Almanac Footy: Life in Ten Grand Finals

 

A week since the Prelim. A week to the Granny. Strange days. 

Looking forward. Looking back.

TS Eliot measured out life with coffee spoons. Jackson Browne in quarter tones.

These days I sit on corner stones

And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend

 

 

 

Maybe I measure mine in Grand Final sirens. Events big enough to stick in the memory. Like the Twin Towers attack; Princess Di’s death or for me JFK’s assassination.  

 

Where was I? Who was I with? What was going on in my life at the time? 

 

Memories are as much the occasion as the event or the result.

 

 

1966 – VFL St Kilda d Collingwood – The Age of Innocence 

 

Listening to 3WV with dad on the big old bakelite radio in Renmark on the Murray up near the Victorian border. VFL. The big league. Black and white ghosts glimpsed on grainy replays the next day. Doc. Tuddy. Giants. Monsters.

 

“They’ll do me dad those Saints”. Blonde surfie haircuts. Classy tricolour jumpers.

 

Jeez I could pick a loser even then.

 

 

 

 

 

1970 – SYP Senior Colts Yorketown d Minlaton – The Wonder Years

 

Still got the photo. Can even name half our them, though I haven’t seen any for 50 years. The bloke next to me played 8 state games and won 2 SANFL flags with Port Adelaide.  

 

I didn’t disgrace myself that day and Tony Giles won the game for us. Reasons to be grateful. 

 

 

 

 

 

1973 – SANFL Glenelg d North Adelaide – Romper Stomper

 

Sleeping on the bitumen outside the Oval gates with the lads from the share house and a 2 man esky full of king browns. Rites of passage. The heat – on and off the field. 56,000 standing like inverted sardines – ankle deep in sweat and piss.

 

Barracking hard for the Roosters against those fancy boys from the Bay. Bob Hammond glistening sweat and liniment repelling waves of Bays attacks. Horatio at the bridge.

 

Cornes cameo with an undeserved late screamer and goal from the pocket. First time I’d seen him all day. He must have been the medical sub?

 

The feeling of injustice but one of the greatest games I’ve seen.

 

 

 

 

 

1983 – VFL Hawthorn d Essendon – Being There

 

The big bucks advertising consultant asked what I’d like if we could get the Medicare legislation through the parliament before the August budget? Grand Final ticket – of course. But it was an awful game. Essendon were happy to be there. Hawks were brutal. Buckenara goes down early with a knee. Ayres marks everything. Sitting high up alone in the old Southern Stand thinking “this is not what it’s cracked up to be. Can I get a half time taxi to Moonee Valley in time for the Feehan?”

 

1994 – AFL West Coast d Geelong – Falling Down

 

Ski weekend in Thredbo with some very accomplished black run skiers. Them – we’ll have lunch at the restaurant at the top of the chairlift. Me – I want to watch the Grand Final. Them – doh (Sydney types) you can take the lift down after lunch and a few reds. The wind gets up and the chairlift is closed. “How do I get down now?” Them: “you ski down”. Me: “you mean I fall down every 50 metres to the bottom”. Another crap game for a neutral. I get more bruises than Geelong.

 

2005 – AFL Sydney d West Coast – The Big Chill

 

West Coast are now my team thanks to a move to Perth and St Kilda sacking Alves and Blight in short order. Their dumb mistakes rivaling mine. We fly to Adelaide then drive over in a hire car with friends. Spirits are high, but I’d still rather be at Moonee Valley.  Leo Barry saves the day for Sydney. Chris Judd has one of the great solo games to spare Eagles embarrassment. Sam Butler on a half back flank for the Eagles has no possessions. Much like me. The drive back to Adelaide feels like via Darwin.

 

2006 – AFL West Coast d Sydney – The Long Journey Home 

 

After a long suspension by the Tribunal I’m just back in Perth, but working (thankfully) on Grand Final day. Last year’s disappointments mean no return trip. A Grand Final where I scarcely see a ball kicked. Trying to judge the score by the sounds from the pub next door. Early cheers matched by late groans. But this time the Eagles hang on and we join the Sunday hordes at Subiaco to welcome Embley and Wirrpunda’s larrikin celebrations. It feels like a small win – on and off the park.

 

2015 – AFL Hawthorn d West Coast – Fried Green Tomatoes

 

Life has turned around and we’re with friends in an apartment overlooking the Adriatic in the Avenging Eagle’s birthplace of Makarska in Croatia. The fishing boat’s lights twinkling in the inky dark as I click the iPad into gear for the pre-game festivities. 7.30am brekky bounce down. 9am half time searching under beds for odd sox and packing suitcases. By lunchtime we’re in Opuzen with AE’s Croatian cousin blissfully ignorant of AFL Grand Finals and a welcoming table burdened with fish, bread, cheese, crno vino (red wine) and hladno pivo (cold beer).  Losing never felt so good.

 

2016 – AFL Western Bulldogs d Sydney – Dead Poet’s Society

 

Confident of Eagles improvement we book late September flights to Melbourne mid season. The Western Bulldogs have other ideas in an Elimination Final boilover after running deader than a long odds on favourite in the last minor round game. Well at least we’ve got our Almanac lunch debut to look forward to. The Fitzroy Town Hall and the motley cast of Knackers make it a memorable weekend. Bob Murphy’s mum only prayed twice over footy in her life (after forsaking holy orders). Once to stop him coming to West Coast (damn you god) and the other for Bevo’s boys the next day. Both prayers are answered. I’m sure Sydney are certainties but an ankle injury to Buddy derails another fave, and I’m grateful to nowadays prognosticate instead of punt. We spend GF day at Saintly Yvette’s with Mr Wrap and a cast of orphans. Grand finals are for sharing.

 

2018 – AFL West Coast d Collingwood – La La Land

 

It’s not just the day and the goal and the win. It’s the week; the event; the family and friends. The Avenging Eagle’s brother and footy mad sons and their mates all come over and we spend an uproarious week around the South Melbourne pubs. We out-sing the Magpie Army at the Almanac lunch and the Collingwood banner collapses pre-game under the weight of expectations. Omens. Post match we bump into an Eagles family from a vineyard adjoining AE’s family in the Swan Valley. Their whole family have driven over. A 3 day odyssey in search of the golden fleece. Then to a Richmond pub where Beau Waters (a hero of 2006) is looking for mates but happily spends a half hour with us. It’s that sort of week. Magic happened.  Wheels turned full circle.

 

 

 

Even at the time I had a sense that “you only get one Dom Sheed in your life” (to paraphrase Kerry Packer).  With the ageing of the Eagles squad and the ongoing commercialisation of the AFL my interest has waned. You can’t keep catching lightning in a bottle. 

 

We still go to all the Eagles home games and WA has been less disrupted by Covid than anywhere but Antarctica.  But I prefer to be a participant in life more than a passive observer these days.  

 

Saturdays are a 5.30am alarm for the morning round of golf then off to the WAFL watching Swan Districts and our nephew who has matured into one of the league’s best defenders (WAFL Team of the Year – Brandon Erceg).  Footy now is family and having a beer after games with young men I can get to know a little.

 

The footy season ended for me with Swans’ heartbreaking last minute loss to West Perth in the Elimination Final. Now I know how a little of how Collingwood fans felt in 2018.

 

So we’ll be watching Saturday’s game with family rather than spending $400 on tickets.  

 

I have had a fortunate life full of Grand Final memories and they’re not all tied up in the result.

 

We like Grand Finals when we win. We love Grand Finals despite the result because of the shared memories. 

 

What memories do Grand Finals evoke – where the occasion meant more than the result?

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE.

 

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Comments

  1. 2016 Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans

    Wife’s family – including the extendeds – are all mad Footscray. Father-in-law from West Footscray, mother-in-law from Braybrook.

    They were listening on the radio in 1954. They were at the Western Oval in 1989 shoving notes into tins and selling UP YOURS OAKLEY stickers. They were in the Southern Stand in 1997 making preparations for the next week’s ticket queue until Darren Jarman decided he wanted a return trip to Melbourne. They flew up with Bevo’s brigade for the GWS prelim.

    Ticket ballots, open training, gear for the kids, the Friday parade, everyone huddled together for a photo at the ‘G on game day. Our infant son (born between the Elimination and Semi Finals) making the most auspicious debut in Grand Final history.

    It wasn’t my team but it was the next best thing. This year, a divided Dees v Dogs household and communication via WhatsApp. Strange days, huh…

  2. Right about Cornes in that 1973 GF, one of the most over-rated players ever. However, I digress.

    memory no. 1.1965 GF, Port v Sturt, our last win before the terrible 5 n a row. Catch train from Oaklands station at 3.00am. Join throng outside eastern gate of Adelaide Oval. Coppers tell mob to sit down as some restive folks had started a bit of a fight. Copper wades into throng to find guilty party, About 20 yards behind, one bloke stands up, throws apple core, hits copper right on back of noggin, knocks official hat forward, by time he turns around to find guilty party he has sat down and nobody saw a thing…

    As sun rises, coppers decide to move blue Valiant parked among broken bottles and other debris, rear left tyre deflates right in front of crowd, coppers extract spare, change wheel, move car again, front left tyre goes down…no spare, second car arrives and relief is found.

    Get into ground around 9.05am, head for northern mound just west of scoreboard, watch thirds, seconds, by main game crowd so thick I (as a 12 year old by himself) had to find 2 empty Halls soft drink bottles to push into the sacred grass and stand on in order to be able to see. We win by 3 points, but the writing is on the wall, even though I couldn’t read it.

    There were other wins throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, but none to compare with that.

  3. The first SANFL match I saw was the 1976 grand final. 66,000 at Footy Park and the Jumbo Prince masterclass. At the siren I ran out onto the ground (I had been sitting on the boundary- kids won’t believe it) and patted him on his wide shoulder as he ran a victory lap. It was a great day and I’m most grateful to Dad for insisting I go and not waste the day mucking around with a mate in Kapunda.

    Yours is a magnificent list rich with memories and context.

    Thanks PB.

  4. The ’94 GF is my one and only ‘live’ experience. As a neutral ex-pat south aussie it was an unmemorable game. The most memorable part of the day was the complete silence in the train carriage departing the MCG.

    The ’76 SANFL GF is still great viewing. Davies at his absolute best.

    I see that the 2021 YP grand final was at Yorketown last weekend. The Crows of Curramulka-Minlaton-Stansbury got over Moonta (my home team) by a point after being 2 goals down with 2 minutes to play. At Moonta we also wear the red-blue of Melbourne. We thought our A-grade premiership drought from 1963 to 2005 was long enough.

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