The AFL Grand Final. The last time I had the good fortune to be at the event, soaking up the sun at the city end of the MCG, was 2006. I was there to watch the Swans go for back-to-back premierships. Short story: they lost. And I stood there in the fading light and cried. I then fled the country.
Since then, I’ve not seen too many games. When you’re half a world away, it’s easy to understand why you feel disconnected from a game you so dearly love.
Players have come and gone, as have coaching staff. Paul Roos is no longer at the helm, but I still see his handiwork. In the semi-final against Adelaide, I saw something in this team I recognized: Sydney played with the gritty determination from the golden years of 2005/6. It was the blood-and guts football I’d fallen for all those years ago. And it was beautiful, even if I had little idea who most of these ‘new’ players were.
I’m not generally superstitious, until it comes to footy. I have to wear particular socks, a #24 guernsey, and sit on the left side of the person/people I’m watching the game with. It’s all nonsense, but it’s part of the ritual. Taking cues from the universe is also another facet of game-day superstition. It was 1:30am in San Francisco last Friday morning when I received a call from Mum. She called to tell me that on the way to the game against Collingwood, she’d bumped into the girl I sat with in Bay 29 at the SCG. A sign from the universe! I was bleary-eyed and unable to string a coherent sentence together, yet I knew right then that we’d triumph over the Pies.
My winter family – the community of people I spent sharing long hours in the wind, rain and sunshine at the SCG and abroad – are all heading down to Melbourne as I write this. A migration of sorts. From all reports, the mood is buoyant but nervous. We’ve been there before – felt the sheer, unbridled joy of 2005, and the utter despair of 2006. It’s just special to be able to share in it again.
Seeing my beloved Swans back at the MCG on the final Saturday in September is bittersweet for me – I’m not there in the flesh to share in the excitement. Nevertheless, I will be there remotely. Whatever happens on Friday night/Saturday, may the weather gods smile upon us, and the game be both hard-fought and entertaining. Most of all, I just want it to be fair. Go Bloods!