As an ardent AFL
and Geelong fan, I simply cannot believe the angst and disgust at
Geelong hosting a final at home. From where I sit, albeit a biased
position, it is a fair, right and, most importantly, a deserved result
. Deserved, not just for the effort they have produced again this
year, but more so when you take into consideration that Geelong has
been one of the best, if not THE best, performed sporting teams in
Australia over the last decade. To see people being so negative toward
the achievement, as opposed to recognising the work done by the club
to be able to secure it, is a blight on the game, and the industries
that surround it.
In the early 2000's,
this club was on its knees. The list wasn't strong. It was millions
in debt with a dilapidated stadium, a losing mentality and a premiership
drought that had no end in sight. Then came 2007. As Scott Gullen
said in his book, only Geelong supporters truly knew how much that
Fast forward to
September 3rd, 2013 and Kardinia Park has produced three AFL premierships,
two VFL premierships, a pre-season premiership (after a first in 2006),
two Brownlow medalists, three Norm Smith Medalists, two JJ Liston
trophies, two McClelland trophies, a Jack Collins medal, three Jock
McHale medals, a Rising Star award, 16 individual All Australians
(eight of them multiple recipients), and a list of AFLPA and AFLCA
awards too long to mention.
Through it all,
they have amassed a winning percentage unlike anything we have ever
seen, winning 138 of 170 games (81%) from the start of 2007 to Round
22, 2013. They have appeared in the last six finals series (not including
2013) where they are 12 of 16 games (75%), and have reached five Preliminary
Finals and four Grand Finals for seven wins out of nine games (78%).
This winning finals percentage is made all the more remarkable when
you consider that not once have Geelong had a true HOME final, and
have had to beat amazing teams like Collingwood and Hawthorn on their
show that Saturday's historic game was not given to us by the AFL.
It was earned by the club.
They have played
a brand of football that has, at times, changed football for the better
and done it all with a sense of humility, modesty and good grace.
They are a team stacked with players that other players admire. They
have household names and unsung heroes. They have coaching staff who
are not only great, but openly admire the club as a whole. They have
got boardroom and administration staff beyond reproach. Together,
they haven't just created a legacy down the highway, they have rebuilt
a football club, and they started it with nothing more than a handshake
Friday's VFL and
Saturdays AFL games were my first at the ground since the latest developments.
To see the new stand, and watch a game under lights was a stark reminder
as to how far this club has come. The ground is a far cry from the
ground where I stood in standing room with my Dad on Moorabool St,
watching the sides of the late 80's and early 90's. It is a credit
to the club, and a physical reminder that will remain for years to
come, when memories of the last seven years have begun to fade. The
ground I will always know as Kardinia Park is ready for a truly big
game. It is ready for finals footy.
The work put in
by everyone at the club has been recognised by the AFL and now we,
as supporters, as players, as coaches - AS A FOOTBALL CLUB AS A WHOLE
- get to watch an AFL final in our house, at our home. This is more
than just a home final, this is the culmination of a lot of hard work.
Fremantle, the media, opposition clubs and fans can belittle and denigrate
this all they like. We are not a 'backwater', we are more than just
a 'regional centre', and this is definitely not an April Fools joke.
We are playing at home on Saturday, and we deserve nothing less.
This season is
not over, there is a lot of work still to come, and nothing is assured,
but to Frank, Colin, Cooky, Wellsy, Bomber, Scotty, Tom, Lingy, Joel,
all the coaches and staff and most importantly all of the players
who have dragged on the hoops over this most incredible journey, enjoy
Saturday. You all helped earn it, and I thank each and every one of
you for it.