Grand Final 2001 – Essendon v Brisbane: What it means

Essendon v Brisbane
2.30pm, Saturday, 29 September 2001
Trevor Blainey


What It Means


It’s Grand Final day, 2001, 18 days after 9/11.  My Bombers are taking on the Lions.  Won’t be going though, didn’t chase tickets, should have.  Didn’t go last year either, scrounged a ticket, gave it to my 13YO son who went with another family.


It’s a bright, clear day, the proverbial good day for footy.  In the garden listening to the radio and there’s an announcement – the MCC are releasing tickets for sale to Members at the very, very last minute.  Hmmm, got the chores ahead, the cans in the fridge, the pies, lawn won’t mow itself.  But still …  get on the phone, two seats at the top of the Western, me and the boy, well why not?


But it’s really late, 1.00pm by now, quick shower, march up to the tram stop, kitted out, scarves, badges, a coat for later, pray that the 48 is on time and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  No Tram Tracker in ’01, just a view to the Harp up on the hill from whence the 48 will hurtle.  Or trudge more likely.  Nothing in sight on that far horizon.  I’ve wasted the loot, we’re cutting it too fine.  We’re abject, two Bombers, impatient, tense, a long way from Jolimont.


The lights at the crossing turn red, an ancient Volvo wagon pulls up.  I see him, he sees me.  Spots the scarves, a sympathetic shrug.  Green, the Volvo in first, slowly moves past and stops.  Reverses, back to us.  I’m going past the MCG, do you want a lift?


It’s now 1.30pm, any port etc etc, why not, thanks.  Me in the front, the boy in the back, plonked down next to a familiar scarf on the seat.  Hmmm.  Again.  We’re off at a plod as the old car slowly finds a higher gear as it  points to the ‘G along the tram route.  The driver is what you’d expect as the owner of an old Volvo.  Older than me by 20, ex-country GP maybe, thin, rumpled, daggy cords, old school gents clobber.  Quietly spoken, manners.


A conversation starts, about the game.  I speak more than he does at first.  Keen Bombers, late decision to go, we’re hopeful but nervous, it’ll be a good day we think.


Then his story, told when in the shadows of the ground.   He barracked for Fitzroy.  So did his father.  And his father.  Went to all he could get to in 1996 but that included the last one at Fremantle.  Never since.  Heartbroken.  Dismayed.  Not angry, but sad.  A shrug again.  No blame, no kick for the AFL, just the way of things.  Doesn’t barrack for Brisbane, his team was Fitzroy.


But.  He was at home.  Listening to the radio, to the build-up.  Hears the tune, in the background, the battle cry of the resistance no less.  A grand hymn if ever there was one. He’s an MCC Full Member so he can get in.  Considers, relents.  Backs the Volvo out of the drive way, turns towards the city, sees a father and a son in the enemy regalia.  Stops.  “Need a lift?”


We’re dropped near the Hilton as he heads off in search of a spot for the wagon.  As he leaves I spot the scarf in the back seat.  Fitzroy, in the old colours.


We sit quite literally in the gods, second last row in the Western.  A bar adjacent, pies nearby, ancient dunnies, sun, view, perfect.  The game is a blur, we’re game, lead late in the third and then succumb.  The young Lions get their tails up and can’t be stopped – Voss, Aker, Black, Brown as a boy, Hart wins the Norm for the blanket on Hird who despite that, is brave.  Lucas and Lloyd really good, but a few tired and out of sorts at the finish.  26 points in the end, beaten not disgraced.


So me and him.  Disappointed.  I’d wanted the fairytale.  The fortune of the lately gotten tickets, watch with the son, I’d seen it in ’93 when he was too young, he in 2000 when extra tickets couldn’t be found.


We watched the presentations and left to the strains of La Marseillaise.  I think often in Grand Final week about the Volvo driver.  We didn’t exchange names; no need.  But we shared something.  I reckon he had a good day.  In a curious way, so did I.


Go Roys, make a noise.


Grand Final
Saturday, 29 September 2:30pm Essendon def. by Brisbane Lions MCG (Crowd: 91,482)
3.2 (20)

8.6 (54)

9.8 (62)

12.10 (82)





3.7 (25)

5.10 (40)

11.12 (78)

15.18 (108)

Umpires: James, McLaren, Ellis

Norm Smith Medal: Shaun Hart (Brisbane Lions)

Television broadcast: Seven Network

National anthem: Julie Anthony

Lloyd 5, Lucas 4, Caracella, Johnson, Moorcroft Goals Power 3, Akermanis 2, Brown 2, Lappin 2, Lynch 2, Ashcroft, Notting, Pike, Voss
Lloyd, Lucas, J. Johnson Best Hart, Johnson, Voss, Lappin, Power
Nil Injuries Nil
Nil Reports Nil



  1. The kindness of football strangers never ceases to amaze me, and how the shared experience can lift us, beautifully chronicled Trev.

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