Tuesday, 22 September 2015

WEST VERSUS EAST


AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR
 

On Saturday week, 100,000+ spectators will attend the 2015 AFL Football Grand Final (Australian Rules) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. No doubt, the Propaganda Department of the AFL will remind us, as they usually do, of the millions of television viewers watching the game as it is telecast live around Australia and to the world.

Four teams face off this coming weekend to decide who will play in the Grand Final.

My side, the North Melbourne Kangaroos, against all odds, is one of them. The Kangaroos and the Hawthorn Hawks (another Melbourne-based side and reigning premiers) have to travel west to Perth on the weekend to try to pull off upset victories in the Preliminary Finals.

The Fremantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles make up the four sides. They’re both from Perth, Western Australia, and are favoured to win, setting up a Grand Final confrontation between each other.

Although the bookies and footy pundits unanimously agree that my team has little chance of beating the flag favourite, the Eagles, I am quietly confident that we can prove the experts wrong. You see, we narrowly beat them earlier in the season. Sure, they were under-manned; sure, it was played on our home ground; and, sure, the game was played in a gale-force wind that disrupted their game plan more than ours. But, still, we beat them!

Just to temper my optimism about this week’s return match, though, I hasten to mention that one of our key defenders has “a groin” and may not get up for the game. Likewise, there is a question mark over the fitness of our most potent forward, who has “a knee”. Don’t you just love that sort of footy shorthand talk?

Regrettably (and I mean this in the most loving way), all the Eagles’ players seem to be in good shape after a week’s rest.

You may not be aware that many Western Australians, marooned and isolated up to 4,000 kilometres from the east coast of Australia where most Australians live, dislike the dreaded “people from the east”. As for their football fans, they’re something else again – insanely parochial and rabidly one-eyed with a collective view that all teams from the east are as welcome as the coming of the bubonic plague.

So, the two Melbourne-based Preliminary Finalists can be sure of a “warm” reception when they run out on the ground in Perth this weekend.

By and large, football followers in the east don’t reciprocate the loathing of Western Australian fans. Sure, we don’t like their teams very much, but we are much more preoccupied with disliking our nearest rivals more.

For example, in Melbourne, Collingwood and Carlton supporters have been at each other’s throats for over 100 years. In South Australia (which is east of Western Australia), the two Adelaide-based sides, The Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide, can’t stand each other. Likewise, in Brisbane (Queensland), the Brisbane Lions and their nearest competitor, the Gold Coast Suns, don’t see eye-to-eye either.

However, maybe the easterners’ cool tolerance of the two Perth-based teams will change dramatically should they defeat the Hawks and the Kangaroos and qualify for the Grand Final.

A west versus west Grand Final. Heaven forbid!

This would be unprecedented and I suspect the footy followers of the east haven’t really wrapped their minds around this possibility yet. If it comes to pass, I predict a seismic shift in their tolerance levels and their attitude.

So, heads up all you anger-management therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists in eastern Australia! We’re looking at a possible tsunami of FPTSD (Football Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) patients heading your way should the unthinkable happen.

GO THE KANGAS!