Thursday 1 December 2022

The funnest day in the history of Springfield

There was a dark time when all our flags were so grand and old (or in some cases stolen) that soon no living person would remember them happening. Then the 2020s came along, the greatest global health crisis in a century somehow worked in our favour, and the Melbourne Football Club has now won premierships across the entire spectrum of national league football. Today, more than ever, let me say what a time to be alive.

For those of us who celebrate all the meats of the MFC cultural stew, a seven season wait for AFLW glory wasn't anywhere near as traumatic as waiting a lifetime for the men, but that doesn't detract from how important it was to finally capture the cup. For years the women have inched their way to this point - initially denied by ludicrous finals systems, having a season cancelled mid-finals, losing a Prelim, then a Grand Final. 

Technically everything was advancing in the right direction, and even if we'd lost almost the exact same team would have been back for another go next year, but it left open the unpleasant possibility of other sides catching up quickly and leaving a golden generation going out empty-handed. If you can find one that's not rocking back and forth, ask a St Kilda fan what that's like. Our men avoided this issue by playing an average of one good season a decade before breaking through, but for years their counterparts have won the majority of their games without getting over the line.

The AFL's handling of the competition this year had truckloads of scorn poured on it, but the realignment of the calendar worked in our favour. It made sure Daisy went another year, it created threadbare expansion teams that important players refused to consider, and left the coach with something to do before he ran out of patience and started flicking through the men's coaching section of

Post-Adelaide redemption couldn't happen without making another Grand Final. We did that, via a season with only one loss and some of our all-time most savage wins. Then, in a weird outer suburban location, under strange atmospheric conditions, and a couple of hours after Delta Goodrem clambered atop her piano this happened: 

Which was nice.

The classic moment didn't come easily though. Unlike the hour of power during our last triumph, 27/11/22 required the grimmest struggle possible, with the result in doubt from midway through the second quarter until the final seconds. By then I was, in the words of David Lee Roth, crazy from the heat, having quite literally gone troppo under conditions unsuitable for a soft southern shite who's never done a day's outdoor work in his life, and might have been airlifted home in a straightjacket if we'd lost.

Men in white coats were on standby to carry me out, but were not required due to our team standing up under a hail of incoming bullets for three quarters and earning one of the grittiest wins you'll ever see. No club has ever deserved a flag, but given our run-up since 2017, and the recovery from a drastic position on this day, they were as worthy winners as you'll see. 'Brave' is usually said when patronising shit teams who've had had a go, but there's no better way to describe Melbourne AFLW on Sunday afternoon. Now the group has the reward its deserves, and by any means necessary I've seen Melbourne win a Grand Final in person. Everyone's a winner - unless you're involved with Brisbane. And in that case you've been here, so step aside and let us have our moment.

Also important, if you're a sicko like me, is that it may have completed the circle of winning every VFL/AFL (1897-) endorsed competition ever staged. Some are so frivolous that it's almost embarrassing to mention them, but I need this to make the point that we're the only side with such a collection. Your 126 year path to grand slam glory:
  • Men's flag - 1900
  • Seconds/Reserves - 1931
  • Third/Under 19s - 1947
  • Lightning Premiership - 1952
  • McLelland Trophy - 1955
  • Little League - 1967
  • Night Series - 1971
  • AFLX - 2018
  • Women's flag - 2022 Spring
(Warning: Don't try and claim annexed Sandringham or Casey modern VFL flags, because that will expose that 'we' never won the defunct VFL Development League, and haven't yet done the VFLW)

Appropriately, both our first and most recent senior premierships involve beating the Lions by four points. In 1900, Fitzroy arrived so sure of victory that carriages outside the ground were adorned with 'Premiers' decorations. This time they took us more seriously, almost everyone else was assuming victory on their behalf. Regrettably, that included me so I'm glad that years of underestimating our side came home to roost in the most delicious fashion. 

For once, you can't blame me for being nervous. The only side to beat us all year had just spent the second half of a prelim with their feet up, and had us playing in ripe (in more than one way) home conditions. You could picture a path to victory, but it seemed the major obstacles were a) running the game out in the heat, and b) scoring enough to win in the first place. Turns out neither are an issue if you hold the opposition goalless for three quarters. A valuable lesson for the next team who are forced to play late November games in Queensland.

Any venue in that state would have provided an equatorial experience, but with the Gabba and Carrara both booked we were off to the literally all-new Brighton Homes Arena (AKA 'Springfield' if you're the ABC or keen on Simpsons gags) for its inaugural event. Sure the turf had only been put down a month earlier, but what could possibly go wrong? Part of me was outraged at playing on a third choice construction site, but compared to the proposal of playing in Cairns it might as well have been the MCG.

I wondered if they couldn't play on cooler Saturday night game because the lights hadn't been plugged in yet, but now that we've won there's no point moaning about the venue. Like the men having to travel the country from east to west for a flag, sometimes things that don't seem ideal to the naked eye turn out ok. You don't know what would have happened on a temperate Melbourne afternoon, but you know they won in the sauna so embrace the oddity.

With legitimate questions about the surface holding up, a minority movement ironically campaigned for the game to be played at Death Valley Docklands. I was against this not only for reasons of fairness to Brisbane, but more importantly because it would have left me holding non-refundable flights and accommodation. Besides, the claim idea that 50,000 would have turned up in Melbourne doesn't compute with 43k less than that attending the only other AFLW decider held here. We'd certainly have got more than Springfield, but the showcase game would have been played in front of a near-empty stadium. If you want to know what that would have looked like, refer to the Brighton Homes Arena five minutes after the final siren as Brisbane fans evacuated like there'd been a bomb threat. 

The AFL took Brisbane's word that the ground would be fit to play on, so we had to go with it. Turns out they were right, but I still wasn't confident until we reached midweek without turf chaos. The only remaining issue was getting in. I didn't think that would be a problem while impulse booking to go, but came perilously close to disaster. Fortunately, I was in place at 5pm when tickets went on sale, because within a few minutes they were gone, only to return for a window of about 45 seconds later in the week. I don't doubt there was plenty of interest, but the rapid disappearance of tickets probably had a bit to do with letting people 10x per transaction, including freebies for kids. 

To the credit of the people snatching enormous handfuls of tickets in one go, if capacity really was 8000 then only about 500 didn't show. Maybe they turned up to discover the zaniest queue in the history of western civilisation and gave up. There's no way to adequately describe it if you weren't involved, but the thing had more bends than the Mississippi River, leaving you several hundred metres away, perilously close to standing on a road, with nobody official to be seen. As part of the Simpsons theme it left me thinking "if the line's this long it's got to be good" and expecting to get to the front and find I was queuing to sign up for Auskick.

The reason for the congestion was eventually revealed as an entry point where nobody had thought about a 'bag free' line, meaning anybody without one was stuck waiting for security guards to do half-arsed checks that wouldn't have found a loaded AK-47. But eventually I was inside a Grand Final venue hosting the Melbourne Football Club and ready to party like it was 2021. Yes, that night meant more than any other moment in the history of football, but it took place in my loungeroom with one smuggled family member who semi-cared, and two residents who were just humouring me. This was the chance to see premiership football alongside people who cared.

So, if I was looking for the aura of quality MFC people it makes no sense sitting in a spot that gradually filled with Brisbane fans until I was a one man red and blue enclave. It was partly because I'd mentally had enough, having got up at god knows what time, carted myself across two states after suffering a random fear of flying at the last minute, then foolishly walked around in the heat for a couple of hours before going to the ground. Now I just wanted a spot to take the game in and damn the consequences. Not surprisingly it didn't last.

My first thought on walking in was how good the controversial newborn turf looked, having expected to find something resembling the surface of the moon. "Wait until somebody turns left and does a knee" I thought, but it never even looked like happening. Given that everyone else associated with Brisbane got to do a speech at the end they should have had the groundskeeper up for a round of applause as well. The playing area had come up so well that the only questionable bit was the unprotected brick wall just over one bit of the boundary line. No doubt that will be fenced in before a nondescript reserves player is crippled after sliding into it.

The next key question was how the heat would affect players. Brisbane should have had the advantage, given that we haven't had a hot day in Melbourne for about nine months, but it turned out to be a non-factor. You couldn't know that at the time, and whoever put together the day's running order hadn't studied player welfare. After warming up, in all senses of the word, both sides were called to the middle for what would traditionally be the national anthem. Except in this case they stood there for about 45 seconds listening to a club mix of ABBA's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), then unnecessarily long sponsor chat, and an extended version welcome to country where the guy threw in ad libs as they came to mind. Looking for any excuse to expect defeat, I thought this extra energy-sapping, awkward standing around would cost us late. And if we'd a goal at the end you'd better believe that's precisely the line of whinging you'd be reading.

Our beating of the heat will be great for the resumes and future job interviews of conditioning staff, but there was an unexpected assist from nature. While it remained 32 degrees and stickier than the floor at the Crazyhorse Theatre throughout, the sun was obscured by cloud during the middle quarters. The weirdness continued with a thunderstorm warning. Luckily this came about 30 hours early because 7000 people would have had nowhere to go if it started pelting. Most would probably have bolted for home, but I was prepared to go down with the ship if that's what it took to see live flag.

It took four quarters of trench warfare (almost as long as the introduction to this post) but my tribute pilgrimage to seven seasons of joy from watching this team turned out pretty bloody well. What follows is an amalgamation of my live viewing and the replay, because I could barely make out what was happening at the other end. There was a video screen but it was so small that you could only make out the score and the elapsed time, and I know writers watched footy for 120 years in these conditions but they probably just made stuff up to compensate.

To pay off one of the great storylines of the season, starting Harris in the ruck made me nervous. With the fear of wilting in warm weather I wanted to get off to a good start, and even whe she does well in the middle it robs us of our only serious contested marking target forward. Her absence also reduces our chances of bringing the ball to ground or scattering packs like a bowling ball. Whether it was due to being painkillered to the gills or not she didn't show any obvious effects from the shoulder injury, and while Tayla wasn't disgraced in the ruck duels we couldn't win a clearance under any circumstances so I couldn't see (he says questioning a premiership coach) where the benefit was.

I'm not saying she'd have kicked eight if left forward, but you got an early example of what we lost without her as a target when Hore had to aim at centre half-forward Paxman. Of course she didn't mark, because it's not what she does, and the ball did work its way to Daisy for a missed snap, but we were all motion under pressure rather than having time to think about building attacks.

Speaking of Paxman, it was good to see her go with the pre-bandaged head one last time. And why not, when it's become so iconic somebody in the crowd had made their own replica. Sadly it wasn't unhygienically piffed into the audience at the end but was hopefully preserved with tongs for inclusion in any future MFC museum. In an unexpected post-match twist, the next time you see Paxman it might be in purple. Other sources suggest it's unlikely, but after seven sensational years I wouldn't begrudge her going. Presuming Daisy hangs up the boots, there doesn't need to be much more movement from the flag winning side but we've got to get McNamara back and start looking at the future so we'd go on.

Our more immediate issue was getting the ball out of defence. We couldn't clear from stoppages, and had no clear targets when exiting Brisbane's 50. What we did have was Tahlia Gillard tormenting the piss out of the league's top goalkicker. Multiple times in the opening minutes alone she stopped Wardlaw from taking clean possession, and continued to get us out of jail all afternoon. In the lowest moment for the 3-2-1 voting system since the umpire leaked Brownlow results to his mates, she didn't get a cracker in the BOG award. Not that I'm saying the expert panel were influenced by stats, but you won't be surprised to discover that the two players who finished a mile ahead of everyone else also had the most possessions.

Birch was pretty good, and Heath did a spectacular shutdown job on their best small forward, but Gillard did so much that doesn't get counted on a basic stats sheet that it's criminal that she didn't get more credit. From my restricted view she was best on ground. It wasn't just me, I heard somebody else say she was going to win the medal shortly before it was given to a Brisbane player who profited from having it kicked to her 15 times. The AFL's website report had Gillard fifth best, which was a bit more realistic, but they also had Hanks first and she didn't get a vote either so who are you supposed to trust?

Our midfield did their bit, especially West throwing herself into every confined space on the ground, but we didn't win without the backline standing up. The coaches would know, and for the rest of her life Tahlia will be able to review gamefootage to prove she was robbed. If she wants to launch a legal challenge on the result I'd be prepared to testify under oath for her. 

In a change from usual procedure, Brisbane's first shot was taken by two-time after the siren misser Greta Bodey. I was almostcertain that she'd finally go third time lucky on us here, and kept this firmly in my mind until the game was over. This time her kick landed in the square, we short-circuited about six attempts at a snap, and the panic continued. It didn't help that I was already considering throttling about 90% of the adults sitting within a five metre radius. 

As well as we did to stop the Lions scoring from close range, it was ridiculously difficult to get the ball away from their goal. We survived one hopeful kick being intercepted, before the second ended with a player standing on her own miles in the clear. As Brisbane fans whinge about the umpiring, feel free to note the absurd angle liberties taken by the player before this kick, but it's still our fault for not having somebody in the way. 

It was the third time from three this final series that we conceded the first goal, and it turned out alright the first couple of times so there was no need to stress out. "At least it gets the ball away from their end" I thought, only for them to fang straight out of the middle and into attack again. This time there was no titantic struggle for scoring, the umpire missed Birch headlocking one player, then made up for it by giving a soft as butter free straight after. Now we were two goals back and in a spot of deep, warm shit. 

To their credit (because we ended up winning) the coaches kept the faith with Harris in the ruck, but panic alarms were going off at full volume when the Lions broke out of the middle and went forward again. Guess which defender got in the way? Hint - her surname starts with 'Gill' and ends in 'ard'. I thought watching the replay would unlock the secrets of why she wasn't considered in the best players, and it only further convinced me she was robbed blind.

Our forward issues were demonstrated by Zanker marking, kicking to Daisy one-on-one, and still being the next closest Melbourne player to the ball when it hit the ground. It felt like if we were ever going to go four quarters without a goal this would be it. At 11 points down, strong defence was appreciated but no longer enough to win the game. My only consolation was that we'd have the use of a slight breeze in the second quarter. That should have also helped us in the last, but the bastard died off during the second half. 

We got to quarter time without any further damage, but not before another panic kick off the last line of defence nearly led to what might have been a death blow third goal. Top defensive performances by Gay and Chaplin (later a clear BOG in the early celebrations) saved us, finally setting up a gilt edged chance at the other end that we stuffed up in such farcical fashion that it made you want to catch the early plane. 

A series of handballs left Fitzsimon walking in an open goal, but unfortunately not being made aware that there was an opponent right behind her. From the other end it looked like she was too close to miss, so I shouted "That's more like it" a millisecond before the tackle mowed her down. The upside to being on grass, and with Brisbane fans a respectful distance away, was that I could flomp to the ground in frustration. On replay, I can see that if you were under oath at Footy Court you could argue that the ball hit her foot on the way down, rolling to Bannan on her own 10cm out, but morally you couldn't argue the free.

There was plenty of time to recover, but that blunder felt symptomatic of where the game was going. Brisbane had nicked goals out of nowhere, while we worked our arse off for one good chance then blew it in comical fashion. The ball stayed at our end but a Wacky Waving Inflatable Flailing Arm Tube Man would have been more chance of marking than anybody we had down there. You can win a game without forward 50 marks, it just puts a lot of reliance on goals plucked from the arse. And there we were, two goals down at quarter time of the Grand Final, being yelled at relentlessly by the world's cheeriest ground announcer while baking like rotissierie chicken and wondering if there was something better going on at the shopping centre over the road. 

As much as I'd prefer to either have a designated seat or somewhere Row MMish to stand, you could get away with playing Grand Finals at a grassy knoll if spectators had the remotest decency and sense of occasion. I wouldn't have minded being in enemy territory if you could confirm the enemy was Brisbane Lions and not Gilbert Sullivan, because the fans present were the biggest collection of theatregoers known to man.

The greatest crime perpetrated by these people was to stand in front of you and have a casual chat while the game was going on. Forget that there was a Grand Final happening, just hang around gasbagging like you're at a BBQ you peanuts. Which is a gasbagging and peanuts short of what I said to the two men in front of me when the second quarter was about to start. Interacting with fans is not my go, but nobody else seemed to care and without intervention they'd have stayed there forever. Then, of course, the siren went and nothing happened for about 30 seconds. You could see them considering whether to start saying things like "have you missed anything yet?", or "is this exciting enough for you?", at which point I'd have switched to low-blow personal sledging and probably been evicted.

I didn't understand at the time, and am no wiser having watched the replay, but somehow the best attack in the competition never kicked another goal. You'd never have guessed from the start of the second quarter, where we got what passed for a centre clearance in the circumstances only to be pinged holding the ball to gift them another chance. By now I was starting to get a bit nostalgic for playing the shit teams, and thinking how it good it was to sit at home and sulk in front of the TV.

After all the false starts, various Christmases came at once when a lovely tap-down from Paxman allowed Hanks to stuff the ball right onto Harris' chest 30 metres out directly in front. Much to the glee of the fans around me, who had decided to call a surprise Carnival of Hate, she missed. If my Plan B of kicking to marking forwards wasn't going to work I was flummoxed.

We didn't look any more likely to kick a goal, but the midfield were starting to break even, Brisbane's defence was starting to absord pressure, and we remained alive. Usually at this stage of a struggle to score I'd say 'when all else is lost call in a legend' and either Daisy or Paxy will kick a goal. This time it was 'call in the foreign legion', as cult figure Mackin unexpectedly cropped up. Bannan deserves credit for assisting it, putting in about four efforts before flipping the ball out to her running teammate and bingo, bango the margin was less than a straight kick.

I take it the women are included in the post-2021 pledge to automatically make all premiership players life members when their careers end. I don't think much of that idea no matter the gender, but am interested in the perversity of a player who first came to Australia in August leaving at the end of November with life membership in the bank.

This was the goal that changed everything, and was solid reward for improved performance. Now everything that happened in the first quarter was irrelevant, and it didn't hurt that their captain was injured in the same passage. Considering how much long we had the ball down there, one goal wasn't a fantastic reward but more importantly nothing went in at the other end. We did have to survive one scare in the dying seconds when old mate Wardlaw finally got a chance courtesy of Gillard doing Gillardish things up the ground but grassed the mark.

When the first hints of storm came at half time I thought everyone in the uncovered 99% of the ground would rush for the train station. It never went behind a few fat, menacing drops and the crowd was unmoved. I had to find somewhere to properly express myself in the event of a thrilling and/or controversial finish, and would like to thank the Demon Army for providing a safe space where I could leech onto their general presence and make sure somebody in the immediate area understood my feelings.

After my earlier outburst about people standing illegally I was left open to charges of hypocrisy when the President parked herself practically right in front of me before the third quarter bounce. I was pondering whether to risk excommunication by asking her to move when she avoided a diplomatic incident by moving voluntarily.

Further evidence against the zany, Trumpian idea that the umpires were helping us win came from West's early kick to Hanks in front of goal not being deemed 15 metres. Perhaps it was 14.86 but would have been paid anywhere else on the ground. It was part of more forward half dominance, until much to my "I told you so" satisfaction, Harris marked a kick that never went as far as West's. Then she tried to play on so ridiculously quickly that the player was still hanging off her from the contest and she could plausibly deny it. This time she kicked straight, and we were ahead. On a related note, I saw lots of people wearing a fugly, bootleg t-shirt of her that could only have been sold via Facebook ads. If you've ever wondered who falls for those crappy sponsored posts the answer is several Melbourne fans in the greater Ipswich area last Sunday.

After doing all the hard work to get, and stay, in front (including narrowly surviving a touched kick) nothing would have been more typical Melbourne Football Club than conceding right at the end of the quarter. Or in this case after it, as Brisbane's latest shot after the siren was the most realistic and gettable of them all. From 30 metres directly in front I was all but resigned to the result, but as the fairness and probity loving Brisbane fans behind sooked about the cheersquad waving a giant flag behind the kick, it missed. I'd like to think it was the flag that won it. Our lead survived, but spending the last couple of minutes under siege suggested to the nervous onlooker that we didn't have much left in the tank. False alarm, there was plenty to go around. 

Two goals in two quarters was a great result for long-term AFLW hatewatchers and once a year sooks alike, but they can jointly piss up the nearest rope. There's a difference between players missing set shots from the square then shanking the kickout on the full at right angles, and a grim pressure struggle where every goal is worth is weight in gold. You'll never convert the skeptical, but I look at it like Halloween - you're more than welcome not to enjoy it, just don't be the miserable kent who sets out to ruin the game for everyone else. I'd still like to commission research to determine crossover between the saddest of these gits and people who vote for political parties with 'Freedom' in their name.

These people could never understand, but I was STRESSED AS FUCK at three quarter time. We'd literally come too far to lose this in disappointing circumstances, and after dominating through the middle quarters any result short of victory would have sent me off the deep end. 

Cue the most knife-edge quarter imaginable. Maybe neutrals weren't invested enough to appreciate it, but I was hanging on every kick, and continually looking at the time ticking towards 15:00, safe in the knowledge that there would be stuff all time on. If anybody looked to be tiring in the conditions it was Brisbane, but the longer we went without putting the game away the longer they stayed a chance of throwing one lucky punch to nick it.

No moment seriously impacted the result under the last 30 seconds, but there was a moment of excitement after Mackin was caught in a failed dummy. The umpires got confused as to who was in charge, Bannan spotted one of them calling play-on and ran through the ball-carrier like a rocket launcher hitting a tank. In normal circumstances this would have been either 50 or holding the ball, but ended in the Brisbane player being sent back to take her kick like nothing had happened. I saw a post during the week about a fan being served at Rebel Sport by Bannan two days before the Grand Final, and if this was anything to go by she should ditch retail, join the police and start pummelling Victoria's crime rate.

An exclamation point winning goal would have been nice. Zanker had a set shot that she aimed perfectly but just didn't have enough leg to put through. If you know what to look for you can see me in the crowd ready to go absolutely apeshit if this went through, before slumping back down again as it was rushed through. Like everyone else in our side that didn't rack up bulk possessions, Zanker was ignored in best player calculations, but was really good. I don't know if there was something wrong with Lauren Pearce, but she spent a lot of time rucking, and also pulled in a lot of crucial touches around the ground.

I didn't know there were only two minutes left, but it was obvious that we were getting close to the end. It would have been a good time to lock the ball inside 50, but Brisbane quickly took off and reached the wing unimpeded. Thank god that a kick which might have unlocked their path to goal missed the target and bounced straight to Hore, who was caught high in a tackle. Her kick was picked off, but we lived to fight again. Possibly out of guilt at the Bannan missile tackle debacle, the umpires then completely ignored the ball being piffed over Goldrick's head after a free, leaving us still stuck on the defensive side of the ground.

At last, it was time to open the MFC White Pages, scroll to 'L' and dial a legend. After struggling one-on-one as a forward for most of the day, Daisy went big when it counted and plowed into a contest with zero regard for own safety, breaking up what would have been a certain mark and another forward thrust. Bannan and Gay both had half chances to seal it, but the second miss troublingly left Brisbane kicking in with what turned out to be 36 seconds left. A lucky bounce let them get a kick forward but Hore was parked behind the ball, Hanks worked her arse off to mark her kick and if I was watching on TV I'd have known we were safe.

Instead, despite somebody in the distance yelling about there being 30 seconds left, my ringpiece was clenched so tight it could have produced diamonds. I might have been immediately behind our cheersquad, but was still wedged between two families of wholesome Brisbane supporters so was trying not to be a complete bastard. By this point heat, humidity, and sporting tension had gotten to me so I probably wouldn't have been able to hold back the anti-social behaviour if we'd lost. 

I was so delirious that as a Fitzsimon snap bobbled towards goal I was too focused on it to notice that the siren had gone. The first realisation that we'd won was when Bannan let out a clenched fist, almighty roar in our general direction. They cut away before you saw where the kick went, but as it failed to score thank god she wasn't shooting to win it. 

Cue a little bit of carnage, and surprise interaction with strangers. I got so excited singing the song that when a Channel 7 bloke stuck his camera in my face I went with it instead of hiding. Thankfully they didn't show it, saving me from being permanently attached to a premiership moment looking like a dong. Later the party atmosphere got to me again, and as manners had been thrown out the window anyway I snuck my head into a group photo of the Demon Army and Daisy Pearce. No regrets, when else am I ever going to be in the same picture (even peripherally) as a legend?

Of course, it wouldn't be a Melbourne premiership without the presentations turning into a farce. The only difference here was the absence of Basil Zempilas, and a Brisbane captain going through the longest concession speech of all time. I don't envy the job of having to speak after losing a Grand Final but you'd think the instinct would be to congratulate the winners, thank the sponsors, promise to come back next year, and leave. Instead she may as well have thanked every Brisbane member from Aaronson to Zakowski.

Then it was time for the Ms. Norm, and while I was ready to howl in ecstasy when Gillard was rightfully announced I'd have accepted any of our lot. The Brisbane winner played well, but the announcement fell flatter than a plateful of piss because there were only about 103 home fans left in the ground. She briefly livened up proceedings by telling us she’d only just avoided having a Chris Mew, before picking up where the captain left off and mentioning every person who'd ever visited South East Queensland except Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Eventually the winning side was asked to be involved, and obviously respectful of her teammates itching to have a massive piss-on in the rooms she kept her remarks to the point. The big difference in winning Grand Finals was this time the coach got to speak, and also showed admirable brevity so that Brisbane didn't have to camp out for the night listening to us rub the result in. The weather didn't care for their feelings and exploding red and blue streamers wafted directly into the deject Lions group.

In case you thought proceedings had gotten back on track, the individual presentation of players was the biggest post-match Grand Final shambles since Peter Moore threw his loser medal to the crowd. Anyone who has ever watched one of these ceremonies knows how it works, which apparently didn't include the person who'd been hired to do it here. First she promised to read the names in 'chronological order' (?), then took off saying them in numerical order at world record pace. She was going so fast that it got to #7 Tayla Harris and #3 Maddie Gay hadn't yet completed her medal-hat handover with the kid. Somebody wisely chipped in to suggest slowing down, causing her to realise it was going tits up and make a self-deprecating comment. 

It was tremendously undignified, but she'd probably have read out I.P Freely if it was on the sheet. No doubt Channel 7 would have preferred Telstra Premiership Cup Ambassador (this was a real thing) Abbey Holmes to do it, if they could have stopped her wandering around confused as to why Adelaide hadn't won.

Finally, because they couldn't locate the recruiter for the Springfield Communist Party, the players were free to go nuts. During the raucous post-match I just stood up the back applauding like a bandwagon live attendee, watching our team interact with the cheersquad in a series of the most wholesome footy moments since the Casey player's dog ran on the field. The men appreciate the week in/week out, around the country support they get from these fans, but I can tell it meant the world to the women It's one thing to be there for the win, but this will also be a cherished memory.

After getting within sight range of a recently won AFL premiership cup at last, I had no more contribution to make. My voice was gone, my core temperature was above Fukushima reactor three, and the happy memories were in the bank. The added bonus to hanging around so long - single digit numbers of home fans on the train back. And that was it. The prospective storm didn’t drop for another 24 hours, I had a brief but fruitful session at the State Library the next day scanning for coverage of our first game against the Bears at Carrara, did some other limited tourist stuff and came home. As far as interstate Grand Final thrills and spills go it didn’t come close to sneaking into WA for live flag then spending three months in the clink, but for where I'm at right now it was perfect.

If there's anything to complain about, and there really isn't, it's that we did it in this weird year that will forever be referred to as 'Season 7'. It'll always be the 2022 Spring season to me. It won't make it any less ludicrous if they come back in a year with 'Season 8' as if they're naming Wrestlemanias rather than sports seasons. Here's to us winning a weirdly named cup that will baffle people in the future, before sanity is restored and the 2023 premiership is awarded. Preferably also to us.

What a day, what a team. I'm so happy for the originals who have been there from the start, but also the great players picked up on the way, all of who are doing this part-time. They might have had to go back to jobs on Monday, but every one of them has their place in history. Regardless of how long their careers last, each has the most important words in footy etched next to their name forever - 'premiership player'. And in a completely platonic and non-threatening way I love them all for it.

2022 (Spring) Daisy Pearce Medal votes
5 - Tahlia Gillard
4 - Eliza West
3 - Shelley Heath
2 - Eden Zanker
1 - Tyla Hanks

Apologies to Purcell, Gay, Birch, Chaplin, Hore and most everyone else.

Final leaderboard
In the most tricky finish to a Demonblog awards season yet, the result came down to a game where you could throw a blanket over a dozen players for the last vote. Sadly for Purcell she was just edged out by Hanks, leaving us with the first major award tie in the 17 year (!!!!!) history of this page. Congratulations to both on fine seasons, and to our other confirmed winner this week, Demonblog's own Tahlia Gillard, who ended up romping the Rising Star.

27 - Tyla Hanks, Olivia Purcell
23 - Karen Paxman
22 - Eliza West
20 - Lily Mithen
15 - Tayla Harris, Kate Hore
12 - Libby Birch (WINNER: Defender of the Year)
10 - Tahlia Gillard (WINNER: Rising Star Award)
7 - Eden Zanker
6 - Shelley Heath
5 - Sarah Lampard
4 - Maddie Gay 
1 - Alyssa Bannan, Lauren Pearce

Goal of the Week 
Considering the gravity of the event there's not much on offer here. Obviously, in the battle between running goal and set shot from the square, motion gets the nod, so Blaithin Mackin can add this honour to her premiership medal and TBC life membership. No change to the overall top three, meaning it's a Bannan quinella at the top. Congratulations to the excitement machine, who takes home the annual award of a lifetime supply of Jolt Cola.

1st - Alyssa Bannan vs North Melbourne 
2nd - Alyssa Bannan vs Adelaide (QF)
3rd - Eden Zanker vs Gold Coast

Next week
This was my 50th post for 2022, so the first thing I'll be doing is not writing any for a few months. Apologies to anyone who is still interested in an End of Season Spectacular, it's just not going to happen. Please do expect some updates, starting with adding the words 'premiership player' to a lot of profiles, but also historical stuff. I'm currently doing the 1996 papers so get ready for a spot of merger chat. But not for a bit, let a tired old man rest.

Final Thoughts
Despite ending the day in a state of near total physical/mental collapse and losing my hotel key it was the best time I've had in Brisbane since Expo '88.