The Saintly Insanity of Grand Final Week

Mike Brady anthems are a permanent fixture in Grand Final week. Or at least, they still should be.

One of his lesser known jingles – not SPC Baked Beans and Spaghetti, is There’s A Little Bit of Cazaly In Us All.  A song you’d only now find in obscure You Tube clips, or even more obscure garage sales – via the B-side of a club song cassette tape.

This more anonymous Cazaly ditty rolls through each day’s emotions approaching Saturday – looking back at last week, and ahead to the next. Its pearls of wisdom include…

“Monday, you’re a sport about it. Thursday, you talked about it. Friday, well you’re just about it. Saturday, there ain’t no doubt about it.”

Terrific in theory, Mike, but with the Saints in another rare Grand Final appearance, these lyrics need significant adjusting .

For your author this week, each day’s catchphrase concludes with “you shat yourself about it”.

So while I’ve had many kind wishes to enjoy “the week”, it’s been torturous. A yo-yo of the mind.

Here’s a snapshot thus far…

Sunday

I know, I know, it should elicit pure excitement and expectation. But the gut-wrenching nervous-nellie mental self-mutilation has begun. Or as the kids might say, the “GWNNMSM”.

And there’s still six days remaining.

I was quite restrained as the siren rang against Footscray – perhaps it was the comfortable margin, or that I felt the need to respect our kindred spirits the Doggies. Maybe it was the sense of “unfinished business” – and nothing less than a flag will do. Perhaps I was naturally trending down-hill following a significant pre-match at the Underwood Stakes – with a reflective Catter P.Flynn as a willing accomplice.

Or maybe it was the Pies’ unbelievable Friday night performance that had me running scared.

Yes indeed, a Collingwood-St Kilda Grand Final. Good lord. This is epic. So traditional. So mammoth!

The emotions for “the week”, win or lose, seem automatically doubled in the Pies presence. Bloody Collingwood, now “offensive” on the field, always “offensive” off it – boom boom. Shades of 1966 and the history of yesteryear, the recent twists of Liar Mick and Milne, Luke Ball, Riewoldt’s hamstring v the Pies in Round 3. And it was a Collingwood rant of that game that unintentionally, but very thankfully, introduced me to the Almanac world.

As a St Kilda Social Club member, I’ll be at the ground. It’s lucky dip whether it’s standing room or best seat in the house. Last year it was the absolute back row of the Olympic Stand. Who knew the ticket machine could spit out “row NN?”. I doubt Eric Bana or Warney would be trading notes up here.

A credit card deduction in the afternoon yields a good result.

The seat quality is, as per what The Simpsons resident baddie, Snake, proclaimed when referencing his stolen Mustang’s choice of gasoline: “Premium, dude. Premium! …dude!”.

By late Sunday, I am emotionally drained from the weekend’s events. An extra strength Horlicks is required for a good night’s sleep. This is a sad admission from a man in his early-thirties. Ok, mid-thirties now.

Monday

Myself and Cuba, our excitable long-haired German Shepherd, embark on our early morning training run. My nerves are crying out for physical de-jangling.

With Saints collar affixed, Cuba scorches the turf at the Mordi High footy oval in cliché’d ”training the house down” mould – no doubts on Cubie’s fitness for Saturday.

Before long however, and fittingly prophetic, a magpie takes umbrage at his unbridled theatrics. The big man stumbled onto precious springtime breeding ground, where a particularly agitated black-and-white winged invader swooped with menace.

Cuba wouldn’t yield, chasing the “beaked recalcitrant” in return. The offender eventually resorting to a high gumtree branch at the Mordialloc Creek end. I’m not sure if this quite equates to say, Lenny Hayes chasing Alan Toovey up the goal post, but I deemed this a Saints win.

A relaxed Cuba set the “Saints Footy” tone earlier when chasing Magpie up tree (file footage)

I then head to Moorabbin for the “open session”. Monday 10:30am is a first in this regard, but this is life in the “Saints bubble™” (a recent associate of “Saints Footy™”). Normalising an abnormal week.

Work commitments precluded me from last year’s “hit out”, but I can recall the 1997 equivalent vividly. The session finished with Stan Alves conducting a bizarre Saints Haka. The crowd loved it, but it seemed a touch ill-fitting – like say, Snoop Dogg singing One Day in September. Yet the atmosphere and hope among the long-suffering crowd was magic. I can still remember not quite believing that St Kilda was in a Grand Final. To that point In my life, that seemed a privilege only reserved for, cue Garry Ayres prose, “your Carlton’s, your Hawthorn’s, your Essendon’s”.

Today at Moorabbin, in all its decommissioned (but divine) glory, the Saints went through their predictable stretches, gentle laps and handball drills.

I stood inside what was the “Animal Cage” – sans the cage, but perhaps a few animals remained. It raised my confidence being here – trying best to forget Collingwood’s devastating form, and talking the Saints up with the Moorabbin faithful.

The atmosphere was similar to post-game Saturday – subdued, a bit steely, the feeling “there is still work to do”. But what a great bloody effort to get back here. And thank you.

The afternoon would bring the excitement of the Grand Final ticket pickup. With hands trembling at Crown Ticketek, the pertinent digits hit you immediately – bay, row, seat. The latter looks good off the boot – two rows from the fence!

I defer to the map of the hallowed arena.

Ponsford end, forward pocket …hmm, don’t Joffa and his mates sit down that way? The reality sank in. I would be seated alongside the Corfe D’Azur itself. There was some initial panic and “of all the places” remorse.  But any Grand Final ticket is a good one, and there are Saints bays in the vicinity.

I text my brother Chris, and my mate Jase, flying back in from Los Angeles for the big day.

“There’s some good news …and some bad news…”

But I reason that “bladder strategising” will be easy from row seat 1, and I’ll be close enough to give Lenny a hug should they salute – the “bromance of the year”.

Later that night the Brownlow delivers a non-Swan result, with Eddie’s look of sheer contempt now providing limitless e-fodder. I pondered whether this ultimately spelt good or bad news for the Saints. The fact I assessed such perhaps speaks greater volumes for my own mental fragility.

Tuesday/Wednesday

The morning sickness continues. Another incredibly sad admission from a mid-thirties male. In this situation, a counsellor may suggest you “only worry about what you can control”. But I can’t actually control my emotions. Any more bright ideas Sigmund Freud?

Work focus dwindles further (sorry boss). The lack of coherency, much like this article you’ll agree, is paramount.

I’m taking longer showers at home – I simply forget to get out.

The initial weather forecast is dry. Good news for St Nick and Kosi to reel off some “clunk clunk clunk” action.  It’s then altered to “isolated afternoon showers” – is Eddie controlling the weather now too?

My periods of confidence do grow longer, there are Saints scarves in the streets, Wallsy has tipped us (er, he also tipped Melbourne in 2000). But as per Dane Swan’s bursts off the bench, those moments of dread return all too quickly. And then he and his tatt-sleeve head back to the pine.

If my psyche were a travel destination up for Lonely Planet review, I’d be the most overused wank cliché in the book: “a city of contrasts”.

A Sainter colleague’s lunch provides respite on Wednesday. The Waterside hotel is the venue.  This is Nick’s pub, naturally there are red, white and black balloons and streamers in abundance. I breathe easier.

It was Jack Barker’s funeral back in Mordialloc today. C’mon Saints, do it for Jack. Do it for Trevor. Do it for the Doc. Do it for all of us!

And ahead…

As prominent Collingwood almanacker Andrew Fithall would depict it, there are “two sleepless sleeps” to go.

The teams, the parade, the Almanac lunch, the Friday night freak-out. Mike Brady’s songs will graduate to their own playlist on the iPod. Doug Heywood’s 1980’s fightback version of Oh When The Saints is already there.

I know the excitement will build from here. I think I’m turning the corner. How can you not. The glass is almost half-full, not its usual two-fifths empty. St Kilda on the verge of their second flag – don’t get greedy Pies, twenty years wasn’t that long ago. One premiership versus fourteen. Twenty six wooden spoons versus two.

With eight decades of Saints blood coursing through our family veins, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Like so many others, Saturday promises to be one of the best/worst days of my life.

If the latter, apologies in advance, have a good Summer everyone, and I’ll see ya’s next year!

GO YOU SAINTS.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    DD

    Just remember to keep breathing.

    And keep a change of clothes handy.

  2. Dave,

    the pleasure, of the first one after a long period in the doldrums, is exquisite.

    I hope you get to experience it.

  3. David Downer says:

    Cheers gents.

    Maybe a ventilator’s also an option JB. Else I may be consigned a fate similar to I.Meldrum circa ’66 – fainting before the final siren.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed the article DD.

    An 80’s footy song reference.
    A lovely little Cuba anecdote.
    Some out-of-the-closet man-love for Lenny.
    …… and of course the necessary bladder strategising topic.

    I would have to say that you have “ticked all the boxes” and “stuck to your structures”. You have approached this week’s Almanac contribution as Round 26.

    Ross would be proud.

    Well done. Hope you have a great weekend!

    That is all
    Arma

    PS: I would have thought that Cuba would have had “mixed feelings” last week given the fate of the Dogs.

  5. David Downer says:

    Thanks Arma,

    To answer your post-script, with reference to St Kilda’s finals opponents, I’ve seen Cuba feverishly chase both Cats and Magpies – when lead’s still in hand, I go pavement-skiing when it’s the former. But as for his fellow race, this comes down to breed.

    His housemate, would you believe, is a chihuahua, so the smaller dogs are ok. And he seems to love/hate blonde Labradors depending on sex.

    As for Bulldogs, the jury is out. I left the TV on for him last Saturday night, he seemed happy with the result when I arrived home. Naturally, he doesn’t have a choice as to who he supports.

    …that’s right folks, all the hard-hitting footy issues covered, right here on the Almanac!

    DD

  6. I hope he didn’t start panting and wagging his tail when Julia came on the screen.

  7. DD, our hearts beat nervously as one. Can we be any more stressed (OK, last 10 minutes of last years grandfinal tops all this) but we are going, we are hopeful, we are mad to boot, so I guess it truly is only 2 sleeps and an anxious few hours and we will know if this is our lucky year.

    Hope to say hello at the lunch on Friday. Carn the saints

    Yvette (I’ve even been too nervous to keep writing )

  8. David Downer says:

    Cheers Yvette,

    I do hope I’m still stringing sentences together by tomorrow.

    As per the title – these emotions are just insanity!

    DD

  9. I’ve managed to avoid doing this until now. As much as possible I have attempted to steer clear of the hype, however it can’t be completely done when there is an emotional investment in the outcome.

    At least there is another Sainta in the fold this year. ‘Lofty’ has joined the club and has the requisite training singlet. A previous member wrote to the Saints asking for a anything they could fling at a start up footy club. They sent the previous years training guernseys. (I have Gwilt, J.’s in both a black, and white, version). On the downside, the need for longsleeve guernseys in the Middle East, even the heights of our winter, is somewhat less than probably thought. We did get the sleeves trimmed, although the locals do not have an appreciation of the somewhat broader shoulders of the Australian male.

    On the even brighter side, there is only one obvious Collingwood supporter. Even so, much like Danni, he is hard to dislike despite the obvious predeliction.

    I’m grateful it is against Collingwood. I think the Saints do have a game plan that is similar to the pies and then it will come down to the forwards for both sides. Whoever can dominate, wins. Saints have better names, but Collingwood have a more functional backline. There must be a plan to keep O’Brien and Maxwell out of the game. If St Nick and Kosi don’t fire, it’s up to Milne. (I’m backing the yappy one and Nick in for the Norm Smith). Although, I reckon Roo will be too much any defender other than Presti.(Mick, if you’re reading this, he’s too old, too slow, too unfit to risk). Spread them out make them compete one on one and we’re a big chance.

    Midfields pretty much cancel each other out. Too many guns on both sides to keep quiet…

    On the other side, Collingwood don’t rely on one kicking a bag, but by a bunch of hand-bags (see what I did there?) kicking one each. Then again, the Saints defence doesn’t have the same mongrel. Zac and the boys won’t be sending shivers down the spines of those big, butch Dawes and Cloke clowns. The other, other side of that is hopefully their IQs do add up to more than the total of their guernsey numbers. (Continue with tooth and IQ jokes here…)

    Ahhh, bugger it. This is the first time I have thought about it and I am now like a cattle dog on it’s third cup of coffee. DD has hit the nail on the head again. Have enjoyed your work all year fine sir!

    In the midst of it all on Saturday afternoon, spare a thought for the two Saints supporters at the Abu Dhabi Falcons/Aussies Abroad GF function. One way or the other, I fear there will be a tear in the eye…

  10. Baker in. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha… Who said Ross Lyon doesn’t have a sense of humour. Brilliant.

  11. David Downer says:

    Good on ya’ Gus, thanks for the kind words.

    Stay strong there in the UAE …and at least it is Abu Dhabi, and not the Dubai hub of the Pies major sponsor!

    Noted, I will spare a thought for yourself and the other Sainters abroad who can’t be here. Pending the result, we may actually be jealous of your location come 5pm Saturday ..let’s pray that aint the case!

    DD

  12. Amen to that DD

  13. DD – as Bomber said last year to the St Kilda boys “Sometimes footy sucks”, but hopefully this year they’ll turn that misery into joy.

    My poor old mother in law is beside herself. Calm exterior but bubbling internally. If they win she’ll party with the best of them.

    Good luck

  14. Dave a wonderful effort. I hope you have it easier than last year; considering how tense this Freo supporter felt during the last quarter of the 2009 Grand Final, I can’t imagine how it must have felt for a supporter of one of the two teams, let alone a supporter of a side that hadn’t won a flag for 43 years.

    Wouldn’t it be lovely to sit back at three quarter time, nine goals up and just float for the next half an hour on a bed of wispy cloud.

    Go Sainters.

  15. 2007 was cool for Cats…….from about the 5 minute mark of the second quarter.

    The close ones are very very very hard work.

    I am looking forward to tomorrow from the relief perspective but no doubt I will be drawn in.

    I have not barracked for the Saints since ’66 but will be on them tomorrow. Every little bit helps.

  16. Dave, Vietnam and the Hanoi Swans are with the Sainters… Enough said!!!! Go saints

  17. Stephanie Holt says:

    Hoping all Saints supporters can enjoy a little ‘calm before the storm’ this morning. Crazy rollercoaster week. I like Jonathan’s nine goals. Nail biters make better stories, but too hard to contemplate going through that again, especially v Collingwood.

    Have a wonderful day all Saints fans and true footy supporters (which I guess is all Almanackers).

  18. If ever there was an article crying out for a sequel …………………….

  19. David Downer says:

    Arma,

    Pop in “Groundhog Day” when you get home, it’s symbolic enough of the repeated week. It’s also some of Andie MacDowell’s best work.

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