Oct 01, 2018
The Monday Knee Jerk Reaction: AFL Grand Final 2018
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.
West Coast (79) v Collingwood (74)
On a fairly regular basis, footy reminds us it’s the greatest thing ever, a wonderous invention that can make us feel elated or devastated in equal measure.
Walking into the MCG, the feeling was one of excitement and nervousness, a feeling that only a Grand Final can bring.
Everyone knows they are just hours away from being unmeasurably joyous or a black pit of despair from which no light escapes.
To offset all this tension, everyone was in a happy mood, like we’d all just found out the world was about to end and decided to at least enjoy our final moments together.
Both sets of supporters were out in force, Collingwood supporters in their traditional tracksuit pants and Eagles supporters practising their 47 different types of boos they use to communicate during a game.
While there’s always idiots in the crowd, all I saw on the day was good humour in the crowd.
As the 100,022 took their seats, Melbourne was bathed in a mysterious light.
I wondered aloud what it was, and an Eagles supporter helpfully pointed out it was sunlight. It’s not uncommon in Perth she informed me.
Sitting there in this ‘sunlight’, surrounded by footy fans, it was hard not to feel pretty happy.
This sense of happiness even continued on, even though the Black Eyed Peas were performing.
I thought they were neither a train wreck or particularly great. Will.I.Am got a lot of heat for checking his phone during the performance but he was not alone there based on all the people around me.
We’ve all phoned it in at work before but perhaps never so blatantly.
It’s possible he was checking if the AFL’s money had been wired into his account and if he could wrap things up.
Jimmy Barnes came up straight afterwards and the crowd certainly seemed to lift for him. His ability to stay off electronic devices was certainly appreciated.
I was sitting next to some Collingwood fans and had some Eagles fans behind me.
They all looked more stressed than the ABC Board, but not as drunk.
Mike Brady then came out and sang ‘Up there Cazaly’and I have to say the crowd really got into it. Except for a nine-year-old girl who refused to stand.
I gave her a really spray, calling her ‘Un-Australian’ and ‘a disgrace’, you know, normal things for a grown adult to call a nine-year-old they don’t know who doesn’t stand up during a song.
Her family texted the number to report anti-social behaviour, but when security showed up and discovered what happened, they removed her and her family instead.
Hopefully from the country.
Next was Jimmy Barnes’ daughter, performing the national anthem, which I didn’t stand for as part of my continuing civil action that Nikki Webster’s Strawberry Kissesshould be our national anthem.
With the musical component thankfully now over for another year, disaster struck, with Collingwood’s banner breaking before the players came out.
While this would normally amuse me, given the cheer squads all give their lives to football, it was actually very sad to see.
Finally, the game started, and much like Collingwood’s banner, the Eagles fell apart.
The noise with every Collingwood goal was insane, and chants of ‘Collingwood’ echoed around the ground.
Travis Varcoe’s goal to start things off got the biggest cheer, and his recent family tragedy gave it special meaning for everyone watching.
The Eagles fans behind me looked in shock as the Pies poured on the goals. It had the feeling of the previous week in Perth but this time the Eagles were on the receiving end.
The West Coast supporter directly behind me kept quietly repeating their safe word over and over.
By quarter time, it felt like it was going to be a long day and I was desperately trying to remember the PIN for my saferoom and calculating the optimum moment to flee the stadium.
The second quarter though saw the Eagles begin to assert some dominance and going into half time the game was again a contest. The West Coast fans still looked nervous but now the Pies supporters did too.
I offered some helpful words of advice to those around me at halftime, reminding them to keep things in perspective, ‘a loss today is just a moment that will haunt you for the rest of your life, nothing more’.
This was met with more hostility than I thought.
The third quarter saw the Eagles start to gain the upper hand. There was a guy down back who kept taking key marks and a quick google search revealed his name was ‘Jeremy McGovern’.
Some more internet research revealed that the players now getting control of the midfield for the Eagles were Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed. I’d never heard of either of them but they both seemed really good.
Collingwood seemed on the back foot, but Buckley had subbed in Mason Cox at half time and he was starting to have an impact.
Jordan De Goey kept causing trouble and each time it seemed the Eagles were about to run over the Pies, Collingwood would manufacture a goal.
At three quarter time the game was tied but the Pies fans were concerned as they had watched their huge leaded completely eroded.
Eagles fans looked just as concerned, could they land a knockout blow, or had they spent all their energy playing catch up?
The fourth quarter begun with a twist, the Pies, struggling in the third quarter came out and booted the first two.
Not since the invention of pre-mix cans had Collingwood supporters been so happy.
But the day wasn’t over. The Eagles could have given up at this point, but they went back to work.
They were all over the Pies, but they were unable to land a shot, the Pies, like an old prize-fighter were doing everything to hang on.
With the Eagles down by two points it felt like the stadium was about to explode, everyone knew that this could go either way.
The Eagles tried to work it out of their back line, only for the Pies to turn it over and come back again. Every mistake, or missed opportunity felt like it had cost the game, as the players threw themselves at the ball with an intensity of a Bachelorcontestant trying to get noticed.
West Coast had missed four shots in a row at this point and with a couple of minutes left they again cleared it from their back fifty.
The ball game out to Vardy who marked and quickly moved it forward. It could have easily been spoiled at this stage, but Liam Ryan took a wonderful mark, ran forward and found an open Dom Sheed in the forward fifty.
A lot has been said of Willie Rioli blocking Brayden Maynard from getting to the marking contest, especially from the Melbourne media.
I can see the argument but watching this game live, and on replay a couple of times I have to say the umpires let a lot go.
This would be about one of twenty-odd occasions when the umpires erred on letting play go on.
I thought at the time the more contentious moment was that Sheed seemed to play on and then stop.
Personally, I preferred the umpires letting a lot go on the day, it produced a far better outcome overall.
Some in the media making out that this made it a controversial result that decided the game shows a lack class and ignores the broader perspective of how the entire game was umpired.
The Eagles could put forward a whole bunch of non-calls too.
Sheed was no certainty either. He was on a very tight angle and forty meters out.
I was sitting directly behind him and as it left his boot it looked like it could go either side of the goal post, only to hold it’s line.
The Eagles fans went nuts and the Pies fans rushed to their phones to check the time left.
Even then the drama wasn’t over. The Eagles had to stop the Pies scoring.
Things looked good for West Coast though only for Jack Darling to drop a mark in the goal square, resulting in a point.
The Pies were going to get one more chance, they went long up the middle but there was Luke Shuey, the soon-to-be-named Norm Smith medallist with the mark to end the game.
The whole mad, epic thing was over and everyone knew we’d just witnessed something special.
The Pies fans were devastated, the Eagles fans elated, but all stayed to watch the presentation of the cup and support their team regardless of the outcome.
Behind me were two kids, one an eight-year-old in a Pies jumper, the other about five in an Eagles top. I’m not sure if they were related or knew each other at all, but the Pies supporter was in tears and the five-year-old had his arm around him comforting him.
It was so damn poignant I would have taken a photo, but taking photos of kids you don’t know tends to draw attention.
This was a game where the great game once again reminded us that footy is great because it creates a community.
With the final siren sounded and the cup awarded we can all go back to the shared solidarity of all being footy fans, a group of people that understand that we are mad, but collectively mad together.
We all now face that terrible part of the year with no footy, just that awful summer filled with friends and family.
It’s why I won’t be rubbing it into Pies supporters because there’s a time and place and this is neither.
Footy fans know how bad they’ll be feeling.
Instead, we congratulate the Eagles, and we get ready for the most exciting time of the year, trade period.
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