The Dogs are looking resplendent in their retro jumpers. There's been a fitting outpouring of love and affection for our hero and captain as he ran through the banner (perhaps the young Murphy girls share their dad's quirkiness, as they were wearing the numbers 17 and 23 rather than that of their father, the milestone man).
And yet, at half time, the crowd is uneasy. The celebration isn't going as planned. Our team, expected to score a comfortable win against a struggling opponent, have plunged as far behind as seven goals.
Those retro jumpers have certainly re-ignited memories from the Western Oval days. But not in a good way. Our goal-kicking struggles would have been understandable in those days when men sporting those red collars battled the howling, notoriously flukey wind. Yet beneath the roof, we alone are apparently kicking into its teeth, no matter which end we face, as shot after shot drifts astray. Our lowly opponents meanwhile are completely incapable of missing.
A second and equally unwelcome retro factor has surfaced. A neanderthal near us loudly expresses his view that our team are playing 'like girls.' Unfortunately I gather that this is not a complimentary nod in the direction of our AFL women's team. I find it curious that racism is rightly condemned yet there's still a tolerance level for abusive comments about 'girls' or 'retards' (what a loveable rogue that Heath Shaw is, hey).
There's a final retro element. Without me being informed, Brisbane's famed triple-premiership stars the 'Fab Four' have somehow been re-united. That simply has to be Michael Voss or Nigel Lappin waltzing breezily away from stoppages again and again. I become vigilant, half-expecting to see long-retired Bulldog nemesis Daniel Bradshaw somehow leading out in the forward line, with poor old Steven Kretiuk or Matthew Croft valiantly struggling, with flailing arms, half a step, or more, behind him. But even though I don't spot him, the Lions are outsmarting and outplaying the Dogs far too often.
There is no getting around the fact: the Dogs are not in sparkling form. There are moments as rare as a Bulldog Tragician acknowledgement of a fine piece of opposition play. Somebody (I think it may have been Simon Black) was actually able to evade a Bont tackle. Who knew that was even a thing? And even Bob, who could probably perform a magic trick and land the ball on the head of someone 50 metres away 99 times out of 100 (I'm voting for Heath Shaw as the first one to stand in position while this scenario is tested) misses a sitter from 30 metres out.
How does it happen, that ripple through a team that grows into a storm, the awful nervous fear before every shot of goal that it will inevitably be missed? It's accompanied, of course, by a growth in the number of panic-stricken handballs as each player avoids being the one left, pass-the-parcel-style, having to take the dreaded shot at goal. How does confidence seep slowly from a team, so that milli-seconds of reaction time and anticipation become painful seconds, balls bounce inevitably in awkward directions, and those lightning-fast handballs that dazzled the footy world last year become more like hand grenades thrown in the direction of an ill-prepared team-mate?
I don't know the answers to any of those questions. Because in a revelation that will shock many loyal readers, I've never actually played the game at the highest level. (I recognise that my brief - though sadly under-rated - career as a best-and-fairest winning centre, playing for Braybrook in the Catholic girls Saturday afternoon netball competition, never really gave me sufficient insight into the mysteries of form swings in team sports. Especially as - I freely admit - I did play 'like a girl').
Bob has chosen the playlist for the day. Those of us sitting in the outer side of the arena never get to hear interviews; due to some bizarre decision-making by the Etihad management, we instead get treated, pre-game, to some inspirational insights from the Gold Coast Suns on our small screens, interspersed as much as possible by gambling ads.
But as the half time break comes to an end, I do hear a snatch from one of Bob's musical selections. It's Springsteen's Thunder Road. Our captain, as usual, has made the right call.
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night..
The Dogs re-enter the arena. We're relieved to see a renewed purpose, a sense of the urgency of the situation, how easily these four points are slipping away. We're running harder. We begin to overlap down the wings. We've rejigged our defensive lines, so that scoring against us isn't so effortless. Daniel Bradshaw still fails to appear. The avalanche of forward entries starts to finally pay off.
Our blue collar midfielders Jackson Macrae and Luke Dahlaus, with their selfless, committed running and attack on the ball, keep working and working to dig us out of our hole. Meanwhile 'In-Zaine' Cordy plays a sound, accomplished game in defence. There's something about Zaine that makes it look as though he takes every opposition possession as a personal insult. He's got a welcome streak of mean. And he's still only 16 games (and one premiership) into his career.
Matthew 'Keith' Boyd could have been forgiven, after an awful blow to the back of his head, for taking refuge on the bench for the rest of the match. Yet nothing but an amputation of a limb (actually, make that two limbs) would stop him from returning to the field to be there for that mate whose sorrowfully mixed emotions on grand final day he seemed to feel as keenly as the man himself.
Though we rein in the deficit in the third quarter, we still don't hit the lead. In fact there are only ten minutes of the match to go when we finally snatch it. My only wish at this point is just the desperate hope that we can somehow scrap and fight to retain that slim one point advantage. Yet somehow we go on a mini-rampage (I don't know if that's a thing either) and register a 32-point victory, mainly achieved in the final seven minutes. We'd have surely been reasonably satisfied with that outcome pre-match.
Yet even as we applaud our captain off the field, the events of the day, and the Dogs' current form, are giving us many questions to ponder. It's hard to know whether our emotions should be pride at the stunning transformation and the moments of brilliance unleashed when our backs were against the wall, or whether we should be concerned about the fact that we ever got into such a rut in the first place.
Before the 2016 grand final, Bevo urged our team to 'bring their instruments.' Our band are striking some uncharacteristically discordant notes at present. From outside the inner sanctum, we don't really know whether that's because of limited preparations or nagging injuries for some who look well down on fitness and confidence. Or whether, after the drama and theatre of playing each week of the finals on the knife's edge, making history and swept along by a tide of emotion, it's rather ho-hum to be have to make an effort in these early games. And yet we've seen, in every one of our games so far, that there is still hunger, a competitive spirit can still be tapped into, players who'll lift and keep running, even when we're out of sorts.
Our team aren't the only ones, however, striking out-of-tune notes of late. To my dismay, I discovered only this week that, after an off-season catastrophe when my home was flooded and all my possessions ended up in an even greater jumble than usual, that the scarf I'd been bringing to 2017 games so far was ... NOT...my lucky one after all. (Small wonder Bevo Our Saviour has looked unusually rattled in the coaching box).
Determining which of the ever-growing, frayed and worn selection was the genuine article could have been the subject of an episode of Antiques Roadshow or one of those historical constructions where some relic of the true cross is dramatically exposed as a fake.
But it wasn't that hard, really.
I recognised it as my lucky scarf when I saw a little glitter from the talisman pinned on it. I'd thought, and feared, it had somehow been lost. It's a miniature replica of the premiership cup. My son bought it for me when we were among the euphoric celebrating crowd at the Whitten Oval, the day after we won the flag. I only have to glance at it to be flooded with those memories, to remember the joy in the crowd. I didn't expect, on that day, that I'd ever find anything to worry about in footy ever again. But as I make sure the tacky but precious little memento is pinned securely next to my Bonti badge, I notice I'm absent-mindedly humming along to Thunder Road.
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night's busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere..
Captain. OUR captain
Some players can’t be imagined playing for any other club but ours. It’s not just the fact that the horrendous brown and gold Hawthorn colours, or the stark severity of the black and white stripes, would play havoc with his pale Irish complexion.
Bob Murphy, surely, could only ever have belonged, ever truly been at home, in our club.
He gets its uniqueness. In his slight but resilient frame, he somehow embodies it.
Many claim to have been there to witness his debut in the year 2000 at Princes Park, when a spindly teenager wearing number 22 (Bob has joked - well, I think he was joking - that he had barely gone through puberty) kicked a crucial last-gasp goal.
I was definitely there. It was the last time that I ever stood in the outer to watch a footy match. The era of suburban footy grounds was coming to an end; the Dogs had moved digs that very year, to a stadium then called ‘Colonial.’
On the day of Bob’s debut we were in a position that he would come to know too well over the years: dangerous, ‘backs-to-the-wall’ territory, clinging to the chance of a finals spot after occupying a top four spot for the past three years. There’d been a host of injuries, meaning that the frail-looking 18-year-old got the call up. It was a stirring, unexpected, brave and gallant performance by our team in defying the might of premiership aspirants Carlton. When the baby-faced teenager ran in to slot a match-saving goal with the wobbliest – let’s be honest, ugliest - of kicks, there was little sign of the superb skills that we would come to cherish.
Bob played in the next two matches; he might have thought footy was pretty cruisy, as these two were also wins. In fact, I only realised recently that Bob featured in another of our more famous home-and-away wins just two weeks later. Bob was in fact the youngest player on the ground when we took on the Bombers’ great team of 2000, who were aiming to make history by completing an undefeated season.
To the delight of every fan of the red, white and blue, the Dogs were the ones to deny our unloved rivals from the posh side of the Maribyrnong. A Bombers’ victory was famously short-circuited by Terry Wallace’s implementation of the uber forward press, some manic tackling by Tony Liberatore, and an elegant left-foot goal in the last two minutes by our champ Chris Grant.
I have no memory of Bob that day at all, though. I don’t know where he was when a wild brawl broke out at half time (hopefully safely bundled down in the rooms away from the mayhem); it was so heated that the ever-smiling Brad Johnson (who’d been KO-ed by john Barnes) was seen to mouth obscenities at our red and black opposition. Even in retrospect I quake at the thought of Bob, the fresh-faced recruit who couldn’t have weighed more than 70 kg, taking the field opposed to hulking brutes like Dean Solomon, Damien Hardwick and the Johnsons, in a team coached by the perennially nasty Kevin Sheedy.
Surprisingly enough, Bob has never actually played for four points at our spiritual home, the Western/Whitten Oval. Yet somehow he has absorbed its history, has tuned into a long-ago past, has a spiritual connection to our history in all its fierce pride and frequent sorrow. You feel he remembers intuitively the smells and sounds of that ground , where we played for more than 100 years, where the locals gathered, raucous, hopeful and stoic under the Olympic tyres scoreboard. A place where it was always blowing ice, rain and sleet, where opposition clubs somehow feared to play, dreading that fickle tricky wind, no matter where the boys in red, white and blue were on the ladder.
It’s also surprising to realise that Bob didn’t play a final until 2008. He didn’t make the cut for the 2000 finals team that was bundled out with depressing efficiency by Brisbane at the Gabba; we didn’t play finals again until 2006.
But in that barnstorming year Bob was an unlikely but magnificent centre half forward. Not for him the muscular brute force of a power forward in the style of Carey or Jonathan Brown - our Bob was all about feather-light footsteps, nimble movements, the sensing of an opportunity or a chink of space that no others could see. And yet with the finals in sight, Bob crashed to the deck at the MCG beneath the force of a massive Sav Rocca tackle, his knee buckling, his season over. And so he wasn’t out on the field when an effervescent team ran amok against Collingwood in the first final at the MCG that year.
But he was there for those three preliminary final heartaches in 2008-2010. And he was there, slowly slipping towards the ‘veteran’ category, when hard times came in the years that followed, when the premiership dream felt further away than ever, when drubbings and thrashings were more common than wins, when our club was dismissed as ‘irrelevant’.
I always felt Bob realised, as no other did, the poignancy of our fabled wait for premiership success. He made us realise, though, that wait has an even tougher aspect for the players, as we saw him edge further into the ranks of the unrewarded, that painful list in which our club has sadly been over-represented: players who had played the most games without ever seeing a flag.
For us, the fans, even through decades of non-achievement, there is always a next year, always a new group of players on which to pin our hopes. It’s a blessing and sometimes a curse: we can still front up for a new season and think, hope, pray, the new season will be different.
But the players’ time - their opportunity for glory - is short. As our club fell into another of those sadly familiar troughs in 2011-2014, Bob’s grief for his missed opportunities was evident. A melancholy note recurred in his articles, in his TV appearances. He began to write about what it would be like when that longed-for day, when the Dogs somehow triumphed, would come. It was heartbreaking, cruel, as he began to concede that he could now only imagine himself now as a joyful but wistful spectator among the celebrating crowd, not as one who’d brought that day home by deeds on the field.
When our club hit a nadir at the end of 2014, it seemed so inevitable, so natural, that Bob would step up to be captain that we wondered why it hadn’t happened before. He was re-born on the field, a natural in our thrilling, adventurous game style, revelling in the sense of freedom and endless possibility that our new coach introduced. Bob gave us so many of the brilliant memories of the wonderfully unexpected and exciting 2015 season. I will never forget a breathtaking, audacious 50 metre kick across the ground which landed, ever so gently, on the chest of Easton Wood running at full tilt. Bob’s celebrated side-step - the lightness with which he ran across the turf - returned. And when he announced, after we defeated Sydney on a wet track in a thrilling victory, that it was ‘the best win, ever’, his face wreathed with smiles, we shared his joy, knew that it was sweeter because he’d almost lost sight of the dream: the premiership dream, that was now rekindled, so close you could touch it.
Bob’s injury in round three last year was like a sledge hammer to us all. The injury itself happened in slow motion, the ball spiralling to the Hawks’ forward line in the dying seconds of the match, Bob shifting his weight in the most innocuous of ways, his knee somehow moving at an awkward angle.
In the crowd we fell silent, appalled, suddenly not caring for the result of the match. Only sharing Bob’s anguish, that the footy gods could be so unspeakably cruel.
Joy and sorrow – they’re never far apart in footy. Bob was alongside and a part of his – our- extraordinary 2016 team and its epic deeds every step of the way. His rollercoaster of emotions matched that of the fans, as he too celebrated with tears when we smashed our preliminary final hoodoo out of the park. The unbelievable roar as Bevo called him up to the premiership dais; the hugs from his team-mates who loved him as they pushed him forward to share the accolades; the sight of him in the circle of team-mates as they sang our song on that precious day in 2016 - we know and understand the preciousness of those emotions and their poignancy for him.
On Saturday Bob Murphy plays his 300th game.
Thousands like myself, who’ve never even exchanged a word with him but love him all the same, will rise to our feet, tears in our eyes, to try and show him what he means to us, though words will never really be adequate. We’ll hope for signs of that Bob Murphy whimsy, the semi-humorous look on his face that shows he knows it’s (kind of) only a game, or one of those moments where he moves as the great players do in another dimension of time and space. We’ll cheer extra loud whenever he goes near the ball (we hope it will be often).
We all know what Bob is playing for this year. We all know that his young team-mates, including the son of one of those who was beside him when the freckle-faced teenager ran out onto Princes Park all those years ago, will do everything in their power to make sure that dream comes true.
We hope he knows something else, whatever happens in 2017. That he was a reason, maybe even THE reason, that we’d got to that unforgettable day in 2016 at all. And we’d like to say thanks.
On winning. And losing
I guess in retrospect there were some early, troubling signs.
Over-confidence. An air of invincibility. A smug sense that winning has become inevitable. A cavalier attitude, a failure to attend to those mundane, boring details that have been critical to our success.
Yes, you guessed it. It certainly didn't bode well when I arrived at my sister's apartment to watch us take on Freo, without my lucky scarf and Bonti badge.
The Libba Sisters, of course, have played a largely unacknowledged role in the Bulldogs' fairytale rise. (Not that I'd ever make a big deal of it, but it wouldn't hurt Bevo Our Saviour just once, surely, to admit he'd had some help via the Libbas' selfless contribution, our commitment to the premiership glory by always sitting in the same spot whenever we play interstate, with an incredible 100% success rate. I don't think it's overstating it to cast doubt on whether we'd have pulled off that amazing elimination final against the Eagles without this 'X' factor.)
Anyway, the Libbas are getting a little too accustomed to the Bulldogs' success. We wait for the first bounce, without any of the usual angst, perhaps verging on complacency in our confidence that Our Boys will have little difficulty bringing the four points home with them on the Red Eye.
There isn't the typical nervous tension, none of the usual jittery anxiety. I'm not even fretting about questions like who will play on Pavlich (it is another bad sign that I had to be reminded he'd retired). There's no sinking of the heart when the Purple-clad Ones run out and I'm startled again at just how stupendously tall Aaron Sandilands is; no wringing of the hands at how our rather depleted ruck stocks will go in countering the man-mountain. We're not even voicing our Danny-from-Droop-St suspicions that the always evil AFL have conspired to outlaw the third man up, just to thwart our success at this tactic, which would have been a handy ploy against the aforesaid man-mountain.
We've lost sight, in all of the premiership euphoria, of that painfully acquired knowledge from our years in the wilderness, which I once dubbed 'defensive pessimism'. We are no longer on high alert for factors that will inevitably presage a 'shock' (but not to us) defeat. We aren't restlessly checking off that list of things that in the past would have set the warning bells clanging:
The Bulldogs' slow start doesn't faze us as it should have. We are magnanimous in condescendingly acknowledging that the besieged outfit from Freo are having a red hot go. (Soon enough they'll be overtaken by the 2016 premiers).
We can see Our Boys aren't switched on, and it would be good to see a bit more spark and energy. But they won't lose, just make heavy going of what should have been a percentage building exercise.
It's around the time that the words 'percentage building' float through my mind that I become perturbed. I'm supposed to be the Bulldog Tragician, for heaven's sake. I'm definitely losing my edge.
I should have been tuning into reality. This isn't just a slow start. There is an ominous listlessness. This isn't our usual daredevil, kamikaze chain of handpass Men of Mayhem style just occasionally not coming off. This is the wrong option being taken again and again.
The Libba Sisters' zen-like calm, the trance-like state in which we moved through the magical 2016 finals, is beginning to fray. Our conviction that Somebody (it will probably be Bont. It will definitely be Bont) will rescue us from this inertia, starts to crumble.
Firstly, in tried and true fashion, we respond to the situation by attempting, with little success, to dredge up some animosity towards the umpires. It's been a coincidence, of course, that since September 2016, we have not been so quick to find fault in the performance of the men in that horrid shade of green. Sure, we might have been perceived as having the better of the umpiring in recent times, but I've found myself patiently explaining that's because good teams, excellent teams, premiership-winning teams, are first to the ball, simply more desperate, and courageous.
(There's also, in my view, the fact they have got quite a few decades before the ledger is considered to be anywhere near squared).
The second sign that we are rattled, that we sense that we actually could lose, is when the Libbas begin to soothe our growing dismay by pouring scorn on the 'hairstyle choices' of the Freo players. (The Bont, because he is The Bont, is the only one able to pull off the man-bun look. This is just a rule of physics, or science, or something. Mess with it at your peril.)
By half-time, even though the Dogs had worked their way back into the contest, I find myself remembering (had I ever really forgotten?) everything I didn't like about losing, especially at an interstate venue. The frustration of watching dumb mistakes - they're bad enough the first time. I don't really need to see them slowed down and analysed in painstaking detail. The droning inanity of the commentators (especially when they're analysing those mistakes). The lack of context to explain why (maybe there actually isn't a reason) we persist in those blaze-away entries into the forward line, or the slow ball movement to a scrum of players inevitably featuring Aaron Sandilands.
The half time conversation between the Libbas shows that the tension is beginning to build.
Libba Sister One: Too much is being left to too few. I just don't think they're working hard enough. Some of those chases are being given up a bit too easily for my liking. I'm quite sure I could (just about) run faster than that!!
Libba Sister Two: You're dead right. By the way, the party pies will be ready in a few minutes.
Still, we think we will win. Because this is just what these blokes, our new Bulldog Breed, do. Ugly wins, close wins, thrilling wins, courageous wins, heart-stopping wins, wins when we looked done and dusted, wins achieved just through heart and courage.
So as we begin to assert our ascendancy in the third quarter, this one is being mentally filed away. It will be a regulation one, four points banked in a not very inspiring way, barely remembered by the season's end. A barrage of 50 metre entries have not yielded as many goals at they should have, and we should be leading by more than just 14 points, but we will get over the line. Maybe our not-so-brilliant performance will send up a red flag, though, remind Our Boys that hard work is still essential, that every team is vulnerable if they don't bring their very best effort (I can almost hear my schoolmarm-ish tone in the sadly unlikely event that I was invited to give them a motivational pep talk). Our troubling lack of intensity at key moments will give Bevo Our Saviour a bit of ammunition, to rev them up, to remind some of the stragglers that there are a couple of premiership players waiting in the wings, hungry for their spot. He will remind them of where we've come from. How far ahead there is still to go.
While I'm visualising these handy, valuable life lessons for Our Boys, I neglect to foresee - because that would have been what we feared in those Bad Old Pre-Premiership Days - that we would barely fire a shot while the team in purple, outdoing us in zest, hunger and ferocity (as well as the Bad Hairstyle Tally) will run all over the top of us.
The siren sounds. The Libbas' proud record of 100% success is in tatters. We hastily mute the dreaded Freo dirge. Our Boys, far from home, trudge slowly from the field.
It's our first loss since August 26, 2016, when curiously enough we'd lost to the same team, in much the same way. That loss didn't turn out out to mean anything in the scheme of things, yet at the time it seemed huge, momentous, condemning us to seventh spot on the ladder and a return to the same venue for a sudden-death final.
So as I head home, vowing never to leave my scarf behind again and feeling that unaccountable irritability that a Dogs' loss generates, I begin wondering whether the loss will mean anything at all, or what that meaning is going to be. I'm trying to decode the looks on the players' faces when the game ended, what The Bont and Lachie Hunter who'd both put in extraordinary efforts were thinking, how much it hurt for them and their team-mates. That's always been the unfathomable question facing us this year, how much hunger the Dogs will retain after smashing through that wall of fate and history that had been impregnable for so long. Whether they will summon up again that indomitable drive, be prepared for the relentless hard work, how they'll deal with being the hunted. They've written a script of 'heartwarming fairytale'. But what's the one that awaits them - and us- now?
I drive home past the silent and empty Whitten Oval. My mind drifts to a quaint photo that I'd seen during the week. It was from the 1962 Footscray Advertiser. The article was about how Footscray fans 'long for a repeat' of the 54 heroics. It was eight years after that flag, and just one year after our second grand final appearance.
How long that 'longing' was about to stretch.
The balmy autumn weather has broken while we watched the match. As I reach the pinnacle of 'Mount Mistake' (a droll Footscray-ism, surely) I can't see, through driving rain, those words proudly wrapped around the Whitten Oval grandstands: Premiers 2016. Words that have brought tears to my eyes, of joy and crazy disbelief, whenever I see them.
I'm thinking about winning, and losing. We used to be so familiar with the latter, not so well-versed in dealing with the former. I often thought that if the Dogs ever finally triumphed, wins or losses in the years that followed wouldn't matter as much any more. I expected - (in reality I couldn't even conceptualise what it would be like) - that the exhilaration and joy would last me a lifetime. One flag, one solitary flag, would be enough. The future beyond that was just - a blank.
Of course, we were viewing winning and losing through the prism of decades of non-achievement, which coloured and exaggerated our reactions to each of these outcomes: over the top celebrations of wins, catastrophising the losses. But now we're in uncharted waters. I'm almost surprised at how much I disliked losing to Freo. I didn't really anticipate that winning doesn't dull our appetite for success; it's the other way round, it has made the losses more unpalatable and we hope - for our team as well as ourselves - harder to bear.
The holy grail
On Friday, the day our flag was to be unfurled, a familiar tune floated out from my radio. Mark Seymour was performing an acoustic version of the Hunter and Collectors’ iconic song: ‘The holy grail.’
With just the songwriter and his guitar, I heard the song anew. Without those dominating horns, and played at a slower tempo, it was no longer an anthem of triumph and conquest. It was melancholy, wistful, poignant. A tale of yearning and survival, struggle and failure.
I’ve read that it’s actually about Napoleon’s ill-fated attempt to invade Russia. But over time, renditions of ‘The Holy Grail’ have become unavoidably associated with hackneyed Grand Final pre-match entertainment.
And up until 2016, that link was a melancholy one for Dogs’ fans, as we watched enviously from the sidelines, year after year.
I was more likely to snap the TV off in irritation whenever its opening chords rang out (it didn’t help that I knew it would soon be followed by its inevitable sidekick: ‘Up there Cazaly’). I would suddenly decide the garden urgently needed weeding, or that the untidy state of the sock drawer could not be tolerated a moment longer.
Seeing club after club enjoy an occasion that seemed locked away from us forevermore, I became (you may find this hard to believe) mean-spirited and unsporting. When Collingwood was ascendant in the 2010 grand final re-match, a Magpie-supporting friend kept sending me updates that —childishly — I didn’t really want to hear. My answers became increasingly terse and insincere.
‘Eddie has left his seat to go down to the boundary!!!’
I’m at Bunnings.
But now, all of us who have spent our lifetimes ‘trying to get our hands, on the holy grail’, are about to see our history-busting team unfurl the flag. I’ve been curious about what it’s going to mean for us, now that it’s moved from remote fairytale to actuality. Pursuing a premiership cup after so many years had all the elements of a medieval myth. That holy grail glittered all the more tantalisingly because we’d never known it, never come close. Maybe we’re about to discover that we’ve imbued the idea of a premiership with magical and mystical powers that aren’t actually there. Maybe it won’t transform us as much as we think.
After all, you could say it’s just a silver cup. And yet we all lined up to get photos, to touch it with reverence.
And now, on Friday night, the flag is being borne around the ground like a sacred relic. You could see it as just a triangle of fabric. But it feels like every one of our dreams and heartaches and joys and sorrows have been stitched into it.
It’s being carried by the former champions, those who really did shed blood for it; the people who’ve been custodians of our club; the fans who’ve often just simply endured.
Yes, it’s just a triangle of fabric. But it’s got words on it that we’d almost given up hoping to see.
They are simple, but still thrilling. AFL Premiers. 2016.
About the Bulldog Tragician
The Tragician blog began in 2013 as a way of recording what it is like to barrack for a perennially unsuccessful team - the AFL team, the Western Bulldogs.