A Day At The AFL Grand Final
Toyota AFL Grand Final Day - always pencilled in the diary months beforehand and the understanding is that nothing is allowed to clash with watching the game. Even a mate's wedding is not a certainty - who gets married on grand final day? I went to a wedding on grand final day once - only to leave the reception early to watch my team win the flag. Priorities.
This is the pinnacle of a long hard season. Reputations are on the line. City rivalry is on the line. Can the upstarts from Sydney upset the warm favourites Hawthorn? The pundits think Hawthorn was down on form the wekk before against an impressive Adelaide Crows, but I think The Crows played exceptionally well and the Hawks will be given a run for their money.
I'd also travelled to Adelaide to see the Swans demolish a shocked Adelaide earlier in the finals. At the time I marvelled at the Sydney brand of football to keep the game tight and congested then spread like buggery on the rebound. For most of the game there was a concentration of players in one area with paddocks of space everywhere.
I had also been at the MCG to witness Hawthorn get over the resurgent Crows. Hawthorn have several match winners but their accuracy kicking for goal had deseted them. Would this be a repeat?
I start the day by visiting Hawthorn territory - brunch in Camberwell. Well, close enough to Hawthorn territory. A visit to Coffeehead and there is a feeling of anticipation. Along with Hawthorn supporters there is a sole Swans supporter in the cafe. I fear for his life. brazen in his Swans guernsey.
My brunch of Spaghetti Bolognese at Coffeehead was superb - a great bowl of carbs pre-game ready for the grand final.
Threats of rain. We're told it will hail and bucket down rain. I don't even know if my seat is undercover. It's tough watching footy in driving rain, especially when you're exposed to it. Nothing worse than braving the elements only for your team to lose. At this stage the rain hasn't eventuated.
Part of the grand final build up is to travel on the train with the supporters. Standing on the platform at Camberwell was a myriad of Hathorn and a small contingent of Sydney supporters. The atmosphere is festive. Everyone has their team scarves and beanies and other supporter ware donned.
We board a packed train and you can tell the Hawthorn supporters are confident. They're expecting glory as of the days of Brereton and Dipper and Dunstall. And the glory of the recent flag under Alistair Clarkson. This was a train to victory.
The stations of Glenferrie and Hawthorn were nearby and more and more Hawks supporters joined the throng. By the time we disembarked at Richmond there was a battalion of confident Richmond supporters marching to the MCG.
Desperate supporters hawking for a ticket lined the path to the G. I didn't care how much they would pay - I knew this was going to be an epic grand final not to be missed. Besides I had a ticket from the AFL.
Quickly I discovered I had the perfect seat on the second tier near the front between wing and half forward flank. The rain started to fall but I was gladly one row back from the rain undercover. One row can make a big difference.
Tim Rogers, the You Am I frontman was a sensation as early entertainment. He gave the crowd what they wanted with a rocking set with huge iconic Ausie content. Loved his rendition of the Easybeats "I'll Make You Happy." Will the Swans make their city happy? Or will Melbourne celebrate the Hawks? Rogers also threw in my all time favourite Aussie hit "Stranded" by The Saints. (St Kilda did seem stranded in 2012). For mine Rogers and his band were one of the great football entertainment performances.
The perennial Paul Kelly was also a crowd pleaser and is particularly loved in Sydney town. Patrick Dangerfield duly wins the sprint (future Brownlow medallist?).
Time flies as we stand for the national anthem. Marina Prior has been an iconic performer for years and she has such a powerful voice. Very moving.
By the way I dig the huge speakers the AFL uses on the ground - wouldn't mind some for my backyard. Love the way roadies remove them from the oval minutes before the start of play.
Soon the stadium is full. About 100,000 spectators. The Hawks and Swans cheer squad and members stand out in their designated areas with a sea of brown and gold then red and white - like a display at the Chelsea Flower Show.
All in readiness. I have AFL greats in my section. They know what this is about. The intensity, the drama, the dreams, the nerves.
This would be an epic game. A showcase of our nation. It was a game of ebbs and flows. Hawthorn always looked brimming with talent and speed and likely to break the game open. They had link up players all the way down the ground that can explode and get the ball in quickly to Franklin and Rioli.
The Swans had unbelivable tenacity. A side that no-one too seriously until they made the grand final. So many times I've heard the expression "under the radar" when it comes to the Sydney Swans. Even then Hawthorn were hot favourites. But Sydney play with an almost reckless abandon when it comes to attacking the footy. And they play so well as a unit.
But on this day they displayed some incredible attacking flair. They were able to come inside the corridor on occasions and cut through the Hawks defense.
Half time and it's a tight tussle. The Swans who were three goals down at quarter time are now nearly three goals up, after a six goals to nil second quarter. Sewell and Mitchell doing well for the Hawks. Goodes, Jetta and Roberts-Thomson for Sydney.
The Temper Trap are a great choice for the grand final as the hottest Aussie band going around. Completely different musically to Meatloaf.
At half time I still thought Hawks would win. At three quarter time I still thought the Hawks would win. It's a one point advantage to Sydney but they have the breeze in the final quarter. But I thought the Hawks could still do it - and early in the final quarter they looked likely with two goals.
Last quarter heroics needed. Brad Sewell rises. So does Goodes. McVeigh. Malcesci. The final act of heroics by the Macedonian wonder with 34 seconds to play. The final margin 10 points. (We love grand finals to be close).
Has there ever been a braver win? With Goodes and Richards carrying serious injuries the Swans just kept on coming. What legends are O'Keefe, Kennedy, Roberts-Thomson and Bolton.
The siren brings ecstacy and devastation. Premierships don't come around every year for AFL players and coaches. Well done John Longmire Savour the moment. And Sydney did.
Alistair Clarkson was excellent in defeat. Hawthorn lost narrowly so a witchhunt isn't necessary. Clarkson's comment putting tragedy in perspective following a gruesome news week in Melbourne was well said.
As I boarded the train back to Camberwell it was a train of gloom. No-one said much. Not even discussing where Hawthorn lost the game. It was eerily quiet.
Until next season when it starts all over again.