Worth the risk of heartbreak


by Stephen Cooke

My heart is racing. I have goose bumps. My mouth is dry.

I have just watched the final moments of the 2009 grand final on YouTube and the emotions of the day have flooded back. I am desperate for Geelong to make this year’s Grand Final.

Up until 2007 I had convinced myself a narrow preliminary loss was preferable to a Grand Final appearance. The four grand final losses from 1989 to 1995 had left me deeply scarred and I didn’t want to witness another defeat. I was so nervous on the morning of the 2007 Grand Final that a supportive text from my sister reduced me to tears. She only wished me good luck, but it released the proverbial flood gates. I didn’t want to witness another loss. I wanted the win so badly and Geelong do not win grand finals.


They won. And narrow preliminary final losses be damned, I wanted more. The debacle of 2008 placed added pressure on everyone involved with the club in 2009. A team that had broken a 44 year premiership drought would forever be labelled underachievers if it didn’t win another. It seemed grossly unfair but that’s footy. I was nervous until the final siren at the qualifying final against Footscray and beside myself at half time in the preliminary final against Collingwood. The Pies were close – please God let us get over the line. We sprinted across the line and it would be a week until our reckoning.


I couldn’t concentrate at work, even though I had secured my ticket to the big game on the Monday. I took to alcohol most nights to help ease the nerves. I had never wanted a win more, and although we gained it, players and supporters had to earn it.


I put that day in my top 3 – alongside my wedding four years earlier and the birth of my only child 10 weeks later. The raw emotion you feel during a close grand final is both excruciating and exhilarating. In that regard, the experience stands alone. I told a friend in the lead up to my son’s birth that although the experience would be tough (particularly for my dear wife) we were guaranteed a great outcome. With a grand final, you stress all week about the agony of another loss, then ride every bump of a two hour slugfest with the ultimate prize on the line and can still finish not only empty handed, but with bitter memories.


So I am desperate for Geelong to make this year’s Grand Final. I’m not a masochist but I want to feel the raw emotions that I did in September, 2009. I have a beautiful wife, terrific young son and a nice job so my days are generally very pleasant. Investing your emotional state in a football team on a playing field with so many variables and uncontrollable elements is not rational but it’s unlike anything else I’ve experienced.


So I’ll take the chances of a heart breaking loss for the possibility of victory and all the unbridled joy that brings. Narrow preliminary final losses be damned.


About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Cookey – marvelous stuff.

    After we won the 2007 flag I got a phone call from one of my uncles (a mad South Melbourne/Swans supporter). he said to me very earnestly,

    “There are two very important things in life; children and Premierships”. I reckon he’s right.

  2. johnharms says:

    S. Cooke, I want some of whatever you’re on. Seems you are in the state where, as you are driving down the street and see a kid with his dog, you break in to tears at the pure joy of it all.

    I reckon this is set up to be a magnificent September, and doubly so, if you follow the NRL.

    The narrative thrust of both, with all of the potential complications, should have us all salivating over the keyboard.

  3. Cooley – great stuff!

    I was crossing Kew Junction today at 1pm. It was about 20 degrees, the sun was shining, slight breeze….when I too got that first, familiar twang – finals fever!

    Having experienced the perfect finals series last year when the Pies turned it on, I just know that I needed another dose & now! I want to be belting out “Bat Out Of Hell” with the rest of the Magpie Army on GF day.

    We all want our mobs to win & as JTH rightly predicts, this finals has many possible outcomes so, pain or otherwise, bring it on!

  4. Bakes – c’mon you need to be honest with the readers here. Admit it! Last year after the Pies won the flag you weren’t belting out “Bat Out Of Hell” you were belting out Lionel Ritchie songs !!

    You were seen (I have the photos) yelling out “HELLOOOOO, is it me you’re looking for…….?” next to tattoo covered bikie after the siren!!!

  5. Dips,

    Yes – I must confess to belting out “Dancing on the Ceiling” along with my three fledglings both pre & post-match. Naturally, the post-match version was significantly louder. We even ad-libbed and sang “Once, twice, three times a Magpie..!”.

    Fair dinkum, the Wiggles or Bjork could have sung anything they wished afterwards & we would have all joined in. Talk about an easy gig…

    When the vast host that is the Magpie Army is in full voice, it is an awesome & powerful thing. Hopefully you will all get to witness it again, or run from it as lots prefer to do.

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