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Are We There Yet?

From the Members Thursday AUG 19

By Lynda Carroll

So, with a deep sigh, this is where we are.

We’re not part of a huge MCG crowd, noise streaming around the ground, catching up with friends. Instead, we’re all at home, watching the game on television, through our phones, in our mind’s eye via the radio. Yet, we all have a certain sense of shared experience, despite our separation from the crowd. If you are a Melbourne supporter, there’s a fair bet that you did something like this at some stage during Monday - grabbed the newspapers to rejoice at the reviews, revelled in Fritsch’s seven goals, took a screenshot of the ladder and sent it to friends and colleagues, regardless of their affiliations or interest, then continued to transmit those text messages with red and blue hearts and smiley faces, excited comments and reflections.

Of course, it’s just not the same, especially when your team’s right up there or close to, every single week. This is a rare treat, and we are missing out. We mustn’t grumble, however. Melbourne’s winning margin – 41 points – serves as a poignant little reminder of a season long gone, when there was no television or blanket social media coverage, and when the world teetered on the edge of collapse.

That was, of course, 1941. What would that season have been like? It was Melbourne’s third flag in a row, a rare hattrick and a tortured time. The Second World War was everything by now, with football about to lose its starring role at the MCG, with players donning a different kind of uniform, and with a hovering tension in the air. The death of Ron Barassi Snr at Tobruk during the season, the absence through service of key personnel including Keith ‘Bluey’ Truscott and Harold Ball, the changing of guernseys to military uniforms, all combined to shade the world with sadness and uncertainty.

Now, in 2021, nobody could get to the game on Sunday, not even if the MCG was located in their five kilometre travel limit. For the 1941 Grand Final, there was a very healthy crowd of 79,687 to see Beames kick six goals, Mueller and Smith three apiece, and Western Australian star, Stan ‘Pops’ Heal play brilliantly in the first of two premierships, returning west to triumph with West Perth the following week. ‘Checker’ Hughes was the maestro coach, and future Brownlow Medallist Don Cordner made his senior debut in the second semi-final win over Carlton.

Afterwards, it had to sink in that Melbourne’s premiership win was the last game to be played on the MCG ‘for the duration’, as the ground was taken over by the military. That meant that nobody would see their team playing on the MCG until 1946, as well as enduring wartime worries and restrictions.

We’re a long way from that place, fortunate in many ways, yet with an inkling and an empathy brought about by hard times and deprivations, sadness and worry. As was the case way back in 1941, the red and blue colours have provided a highlight eighty years later. In 2021, we’ve been able to enjoy most of the season, even if it’s sometimes been from a distance. On Sunday, it was soaking up the combination of Gawn and Jackson; Pickett’s goal from a pocket, Petracca charging through the game, and – of course – Fritsch’s seven goals leading the way. It was odd, it was echoing, but it was a win and a game of many highlights. It’s what we want, it’s what we’re getting, and it could be - Geelong pending – a final step on the way to the Demons’ first minor premiership in 57 years.

That takes us back to 1964; another gem in the Melbourne collection, long and well-remembered for being our most recent – never last! – premiership. With coach Simon Goodwin saying of supporters that ‘the team can feel their support… we are doing everything we can to play the best for them, and we want to make them proud’, we know where we are heading. With one round remaining in the home and away season, we are on the way to the finals, wherever they may be played, and however we get to share the Melbourne experience. From the stands to millions of televisions, nervous radio listening and score refreshing, we will be – and are – there now.

Lynda Carroll

Lynda Carroll is hoping to have people back at the MCG, and to be at the MCC Library again soon on match days. She is still researching for an updated MFC history, which she is writing alongside her duties for the MFC Past and Present Players’ and Officials’ Association, and is currently working part-time as an MCC Collections Cataloguer.