Snap Shot #15: That In-between Feeling

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The symmetrical regularity is remarkable. We are seated in a jam packed Melbourne Cricket Ground, two years since the last time and four since the first, supporting a footy team with an uncanny knack of qualifying for the AFL Grand Final every two years. My son and I experienced the dizzy euphoria of witnessing an upset victory when the Sydney Swans took down the favoured Hawthorn Hawks four years ago. But when we returned to the MCG for our second GF two years later, the Hawks ripped the Swans apart, making it the most expensive disappointment of my life. Fortunately, this time our opponents aren’t the hated Hawks, who are missing from the GF for the first time in five years. Instead, our Swans face the feel good story of the comp, the Western Bulldogs – a team that hasn’t been in a GF since before I was born and the only one they actually won was over sixty years ago. It seems as if the whole rest of the country is behind them, making the Swans the team destined to kill Bambi. Our seats are the best yet, just behind the goals and ten rows from the playing field. The excitement builds as I look around the huge stadium with its quilt-like patches of red and blue. The game begins and it’s brutal. Our section of red and white clad supporters, looking like we’re cheering for Santa, erupt with every Swans goal. But we are drowned out each time the Doggies score, their fans achieving jet engine like decibels. The game ebbs and flows but remains tight. For three and a half quarters – it’s up for grabs. But then, half way through the final quarter, it’s the Doggies who want it more. They pull away and win it by 22 points. The siren sounds and the Bulldog fans go nuts. I’ve never seen so many happy crying tattooed bogans. Although I feel disappointed, this is countered by the wave of sheer joy generated by tens of thousands of delirious fans. The fairy tale has won the day. I head to the toilet quickly before the presentations. On the way back to my seat, the aisle is blocked by a big bellied bogan. We look at each other. Then he extends his hand. I’m moved by the gesture. I shake it and yell above the noise, “Your boys deserve it.” When I return to my seat, my son isn’t interested in staying for the medal ceremony. But I insist, saying that we are witnessing history. And we do, especially when the Bulldog’s coach gives his own medal over to his non-playing injured captain, who then triumphantly lifts up the premiership cup with the acting captain. The crowd roars. Okay, we can leave now. We follow the dancing Doggy fans out of the stadium, find a bit of grass and kick our red and white Swans ball back and forth. I savour the moment, knowing that this is likely to be the last AFL grand final my son and I will ever attend. We have been lucky to experience three: the joyous one, the depressing one and one that has left us with that in-between feeling. That’ll do.

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