The long road travelled….as a Victorian-based West Coast Eagles tragic



My 2019 West Coast Eagles membership card notes that my membership has endured for 27 years so far…..and more than 20 of those have been as a Victorian-based supporter.


When I relocated from Perth to Melbourne in the winter of 1996, some of the first conversations I had with my new work colleagues were of course about football, and when I told them I was a West Coast supporter there were many “well, you’ll have to change to a Victorian team now you live here” responses.  But this was never going to happen as my West Aussie veins will always pulse blue and gold, no matter where I reside.


The first couple of years after leaving Perth, I attended Eagles matches in Melbourne, revelling in games at the iconic MCG, and cursing the long, long drive out to the mud of Waverley Park . (I live in the western suburbs so it was a VERY long drive)  There were games at Princes Park, Victoria Park and one particularly chilly and wet Saturday afternoon on hard wooden benches at The Whitten Oval, but the infrequency of being able to see my team play live made every journey worth it.  I soon came to accept that as an Eagles supporter in Melbourne, I would be in a very tiny minority at each game.


After a change of employment in 2000, the desktop West Coast flag that had come with me from Perth 4 years before connected me to a colleague (who will from now be known as “MF”), also an Eagles supporter, and finally I had someone to go to games with.


On a chilly Saturday afternoon watching Richmond defeat us at the MCG in Round 8, 2002, I casually remarked to MF that perhaps we should go to the last game of the season in Canberra and, to my surprise, she agreed.


We made our first trip to see an Eagles match outside of Melbourne on the road and, after a high scoring match where we surprisingly defeated the Kangaroos, the Monday drive home was most enjoyable.


Our travelling days began in earnest…… in 2003, we saw the Eagles narrowly defeated by the Hawks in one of the early games played in Launceston which, to this day, remains our favourite venue for a footy weekend.  That year we only travelled once, but from then on we have been to almost every away game West Coast have played outside of Melbourne.


At last count, we have travelled to 62 matches, with a win record of 23, plus 1 draw and 38 losses, however we have had some fantastic adventures along the way.


The trips to Tasmania have given us the chance to explore some of the beauty of Hobart, Launceston and the rural areas in between.  It’s also evident when we go to the footy in Tasmania that there is strong local support for AFL and I really hope that it’s not too long before they get their own team in our national competition.


Our trips are usually taken over 3 nights, from Friday to Monday, but sometimes for Sydney or Adelaide games, we’ve just done a day trip.  The most memorable of these would be the Prelim Final of 2006 against Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.  The tipsters were generally against us and, although we had completely demolished the Bulldogs in Perth in the semi-final the week before, I was in no way confident as we entered the ground and took our seats in the front row amongst other nervous Eagles supporters.  At halftime we were about 20 points down and it felt like this could be the end of our season. However, the boys dug deep and we ended up winning the game by 10 points.  We were, like every other Eagles fan, totally euphoric, although the euphoria was tempered with just a little bit of immediate stress as, from the final siren of the Prelim., our return flight to Melbourne was scheduled to depart in just over an hour and we needed a cab to get us back to the airport.  In those days at AAMI Stadium there wasn’t a dedicated taxi rank, so whilst there were plenty of taxis in the vicinity, it was “all man/woman for him/her self” to flag one down.  Thankfully, we made it back to the airport in time and even had a quick celebratory drink in the airside bar, chatting to some equally euphoric Eagles supporters from Perth who had missed their return flight home in order to see out the whole game.  When we left the bar to get our flight, they were still trying to work out how and when they would get home…..I hope they finally made it!!!


Of course the greatest of the times as a Victorian-based Eagle is the chance to attend the Grand Final without the challenges and costs of interstate travel – and we’ve been to 4.


The first was the agonising 4 point defeat by Sydney in 2005 and, despite the fact that our seats were 3 rows from the back in the top deck of the Ponsford Stand, at least we got a seat (and in a few moments you will understand why I make that comment)!!!


In 2006, seated 5 rows from the front on the top deck of the Olympic Stand, I was bear-hugged in celebration by the middle-aged male Eagles supporter (not someone I know) seated next to me who was sporting full face-paint, with blue and yellow tears of joy pouring down his face, when the final siren delivered us a 1 point win against Sydney.


Two grand final appearances in 2 years led to an expectation for 2007 but we didn’t make it, and then there was what seemed like an interminable wait for the next appearance in 2015 against the Hawks.  This time we were the red-hot favourite, according to the so-called “experts”, (I really hate the whole notion of a Grand Final favourite as it is such a different match from any other, due to the hype and pressure) but from almost the first bounce the writing was on the wall, and we were smashed by 49 points.  Although we were demoralised by the match result, we had been extremely lucky in the seat ballot with ground level seating right behind our cheer squad.  The unseasonally warm and sunny September afternoon (I think it got to 32deg that day) did, however, make me wish for the covered seating in the top deck of our previous grand finals.


And then we get to 2018 – sheer joy and elation at the end of this epic match, but (and here, finally is the reason for my 3 previous references to seating) although MF and I were successful in the ticket ballot, this time we only got standing room tickets.  On match day, I arrived at the ground at 11am and found our allocated bay on ground level.  I learned from the attendant who placed the coloured band on my wrist that each bay had a different coloured band and only holders of tickets for my bay would be able to enter it. However there was still more than 3 hours until the start of the match and it was challenging to stay comfortable standing on cold, hard concrete.  By the time the ball was bounced, the bay was full and it definitely was STANDING ROOM only, and even then we could only see a sliver of the ground by peering between the heads of the people in front of us.


The first quarter felt exactly like 2015 – OH NO – and the prospect of another 3 quarters spent standing watching our boys get humbled again was too much for MF so she decided to head home and watch the rest on TV.  I confess that, even as the die-hard fan that I am, I also contemplated leaving – my feet were screaming and the constant back-and-forth of other supporters to get beer and then visit the bathroom was exhausting.  The view from the standing room bay doesn’t include easy access to see a scoreboard or a TV screen so the only way I could keep track of the score or the clock was to constantly check my phone.  In the final minutes of the match, family watching on tv at home kept me updated with the time left.


But something made me stay and, boy, am I so glad that I did!!!!  When Dom Sheed kicked that famous goal with (what I later learned) 2 minutes to go, a good measure of all the discomfort and exhaustion that I was feeling disappeared, at least for a while.  I revelled in the team celebrating on their lap of honour and sang the team song on repeat but managed to do most of this sitting down (FINALLY) in seating closer to the front vacated by dejected Pies supporters.


Our travelling adventures have continued in 2019 – 3 matches down (Brisbane, but let’s not talk about that one; Adelaide, yippee; and Sydney, another one not to dwell on) and I’ve got 1 more to go, as I’m doing a solo trip to Alice Springs in a couple of weeks. It will be my first time at an AFL match in Alice.


Stay tuned for this West Coast fan reporting from the Red Centre…….



Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE



  1. Cathi, a great read about a very dedicated fan! How do you manage to get Monday’s off when you travel well beyond Melbourne? Enjoy that while you can. We’ll all look forward to your report from the Red Centre. And may this be the start of more pieces from you.

  2. Great stuff. East coast travel distances are much shorter/cheaper for those iconic weekenders. We plan our holidays around fortnights over east with Eagles bookends. This year was Geelong (never again) and Saints at Mongrel Stadium (ho hum but at least not dispiriting). The best is yet to come in September. The win in the wet over the Hawks was the first time all season that I have been confident we will be back on the last Saturday. The Eagles tsunami is rolling again. Nic Nait turns a good team into a very good one.

  3. Hi Cathi, I wish the Almanac had you at our service in September 2018. You would have been a must-include writer for The Eagles Almanac. Thanks for this piece. You’ve lived it. Perhaps this September we’ll be knocking on your door. #Eagleslookinggood

Leave a Comment