By Peta Longworth
We had the camper van decorated with West Coast Eagles logos and ready to go. Devastatingly we had missed out on tickets in the AFL grand final ballot. A desperate scramble ensued, pleas on social media, desperate scrolling through selling ads, but days were ticking by. Tuesday arrived and we were about to leave Perth to endure a long road trip with no certainty of being able to be inside the MCG when an angel (fellow member) who saw my pleas offered us two tickets for an extremely reasonable price.
We were going to the AFL grand final to watch the West Coast Eagles, the road trip was on! Full of beans and chats of McGovern, Cox and anything footy related to pass the hours. I anticipated seeing a lot more fans on the road – like a West Coast Eagles party train. However out on the Nullarbor it was fairly quiet. We did an eight hour day stopping at the side of the road outside of Norseman. The next morning we arose bright and early to start the first of two fifteen hour days of driving, only stopping for two half hour meal breaks and fuel, which climbed as high as two dollars and six cents per litre.
As we crossed over the Westgate Bridge into Melbourne on the morning of the AFL grand final parade, after thirty-six hours of driving it was surreal. The van had got us three thousand and four hundred kilometres, we could see the skyline of Melbourne, we had made it.
We geared up, parking at a friends house in the city and headed into the parade. Locals helped us with directions and a Collingwood supporting tram driver even gave us a free ride. Blue and gold of the West Coast Eagles could be seen all around, Melbournites walking past us commented ” Wow, there are so many West Coast Eagles fans”. The parade route was now lined about five people deep, boo’s, cheers and chants rang through the streets.
Saturday morning arrived, the day of the big game, for me it is like Christmas, but one the doesn’t come around every year. It had been twelve years since the West Coast Eagles had won a premiership and three since they had been in the AFL grand final. Heading into Federation Square the Blue and Gold army is everywhere, they had taken over. Collingwood fans seem confused by the take over of their beloved city. The crowd grows, everyone is awaiting the “March to the G” due to begin shortly. West Coast Eagles chants ring out of the thousands of fans when groups of Collingwood supporters walk by. Suddenly the crowd began to move, there are camera crews everywhere. We stick to the front of the pack as we have standing room tickets, so we are slightly concerned about time as we want the illusive perfect viewing spot.
We enter the ground with ease, finding our designated standing area, we are given yellow wrist bands. We cautiously enter and ask another fan how this works, as we don’t have standing room areas at home. It appears we are in an West Coast Eagles member area with just a couple of nervous looking Collingwood supporters, who obviously scored their tickets off West Coast Eagles members. We find the best available spot one row back from the box fence and ask if we can stand there, everyone shrugs. Clearly it’s not only our first time, so we pitch up for the game.
The people around us send us icy looks warning us not to invade their precious space, but as the game nears chatter breaks the ice. An elderly couple are standing beside us, it is their sixth AFL grand final and they prefer the standing room areas for the atmosphere. On the other side of us is a lonely Collingwood supporter who paid $500 for the $150 ticket off a West Coast Eagles member. Everyone is ready and respectful of the great game about to ensue.
The game has many twists and turns and at times I don’t think I can watch anymore. The crowd is loud, West Coast Eagles chants ring around the ground with twenty thousand fans sounding like sixty thousand. As the final siren sounds the West Coast Eagles fans go wild, thank you’s to the footy gods and hugs of ecstasy with new neighbours, now best friends from riding the ups and downs together. The $1500 of fuel and the many hours of driving was worth it, the West Coast Eagles are the 2018 AFL grand final Premiers!