They should have told me I was dreamin'. One minute I’m ready to pull the trigger on some purple jousting sticks to hang my Premiership flags from the balcony, the next, it felt like some Internet scam had sold my whole house while I was away.
The setting was perfect; I was down in Safety Bay. A mate has a beach house; big tinny out front, a crumbling dunny out back, the smell of seaweed dredged up by the wind like a fart in a spacesuit. Feel the serenity. I dropped my swag in the old house in the back yard – a 3-room fibro shed with cold running brown water and internal wildlife.
GF day is in 'new' house up the lawn, which fills with a cast of characters once a year. He said it was a great day, you get a bunch of old farts who think they can drink like they're 25, despite previous and current evidence to the contrary. And someone wins a game of footy on the TV. I didn't know many of these blokes, but one turned up in Eagles garb and was clearly lost and deranged before any alcohol hit the place. We needed to move the Prado's to get to the Camry, so we could back out the HSV, to find the Ute to do the bottle-o run. The drink came in handy later in the day (ah, sweet liquor eases the pain). Being one of only two Freo supporters there, the others saw early signs I didn’t want to acknowledge. But when Pav misses from 30, you know the afternoon's going to be long, slow, and every bounce of the ball has your teeth on edge. It was the vibe of the thing.
And so it came to pass. I found the beer passing through me like beer, the trips to the dunny in the last qtr frequent, and unnecessarily prolonged. The smell of the seaweed seemed fitting, and easier to stomach than the TV.
I’d expected Freo were tougher going into that, instead I felt the ghost of 2003; I believe they lost it, rather than Hawthorn winning it. I hope the experience toughens them up – strongest timber made by the stiffest wind and all that. For some, the experience of walking into this Freo side and getting to a GF early in their career might have been taken for granted. Not now.
You can't underestimate the sales and marketing hoopla of the GF; it's massively hyped and corporately mythologised. All are fleeting, fickle and fake as a season of X Factor. It's not a bloody Holy Grail – a cup goes straight to some poolroom every year. If it were a Grail you'd never find the bastard thing, or just go on a semi-comedic odyssey for 20 years, with only a couple of coconut shells and a ragtag bunch of wanderers to get you there.
The seaweed smell was quickly drowned out by the waft of the lamb on the BBQ. The old blokes started hitting the piss as hard as a bunch of 25 year olds. One fell asleep mid sentence after slamming tequilas; another disappeared over the top of his chair and announced he was fine to drive. Another forgot a joke he was telling, midway through. Listen to that serenity. It was the sort of carnage I hadn't witnessed since the 1st qtr a few hours back.
Next year, Fremantle should tell the AwFL – with its sideshows, parades and charade - they can all go and get stuffed. They’ve got a job to do, and the sideshow will be seen for what it is. Lyon's advice was it's just another game of football; a noisier and tougher one, but a game of footy all the same. Hopefully they'll see that, and go back for it harder and hungrier, knowing they're good enough to win it. Because they are.