration.
For others, the inconvenience was not a bother. It was just another queue.
I didn’t feel ready for footy. The long days, long weekends, holidays and warm air had tricked me into thinking that footy was miles off. Of course, it wasn’t.
We finally got in towards the end of the first quarter. The ground was humming. Everyone else, it seemed, was ready for the first game of the season.
Immediately, the sight, sound and atmosphere within the stadium hit my senses with a force I didn’t expect. The brilliant green of the lit paddock stretched into a wide panorama, sandwiched between a deep blue twilight layer above, and a heaving throng of people cast in purple shadow below.
The expectant crowd pulsated with each turn of the ball. The chorus bellowed in unison.
It evoked memories and a wave of nostalgia swept over me. For a moment, I was reminded of my first trip to the G: 1977 North Melbourne v Collingwood. It might have been the drawn grand final. I was 10 the same age as my son, Hugo is now.
The ground and its players may have changed, but its’ sound and its atmosphere has not.
For a moment I was also reminded that I once chorused for the other side. For a moment I pondered my own switch from one team to another; from Princess Park to Punt Road that is. I wondered what happened to my old blues jumper and the acrylic beanie that crackled with static electricity.
Just for a moment….Ty kicked two goals in quick succession in the second quarter. Tigers were up but having to work for it.
Carlton kept up the pressure and took off in the third quarter. Unmanned, they were in control and unstoppable. Their supporters, not quite believing, rose from their seats, celebrating a 9 point lead going into the break.
With four tangible points at stake, the Tigers came to life early in the fourth. Lambert and Rance rallied and the Tigers suddenly reappeared on the ground.
Richmond made up for the ground they lost in the third quarter. Sam Lloyd decided he would participate and slotted two vital goals, to close the gap.
Pom-poms waved madly and a “We Bleed Yellow and Black” banner was hoisted at the cheer squad end. The game had turned.
Despite their best efforts and a late goal, it seemed Carlton had run out of puff. They lost their momentum and squandered their lead.
As the blue boys flagged in spirit on the field, their supporters sagged in their seats, deflated. They had had their chances.
It may have been a shaky start for Richmond but an important one for team morale and supporter confidence.
Hugo was delighted. He got a win. He got to to sing the song at the ground. We left the G and walked out into the still, balmy night and headed to Richmond station, and another long queue.
It still felt ike summer.