Sunday 5 December 2021

The sweetest repeat - 2021 premiership celebration in review

It's unfortunate that every new post from here will push the one about the Grand Final further into the archives. It would have been appropriate if I never posted again, leaving that post at the top of the page until the very moment humanity is wiped out like the dinosaurs. But bad luck, you're stuck with me, so let's have one more post relating to the most interesting thing ever to happen in the month of September before this chapter closes. I'll still be up for any form of chat that involves us winning a 13th premiership. Or if you want, chat about the other 12 - they're all part of the lead-up to us doing our block in epic fashion on that lovely night in Perth.

Two and a bit months after winning the thing, Victorian fans finally got to celebrate the 2021 premiership with friends/family/an empty Row MM (delete as applicable). It was certainly unique, surely no other team has ever gathered 35,000 people to watch a replay, much less 10 weeks after the event. As much as I'd always dreamed about the wild scenes on a Sunday after a Grand Final win, this would do as a replacement. And for the first time in about 110 years, all the players at a premiership celebration were sober.

Knowing that we'd collectively spent more than the annual budget of Uruguay on merchandise since September, the club showed tremendous restraint by making tickets to the event free. Even $5 for adults would have passed without complaint, but the did the polite thing for a fanbase that missed the biggest game of most of our lives and threw the gates open. This also allowed a few people to get in wearing merchandise of other teams, which helped remind Melbourne fans that there are currently 17 loser sides who aren't reigning premier. Long may it stay that way.

It helps when you've got the jolliest crowd since a Hare Krishna convention, but this most glorious of family days was handled perfectly. Really, if you're at the celebration for a premiership ending a 57 year drought something amazingly drastic is going to need to happen to make you complain.  Even entry was quick, despite predictions of delays as people battled to prove their vaccination status and work out how to use a mobile to get through the turnstile. It went off without a hitch - where I was anyway.

This baffling, government-enforced entry condition caused some confusion, especially for people like me who were up with new technology until about five years ago and now just want everything to stay the same. Not surprisingly, when the app you were checking in on proved your vaccination certificate (unless you're one of the people carrying a fake printout from, there was no need for the digital wallet to open. Please don't write in with an explanation of what that means, I couldn't care less. 

After that it was smooth sailing, finally given the opportunity to book a level four seat again I refused to take my assigned spot in Row C and went straight for the back row. Sadly, the mystery Cluedo passage between Olympic Stand and the Ponsford was locked so I couldn't sneak over to where I really wanted to be. Still haven't set foot in my home ground since the day Oscar McDonald kicked a goal and we limped to a sad defeat against Collingwood in front of a putrid crowd. A bit has changed since.

At first I felt like a nuffy sitting there watching a two-month old game for the umpteenth time, but the mood of the crowd won me over. It was just genuine happiness, and sitting in dear old Row MM offered a box seat view of people having a wonderful time. As far as mass gatherings around the Melbourne CBD go, it sure beat cockheads waving placards on Bourke Street. 

Forget nonsense like Dance Cam, this was genuine, unashamed joy from relieving the greatest evening in the history of sports. It was like going to wrestling, everyone knew the result was pre-determined but got into it anyway. Self-consciousness was officially out when people cheered Neal-Bullen and Brown having the first two shots when everyone knew (or did they? Perhaps not everyone's a rolled-gold nutter like us) they were going to miss. Good, otherwise you may as well have skipped to the point where we were 19 points behind and enjoyed the freewheeling carnage from there.

I'm not going into great depth on the game itself. We've seen it enough times that we know in advance when Brian Taylor is going to say something stupid - it usually coincides with him speaking. If you're new to this, and god knows there's never been a better time to get involved, the full match review of that deelightful night is one of 16 years worth of insane ramblings in our archives. What I will say is that the 100-7 finish is just as good on the 20th replay as the first, and that Jackson was incredibly stiff not to get votes. Given my time again I might even slot him in for three and nudge Viney out with the greatest of regrets.

We might have saved time and fast-forwarded through the bathroom break second quarter, but keeping the game at full length meant there had to be some sort of half time break. I could have done without the Russell Robertson All-Stars singing Boys Light Up (which he tenuously connected to the footy club, despite it being about rooting), but people aged 6-10, and every woman over 50 seemed to love it. Mind you, this was such a frisky crowd that you could have set 9/11 to music and they'd have started dancing. At least I saw this one, unlike the real half time show, when I was sulking in another room with a spontaneously bleeding nose and a central nervous system teetering on the brink of collapse.

I've only cried with happiness once in my life (guess which day that was?) but nearly had a teary again when the crowd went nuts for the Mad Minute. Had to hold it together a second time when Neale Daniher arrived, battling his coight off against an ultimately unbeatable disease. Made me think about Jim Stynes, who did likewise for as long as he could while the team swirled down the toilet in front of him. Fans of emotion were also well served by the Nathan Jones/Neville Jetta tribute at three quarter time. I wonder if Nev had to ask new employer Collingwood for permission to don the MFC polo. His career change was politely ignored, in case people without decorum ruined the solemnity of the occasion by booing the Pies. 

Then it was back to the replay, and the 30 minute victory lap of a lifetime. Brown's goal at the start was very good for my health, if we'd even gone close to blowing that lead I'd have been killed by death. Now that you know what's going to happen it's funny listening to commentators talking about how we were home at 40 points up with 15 minutes to go. It would have taken something remarkable to beat us from that position but I'd still have shit my shorts if Footscray kicked the next goal. They did eventually get one in the last quarter - we got nine. I've never seen anything like it and never will again. The second half should be a walk-up start to every Grand Final marathon until the year 2100.

The virtual siren was followed by a recreation of the post-match from Perth, only with all the bits involving Footscray cut out. Sadly, border restrictions meant we weren't able to hire the Mayor of Perth as host then forget to pick him up from the airport. In his place came Garry Lyon, a sensible enough choice, until he turned up with the most unruly pile of paper notes you'll ever see. 

It was farcical watching him try to deal with these unstapled, possibly handwritten sheets that were threatening to waft into the crowd at any moment. Maybe that's why he did the crowd-pleasing gag about Basil forgetting to call on Goodwin, then had to be told by Tom Sparrow that he'd skipped Bayley Fritsch. Gaz took this in the right spirit, calling himself a dickhead. If the Mayor isn't willing to do similar I'll be happy to step in. 

The low key highlight, other than Lever dangling his kid off the stage by the arm in the most NQR fashion, was Jake Bowey (called 'Jack' by Lyon, surely a subtle gag about Basil doing the same thing) appearing in front of a crowd at the MCG for the first time after winning his first premiership but before playing in a loss. He could retire now and still be treated as a hero by Melbourne fans for the rest of his life.

Once Goodwin had finally made his thwarted Grand Final night speech (hardly "I have a dream" stuff but he's won a flag and I haven't so carry on), the cherished premiership cup arrived via a queue of ex-players going full fan nuff, and was handed over by David Neitz and Neale Daniher to much acclaim. And, err, that was it. For me anyway, other than a heroic Ed Langdon-esque run to catch a train. Pretty banal finish to an otherwise wonderful event. My only regret was not 'accidentally' running into Anthony McDonald and thanking him for winning me a $1000 Harvey Norman gift voucher on that 2004 Fox Footy game show. When that's the extent of the misery you've had a pretty good day.

Next year
The dear old AFL, who'll ask for repayment of $3 million they spent to keep us alive in 2013 if we're not careful, are going all out to make sure the memory of the Grand Final is shoehorned into every aspect of the new season. Not only are they making us play the Bulldogs in Round 1 of AFLW (a competition where, after four seasons, we'll still never have been fixtured against perennial slop side Geelong), but are starting the men's competition with a replay straight off the bat. They'll probably make us play them in the pre-season too. Footscray fans should seek an injunction on the grounds of mental trauma.

Wasting a Grand Final rematch on the opening round is bad enough, then you find out they've scheduled it on a Wednesday night. I know Richmond/Carlton is consistently a horrible season opener, but the solution is to piss one or both of them off, not to plonk a game the night before and pretend like you're doing fans a favour. Having said that, I'll be there (figuratively) walloping myself to a standstill over cloth going up a flagpole. It would be mad not to.

Commerce Corner
Any enterprising capitalist would have taken a shitload of books and sold them from a rug outside the MCG on Sunday. I'm nothing more than an out-of-his-depth amateur having a crack, so you'll have to pick up last-minute Christmas gifts for the Melburnian in your life the old-fashioned way. Support your local bookstore for this one, see if Amazon can on-demand print the other in time. All profits unashamedly go to me, but will ultimately find their way back into the hosting costs for Demonwiki or on buying memberships with guaranteed Grand Final tickets I'll never be able to use.

Final thoughts
This was a nice way to end the period of post-flag euphoria. The joy will never depart, but I may not watch the game again in full as many times during the rest of my life as between September 25 and December 5 this year. I can't see how my supporting life can ever be as frantic again as it has been since 2007, but I'm willing to go with the flow and see what happens next. Besides, when we win the next 11 flags one of them will have to be nearly as exciting as this one...

1 comment:

  1. Well done to the Club. It was an appropriate event at which the fans could thank the players and coaches. There was awareness of the many kids present so the speeches were concise. I’m worried that one of the Perth teams is holding Luke Jackson hostage which might explain his absence from the celebration.


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