More reflections and highlights from my trip to the Grand Final.
1. Getting a ticket on Thursday morning was great, my early travel plans were made worthwhile. I'm in Melbourne for some Rock and Water training next week but was free to travel when I wanted to, so of course I grabbed the chance to be in Melbourne for the last Saturday in September.
2. Despite the 13 extra planes from Perth to Melbourne, with ticket prices reported to be $1800 one way, the coach loads and cars full of people driving across the Nullabor and the intrepid pilgrims who flew via Darwin, Singapore and New Zealand etc there were at least 2 empty seats on my flight at 3pm Friday, I know because one of them was next to me.
3. I started talking to the passenger on the other side of the empty seat and discovered that he was a Judge. Further discussion revealed that he was the son of Fred Chaney Snr and brother of Fred Chaney Jnr, both of whom were much respected members of parliament. We agreed to share a taxi into the city to cut costs but made the mistake of revealing this detail to the taxi driver who upon arrival at our destination insisted that we pay 75% of the fare each!! Being a judge, my companion was not willing to fight the issue or try to get around it. Lesson learned!
4. The Qantas pilot on our flight introduced himself as Terry Doyle and proceeded to give the most erudite, witty and entertaining in-flight address I've ever heard. Several people were smiling and laughing as they listened to him.
5. It was always going to be tight getting to the airport on time with a three hour drive up from Busso. I had to meet my brother Alan to sign some papers then he was dropping me at the airport. Roadworks on the freeway slowed me down a bit, then I made the mistake of not turning right at Abernethy Rd, only to discover it was impossible to turn into the street I needed and the nexr set of lights had a no right turn sign! With time rapidly running out I risked it by attempting a right turn, only to have a plain clothes police officer pull up next to me and tell me not to turn right! What could do, going straight ahead would take me further away from where I needed to be with no prospect of making a U turn and less than 45 minutes till my flight left! I told him I was going to the Grand Final and running late then I turned right! The cop was not impressed and pulled me over. I attempted to justify my actions but he shut me up and said "Don't ignore a police officer's instructions, now get going and enjoy the game"!! Relieved I raced off to meet Alan and managed to get to the airport on time! (I've missed a flight before and it's not a pleasant experience!)
6. I took the Glen Waverley train and am staying with my brother-in-law Charles and his son Simon. The rest of the family are away in Adelaide. They have a beautiful house in Glen Iris. This afternoon I went for a bike ride along a trail beside the Yarra river all the way into the city and was reminded of how green and beautiful a city Melbourne is. (pics to follow when I get home)
7. I met up with Ian and Dave from Perth outside the MCG. It was Ian's brother Trevor whose membership enabled me to buy the ticket and I needed his card to collect it. Another mate Kent Morgan was also at the game and I rang him once inside. His seat was in the second back row behind the Punt Road goal so he wasn't happy to hear that I was sitting about 3/4 of the way back on the half forward line. He'd have been even less happy after the game, being a diehard eagles supporter. I resisted the temptation to ring him after the game, although once the pain has subsided a little I'll be sure to let him know how much I enjoyed the game. Don't be fooled into thinking that would be harsh, he was responsible for me having to stand up in the staff room on Friday morning in an Eagles jumper and publicly state that "The Eagles are better than Geelong and always have been"! due to a bet we made at the start of the season about which team , Geelong or West Coast, would finish higher on the ladder! Needless to say the pro West Coast crowd in the staff room loved it! You can be sure i'll be wearing red and white upon my return to school next term!
8. I exchanged several SMS's with Chris in Broome during the game. She was always nervous and I know how disappointed she'd have felt at the loss. As I said in one text, "I know how she feels" having suffered thru Geelong losing 4 Grand Finals between 1989 and 1995, two of them at the hands of West Coast. I also texted Gaultie to say how much I was enjoying the game, his brief reply simply read "Go Eagles". I'd left sveral messages stuck up around his office before I left all of which read "Go Swans". The best thing about Sydney winning is not having to put up with all the bragging of the Eagles fans back in WA.
9. Talking of Eagles fans, there was one particularly obnoxious member of that species sitting behind me at the game. Now, it is fair to say that I am a passionate fan and have been known to get heated or excited at games, but I make every effort to be fair and objective about things like umpiring decisions. It is a huge bugbear to me when people criticise and condemn every decision the umpires make against their team. It is ludicrous and short-sighted/one-eyed in the extreme to believe that your team never gives away free kicks. All teams do and when mine does I accept it as part of the game. The bloke behind me was the sort of fan who refused to accept this basic truth of football but that was not the only example of his obnoxiousness. When O'loughlin and Hunter jostled with one another he kept yelling out "Hit him Hunter, hit him" Why? Football is a hard physical game and there is plenty of legitimate "violence" allowed without urging players to do the wrong thing. Sure they sometimes do it, eg. Barry Hall last week, but that doesn't mean it should be condoned or encouraged as this bloke was doing. What made it sadder was that he had his little boy sitting next to him who looked about 7 years old. Some less than helpful role-modelling there! His other annoying behaviour was when celebrating an Eagles goal to "deliberately" wave his West Coast flag in our faces. When he did it again I'd had enough so I turned and said to him if he was waving the flag to celebrate a goal that was fine but instead of waving it in our faces why didn't he wave it up above his own head. I'm pleased to say that he took this feedback well and refrained from this practice again. We did exchange a couple of comments about the relative merits of some umpire's decisions but at the end of the game we shook hands and agreed it had been a great game.
10. There was lots of actyivity going on outside the ground before the game including some live TV and radio broadcasts. I stopped at the Triple M tent and watched a bit of their "show". The panelo included Sam Kekovich, Brian Taylor and Sam Newman who I usually find detestable. While I didn't appreciate all of his humour and comments I have to confess I did find a few of his jokes amusing and he was wittier than I expected. I sat next to an older couple who turned out to be Geelong fans from Colac. I saw a bloke in the ground in a Geelong jumper too.
11. I don't admit this publicly but something I enjoy doing is looking for stuff left behind after football games! I call it trawling!There is always mountains of rubbish, but usually some interesting stuff too and the Grand Final was no exception. I refused to pay $12 for the Grand Final Record (program) but found 3-4 in reasonable condition left behind after the game. Amongst the other stuff I found were a a folding seat cushion, an abandoned Eagles banner, a mustard soaked Swans flag!, a canvas bag with two rolls and a bag of peanuts, an inflatable Messages on Hold hand and a football shaped stubby holder with the Geelong logo on it, not a bad haul!!
12. As I was walking thru the carpark after the game I spotted former Geelong stars Barry Stoneham and Liam Pickering having a beer with a few mates so I stopped to say G'day and get a picture taken and ended up talking to them for about 20 minutes. My nephew Daniel played in Liam's number, 23, for Geelong after he retired and they both spoke highly of Daniel. Liam is now a football manager and one of his clients is Darren Glass from West Coast who I happened to coach briefly when he was at Carine High School. Talking of Carine kids, Mark Nicoski who kicked the first goal of the game was a Carine kid who I coached for 5 years. I know Mark Seaby as well, he comes and helps at our Footy Camp every year. The only comfort I'd have taken if West Coast had won would have been to see these young blokes I know win the ultimate footy prize. Ironically Nicoski had a half chance to kick the winning goal in the last minute of the game when the ball spilled off a pack into his path in the goal square but the Sydney backline managed to stop him getting a kick at it.
13. There was a big celebration for the Swans back at Punt Rd after the game but it was full by the time I got there. I chatted to a deleivery driver waiting to get in and he ended up giving me a lift to his next stop, Crown Casino. I wanted to watch a replay of the game on Foxtel, or more specifically the desperate last quarter. I found a bar with a big screen and joined hundreds of other celebrating Swans supporters in reliving the excitement. Then I did something I've never done before, I bought $10 worth of chips and had a few bets on a roulette table. Betting $5 at a time I won a few and lost a few, just betting on red or black and above or below 19. I had set a $10 limit and ended up with $30 after about an hour. Here comes the gamblers sob story part of the story! I should have quit then but instead went to try my hand at Pontoon on a table with a $10 minimumn bet. Four hands later my money was gone! (One was a "draw") Oh well! It was fun while it lasted!