Grand Final – West Coast v Hawthorn: As good as it gets

Move, move! Get out of my way!


I want to scream.


I need a clear exit but there is nothing. I need to move faster or I am going to have to hear it.


I’m speed walking but trying my best not to pull a Jane Saville and break into a run, I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I zigzag through the crowd trying to move as fast as I can. I need to get as far away as possible.


All I am focusing on is my fear. ‘Move faster, move faster. I won’t hear it, I won’t hear it.’


There are too many bystanders in my way on the concourse, too many kids kicking the footy clogging up my clear getaway.


There it goes.


I’m too slow.


The sound rips through me like razor wire.


The thunderous cheer of thousands of Hawthorn supporters celebrating their third consecutive AFL Premiership. The assaulting roar of the crowd followed by the playing of the monotonous Hawthorn Club song, garbled from outside the stadium but still piercingly clear, makes my stomach turn.


I persevere, I need to get away and I increase my pace to jump on a tram that has just pulled in behind the tennis centre. Salvation! Take me away from this torturous place! I bolt the last few metres and make it as the doors snatch shut behind me. I release a small sigh of relief, the first time I have felt any sort of relief all day.


I find a tiny space in the back of the tram, sit down, zip up my jacket covering my team signed guernsey and plug in my headphones, disengaging from any potential confrontations. I notice some plain-clothed civilians already commenting on the West Coast fans on the tram – they must have left the game early. I am ashamed of myself. At every game I had ever been to I had always stayed until the end.


As the tram pulls away I feel like I have just gotten away with something, like a criminal escaping the scene of the crime.


No one will know I was ever there.


No one will know how much I cared.


I roll my eyes at myself. Of course they will know. I had been bragging around the office all week about how it was the Eagles’ year, how good Priddis was and that Gaff and Naitanui would stand up and be phenomenal. My colleagues saw me almost cry when I was able to secure one of the very limited Grand Final tickets and they knew how excited I was to be there at the MCG on that one very special day.


Monday is going to be hell.




The way to the MCG that morning on the tram was the complete opposite of this attempt to runaway and disappear.


I was always a headphone traveller, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, but this was the one time on public transport I wanted to be completely present. I wanted to be part of the buzz – I had never seen so many Eagles fans in my hometown before. Being an Eagles fan based in Melbourne was always an anomaly for the people I met, they assumed I must be from Perth, but I was a born and raised Victorian. I just chose to follow West Coast when I was a kid and I stuck with them. One of the best decisions of my life I had come to realise – I was now on my way to see them play in a Grand Final! If I had given into my Dad and gone for the Tigers, I would be at home wallowing over another season of missed opportunities.


I listened to the exciting chatter of the groups of Eagles fans around me, I heard how people had travelled across the Nullarbor in a variety of ways, some even flew to Bali to then flew to Melbourne because it was cheaper! “Fucking airlines, holding footy fans hostage”.


They were predicting the Norm Smith winner, Nic Nat, Pridda, and what about young Andrew Gaff for the dark horse. The tram driver, sensing more Eagles on his tram than Hawks, even gave us all a ‘Go Eagles!’ as we disembarked at the ‘G and we went wild. Carn the Eagles! Go West Coast!


As we marched to the stadium, an organic ‘Eeeeeeeeea-glesssssss’ started among the fans, approaching dangerously high decibels. For a second, I forgot who the opposition were. I was surrounded by a sea of blue and gold. I all I could see was West Coast. My Eagles.


I had only managed to secure a standing room ticket but I didn’t care. I was too nervous to sit down anyway. I found a small spot against some railing in the Great Southern Stand, right in the pocket and I settled in as the clock counted down the couple of hours until the bounce.


I chatted with the people around me and we quickly became mates, we were a tribe, identifying each other by the colours we were wearing and sensing we belonged together. We had a few beers to calm the nerves and we tolerated the terrible pre-match entertainment. Complaining in unison, will the AFL ever get it right?!


At least they had Mike Brady singing ‘Up There Cazaly!’ to win the crowd back. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as me and my new found friends belted out every word with our arms around each other. It was just one of those raw, beautiful moments in footy you won’t experience anywhere else. I felt like I was home.


Then it started up again, the deafening chant of ‘Eeeeeeeeea-glesssssss, Eeeeeeeeea-glesssssss’ echoing through the stadium. The banner was raised – ‘UNITED’ printed on it boldly, and that’s exactly how I felt as my team tore through it and the theme song blazed through the speakers. The 50-something bloke to my left wiped a tear away and I tried to hold mine back. I had never felt a part of something this special. I proudly clapped the team on to the Grand Final field until my hands were red raw.


This was as good as my day would get.


It all soon fell apart as the game began and the game was lost too early. The whole week leading up to the game seemed like a lifetime. All the anticipation, the waiting, the nerves and now it was all over in an instant. When Josh Hill’s smartass attempt to kick a goal on the line was smothered by veteran defender Brian Lake half way through the last quarter, I was done.


In the small standing room section I was in, the group around me had been taking it in turns all day to mind each other’s places for bathroom breaks and beer runs.


‘I’ll mind your spot, love?’ The burly bloke next to me nodded at me as I made a move to get out of there.


‘Yeah, thanks mate.’ I muttered not making eye contact.


I knew that he knew I wasn’t coming back and I wanted to cry thinking how disappointed he must have been in me. He must have thought I wasn’t a true fan. I didn’t want to be a true fan anymore anyway – it hurt too much.


I jump off the tram in front of Flinders Street Station to switch to the train that will take me home. I look casually to my left to check if I can J-walk against the light and His Holiness obscures my view.




I whisper his name under my breath. He is in plain clothes, backpack across one shoulder like the cool kids do at school.


I panic. Should I say hello? Can I ask for a photo? Then the light bulb goes off – in my bag is my West Coast scarf that I had packed away upon exiting the ‘G. I have had it since I was a little girl and it has my life long collection of player badges including the man who captained and then coached the West Coast Eagles to their three premierships. John Worsfold. #24.


I can get him to sign his player badge!


I am about to pull it out and approach him with a smile and a Sharpie when a pang of guilt hits me in my gut.


You don’t deserve his signature.


You left.


I hold back. The light changes to green and he walks away with the stride of a super hero. I push down the knowledge that he will be walking into Essendon FC in the next few days, that is too much for me to handle today.


After a long train ride home, I have almost compartmentalised the loss away in the furthest corner of my mind. I want to forget it. I want to pretend it never happened, that I wasn’t so desperate to get a ticket and I never went to the game. I get home and my partner still has the TV on. The post match celebrations are continuing as the camera pans across all the happy Hawthorn faces.


‘Sorry, love’ He gets up off the couch and kisses me on the cheek. ‘Maybe next year?’


I might have to go through all this again next year?!


I can’t wait.





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About Kasey Symons

Kasey Symons a writer and PhD Candidate at Victoria University. Her research is focused on gendered issues in sports cultures (primarily AFL) at a fan level. Kasey is a born and raised Victorian who barracks for the West Coast Eagles and yes, she knows that is weird.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific stuff Kasey. No shame in leaving early when your team left earlier. My first GF was 1980 (Your Dad would remember it fondly) and I left at 3 qtr time as a dejected 10 year old. Fast forward to 2003 and my brother and nephew wanted to leave at 3 qtr time. I wanted to stay and watch the cup lifted despite my Pies being thrashed again. In retrospect I wish I had left as watching the team that just thumped you celebrate with the cup is very overrated.

    I reckon your Eagles will bounce back next year. Surely Nic Nat, Priddis, Kennedy, Darling and Le Cras could not play as badly in another GF? Great report. Cheers.

  2. Grand story, Kasey.
    Love the thought-bubbles.

    Who knows what will happen next? Probably no one. Great that you enjoyed it while it was here.

  3. Paul Buxton says

    Better a West Coast loser than a Richmond anything. Well done.

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