Grand Finals Pt.3: So This Is Christmas…

It’s 11 am, Saturday morning, the Coodabeens are on the radio. I’ve just got back from cutting a load of wood, and am bouncing off home, getting ready, up here, on the mountain, for the AFL Grand Final, as millions do.

Last night I went around to Roland’s pile of corrugated tin he calls a home. That is a home, housing the best loose-unit of a man I know. There was a strong, cold wind ripping through his valley, leaving no mist, no fog, no haze or clouds. Just the dark shadow of cows and billions of brilliant, sharp stars.

A handful of us took to his shed, relocating the nests, spray-painting over the bird-shit on the far wall, duct taping the countless punch holes in the fibro walls. Me, Margin and Boogi brought the wooden pallets in, one after the other, while the Forestry Ranger attached the projector to the part of the roof where the panels are gone. Trouble, as she’s known, put her i-pod on the sound system, as we used the pallets to make a four level grandstand with every odd couch bit and seat we could find.

We readied for Christmas, like uncles and aunties, so tomorrow morning the kids might think it just appeared in the front room of their house, all on its own.


One by one, the year of all other clubs, and all other leagues, throughout the land, big and small, have popped and fizzed and died out, in regret, content, and, for the lucky few, glory, like lights in the house, before we all see the tree.

The one tree, covered in so much decoration, and hype it’s top heavy with the shit, but so what? Under it is the present. Our Christmas. The AFL Grand Final.

Like Christmas, it means so many different things to so many people. Some love the decoration, the event. Some are obsessed with the present. Some just want it to be a good ol’ time. Some are just there to belong, to share in this thing. To have a home.

And the siren goes and the present is handed out, and most of us grin and cheer from ear-to-ear, and sing Christmas songs. The Anthem, the clubs songs, Up There Cazaly, even Bat out of Hell.

And we hoe in!


And we roar.


And are rapped, or glorious, or heartbroken, or in love. But rarely bored. We feel, and share that feeling, and are rewarded for our faith in a red, pig-skin ball.

We celebrate us and ours.


Christmas means so much to so many.

My great mate Garath is watching it at home, with his wife and baby. The Uni students in town are drinking, drinking, drinking, because of it and its excuse, hanging, champing, above all else, for the half time kick, when they can bash and crash into each other and take the living piss, because they’re invincible and young.

The Otway logging crews, lead by Rocket and Grunter, will have hired out the footy club rooms, to be a community, a family for a day.

They say you can’t choose your family. But with this Christmas, maybe, your family chooses you. You are what you are, and this leads to friends who help define you.

Who you watch the Grand Final with says, I reckon, so much about your place in the world.


Not everyone is of your faith. Some don’t give a damn, breezing through the day, it’s empty streets and half-time vomit of footy kicking clans, like any other day. Some watch, just to know what their neighbour knows.

Some who are of your faith, find themselves stuck in other lands, Canada, the Middle East, listening to Christmas on pod casts and radio, hunched over laptops, or getting expensive, distant, blurted phone calls at each quarter’s end.

Jealous of us all, missing home. If only for a day.


Good luck to them, God bless, Budda bless, Allah bless, or, for the Agnostics, good stuff! Believers, and non-believers, alike.


Soon, I’ll be at Roland’s. In a paddock with a rusty sort of house in it, utes, dogs everywhere. Under a cold, blowy, blue sky that’s carrying heavy white clouds, that look like they want to fight, to rain, but don’t quite have the nerve.

There will be a barbeque, there will be beer.

Right now I’m that excited. We all should be. Waiting for dawn, for two more hours, when I can run to the front of the house, to the room with the tree in it, as the aunties and uncles slip out unnoticed and re-join the back of our wide-eyed crowd.


Right now we are all the men and women of Aussie Rules football.


Right now, we are all the child.



  1. Matt Zurbo says

    For Gus.

  2. Haha Thats exactly what a Grand final is and the Uni student were drinking awaiting the half time heros Clash!!!

  3. the roar after the anthem – that is the moment mate…

    then the turning point of the game – where one player is out numbered, against the odds on a wing or flank… somehow breaks the game and there is no turning back… love those moments…

  4. Matt Zurbo says

    #22. Yeah, sometimes those moments are so small you barely see them. A fingertip, a spoil, a lunge. Other times they shine so bright the world sees.

    AFL GFs have had some beauties.
    Jezza’s mark. Shaw’s spoil. Scarlet’s toe poke. Chick’s tackle. Some in the first minutes, some in the death-throws. Some negative. Brown’s second quarter miss from dead in front against Port lead to a two goal turn around and total momentum shift. Dean Wallis crushing Mil Hanna, Kelly’s kick falling one inch short of Lockett. Some, like Harms’ knock-in, are pure gold.

    90.000 people going ‘oooooooohhh’ when there’s a hard hit is pretty cool, too.

  5. Great metaphor Matt. Like Christmas a Grand Final is a great day and a great occasion to celebrate the awe and wonder of being a big kid again – so long as you have someone to share it with. How good the game is and the result are just the fairy on the top of the tree. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Matt Zurbo says

    Totally agree.Thanks, Peter.

  7. “Who you watch the Grand Final with says, I reckon, so much about your place in the world.”

    Very good quote. Totally True.

    This year there was about 8 of us at a bbq, we could hear next door had a GF party on too. So over the fence at the half time siren, “your mob against ours, now!” on the street for halftime heroes. It was funny to watch blokes who had retired 10 years ago going up in a pack like it was the last min of the last qrt and down by 1 point. Everyone was just too pumped up.

  8. Which one is u Turbo?

    The skull, the schnauzer, or the snoozer.

  9. Matt Zurbo says

    Good stuff, Bonnet. How did you fair?

    Phantom, Haha! None. Like those hills? Almost Labrina-like.

  10. Brought a tear to my eye.

    The Abu Dhabi version of the GF was organised by Aussies Abroad and in particular the great Haje Halabi. A fine mornig was had by all.

    Have now been guilted into writing a report. I was hoping Haje would have done it already…

    It’s writing like this that more than anything reinforces the already certain belief that this is our last year overseas. Many thanks Matt!

  11. Malby Dangles says

    Top work Matty. The day is a celebration really even if you are still cut that your team isn’t playing and could of made it to the big show with a little luck. Can’t agree with you more on your description esp. the drunken half time kick! I was watching at home with my boy and we had a little kick after the game which was nice

  12. Your writing is amazing :)

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