Oct 02, 2017
The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Grand Final 2017
Footy is a passion, not some cold hearted, spread sheet dominated rational exercise.
On a Monday, you want irrational reaction. You want emotion to trump reason.
What you really want is idiotic hysteria.
You’ve come to the right place.
Adelaide (60) v Richmond (108)
I woke the morning of the Grand Final and sensed immediately that something was not quite right.
The feeling bothered me as I poured my breakfast whiskey, and then I realised what it was; Daylight savings would start the next day, and Richmond were still playing football.
As I headed to the ground, I was surrounded by Richmond supporters, who all had that nervous, twitchy energy I usually associate with ice addicts, which being Tigers supporters can’t be ruled out.
The Adelaide supporters were also very nervous and chatting to a group of them; they told me they worried their favouritism could make the players complacent and some would go missing.
I assured them there was no chance that could happen.
Entering the MCG, I was struck by the size of the crowd. It was easily the largest crowd I’d been in since Melbourne v Gold Coast.
I was seated between two Richmond supporters, and I quietly marked the closest exit and worked out which of them I could best in a fight if things went south.
A group of Crows supporters were behind me, and despite their Adelaide accents, I could make out some of what they were saying but true to stereotype, they were drinking Chardonnay very quickly. Given a tiny plastic glass of it costs about $43 at the MCG, they drank the equivalent of South Australia’s Gross State Product before the first bounce.
I began chatting to the lady next to me, who was in her late 60s and had come by herself. She had been to several Richmond premierships before, never missed a Richmond home game and on a scale of nervousness, was at ‘Schapelle Corby going through customs’.
To my surprise, she was nice, sober and spoke in full sentences. It would not be the last surprise of the day.
She said she appreciated being able to chat to someone as she felt sick from nerves, I said it was no problem and asked if she could protect me when the rioting started. She stared at me blankly for a few moments.
As the retirement parade went around the ground, my new Richmond friend asked where Zac Dawson was. I explained there had been concerns about the amount of coordination required to sit on the back of one of those utes.
Of course, the real measure of a Grand Final is the entertainment, and as The Killers moved from When You Were Young into Somebody Told Me it started to dawn on everyone that not only was this not a train wreck, it was actually amazing.
Typical AFL, ruining another great footy tradition.
A cover of Midnight Oil’s Forgotten Years, had the crowd singing along and then there was Mr Brightside.
Usually, Grand Final entertainment is met with mild disinterest from the crowd, but people were singing and dancing. Even my dead black heart felt a moment of happiness.
Then Mike Brady, who had moments before been unfrozen from his cryogenic sleep, was wheeled out to sing Up there, Cazaly.
This also went over very well.
Then the teams came out. The Tigers came out to drummers and strangely without their theme song playing until sometime after they ran through the banner. Luckily, we’d hear that song 2,345 times more before the day was out.
The Crows ran out to fancy flamethrowers. This would turn out to be the highlight of the day for Crows fans.
The national anthem was sung by Dami Im who seemed to do a perfectly acceptable version, once again dashing my hopes of a terrible musical performance.
The Crows stood in their they're famous ‘frozen on the spot’ stance, a frightening harbinger of what was to come for Adelaide’s movement during the game.
Then it all started. The noise that greeted the opening bounce was as loud as I’ve ever heard at the MCG, as 37 years of pent up frustration was unleashed.
The Crows though got off to a fast start, and as Eddie Betts strolled into an open goal, you could sense the collective concern that swept over the Tiger Army.
A few misses by Jack Riewoldt had the terror threat warning lifted to red, and I was glad that the security guard’s metal detector had not picked up the sword hidden in my umbrella.
The Tigers started to come back though, and by the second quarter, you felt Richmond had the momentum.
At the ground, you could really see the impact of the Tigers whole team pressure.
During the week leading up to the game, the Melbourne media had made it almost impossible to know the Crows were playing in the Grand Final.
Unfortunately, for Adelaide, the actual game did not change this worldview.
The only question mark from the end of the second quarter on, was could the Tigers keep up this level of intensity?
It turned out they could and then some. Crows players got chased down so often I started to wonder if they were doing it on purpose.
Every time Tex Walker got a chance at a mark, the Tigers always managed to get the ball to the ground.
When the Crows midfield did get the ball, their delivery into the forward line was so poor that if you were watching your first game of AFL, you could be forgiven for thinking the aim of the sport was for the Adelaide midfield to target Richmond's defenders.
If you apply enough constant pressure to anything, it will eventually break, and in the third quarter, Adelaide did.
I knew it was over then but this being Richmond, there was still a sense that something could happen.
But the paradigm had shifted. This was no longer the Richmond of old; it was a fit, skilful team. Battle-hardened and with no interest in the sins of the past.
My new Tiger friend asked if I thought they could still lose. I said they were home and hosed. She said she’d wait for a few more goals before she would allow herself to believe that. Two minutes later she had those, and the tears came.
Luckily, I’ve got a lot of experience with women crying, so I was no put off by this, but it was nice that they were happy tears.
As the final siren sounded the roar was deafening. All that pain and heartache leaving tens of thousands of bodies.
The Crows fans I was near were devastated but to their credit were very classy. They stuck around and congratulated the Tigers supporters.
Richmond’s song played over and over on repeat, the ‘Yellow and Black’ cry louder than anything else I’d heard that day and perhaps ever.
Then the presentations. There was some debate around who should have gotten the Norm Smith, but you know Tigers fans are in a happy place if their biggest issue is which of their players should have won the Norm Smith.
James Hird did receive a fair booing, but it was over quickly, people wanted to celebrate, and this was about the here and now, not the past.
Matthew Richardson perhaps received one of the biggest cheers as he joined the presentation, with the chant of ‘Richo’ echoing around the ground.
Then the cup was lifted aloft. It had really happened. The Tigers had won a premiership, and perhaps more importantly, I was going to be able to leave the stadium alive.
As I said goodbye to my Richmond friend she hugged me and said ‘you must sit next to you at next year’s grand final for good luck’. Bloody arrogant Richmond fans I thought, always just expecting to win a premiership.
The reaction since the Grand Final has been interesting. People have described this as the worst list to win a premiership.
Now, I’m the first to admit I’ve never believed in this Tigers side but like a long-held scientific theory, you must realise the weight of evidence has proven you wrong, and it’s time to accept reality.
I think people are forgetting Australian Rules is a team sport, playing as a coordinated team is the most important thing. The Tigers have smashed all contenders this September. They’ve hardly fluked the last month, and they did finish third for the season.
This win shouldn’t be diminished.
I suspect though this Richmond side will need to rattle off ten premierships in a row for people to start believing in them.
Not that Tigers fans care, this was a victory that washed away 37 years of emotional torture, and I’m sure every Richmond supporter will tell you today that it was all worth it.
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