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  1. Relax folks. My glove is ironed and ready to go. After years of espionage at the Hawks, I am ready to direct us to another Goodwin in Simon's absence. Go Dees
  2. I can’t remember a time I didn’t follow the Dees. It wasn’t as though there was a particular event or date. Rather, it has been an intrinsic part of me as long as I can recall, such that every time I see red and blue I can’t help but fantasize about moments past, present or future involving the Dees. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. I remember a question like it was yesterday, though 1996 was some 25 years ago now. We were in the front room of the house and, in hindsight, I hope Dad was pulling my leg. “What about the Swans, what do you say we switch teams?”. I couldn’t blame Dad, but I also couldn’t possibly imagine a life without the Demons. The thought repulsed me, in fact. “You can switch Dad, but I will stay with the Demons”. It was my first proper year following the Dees. Genuine or not as the question may have been, it would be my first test in a lifetime of tribulations that following this team would present me. But it wasn’t a choice as far as I was concerned. You pick your team, or in my case your team is picked for you, and you stick with it...come hell or high water. Admittedly they didn’t have a lot to offer at that stage, the Dees. But they didn’t have to. I was sold the moment I laid eyes on the red and the blue. There would be no turning back. I was on the train, stopping all stations to premiership glory. I didn’t know it then, but it would be one of the longest journeys of my life. I still remember my first few years going to the footy with Dad. I loved the build-up. The trip in. The nervous chatter on game day. The speculation. The cursory stop at the jam-donuts-stand. The unsuccessful attempts to accumulate more badges or merchandise. Poor Dad...after I was finished with these antics, I used to make us go home at half-time. Back then once the half-time kick was over, there were often few highlights to look forward to anyway...being 1996 and 1997. Suffice to say, most of those first few years, at least as far as game-day went, concluded in harsh, swift lessons on accepting defeat. I guess I learnt the consequences of watching your heroes fail. The empty hole in your heart on the trip home. The missed opportunities that had unfolded before your eyes. The what-ifs and the why-nots. Bit by bit, adding up to broken dreams and opportunities gone begging. It would put me in good stead in future years when I found myself looking to the sky, wet and cold, wondering why I still bothered? Why do I still care? Is there something wrong with me? In 1997 Dad took me to my first finals game, a prelim between the Bulldogs and the Adelaide Crows. It was a glimpse into the magical never-land that is September football, where dreams are simultaneously forged and crushed all in one siren. This day was no different. The dogs had led all afternoon, up by 22 points at 3 quarter-time. It seemed a foregone conclusion that they would play in their first Grand Final since 1961. However, Jarman and his crew had other ideas. I remember the brutal shift in emotions in the Bulldogs group in front of me as they watched their hopes slip through their fingers, one shattering goal at a time. Then finally, I remember the soul-crushing moment Chris Grant ran for the goals, right in front of me, his kick intercepted on the line along with the hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase. The simultaneous scenes of jubilation and tragedy were something I did not yet understand, but would soon experience myself. The first Demons finals campaign I went to was the next year, in 1998. I had been to the footy for a few seasons by now with Dad, but hadn’t quite experienced true excitement or passion yet. I mean, I understood that the footy was a good thing – that the trip in was a privilege and that, academically at least, it was something you should want to attend. However, not until that final's series did I truly understand why for two years I had witnessed grown men and women shout and scream and look to the sky, like I would one day too, asking “why do I bother?”. The first game against Adelaide was great. We thumped the reigning premiers and sailed through to the semi’s in the old top 8 system. When we came back the next week, we made light work of the Saints. I was getting used to this feeling. The joy of winning finals. Each week, with the ante upped, I was keener to see the next showdown. There was a palpable excitement in the air and a sense of community. I was only young, but I think I was starting to get a sense for it. This is what it was all about. This is why we come to the footy. Then on one warm Friday night in September, it all came crashing down. The Kangaroos were a fantastic side, no doubt, but no logic or reason could have prepared me for the hurt I would experience that evening. The ultimate abyss. There would be no next week. No plans or fixes. This was it, and just like that our finals campaign came to a grinding halt. The loss was seared into my memory and would become the bedrock of familiar, but unwelcome emotions that would invade my psyche repeatedly in the future. The next finals campaign I saw was different. I was a hardened fan by now. With a few years under my belt, Dad and I were now watching games in full. My fondest memory came in the Qualifying Final against Carlton. To 3 quarter-time the Blues had built a 21 point lead. Dad and I sat in silence, in the same spot we’d watched Chris Grant 3 years earlier, awaiting a similar fate ourselves. I remember distinctly the sense of dread. The impending feeling of emptiness that would await a loss in finals. Then, something clicked. A young Brad Green and Cameron Bruce made their mark. Yze kicked us to the lead with an impossible soccer goal. We had pulled ourselves back from the brink and kicked 7 last quarter goals against a side that had earlier that year beaten us by 98 points. It all happened so fast. If you blinked you’d have missed it. It is hard to describe, but all of the sudden, time seemed to stand still. It was a sacred moment where you lose a sense of everything else in your life and feel at one with your team. Every kick hits. Every tackle sticks. Every ball bounces true and it is as though the football gods themselves have written the script this way just for you. It was a feeling of pure joy and belief. An elusive feeling I would find only a handful of times in the ensuing decades. A few weeks later we would be filling the night air with “A Grand Old Flag” in the streets of Richmond, kicking our way into the Grand Final after belting the Kangaroos. We sang till our throats were horse, though deep down I think we all knew that in 8 day’s time we would be heartbroken yet again. I was at that Grand Final in 2000 and remember watching on, trance-like, as Hirdy celebrated before me at the final siren. It was not our day. We’d had our moment already, and the football gods had moved on to greener pastures. Though there were many finals campaigns in the Daniher years, none would quite match the feeling of excitement and hope I felt in those first two of 1998 and 2000. We always seemed to get up there, at least every even year, but couldn't quite reach that fabled epiphany we so badly longed for. I remember too the dark days from 2007. When the Reverand was gone, we lost our way. So many times I would take comfort in the quarter-time breaks, knowing Daniher would fix it. Now, with a string of poor recruits and off-field tragedies, the Dees saw themselves in perhaps their lowest days since the 80’s, or the “No Merger” time. I found myself to have grown into one of those adults I’d watched as a kid, full of dismay, looking skyward for an answer I’d never find. Each week on the walk home we’d laugh and joke, a coping mechanism for the brave. But each new failure ate away at our souls. I remember the shame I felt when we lost to Geelong, and Essendon, by well over 100 points. I felt anger. I felt pity. For myself, my fellow fans, for Jonesy and for those that fronted up regardless of the walls crumbling in around them. Deep down though, one thought sustained us. It was that impossible dream, of one fine day in September, when the ticking of time melts into insignificance and you can almost feel your hands closing around the cup’s fine silver handles. I was at the Grand Final of 2017. I remember the tension in the crowd. That familiar bravado that one puts on when they both believe and cannot believe their side will win at the same time. I remember after 2 early Adelaide goals, that feeling of “here we go again” began to creep into the stands. Then, Richmond bounced back, before exceeding the Crows with a vigor not seen since the 80’s. It quickly became apparent that after almost 4 decades of failures, it was Richmond’s time. As Dustin Martin saved his best till last, I looked around and witnessed my 10 year old self in the faces of the Richmond faithful. The late afternoon sun was shining upon the faces of those who perhaps never thought they would see a Tiger’s flag. I’m sure, at least for them, they were in that ethereal zone where nothing else matter. Again, I started to dream. Is this what it could be like? That look of awe and wonder when your team finally reaches the impossible. When the nay-sayers have closed up shop and the believers join in unison, a chorus of celebration flooding the land. Such a resounding performance it was that to entertain the idea Adelaide were ever going to win verged on lunacy. This was no mere victory, it was fate. I was there in 2018 when we returned to September football. As the crowd trickled in, I took a moment to walk to the top of the stands and think. This had been the scene of so many close calls, and even more tragedies. Now, here we were, a force to be reckoned with...to play in front of 95,000 faithful against a team who had dominated the league for over 10 years. I can’t explain the sense of pride I felt when Jonesy kicked what was arguably the sealer, and a zoomed in camera slowly came out from an outrageously large contingent of red and blue. There were games in the past 10 years I had been to where it felt like the entire stadium had less people than a single bay on this night. Watching the Demon’s army in the flesh, I felt like I was watching a metaphorical pulse return, after what had been a prolonged and traumatic near-death experience for the club. As Hannan kicked that goal, I recall jumping for joy, hugging and high-fiving every one within sight. It was all that mattered. The next week against the Hawks something strange happened – I felt confidence. For the first time in a long time, I let myself believe this team could do something special. Though we were dosed with a swift reality check the next week in Perth, it felt as though something great had been awakened which could not be put to bed. Not this time. Which leads me to round 23, 2021. 44 points down in Geelong and melt-down mode was in full swing. My usual coping mechanisms were unfolding with routine precision. It is like the only control you feel sometimes is to write off the team that you love so dearly. You express your rage and disdain like a spell, in the hope you cure your team’s inadequacy, or as consolation, at least your own torment. You couldn’t face the prospect of being let down again, least of all to the Cats who have disrespected you for as long as you remember. Watching Scott calmly put the “cue in the rack” for the last quarter, our dreams of a minor premiership were all but over. Then Kozzie kicked an early goal, and the rustlings of hope started to stir. Then Spargo. Then Oliver. And that mystic twilight zone was unfolding before our eyes in the most unlikely circumstances. The comeback was so fiendishly improbable that Norm Smith himself couldn’t have planned a better way to reach the top. Though it wasn’t a premiership, it was a taste. And a taste was all we needed. After years of learning to protect ourselves. After years of rationalising losses and expecting the worst, finally it was our pessimism which was wrong for all the right reasons. I watched through a TV screen, in this bizarre pandemic world, as a side that played so clearly for each other and their fans shared in the spoils of victory for a much-deserved token of respect. It wasn’t just the top of the ladder that we proved worthy of that night. It was an unequivocal statement that the “never say die demons”, for so long bandied around as an ironic jest by friends and foes alike, was again a reality. And you could disrespect us at your own peril. Maybe, on Saturday, there will come a point late in the game when time starts to slow. Where the Dees pull ahead and the path is finally cleared for glory. Where every tackle sticks. Every ball bounces true. Every kick hits. Where all those years of anger, pain and loss crystalize into layers of experiences that you will finally be grateful for. And when you look around you there are the people who have shared years – decades – of ups and downs by your side. Who have put up with your tears, and you theirs, through heartbreak and stolen dreams. And you will see that look of awe in the faces of those whose heart beats true. That child-like feeling of joy, where you are 10 again, and all that matters in life is that the red and blue are winning. And the football gods will smile upon us once more, and the immense talent of this side will come to the fore against a worthy adversary. Then maybe, just maybe, for one pure, magical moment, time will once again stand still, and simply wait for fate to catch up.
  3. If a week is a long time in football, 8 hours is a lifetime in finals. It has been a slow week waiting for our first final in 3 years. In an effort to distract myself from overthinking tonight, I have turned to nostalgia to try and ease the nerves before game time. What is your favourite Dees moment? I think my "first" favourite moment, though there have been many since, was in our most recent qualifying final. The year was 2000 and I was one of the lucky 75,570 to attend the game against the Blues with my old man. I remember distinctly sitting behind two young Carlton fans who became increasingly excited as the Dees progressively slipped away. Come 3 qtr time, I had lost hope. Dad and I were silent as we waited for what seemed the inevitable. Then a young Brad Green and Cameron Bruce perked up as the Dees stormed home with a 7 goal final quarter. My favourite player, Yze, kicked us in front with a freakish goal off the ground with 10 minutes to go, and the rest is history. That memory sustained me through the many tough years that followed, particularly after the Reverend was gone. For all the bad times, casting my mind back to those feeling of joy, when you'd lost hope but come back in the most unlikely circumstances, would be all I had to hold onto when the Dees sunk to those impossible lows. I remember sitting alone in the rain in final quarters in the early 2010's, forcing myself to watch our capitulations, thinking "One day...we'll be back. One day that impossible feeling of joy will return, and this will all be worth it". I felt that same feeling acutely last Saturday night. Hopefully today is one of the final steps on the path to glory, and the feeling will return once again. Go the mighty Dees!
  4. Think this refers to the two games we won there last year against GC and Hawks (convincingly)
  5. Agree. Hopefully it’s not restricted like the GC game last year. Will be a few loud fans at Giants Stadium if the rumours are true
  6. Dry conditions should expose our true skill and structure. Adelaide are improved and can bring a threat for at least 3 quarters. If we play as we have all year, with respect and endurance, we should put them away. If Adelaide have an off week and Tex is rusty on return, could be party time. One week at a time. Go Dees!
  7. Agree. Also, as the ladder currently stands: Melbourne have played: Fremantle (17th) - Win St Kilda (10th) - Win GWS (14th) - Win Geelong have played: Adelaide (9th) - Loss Brisbane (16th) - Win (less than a goal) Hawthorn (15th) - Win (less than a goal) You could argue we were not convincing in our wins against all of the above teams at certain stages of the game, but by the same logic you would have to question where that leaves Geelong in theirs. On pure form, it appears Geelong are severely over-rated right now. The Demons are on a relatively rare run of 3 wins and Geelong have the experience to beat us mentally, if we cannot keep our heads/structure and trust in our superior fitness. Geelong lose their favourite strategy of keeping's off if it is wet/windy enough, in which case we have no excuse to lose. However, I am mentally scarred through years of Demon's let downs and can't bring myself to say we will win. Logically, if I followed another team and was a spectator of this game, I would surely have confidence in the Dees. Out of pure nervous habit to not tip the Dees, I tip Geelong by 14 in a slog in which our young guns learn some lessons and our veterans can hold their heads high. Either way, go Dees!
  8. I am in the same boat - would buy a ticket if anyone has one to sell. NSW based member. Called the ground and they said there were none on sale because it was a smaller game than Collingwood v Hawks. Go Dees!
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