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The Preliminaries

From the Members Thursday SEP 16

By Lynda Carroll

Melbourne is in the Grand Final!

Yes, that says it all.

On the Friday afternoon of the Preliminary Final, I was trying to deny the existence of this meeting against Geelong. It was, after all, being held way out west. Given the limitations on our Victorian lives at the moment, Perth is a really huge distance to contemplate. Maybe the game could just sneak past and announce itself later?

But, by the end of the evening, I felt like I’d been there. Just like every other Melbourne supporter across the nation, I’d started watching and listening with nervous enthusiasm. By the time the final siren sounded, it was a very different story. When is the replay on? Which was Max’s best goal? How good was it seeing That Much Melbourne in the crowd!

Even now, with a few days of flurry and ticket sorting happening, the story reel sometimes starts to replay itself. The ‘oh no!’ of Steven May’s early injury was offset by a 29-point lead at half time. The worry over an experienced Geelong coming back was redeemed by a 10.5 to 1.5 second half. The joy – Gawn’s goal from outside 50 metres. The disbelief – our five All Australians sitting on the Melbourne bench late in the game with broad grins on their faces, their happiness undoubtedly shared by everyone in red and blue, everywhere.

The relief – oh, the relief. It was palpable and wonderful. Despite an early lead, relaxation was at a premium. It needn’t have been that way. We don’t know this ground as well as our MCG, but the team certainly made themselves at home early on. Gawn, of course, kicked five, leading the way and keeping the momentum flowing. Pickett, with three, was at his mercurial best. Brown, after hitting the post early on, took deep steadying breaths to set himself for the first of his two goals. Everywhere, we echoed his deep breathing, eventually settling ourselves to watch a wonderful win.

Afterwards, the statistics were effervescent and constant. Did we know that Gawn had never kicked more than three goals before in his career? And here he was kicking four goals of his five in just over five minutes! Eight goals to nothing in the third quarter – unreal. Did you see how busy Petracca was, and Viney? 32 and 34 disposals respectively. Can you believe that it was our best win over the Cats ever?! Like – EVER!! Well, 1909!!! The whole world was spinning, as we realised – we’re heading to our first Grand Final since 2000, the smiles on the players’ faces warming our locked down worlds. Messages were semi-coherent but beautifully meaningful - ‘Did it!!’ ‘Love this!’ – gradually lengthening to social media posts of treasured paraphernalia, again offset by many, many exclamation marks.

Now, it’s certainly a strange time for all Demons. We’re not at the MCG. It’s been 21 years since David Neitz captained Melbourne against a brutal Essendon outfit. That’s nearly quarter of a century, and Neitz says – through a grin – that he will probably have tears streaming down his face if we win. If we win. We can’t say ‘when’ yet. Ron Barassi – the captain of that most recent premiership in 1964 – counsels the team to ‘Keep your cool!’ The Bulldogs are tough customers, and both teams – let alone their supporters – have nearly a fortnight to wait before the Grand Final. As I write this, there are eleven sleeps to go. It has a certain Christmas feel to it; a sense of celebration and people from everywhere coming together.

Of course, we won’t actually be coming together. There won’t be crowds or that wonderful wave of noise and colour. But there will be messages and scarves and bowls of chips (as well as a never empty kettle, thank you very much), while the support and excitement in the west is something wonderful to see.

So, here we are. Our team is in the Grand Final. We’re reading the match reports, revelling in the Deestiny/Deestroy headlines, hoping, wishing and supporting. No matter where or when, there’s one thought that runs through so many messages, so many communications, so many virtual meetings and even the occasional quiet rendition of the ‘Grand Old Flag’. How good is this? Soon enough, we’ll know.

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.