When The War Is Over

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When The War Is Over Empty When The War Is Over

Post by C.K on Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:17 am

I hope people forgive a little self indulgence here, but this has been brewing for days and may be of a little interest to some.

Being a child of SANFL, much like many of us, gives different memories of Grand Finals to many of those from the current generation. As soon as the final siren would sound in the second semi final or preliminary final as a child, and your team had won, it was time to start working out how to get the coveted Grand Final tickets. Who was going to reserve the spot in the line and undertake the long wait until the ticket windows opened? How to get to Football Park on the day; risk the bus, or take the car for a pre-match BBQ? Do you risk taking the bag full of cut up phone books to throw into the air at the early goals? Those nervous nights leading up to the big match, playing the game in your mind many times over and working through every possible scenario and what could happen.

Times change, fans get a bit greyer, and the crowds get smaller, but the memories still remain strong. For me, Grand Final time is a little different to when I was a young boy, with the “Aish – 8” duffle coat, covered in badges of the heroes, going with mum and dad to the grounds around Adelaide many weeks to see the red and blue. Being in the media means that a certain element of being a visible fan has to be put aside for most matches. The SANFL brings enormous joy to me, as the league that I grew up loving to the core of my heart, so the tingle of excitement at going to see South Adelaide play Port Adelaide never dulls – it’s about being a part of the league. There is always an added spring in the step, however, when covering your own team, whether that be for TV, radio or print. There is always a little more excitement when heading down into the rooms pre-game and seeing the team you quietly support and bleed for, preparing for the match. When that team is setting a standard for the rest of the league to reach, from very early in the season, that excitement just grows a little more inside, even if the exterior remains rightly neutral for the audience all season.

Arriving at Football Park (it will always be Football Park to me, no matter what sponsor has their name around the ground) at 10am on Grand Final Day has that special edge to it this year. For the first time all season, my two sisters had made the journey to see the red and blue. As a young boy, mum and dad took me to countless games, as well as my grandfather. Grandad was the man who brought his family into the red and blue from a very early time, and so many of our memories of the early days revolved around going to the Parade with him. Sadly, he passed away unexpectedly mere weeks before the 1982 premiership, after declaring all season that he could smell another flag in the air at the club led by the man who was still seen as “the outsider from the VFL” after some years at the helm. The local paper declared that Glenelg had been “emBALMEd” that day by Norwood, and the family all had a slight heaviness in their heart that day that Grandad hadn’t been a part of if. Mum, however, had led the cheersquad at the club in her early years, dragging giant floggers onto buses around town and hoping for a kindly driver who would allow the mass of streamers to be sat up the back on the 12B bus. In her later years, she was not able to come to games as much, as her own country football commitments took hold, but we all still looked forward enormously to the big day. It was only the second grand final for our club since Dad had passed away, but was a lovely feeling to have the rest of the family around for the big day.

After the pre-match BBQ, catching up with some great friends from West Adelaide, chatting with fans from both clubs who would head over for a talk about the match, meeting with good mates from Norwood, and neutrals from other clubs there for the yearly trip to the Grand Final, it was time to start working. The pre-match meetings about how we would all carry out our roles on the day. Making sure that all checks and balances were complete and all contingencies were in place for any disasters. Looking over all notes for those little pieces of information that may come in handy on the day. Checking off the final lineups with team managers, making sure no guernsey numbers had mysteriously changed, strolling around the boundary and keeping an eye on the reserves grand final – the only time we would see the Bulldogs all day, in a twist that we all knew would come one day in our SANFL lifetimes.

It is hard to describe the feeling of being out in the middle of Football Park for the biggest day on the SANFL calendar and taking a couple of moments to soak up the day. Looking all around and seeing smatterings of colours everywhere. Hearing the early chants that will roar around the stadium later that day. Working out the vagaries of a wind that had played havoc all finals. Feeling that lift from the crowd when the first team emerges from the bunkers….heads down, bouncing footballs, tracksuits on, with cheerleaders waving pom-poms and chanting for the players….all knowing that the next three hours will change the lives for both groups forever.

The blur of the pre-match continues, as one ear is kept on making sure we keep to time, and the other ear is on the many people we speak to….while another eye drifts over both groups in case of any surprise late changes….quick chats with friends from both sides….as the seat between both benches is chosen before the wondrous sound of the first siren, as the umpire holds the ball aloft…..

All outside biases are put aside now, keeping an eye on both teams throughout the day. Why have West decided to start their premier defender in attack? How is Norwood structuring their defence now as a result? The crunch as a group of players flying for a mark only metres in front of us, the thud as the pack hits the ground and the cacophony of voices, all yelling instructions to the teammates on the turf trying desperately to farm the ball to advantage.

The trend becomes apparent early in the game….the team that has sat atop the ladder for so much of the season seems to be putting the foot down and gaining the momentum….on my left side, voices are lifting in intensity, as West try to shuffle things to swing the game their way. Injuries are checked on, as interchanges are made, voices everywhere barking instructions. On the right, medical staff move anxiously as a brave young man, who had crossed over from an opposition club some years before, searching for opportunity, limps to the bench, barely able to move his knee. He heads into the tunnel as the opportunity is now thrown to another young man to carry his workload alone.

Tick….tick……tick…as the half time siren blares, crowds rise in their seat, some clapping their heroes, others stretching as they contemplate the second half and whether the improbable comeback can materialise. People from both teams hang over the fence for a quick chat about things…officials stroll past with looks ranging from content to harassed, depending on their colours…players return to the bench as the third quarter starts and the next stage in the journey begins.

The momentum becomes a tide immediately, as Norwood’s two quick goals blow the game apart. The mood changes at ground level, with both teams sensing the outcome forging on. Possessions become more assured from one team, as they seem to be more fumbly for the other. The youngest man on the ground takes possession, in almost the same spot that his uncle did 28 years prior, as he launches on a similar run of bounces, albeit in the opposite direction, as the crowd lifts and starts to roar…after the third bounce, an assured foot slams home the goal that seals the fate for both clubs and the noise reverberates around the ground.

For the first time all day, my mind drifts back….to 1978, when I watched from the stands as a man I idolised rushed into the interchange area of the opposition as the crowd around leapt to their feet…..to 1982, when it became apparent early that the flag was heading back……being part of that crowd in 1984 who all rose as one as a helmeted, slight man dashed along that wing into folklore, while a teammate flew in the opposite direction that day against a pack with the same courage he now shows with one of the toughest jobs in SA football as he leads an AFL club….to 1997, when the old enemy was buried and grown men cried…

The siren sounds, as the mixture of elation and despair fills the immediate area around me….time to bring the mind back to work, heading out onto the ground to interview some of the exultant…going straight to the player that I had always privately intended speaking with first, if Norwood won. A player who had spent many years at a team that only briefly pushed for finals, who had captained that club before finding out he was no longer required, and heading back home to the country for a year to play in a flag with mates, before making the big decision to return back for one last try at the dream. Watching his joy stirs up some of my own emotion at the day and I work hard to keep my mind on track, while still feeling the immense pride and joy of being among a group representing a club that has been part of me all my life.

My role entails going with the club on the lap of honour, talking to some for interviews for the national audience, and sharing the joy with other players who rush up to talk off-camera as their emotions spill over. Walking the boundary, many friends that have also been a part of the club all their life rush down to the fence, happiness and relief spreading over their face as they reach over to shake hands, hug or just yell. Conducting one interview in front of the cheer squad, as they soak it all up, and seeing so many people there that have lived and bled for the club for so much of their lives…and as soon as that interview is finished, letting my own emotions out for a few seconds with them…and passing a former coach of the club along the way, his face beaming as he reflects on the times that he, also, was out on the field of battle waiting to hold the cup aloft.

Official duties finished, and a brief chat with colleagues before going down into the rooms with family, who have waited for this moment for years also. A hug from a mum who has seen every grand final the club has played since the 1950’s, and then soaking up the day with players, coaches, supporters….a discussion with a former CEO of the club who had been such a part in building the day…match day staff who had seen so many highs and lows in their two generations with the club….young players who had missed out on being part of the 21 that day, but had played such a role during the season….fans who had lived for this moment for years….the club song rings out again as the time comes to prepare to go back to a ground that has been such a part of my life for longer than I can remember.

Along the way, a good friend rings. He was part of the vanquished team, and the anticipation in his voice when I met him only hours before has been replaced by sadness and disappointment, and I remember back only two years before when it was us on the other end of the chain at the hands of a Bulldog outfit that had snatched the prize from under the noses of the club. Sympathy and friendship fills those few moments as we talk.

As soon as I arrive at the club, people that I have stood on the Hill with for many years, wearing a look I haven’t seen for all of that time, walk over as we share those magic moments again, reaching into the mental replay of the game. A revered former player of the club grabs me to talk with the happiness spilling out of him. Fans that I have never met before embrace me, united in the one cause, and get friends to take photos of us. A dear friend, with whom I have shared a media box numerous times over the years, arrives and hugs me again, both finally being able to enjoy the night as fans rather than media representatives.

“It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag…..”. The noise rings out from the DJ area, as players who only hours before had been fighting for the same piece of leather with beleaguered opponents, walk past, still wearing their guernsies and soaking up the affection and happiness of fans. More dear friends arrive as we stand in a group and chuckle over memories that are already being filed away for life. The night that so many people had dreamt about for years starts to blend into a blur as “oh the team played fine, in the year ‘29” joins the noise as the playing group is presented to adoring fans.

Indeed, from the crowd’s first yell, to the final bell, the ground unites as one, as all of those who still wear their jumpers with pride share their pride with those who are unable to be on the ground with them each week, but feel every bump, every blow and every moment from the other side of the fence each week. “WHAT DO WE SING!!”

For one night, indeed, everyone does keep their eye on the red and the blue. Next year, from Round One, my Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will again be returned to the SANFL. To being a part of a competition that has been such a part of my life since sitting cross legged on the floor and listening to Rod McLeod, Brian Lees and another dear Norwood man, Dennis Browne calling the action over the transistor. Watching Peter Marker, Ian Day, Rick Keegan and Ken Cunningham bringing us all the action from two television channels each Saturday night. Reading the Sunday Mail every week and seeing if your thoughts on the best players matched theirs of the writers. To go full circle to now being a part of that can be so surreal at times. To be able to be part of a premiership of the club I have loved all my life for this last week has been more surreal. Next year, the hats will switch back again, but now that the war is over for another season, the time is there to soak it up.

Join date : 2011-12-06
Posts : 1176

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When The War Is Over Empty Re: When The War Is Over

Post by Big Phil on Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:54 am

A great read, indeed, CK...

Well written mate and enjoy the feeling...

It is fantastic, isn't it...
Big Phil
Big Phil

Join date : 2012-01-30
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When The War Is Over Empty Re: When The War Is Over

Post by Lee on Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:22 pm

An outstanding read, CK and so many of us would identify with it.

My day was with the losing team, my third GF loss as a Westies' volunteer, but Norwood were much the better side on the day and for the year and I'm pleased for you and the good people who support them.

Join date : 2011-12-05
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When The War Is Over Empty Re: When The War Is Over

Post by PhilH on Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:56 am

A great read Chris,

For me, last year was such a blur balancing Eagles duties with Life FM ones a working day that went from 8am in the morning to about 11pm that night.

However I will never forget the moment that final siren sounded.

Enjoy !

Join date : 2012-02-01
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Teams : Eagles, Adelaide Bite, Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers
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