The morning of the day

It’s the morning of the 2014 AFL Grand Final. It’s a beautiful, sunny day out, perfect for footy – if anything perhaps, too perfect. It’s quiet out, I’m the only one up, but soon enough the streets will be buzzing and there will be roars from the great MCG, and from homes all across Australia. This is always a massive day.

As is my tradition I’m off to the Cheese’s for their annual Grand Final barbecue. We’ll fry up a few burgers, pop a few beers, before settling into the good plonk as the big game commences. We blokes will clamour around the big screen exclaiming and yelling advice at it, while the girls will sit away from us drinking sav blanc and talking about whatever women talk about on grand final day.

I stopped at the Cheese’s overnight Thursday. Friday morning I caught the train into the city with Cheeseboy. It seemed quiet. School holidays are on still and I suspect the number of commuters are down because of that. In the city we lined up to buy a take-away coffee before sitting down in a small laneway near the Melbourne Club to enjoy it. Overhead the sky was blue. A grand old gum shaded the laneway, and going by us were a variety of people – workers mainly, some tourists – dressed for the occasion. While many were in basic Friday casual there were many more with a scarf draped around their neck, and lots wearing the guernsey of their favourite footy team.

After parting from Cheeseboy I wandered the city streets looking for something to chew on. I was surprised how quiet it was. Perhaps I had never noticed it before, or rather never really been around at this time of day to observe – a little after 9am. I’ve spent half my life working in the CBD, but like everyone else properly locked away in the office by 8.30 am.

I felt in no hurry. It was Grand Final eve and I wanted to soak up the vibe. The vibe became apparent in dribs and drabs, and then pretty well all at once. Gradually the streets filled up with people wearing their team colours. Most seemed out of towners, wandering around in a very un-Melbourne like way both vague and excited. I figured that many had just flown in that morning, and here in the city now wanted to be out of their hotel room and amongst it.

It went from quiet to busy. All the cafes were full to over-flowing. People went by in the narrow laneways with overnight bags slung over their shoulder. The conversation was all of the footy, the occasion, the voices robust, interspersed with frequent laughter. Ahead of the game all was anticipation. There were no losers yet, anything was possible, and every one of them believed it was their team that would come out on top.

I found a corner table at an outdoor cafe and had a bowl of yoghurt. I watched these passing scenes. I felt the odd man out – a local after all in a sea of visitors, and without a team in the final. By my reckoning there were more wearing red and white than wearing brown and gold. That would change though.

I finally made my way to the station. The trains stopped and opened their doors and grannies got out of them with their grandkids draped all in club colours – competing or not – here to watch the grand final parade in a couple of hours. The city was beginning to roar.

This is a happy time of year even if your team is not competing. I love the sense of occasion, the sense of anticipation. It’s a time when strangers will stop and chat, brought together by the game. Everyone has a place to go to, the game perhaps, or more often a grand final function somewhere. The barbecue is classic – today always marks the beginning of barbecue season.

As for the game itself I think it’ll be a good one. I think Sydney will win, and I hope they do – as an Essendon supporter it’s hard for me to support the Hawks. I think it’ll be tight for a little over a half before the Swans begin to pull away. I reckon they’ll win by 20-25 points in the end – and Buddy will have a big one.

Wherever you are today, enjoy! It’s a great moment, cheers!

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