My timing always has been terrible.
Like really, really bad. Finding the girl of your dreams the week after she takes up with someone else terrible. Slickpicking the winning lotto numbers the week after they came up terrible. Rubbish timing. It's been the bane of my life since I was small enough to miss the last sausage roll at the birthday party, and it's torched me again
You see, I've spent most of Freo's finals campaign up north. Not in the Kimberley, where I might be able to wrestle my way past a croc or two to find a pub with The Game On, but right up in the arse end of the world, where the wind blows cold off the polar ice cap to the rocky outcrop just south of the Arctic Circle that is Iceland.
Don't get me wrong, Iceland is a fantastic place to spend a couple of weeks taking photos. The scenery is magnificent, the locals friendly and the beer is top-notch. It's just that this month I had to be taking my long awaited photography holiday on the month that the Fremantle Football Club barnstorm their way into the pointy end of the season. The trip was booked 18 months ago, when Ross Lyon was still regarded warily by the faithful, and Freo's finals chances were...uncertain. The dates were locked in - this is a paid workshop, so I had no flexibility there. I figured I'd take a chance.
After all, one of the best things about being a member of the Purple Cult was that you could reliably book your holidays in September, right? Right?
In retrospect, I'd fallen into the Slough of Despond that all Fremantle fans find themselves into from time to time. Sure, we'd get that flag one day, and I might even be alive to see it...but 2013 wasn't foreseen. Even my most optimistic musings had us bowing out in the semis, with 2014 being Year One of the Assault on the Flag. I really wanted this trip, so I figured I'd take the chance.
So here I sit, in a hotel room in Reykjavik late at night waiting for my recording of the Preliminary Final to download. Every few minutes sees another bit of that blue bar fill in, but it will be late in the evening indeed when it is finally down and I can see the game that got us in the Big One. Well, I can watch it on the way to Ireland, where I'll be spending the next fortnight. Come Saturday I'm in reasonably good shape, but more on that below.
The Saturday just gone was a good one. I had spent the morning photographing some heartbreakingly beautiful sights, things I've never seen before (and will not see again for...a long time I suspect). But even as these magnificent vistas were being recorded, my mind was far away at a decrepit little stadium in the south west corner of Australia where the Purple Army was gathered to watch what turned out to be the most effective asphyxiation job since the Boston Strangler. I had a phone, but resisted the temptation to call home every five minutes. Finally I could take it no more, and called back for an update.
What followed must have looked comical. A grown man jumping up and down and whooping like a kid that has just discovered chocolate. It took some time to explain to the Seppos and Canucks in the group exactly why I had what looked to them like a seizure. They probably still think that I'm a little wrong in the head - and they may have a point. But that Saturday was a high point, one of the happiest days in my life.
Which brings us to the Grand Final. I always swore I'd be there to watch us, cheering the boys on and so proud of them that I could burst. It wouldn't even matter if we won or lost, just that we were there, on the big stage, showing the rest of the country the meaning of Passion, Loyalty and Commitment. There have been low points. Don't ask about what I did the day we blew a 51 point lead to Melbourne...these fits of despair are best left alone now. But by whatever deity, power or force that you put your faith in, it's a grand thing to be where we are now.
I'll be watching the game somewhere on the west coast of Ireland. The hotel has cable, that cable should include Setanta, so I've a good chance of catching it live. If I can find a pub willing to open at 4:00 am and put the game on I'll be there. I've got my cap, my scarf and my shirt, and I'm perfectly willing to look like a total tool in front of strangers while that game is one, but my heart is going to be a the G, willing the boys on to prove them all wrong and take home the cup. No matter how good this trip is, a part of me will regret not being there. But that's life, all I can do now is bask in the warm glow of my fellow believers, an enjoy these next few days.
Terrible timing perhaps, but I wouldn't trade that beaten up old purple hat for the world.
Warm wishes from the Cold North.