Finals Week 3 – Melbourne v Geelong Preview: It’s not about you, son





The build-up to the 2021 finals for the vast majority of Dees fans has been the very essence of bittersweet.


The Redlegs are playing better than I’ve ever seen them play in 52 mostly miserable years of supporting them. Across every line they have at least equal to league-best players. Their form is superb, their system is excellent, their injuries (touch wood) have had the least impact compared with the other contenders.


Put simply, right now we’re the best chance of winning the flag in my lifetime. But WADDYA MEAN WE CAN’T GO?


Yes, it’s a first-world problem. Yes, there’s a lot going on, from Afghanistan to Covid deaths and the grindingly dull lockdowns to prevent further spread of the virus. But Saints fans aside, you’ve all had your chance to explode with joy at finally winning the flag. Whether that be the Lions in 2001, the Swans in 2005, the Cats in 2007 or the Dogs in 2016. I’m excluding of course the Dockers, Suns and Giants, who haven’t been around long-enough to build decades of frustration and pain within their supporters.


So, we’re all excited at Demonland, but each of us is dealing in our own way with the shocking reality of not being able to attend any finals games, not even watch them at a pub or a mate’s place. And if the betting markets are right and the current favourite gets up in the Big One, we can’t even take our place among the deliriously happy hordes at the day-after celebrations.


You can’t help feeling as though we Demons fans might be like those players that had a great season, but just missed out on the premiership side at the selection table or through injury or suspension. Like these players, you feel torn; great waves of happiness and deep disappointment crashing into each other behind a strained and uncertain smile.


I’ve been trying to use this nervous energy to shuffle around the local oval each morning (in my Demons cap, bouncing the footy and taking shots at goal) in preparation for the coming cricket season. But this paradox just felt like the latest twist of the knife from the 57-year Curse of Norm Smith.


However, it was a simple post-match comment, made as the victorious Bulldogs gathered in their rooms after their hard-fought one-point semi-final win over the Brisbane Lions last Saturday night, that turned me around.


Bulldogs livewire forward Cody Weightman, who had copped a head knock during the game and is now certainly out of the preliminary final under AFL concussion protocols, was in the thick of the celebrations, grinning madly.


“He’s not concerned about missing next week, he’s just happy to be amongst them”, one of the Seven commentary team mentioned in passing.


The penny dropped: It’s not about you, son.


Winning a flag is not about my personal experience. It’s about the collective. It’s about all those players whose backs I slapped after they trudged off after another loss back in the 70s, players like Gary Hardeman, Ray Biffin, Spud Dullard, Greg Parke, Stan Alves and Greg Wells.


It’s about Garry Lyon, Jeff Farmer, Aaron Davey and Davids Neitz and Schwarz. About Matt Whelan, Liam Jurrah & Aussie Wonaeamirri.


It’s about the families of Robbie Flower, Troy Broadbridge, Jimmy Stynes, Sean Wight and Dean Bailey. It’s about Neale Daniher and his family, about old Ron Barassi and his family.


It’s about all the players and their families, all the coaches, staff, volunteers and all the supporters: everyone who ever believed in the Red and the Blue.


If it happened, sure we would miss out on the big moments of celebration at the time. But we’d have plenty of time in the years ahead to catch up and celebrate.


Amazingly, just as I settled into this happier space, it was as if the Ghost of Norm Smith said: “Wait”, one more thing….”


Scarring all Dees fans is one of the most infamous manifestations of “The Curse”, occurring in the last seconds of the 1987 Melbourne v Hawthorn preliminary, with the Dees four points in front, and Hawk Gary Buckenara lining up a free kick from 55 metres out. Jimmy Stynes is penalised for running over the mark, bringing Buckenara within range after the final siren. Buckenara of course kicks truly, breaking the hearts of all Dees fans.


So, on Monday, a mate said his pal over in the west wanted to get to the Preliminary Final on Friday night, and as a Melbourne member, I offered to supply him with a code to buy tickets.


“He was hoping to get two PF ticks,” AB told me, “for himself and his mate Trev Buckenara (Gary’s little bro) …”


After I picked myself up off the floor, I consulted my inner Jimmy Stynes. He gave it his blessing, the great man.





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  1. Trevor Buckenara says

    Great article Mark (it’s Trev Bucky here). I reckon most Hawk supporters have a soft spot for the Dees after what happened in 87 (and let’s not mention 88 eh?). They were a great side in the late 80s, but they came up against arguably the greatest team of all time?

    Appreciate the ticket mate, I’ll be going along to represent the Buckenara clan and barrack for the Dees.. I reckon they’re well overdue. but do you reckon it’s ok to wear my Hawthorn scarf?

    By the way .. to the great Jimmy Stynes, if your up there listening don’t feel too bad, most Hawthorn people believe Gary would have kicked it from 55 metres anyway! Cheers Trev. ;)

  2. Mark Freeman says

    Thanks Trev, and love it re the 55m, spoken like a true Hawks man!
    Enjoy the game, hope you & Adsy have a great night – and re scarf: No! Wear a Demons one for the night!
    Cheers, Mark

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