I’m a Sydney Swans fan. And I’m in Melbourne for the weekend.
You’ve probably concluded I’m here for the grand final. You’d be wrong. Because when the Swans take on Hawthorn this afternoon, I won’t be anywhere near the MCG. I’ll be in the shower getting all gussied up for a friend’s wedding.
Who gets married on grand final day, you ask? Good question.
It’s not the first time I’ve encountered the diary clash between pivotal sporting fixtures and other events that people consider important in their lives. One friend scheduled her nuptials for the day of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final. Which meant there was plenty of free booze to drown our sorrows when Jonny-fancy-pants-Wilkinson decimated Aussie dreams and kicked England to its first meaningful trophy in any sport in 37 years.
So what do you do when you find yourself in Melbourne for the grand final weekend and haven’t got a prayer of getting to the big game without killing a friendship? Well, you do the next best thing and go to the parade.
Aussies love a parade. And we’ve got it down to a fine art. Nothing says laid-back Aussie boganism quite like a bunch of blokes in shorts sitting on fold-up chairs in the back of a ute. Don’t get me wrong. They were nice chairs. Teak. And nice utes too. Toyotas.
Former Swans great Barry Hall was there, strolling among said utes in jeans and a suit jacket, a standard for the AFL’s male media fraternity. Now a Fox Sports commentator, he dropped his pen under one of the cars. “Doesn’t matter,” he shrugged. “I don’t take notes anyway.”
Big Bad Barry has looked after himself. Several years retired, he still looks just a couple of minutes away from being match ready. “You should be playing tomorrow, Bazza,” I suggested. He replied in that deep gravelly voice that could tarmac a road. “Ya reckon?”
As the crowd stood waiting for the players and watching a bit of mascot biffo, I made a few observations. First, brown and yellow is a crap colour combination.
Second, in our section of the parade and on the No. 8 tram coming in, the sea of red and white easily accounted for the rancid rivulets of the opposing team colours.
Which brings me to my third observation. If the passion of the fans is anything to go by, the Swans have got this one in the bag.
Swans supporters have travelled 1,000 kilometres to get here, over hill and down dale, hanging the expense and braving the lengthy interrogation that is any airline’s online booking process these days.
The team’s undisputed No. 1 supporter, Kenny Williams, is so dedicated that when the Swans moved to Sydney in 1982, Kenny moved with them. Now 85, he’s the team’s living mascot, hydration specialist and leads the team song in the dressing room with such gusto, people worry he’ll bring on a heart attack.
That’s commitment for you. By comparison, Hawks supporters seemingly found it difficult to make the 10-minute schlep down the road for yesterday’s parade.
So while I won’t be there this afternoon, I know the team’s fortunes are in good hands. I know the fans will be there in force. I know Buddy will rise to the occasion against his former teammates. I know Goodesy will have the fairytale send-off in what may well be the last game of his career. I know Kenny will be belting out ‘Cheer, cheer, the red and the white’ at the conclusion of the game.
And I shall drink heartily, both to my friend’s marital happiness and the Swans’ success.