Round 23 – Melbourne v GWS: One for the true believers

You might think I’m making this up, but Sunday’s Melbourne v Greater Western Sydney game was one of my favourite days out at the footy.  I’ve been to Queen’s Birthday, ANZAC Day, finals and Grand Finals (not involving the Dees unfortunately), but there was something special about Sunday, even at a near empty ground against a 3-year-old franchise team.

No, I’m not kidding.  And yes, I can hear you asking “why?” from here…

After Dees fans had been accused of being ‘negative’ over the previous week, in the lead up to the game against GWS the media joined the negativity, spouting nothing but reasons not to go to the game.  3AW asked if the stadium should be opened up for free. It’s not being played at the Demons home ground, in fact it was at a ground at which Melbourne had lost 22 games in a row. We were up against a side that had won 5 more games than us over the season.  Lots of people spoke of Father’s Day plans meaning they wouldn’t attend. Work colleagues said things like ‘You couldn’t pay me enough to go to that game’.

The effect of all of this was that the people who made the effort to attend Etihad Stadium were the Demon die-hards, the true believers. The crowd was a record low for the stadium – 8974 – but it was arguably the most passionate fans of them all, which created a unique atmosphere that I simply loved being a part of.

Now, when neither team managed to score in the first eight minutes (including two missed set shots by the Dees), then the Giants managed the first two goals – it seemed Roosy’s now famed veil of negativity was descending over the stadium. Was this another one of the Demons’ terrible first quarters? But after a couple of quick goals, next thing you know, Hogan had given the Dees the lead. The crowd was excited and hoped this would be our day.

A competitive opening half meant the atmosphere in the stadium was upbeat.  But it all took off in the 3rd quarter as the Dees lead grew by over four goals. A Tigers fan wrote on this site about a year ago that the Dees fans lacked passion. I wish she’d been there on Sunday to hear them create an atmosphere far exceeding the crowd number. A friend watching on TV said the noise created on TV sounded like a full stadium. Whether that’s a TV effect or not, I don’t know, but it made me happy. The people around us – older couples, young families, groups of blokes like my mates and I – were filled with excitement, as players who have had difficult times like Grimes slotted goals from angles, and youngsters like Harmes and 1st gamer White stepped up. With each Hogan mark, Newton goal or Viney tackle there was huge applause.  Howe took a trademark speckie in his 100th game. Each Daniel Cross possession was met with cheers, acknowledging his 249th and final game. When a 50-50 decision went to GWS the crowd would howl at the umpires. When a player tried to rough up Jones, the red and blue faithful screamed their disgust, in defence of their loyal captain. They were right behind their boys today. When Hogan kicked a goal on the three-quarter time siren the place (well, level 1 at least) was rocking.  At the start of the fourth quarter a quick Giants goal caused some nerves but then McCarthy missed from directly in front – and the supposedly genteel and conservative Dees fans jeered the miss.  Kennedy-Harris immediately goaled at the other end – restoring the mood!

It seemed the party would be cut short in the last quarter. Cross threw himself back into a pack, came down onto his head and didn’t move. Silence descended as we waited for the doctors to attend to the stricken former Bulldog. As he was wheeled off on the stretcher, the crowd stood and chanted for ‘Crossy’. Daniel waved to the crowd on the stretcher to let them know he was ok, setting off a huge cheer.  When the match re-started, the crowd aggressively cried for blood, in honour of their exiting hero.  The cheers were matched about ten minutes later by a joyous roar when Cross returned to the oval to walk back to the bench, recovered sufficiently from the head knock to at least watch the remainder of the game, which all went in Melbourne’s favour. Not even an accident of that nature could hold back the Dees today.

It was such a positive way to end the year. We don’t often get to leave the stadium so happy, and particularly not after the last game of the year.  In recent seasons we’ve gone into the off-season just ‘hoping’ things would improve. This year we seem to have genuine hope – it’s amazing what a win in the last round can do for morale.

The veil of negativity is off.  See you in 2016, Demons.

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About Joseph Ryan

Lawyer, amateur sportsman, and full-time sports-watcher. Follows Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Storm and is trying to be better at golf.


  1. Uplifting commentary Joseph. I was in Albury for the weekend with no Foxtel access, so watched it in replay. The crowd noise was amazing and commented upon frequently by the TV commentators!

    A joy to watch Jesse and Angus show a glimpse of the future. Hopefully you’ll get to see the Mighty Dees in a GF soon

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