Almanac Footy: The one day in December!

 

I always pictured that on the day when Melbourne Football Club finally broke their premiership drought, I’d be sitting in the MCC Members on a Saturday afternoon, with my other long-suffering Dees mates.  We’d party through until the next day and enjoy the ‘family day’ as everyone gathers with the team to continue the celebration.  Instead I was at home, in lockdown, in front of the TV, wearing tracksuit pants that would definitely not allow me into the reserve, watching a twilight game in Perth.  There was no next-day celebration, just a masked walk to the shops to buy the paper and read all about the night before, on my own.  When the Dees announced there would be a Premiership Celebration, we were excited that we would finally get our family day, our chance to celebrate with those friends and family that we would and should have watched the game with.

 

On arrival at the ground there was plenty of fresh-out-of-the-store premiership merchandise being worn.   The smiling faces around the concourse, all in red and blue, was a sight to see. Is this what it is like to go to an Eagles or Crows game where everyone is in the same colours?  As friends and family arrive, hugs are exchanged as well as stories of watching the game and comparisons of how many times we’d watched the replay.  I’m at a mere three, and it would be four by the end of the day.  A passer-by suggested she’d watched it in full seventeen times and I had no reason not to believe her!  Even though we’ve been out of lockdown for a while, for some this was the first reunion since our last live game, a loss to the Giants in July.  For me, a sneaky 10.30am beer in the Frank Grey was with a mate I hadn’t seen since April, but this time we had a flag to discuss!

 

We took our seats and the on-screen action began.  The theme of the day was set early.  All 35,000 of us had seen this movie before and were going to quote the best lines.   As Salem took the ball and kicked to Petracca 50 metres out, a murmur of cheers grew in the crowd and as Trac sent the ball goalward we were already roaring.  First of many.  When Kozzy puts on pressure we are cheering in anticipation of what happens next as the ball ends up in Spargo’s hands.

 

The second quarter felt like the middle overs of an ODI.  We all knew that this was the quarter where the Dogs took the lead, and there was a hum of chatter around the stadium like at a cricket match, just waiting for the fireworks to come later.  This was the bit where people wandered around the stadium and caught up with friends seated in other bays to say long awaited hellos.  There was, of course, one exception, as there was a loud, united ‘boooo’ when the goal umpire said Max’s set shot was a point.

 

After Russell Robertson entertained us with some (surprisingly good!) cover songs over half time, everyone was in their seat for the start of the third quarter.  The chatter of excitement began soon after Bontempelli kicked a goal to put the Dogs up by 19.  Soon, Harmes would take the ball from Smith and deliver to Fritsch, and the run was on.  The roars were even louder as Brayshaw dived to take a mark, and goal to put the Dees in front.  Plenty of laughter as Daisy corrects BT about strategy – we love our AFLW captain too!

 

Then, ‘that’ minute happens.  Everyone screams “Petracca… PETRACCA!” as he dribbles through a goal.  A huge cheer as a centre burst leads to a Sparrow goal, and then Clarry kicks a memorable one to put us up by four goals.  The roar was so loud we couldn’t hear the now famous “Bang.  Bang, bang, bang!” commentary.

 

The emotions are starting to come out, and when Jones and Jetta are given a special farewell at three quarter time, there’s a standing ovation for two warriors who have stuck with the club through the rough times, like many of the fans in the stands. The last quarter is just a celebration, as a string of Demons goals is met by more cheers and, noticeably, excited laughter and high fives.  As the final siren went, I was starting to well up, and as the song rang out and everyone joined in, tears were rolling down my face – again.

 

By this stage the Demon Army had made their way onto the turf to form a guard of honour.  Nice to see the Ruby Demons flying their rainbow flag on the ground too.  The past players had gathered on the Olympic Stand wing, and the players partners and kids had gathered in front of the Members.  We were about to meet the champions.

 

The players walked onto the ground to a rousing rendition of the theme song.  My eyes were locked on Max Gawn who was looking around at the stands and applauding with a contented grin on his face.  He’d spoken during the week about how much he was looking forward to this and you could see it was genuine.  Club favourite Garry Lyon was the master of ceremonies, pumping up the players and assuring us that Goody wouldn’t be forgotten this time!  Petracca received his Norm Smith Medal from David Neitz and spoke about wanting to do it all again in 2022.  Gaz introduced the players to receive their medals, going off script to pump up the players with special comments, including calling Christian Salem ‘the best Number 3 to every play for the club’!  Things were going well until he ‘did a Basil’ and forgot to call up Bayley Fritsch.  We were much more willing to forgive Gaz for his mistake!  You know how there are political rallies where every new announcement is met by applause from a supporting crowd no matter what is said?  This was a supercharged version of that, and we lapped up every bit of it!

 

When it was time for Goodwin to receive his medal and finally give his speech, it led to one of the most touching moments of the day, as our former coach Neale Daniher came up to present the Jock McHale Medal.  The ovation Neale received was the longest of the day, as he stepped up to the podium on his own, and ignored the chair left for him so he could stand alongside Max Gawn. Then finally Simon had his moment, with an exclamation of ‘You Beauty’ well received by the fans.

 

The way they brought out the cup was special, as it was handed through past players across the generations.  I grew up in the 80’s, and started going to games in the 90’s, so it was great to see players including Greg Healy, Brad Green, the Wiz and the Ox hold up the cup.  Seeing it handed to James McDonald (who left the club in a way which didn’t truly recognise his service) was a touching moment, before being given to Jetta and Jones.  The cup then ends up back in Max’s hands, another rendition of the song follows, and plenty of player interviews would close out the day.

 

Simon Goodwin’s speech spoke about connection.  The way in which past players still felt connected to the club, the way the families were such an important part of their player’s experience, and how the fans were an important part of the structure.  Today was a lot of fun as we relived that day, but it was also a beautiful way to show that connection.  For me, that was reconnecting with my mates and family after a tough year for everyone, where the performances of the blokes in the middle of the field would carry us through rough days.  To be back at the place we love, with the people we love, with the team we love (the team of the red and the blue) was a hopeful day that we had got through the dark days (both as a footy club and as a town).

 

After 57 years, it was finally home.  For us fans, after many months away from our ground, we felt back at home too.

 

 

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About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.

Comments

  1. Enjoyed your piece Joseph.

  2. Just a wall of celebration and joy, I bet you were happy in the company of 35,000 triumphant mates!

  3. Joe that was brilliantly narrated

  4. Pamela Sherpa says

    I am so pleased that Melbourne fans got to celebrate their fantastic victory. . I feel that It was more than a victory for Melbourne fans. It was a victory for football. The connection you spoke about is what really matters to footy fans. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. I loved the great football Melbourne played and was so pleased to see them win.

  5. Daryl Schramm says

    Lovely read. Have not seen the replay and don’t now need to as your contribution took me back to that evening as a neutral supporter. It appears the celebratory event for a neutral would also have been worth attending assuming one could. Looks like the MFC nailed it.

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