Grand Final 2016: Protocols of the vanquished

When is the right time to leave the `G after grand final defeat?

If leaving prior to its ceremonial completion is inherently disrespectful to the winners, is there an emotional counter-weight within the hearts of the victorious fan,that forgives and understands the need for the vanquished to depart the scene?

Despite a mental pre-commitment to sit through my Swans pain and witness the Dogs trophy held aloft should they triumph, I made it until the presentations began when the pleas of my son and wife to end the torment and leave became overwhelming. A coming of age in regard to their emotional investment in the red and white but I confess to carrying a smidgeon of guilt that I didn’t stick fat with my red and white warriors until they left the arena.

So we missed the Beveridge/Murph moment and I’m a little disappointed by that, but for the overly-invested the pain of seeing the cup held aloft by any others is just too great to bear. Couldn’t do it in 2006, 2014 and now 2016. That moment belongs to the victors. Masquerading as being delighted for them is for me just that…masquerading. Recognizing the significance of their breakthrough is something completely different to enjoying it.

We stayed in town grand final night, bunkered down in a hotel room that we hoped would be the crash-pad after we celebrated late into the South Melbourne night. I ventured out later; curious as to what was going on. To wear the red and white or not? My heart tugged at me to do so but at that time, anonymity is the safe route emotionally. Unsure how I might react if taunted. I’m as proud as a man can be of my team but every side-wards glance when adorned in post-grand final loss colours carries one of two connotations (in my mind at least): pity or gloating.

As I crept around the city for that late night peek I spied Swans fans laughing and dancing in pubs; dots of red and white amongst the Dogs throng. Now I’m all for letting go and drowning sorrows certainly has its place, but when the wound is still raw and open I don’t know how a true believer can do that? In 2014 I headed to Clarendon St and its emptiness just broke my heart. Bunkered down out of view is now my preferred option.

On Sunday morning we headed home early, in the absence of a fan-event for the beaten Bloods in either Melbourne or Sydney. I understand the rationale but there is a view that my club (that does most things with class and poise) may have pulled the wrong rein. The morning after can feel funereal but it seems cathartic for fans and players alike. A bookend to a season and a chance to re-affirm community solidarity.

I sought and found solace in an older Swans fan on that morning train back to Belgrave. A mutual opportunity to express, un-challenged.  As the train rattled further east, the symbolic reminders of our disappointment diminished. Once beyond Ringwood, genuine Dogs fans are thin on the ground. The cap was back on my head shortly thereafter and for the balance of the day. A final public showing of my 2016 red and white heart, back in familiar, safe country.

This bloody roller-coaster of grand final emotions torments and delights. The torment quotient has been hideously over-represented in recent years. Three losses since 2006. We have become Malcolm Blight’s Geelong! Two wonderful pennants to ease the pain but that’s the sum total from the last 83 years; the same as the Bulldogs and only one more than the Saints. However, resilience is a trait honed over decades of under-performance. We share the resilience of the Dogs brethren and our time to own this city on a grand final night and to paint it red and white, will come again. I’m so sick of writing with an ache in my heart.

About chris bracher

Known to stare longingly down Clarendon St still wondering how his red and white heroes ever left him, Chris Bracher's pining for his relocated team has been somewhat appeased by recent Bloods glory....but the pain never truly goes away!


  1. What becomes of the Broken-hearted?
    We stayed to the bitter end in 2005 and then went to the desultory function at the Tennis Centre post match. The players looked like they would rather be cleaning porta-loos in the park. Tough for interstate teams and fans in particular. We want to honour the bravery warriors, but they would rather be left to their grief.
    Based on 2015 I can recommend a pre-dawn game watched from a Mediterranean balcony followed by a post match swim and hearty lunch to lift the spirits. What game?

  2. Chris bracher says

    I hear you Peter! Bring on that azure water.

  3. Chris while I well and truly understand the leaving part I can not understand and venomously disagree re no after match function any one can support a winner it is the true fans who support the loser these functions are a vital part of team bonding ok as a crows supporter I haven’t had a losing gf at afl level as a Norwooc supporter in the SANFL no way would I not go back to the club and commiserate with the players after the loss

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