You know the feeling well. When you’ve come back from an extended holiday, you’ve got some stories to tell (and boy do we have stories), and you walk through the front door of your home for the first time in weeks or months. No matter how great your holiday was (and I doubt our ‘holiday’ from footy has been all that enjoyable), nothing compares to the feeling of being in your nice warm bed, uttering the words ‘home sweet home.’ Yes, that was the general consensus at the `G last Sunday afternoon. With the beautiful weather providing a warm invitation for us all, we were welcomed back into the loving embrace of our beloved MCG once more.
However, I am getting ahead of myself. The joy, in fact, began weeks before when the old familiar conversations of ‘Are you going to the game this weekend?’ sprung up amongst family and friends. The simple delight of the question being asked cast my mind back to a pre-2020 era, when going to the footy was a weekly (and legal) occurrence. As I got ready for the game on Sunday I creaked open my recently under-utilised ‘footy draw’ and remembered the scarves and jumpers that had been hibernating for so long. Among the treasure was my MCC membership card, and a wave of relief washed over me that it was still there.
Putting on the Melbourne scarf on the day of the match was an amazing feeling, the kind you get when you know there are good times ahead. As I boarded the train, I was met with the knowing smiles of fellow Dees fans, not realising how much I’d missed the solidarity among strangers; solidarity that comes from wearing the same team colours. Stepping off the platform at Jolimont felt like not a day had passed since I was last there. I met up with my sister and her partner, and we walked up through Gate 3 where we swiped our cards at the all familiar turnstiles. The attendant smiled and said ‘Welcome back!’ which nearly brought a tear to my eye.
As we found our seats and the Melbourne-Fremantle game began, it was great to be there at our sporting Mecca, witnessing in person the sport we love so much. Even hearing the siren blare felt exciting. With a slightly sloppy start and some first run jitters, a few missed opportunities soon led to Pickett securing the first goal of the match and the Dees found their groove. The Dees had most of the play with May and Lever proving to be standouts in defence, enabling us to keep our lead throughout the game. Oliver shone brightly in his 100th game with a match high 35 disposals. Petracca also performed well, consistently getting the job done. Yes, Fremantle was riddled with injury and the Dees weren’t flawless, but they certainly outplayed the Dockers and it was a nice feeling to spend the game in a leading position. The Dees continued to pull away in the third quarter with a number of well-timed goals and while a string of points right at the end of the fourth quarter was frustrating, they did not take away from the joy of the final siren and the feeling of four points on the ladder. Singing ‘It’s a Grand Old Flag’ among a chorus of fellow Dees supporters couldn’t have been more satisfying. It’s certainly different from singing along at home in lockdown, and it felt good to be back.
It’s the little things that brought a smile to my face: the appreciation of an articulate supporter who calls out exactly what you were thinking from the crowd; the familiar chorus of people screaming ‘BALL!’ when it was in fact, not holding the ball; and seeing friends, families and couples gathered together to support our great game. Perhaps the game itself is only one part of what we love, and if 2020 gave us anything, it was the opportunity to reflect on the place that footy holds in our lives. We love to watch along on the TV but it’s true that nothing beats the feeling of being back in the stands.
Footy’s back, back as we know it, and if the MCG could speak, I have no doubt that the words it would proclaim from the very tops of its stands would be “Welcome Home!”
Emma La Mari is a long suffering but truly faithful Dees supporter and MCC member, who patiently awaits the day that a Melbourne premiership becomes reality. As a Primary School teacher in her everyday life, she seizes the opportunity to educate the next generation of children about our great game, recruiting mini Melbourne supporters along the way.