Almanac (Grand Final) Footy – Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: Barracking for the loser




Grand Final. It’s  that time of the year when most ex-footballers of any age, era, competition or sex (I reckon Daisy Pearce knows more about footy than I’ve forgotten) are asked ‘who do you reckon will win?’ We are supposed to know or have an opinion (and if the enquirers don’t get the answer they want, ‘we’ get told we wouldn’t know anything!). Unless one of the teams we follow is playing, probably most of us either don’t know, don’t care or both. Spin the coin or tell them to get the answer from Daisy, Tim, Brian and Co. At least they are paid to know.


Now here’s the rub for me. The ‘don’t care’ factor should still kick in as neither Geelong nor Richmond is playing. The reality is I quite like both teams. I suspect many others feel the same. I might be getting soft but I don’t want either side to lose. How pathetic is that? It needs some explaining.


The difference between winning and losing a Grand Final has consequences for the rest of the players’ lives. I’ve been lucky enough to play in two of them, the first in 1967 when my  Geelong Cats were beaten by the Tigers (Richmond) in a game for the ages. With the lead changing hands numerous times in the last quarter, the Tigers triumphed by 9 points. As a 20 year old I was gutted, but like all of us in our youth we feel our time will come again.The misery out on the ground after the game and down the highway to the Geelong Town Hall that night was lessened slightly by the fatalistic hope of my youth. It was not something that unburdened the older members of the team. They knew how hard Flags are to win. A cliche but absolutely on the button, as I eventually discovered.


It took exactly another seven years before I changed Clubs to Richmond and, playing alongside many of my opponents from ‘67, I got to run around the MCG holding the Cup and sharing the triumph with a group of blokes who have become mates for life. I love my Geelong mates but there’s an extra depth when you win.


So Melbourne or the Bulldogs this week? There’s a rationale behind supporting the Demons this week as their last Flag was in 1964, the year before my career began. But I don’t get very sentimental about that as it seemed like they were winning every year through my formative days. They had their share so to speak, in the same way Hawthorn has in every decade since. Share it around a bit I say, although I acknowledge the majority of fans are probably younger than me and feel a bit sorry for the Dees. Not me.


I can also mount a case against the Bullies but the aforementioned may not have heard of Ted Whitten. Who, some might say? Back when I played, Whitten was in a battle with Ron Barassi for the unofficial title of Mr Football. They were superstars. It was my misfortune to play on Whitten a number of times in my early years and to be honest, I was scared witless! Gruff, tough and the epitome of somebody coming from the other side of town. I was a kid from Geelong. The Geelong College! He was Footscray. His pre-game handshake was honed to perfection as was every part of his game. He fed on kids like me. He gouged fingers and crunched bones as he wished you well. I can’t see it happening today but it always made me wary of a Bulldog. Man or animal.


The players today seem a lot, um, nicer! Haircuts aside, most of them seem to be the sort of bloke you’d be happy to see your daughter go out with. That big tall blond ruckman/forward for the Dogs, Tim English, is unfairly handsome; ex-Captain Easton Wood, I’m told, is a quietly spoken gentleman. And the Demons? You couldn’t dislike Max Gawn! Women just want to wrap him in their arms. Kysaiah Pickett brings an Indigenous family history to the game with his boyish polish.


Of course we want to celebrate having two local teams in the Grand Final again after another year from hell. It’s been State versus State this Covid year and whoever wins is representative of us all. We’ve won the lockdown Premiership, we might as well win the real Flag. To do it in Perth is another bonus! (My friend Tim Lane reckons Melbourne might lay off ’til next year and play it in front of their adoring fans at the ‘G. I suspect not.)


Two female Presidents as well. I still have split my loyalties. It’s a game for true romantics. In which case, I have to barrack for the loser. But as Gene Pitney sang in 1962, ‘..true love never runs smooth..’ and I suspect the case will happen again this week. Pitneys’s track was ‘Only Love Can Break a Heart.’ Sadly at the final siren there will be many broken hearts. Maybe a little part of mine.


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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About Gareth Andrews

GA continues his life-long passion for sport and the sporting life. His head survived a football career with Geelong and Richmond and has enabled him to follow other pursuits, including his love of cricket and his regular journeys to wherever sport is played. His journeys of the mind are equally important to him and his Blogs can be read on He has enjoyed the past 15 years as Vice-President of the Mighty Cats and is hungry for one more Flag.


  1. Grand reminiscence and reflection. I respect and admire the Melbourne team. Particularly Gawn and Oliver. I like unlikely heroes. But I have a bigger man crush on Luke Beveridge. The Alchemist. Constantly moulding base metal into gold. And Aaron Naughton.
    Bulldogs get my support. Just. That should kill off their chances.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    You know how to put the moz on my Dogs by picking them Peter.
    Love your description of Bevo as The Alchemist. Certainly there as some base-metal players that have become golden, but I think a lot of credit should go to Luke’s assistants in the lab. Stephen Power’s recruiting and his predecessors have picked the right players in the draft and like Hawthorn, picked experienced players to fill the gaps eg Keath and Bruce.
    Hoping like hell tomorrow Bevo will have the Midus touch.

  3. Chris Bracher says

    Good work Gareth. I am so envious of your experience on the inside of the arena. Alas, both my triumphs and “what could have been” moments are all from the other side of the pickets.

    Can revenge be delivered by a third party? My rational being says no, yet my emotional self seeks grand final disappointment for the mob that caused me such heartache in 2016. An adolescent response that swirls within a marinade of bitterness, but sitting unmoved within my being nevertheless. Apologies Dogs fans.
    I will welcome a future year of cleansing success that purges my vendetta. (I no longer view West Coast -2006 – with deep-seated disdain!).

    In a sense the 2021 Dogs have become the 2016 Swans. Meagre rewards within the context of a century of participation yet somehow deemed less deserving than their opponents. The timeframe reference of younger fans disregards the sparseness of silverware in the club cabinet and focusses on the time that had elapsed since last they triumphed.

    So with the luxury of jumping upon the romantic bandwagon of the unaligned, I will be hoping that the Norm Smith curse is broken.

  4. Gareth if the Grand Final this year was the game for true romantics, how did you rate your two teams competing in the 2020 Grand Final? As you mentioned you played in the 1967 Grand Final, then enjoyed the pleasures of the 1974 Premiership: experiences very few of the Almanac community have ever felt.

    Yes it would have been great that 1974 Premiership though your experience of playing in finals in each of your first five seasons is pretty special. I’m not sure if the 1969 First Semi Final is one of your favourite memories. Anyhow being in the finals in five of your eight and a bit seasons at Kardinia Park is a damn fine record, with of course you and Geoff Ainsworth trekking overseas in 1971 giving you a season of respite.

    Anyhow the 2021 Grand Final has now been played and decided, with Melbourne winning their first premiership since a time before you made your Geelong debut. As I no longer see you & Emma training @ Goodlife I’m happy to look forward to you Almanac postings.


  5. Gareth Andrews says

    To both Chris and Glen thx for your responses. My old mate Chris must have been on drugs when he wrote his piece. I’ve got no idea what he was saying.

    And Glen thanks for taking me down my memory lane. And I still train with Emma but in Fitzroy Gardens. What a perfect place.

    Take care

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