Grand Final – Sydney v Western Bulldogs: Dubai Dogs

Dubai Dogs
Sydney Vs Western Bulldogs
2:35pm, 1st October, 2016
Caspar McLeod

The green grass became drenched in the tricoloure of red, white and blue, the drought was over.  We had just witnessed the end of the dreaded number of 62.

It’s a beautiful sight and who on earth had predicted at the end of 2014 that two years later the Dogs would be celebrating?

I don’t think even the footy gods knew.

I had high hopes heading into this decider, mainly that it wouldn’t turn into another boring grand final after the terribly one sided 2014 and 2015 grand finals.  So thank you Hawthorn; by not being there we had a great Grand Final.

First off, that had to be said. Secondly, however, a week after the game has finished and with trade speculation kicking up, I sit with the horrible realization that maybe the current Sydney team can’t win the big one; kind of like Geelong between 1989 and 1995. I shudder at such a thought.

The heat was in full swing on this fine Dubai morning. Six AM, two and a half hours before game time. I ensured the dog was walked so she could watch the footy in peace at home. We, on the other hand, had somewhere to be. The drive was long, the route was new, and, somehow, mistakes were not made (unlike the Swans, but I will soon be discussing that).

We arrived just before most of the crowd arrived. The usual mix of Collingwood colours, Sydney scarfs, Essendon socks, and West Coast hats, along side the likes of Freemantle hoodies (just joking, it’s suicidal to wear a hoodie in this heat) and Bulldogs signed footballs, mixed in almost comically well with the confused looks on the faces of the hotel staff, most of whom I’m guessing have never watched AFL before. What an introduction.

At our table, the mostly Swans table (I wish), sat an American family, friends of a Collingwood/Melbourne couple. When asked whom they would go for, they said, almost with 100% surety, Bulldogs.

Red White And Blue.

Of Course.

In the food serving area, a large replica of the MCG pitch was made with cupcakes dressed in images of the team logos as they scattered both forward lines. Very clever. And it was yummy, too. Considering the very limited food items we usually have at the Atlantis waterpark every year, this was pretty damn fabulous.

Sitting in my Essendon jumper covered in my Swans scarf, it became apparent that if Sydney won, judging by the mostly blue colour of the MCG crowd behind Vance Joy, we would become the most hated team in the AFL. Well, almost.  There is still Collingwood, Carlton, North Melbourne… did I mention Hawthorn?

On to the game.

It was played like a Grand Final should. The hard fought spirit of 2009, 2006, 2005, 2004, 1993, 1989, and all grand finals like those were channeled into the game. Buddy got injured early, Jack was cleaned up by Wood, and goals were hard to come by.

The Americans were impressed by the hard tackles, bumps, injuries, and how large Buddy was in size. “That’s a big player,” was mentioned, oh, I don’t know, maybe ten times by the end of the first term.

They weren’t wrong, but more important was how much of a big quarter it was for the Bulldogs.  All week commentators mentioned how much of the fast break the Swans might get, considering the Geelong and Adelaide matches.  Dad was worried that Sydney might blow them out of the water, and it would be over the half time. He wanted a close Swans win… well, Dad got his wish… kind of.

The Bulldogs extended their lead through brutal force, with a blue tidal wave resulting 16-point lead early in the second term, and I was getting bad memories of 2014.  Luckily however, one man by the name of (should be) captain Kennedy steered the ship for Sydney, and with a couple of inspirational goals, had us up by two missed-kicks at the long interval.

Half-time signaled the start of the in-door auskick session. The kids, dressed in their favourite colours, were eager to begin the season as early as possible, and a game of kick to kick ensured. By the end of it, we were happy to see no injuries on the marble floor, and no broken chandelier shards either.

The third quarter starts with the Dog tsunami still rising. I got up to leave the table after the first handful of points… my heart simply couldn’t stand the frequently changing momentum, and my stomach was hungry for some more bacon (living in Dubai, bacon is kind of a luxury for lover’s of swine like me). Sat back down in time to see Kennedy kick a goal (god, he is a genius!) followed by goal to the Dogs and even more behinds.

By the time the third term finishes, the hotel staff looked exhausted just by watching our table filled with die hard swans and new bulldogs being pulled and pushed by the excitement of this game. On the way to the bathroom for the final break, I ran into a friend from school. New to Dubai, he said he was enjoying the grand final, although not quite so much for the math test on that Tuesday. He’s an Eagles fan… I do feel for him, watching the team that destroyed his, take on and lead a team that only a decade ago danced a deadly dance with his boys from Perth in two of the greatest grand finals ever.

I got back to the start of the last term a little late (damn toilet lines, why do you have to be so long?) to find Hannerbery limping from the field (who knew the sliding rule didn’t apply to grand finals? I sure didn’t). He did return (bravest player in the AFL, hands down), but that changed the momentum of the game.

The Dogs goaled.

Buddy stepped up to bring it back to a point (cometh the moment, cometh the CHAMPION), followed by a Dogs goal, followed by another Swans major. Ten minutes to go, a point in it. Deep in the Dogs half, a series of amazing smothers eventually led to an amazing goal kicked by none other then the bloody Package.

Picken then kicks an inspirational goal, and it’s the dogs out by more then 10 points. SHIT.

The ball spills to Buddy in the red and white defensive half (he could have had a shot, realistically), but just before he kicked it, Moris brought down the Bondi billionaire, ball spilled to the Footscray millionaire, who kicked a Buddy-like goal from 70 metres out to close the game.

As if they wasn’t enough, Picken, who missed out on three grand finals in a row from 2008-2010, kicked the sealer. The siren sounded as McLean missed a set shot, which was, annoyingly enough, their first missed set-shot all afternoon. The Dog’s players embraced, past players in the stands embrace total strangers, but it’s all in good spirit, the spirit of the red, white, and blue.

Not going to lie, it was hard to see Kennedy’s flow of emotions after a “harder to swallow loss than 2014” as he described to a journalist after the game. ‘Sons of the ‘Scray’ was blasted from all corners of the MCG, the green grass became drenched in the tricoloure of red white and blue, the drought was over, we had just witnessed the end of the dreaded number of 62. Oh, and Bob did get his medal after all. Bevo, you bloody legend.

A week later, and the trade speculation is in full swing. Vickery looks set to head to Hawthorn, Harlett to maybe Essendon, and Barlow could become a Sun, but in the mad October rush that happens every year, my head thinks back to that wonderful and history changing Saturday. I will never forget where I was that day, watching the Dogs win along side my fellow Dubai pack mates, and, honestly, I don’t think anyone would mind if the Dogs win three in a row and become, as Bevo stated, an empire. I don’t think anyone would mind one bit. Well, maybe St Kilda, but besides that, no one, one bit at all.

Bring on 2017.

About Caspar McLeod

Third Culture Kid at Heart. Grew up in Asia, discovered footy at age 9. AFL has since been my burning passion. Ask me who were the winners all the grand finals between 1938 and last year's decider, and I'll be happy to tell you. I'm a footy nut with a passion for writing and acting. All though I love writing and acting, during the footy season, AFL is my true passion. Waiting ever so patiently for the day when Essendon Next win the flag.

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