It was one for the red and blue believers of Melbourne demons

By on September 25, 2021 0


In the daily struggle of these times, we might strive – pretend? – to be there all together. But sport classifies us as winners and losers. That’s the whole point.

Ron Barassi.Credit:Simon schluter

On the Monday following the 1964 Grand Final, winning captain Ron Barassi wrote in his own column: “It is sometimes a shame, on very special occasions, that two teams cannot win the Grand Final. Saturday was one of those occasions, and if ever a team deserved to win, it was Collingwood. It was a team we could be proud of, a team I would have been proud to have played for. “

Barassi could then afford to be generous; the Demons had won six flags in 10 years. Tonight it was about Melbourne and its rejuvenation. Barassi would have been proud to play in this team, and in this grand final. Symbolically, he did. Bayley Fritsch, wearing the Saint Barassi number 31, scored six goals, including a pair in quick succession in the third quarter that turned this game for the third and final time.

They were the first two in a series of 12 for the Demons. In total, they kicked 16 goals to one to pull back the curtain on this final. The grand finale had its parade after all. It was the last quarter.

It came without warning. Melbourne and Petracca dominated the first quarter, the Dogs and Bontempelli the second. A goal from Bontempelli after 12 minutes of the third quarter extended the Dogs’ lead to 19 points. All the ghosts of Melbourne were howling then.

But it wasn’t a team to scare away. The only applicable story was that of this season. The Dees took every challenge and did it again. When Petracca got on his bike again, Cadel Evans couldn’t catch up with him.

In Perth, it was all of Melbourne. In Melbourne, for the second year in a row, it could have been the Nullarbor. The streets were empty and silent, made even more empty and quieter during the day because the grand finale was at night.

Max Gawn celebrates with the Melbourne worshipers after the Demons' big final victory in Perth.

Max Gawn celebrates with the Melbourne worshipers after the Demons’ big final victory in Perth.Credit:AFL Pictures

There was a final high fever strain but, like the virus, it was invisible. While most fans only see the grand finale on TV anyway, his absence among us was as gaping as a chasm. Come to think of it, why haven’t we had one this week?

The grand finale grabbed hold of the times in that it was a disorienting occasion. After a week of left to right and right to left, choosing sides was the devil’s business. Or, as it happened, the Demons. Even the tectonic plates suddenly decided to move this week. If it’s not too easy to say, we all needed a kick out of something affirmative. It was the hit.

The grand finale, itself, was on the wrong side, the other side of the country. That’s no offense to Perth, who did a magnificent job of hosting and directing.


But suppressing the final across two state borders last year was rather odd. Now it was two state borders and two time zones. The great country has never felt bigger. Perhaps this was Melbourne’s secret, a journey through time. Fifty-seven years are gone as if at the touch of a switch.

Both sides reportedly felt the tyranny of distance intensely last night. There is no better place to celebrate a Prime Minister than with your own. And if you lose, among your own is the only place to be. Now there was a continent in between.

In 1964, Melbourne rejoiced with its fans at a bar on the ground floor of the MCG members’ booth, with players doing a lap of honor on the bar. They also sang a parody of the Collingwood theme song until Barassi hopped onto the bar to put a stop to it and insisted on a real Collingwood song tour instead.

Kindness is a timeless quality. At the final siren on Saturday night, Gawn immediately went to Bontempelli, her opposite. He also made sure to mention the Melbourne players who missed out on this day, and others who fell by the wayside, or died or were cruelly treated by life. It was the prime minister of a team in a year, but Gawn made sure it belonged to everyone.

Stay up to date with the best AFL coverage in the country. Sign up for the Real Footy newsletter.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.