I love September

I love September. Spring has come and the days are brighter and warmer, and the long, cold winter finally comes to an end. It’s the transition from one phase to another, and by the end of the month the barbecues are getting their first go at it for the season. And, if you’re an AFL fan, the finals are here. There’s a vibe in the air. An expectancy. Excitement. This is it, what it’s all about.

It’s the first week of AFL finals and what an absolute fucking cracker it’s been! I can’t recall a better set of finals games on the same weekend. In one game, the lead changed 20 odd times before the winning goal was kicked with about a minute to go. In another, a team came from 7 goals down to win. The least of the games was close and tight and full of pressure, and the best, yesterday, was a brutal, see-sawing match at the MCG before a raucous crowd of 93,000.

My relationship with footy has been more ambivalent this season. There have been some great games and it’s been a good season, but the performance of my team, combined with disaffection with the declining standard of umpiring, has seen me tune off more than ever before.

I used to be a footy junkie. I’d watch just about every game available on TV, and for many years I’d attend over a dozen games a season. My health has impacted on that, but I only attended three matches this year (ironically, all victories). On TV, I might start watching a match, but will often be off it by half time doing or watching something else. My interest couldn’t be sustained if my team wasn’t in it – and, sadly, often then also.

This weekend has been entirely different. I’ve watched every game and been thrilled and enthralled. It’s like returning to church and rediscovering the beauty of devotion.

I know everyone says this about their favourite sport, but I have very little doubt that nothing matches the sheer spectacle and excitement of a good game of Aussie Rules. There’s tremendous skill and unparalleled athleticism, big hits that verge on the brutal, and high performance under conditions of extreme pressure. And it has fantastic romance. It’s the greatest game in the world.

I’ll be watching for the remainder of the finals series, likely on the edge of my seat. For the record, I think the Grand Final will be the Sydney Swans versus either Geelong or Melbourne (a preliminary final worthy of a grand final if Melbourne makes it that far).

I’m unwilling to pick a winner. The Swans should make it because they have home finals, and there’s no team as disciplined or hard at it and which makes such good decisions under pressure. But then Geelong have been the best team all year, and Melbourne is the reigning premier whose best is superior to every other team. And, it’s possible, that some other team might sneak through. It’s finals footy – anything’s possible.

As for my mob – I hope they’re watching and it burns deep that they’re not a part of it. It starts with desire. Be there, do it. Next year.

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