2013 AFL grand final pre-game live coverage

AFL Grand Final Grand final day. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Nanjing Night Net

Grand final day

Crowd

A bit of a stretch.

Not a bad gig at all. Photo: Will Brodie

Are we missing anything? Photo: Will Brodie

First among equals.

Grand Final 2013.

The 3AW OB.

St John’s Ambulance crew preparing for a big day. Photo: Will Brodie

Nick Constance has thought of everything at his grand final complex. Photo: Will Brodie

Inside the MCG press box.

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In this day and age, the MCG does not provide much entertainment for any fans who come in super early. Photo: Will Brodie

Dockers settle some pre-match nerves. Photo: Will Brodie

North Melbourne grand final breakfast at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Wayne Taylor

grand final 2013

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou at the North Melbourne grand final breakfast this morning. Photo: Wayne Taylor

grand final 2013

The September Club. Photo: Will Brodie

Fans vie for grand final tickets from 3AW commentators. Photo: Will Brodie

The crowd builds. Photo: Will Brodie

All the anticipation of the football world’s biggest day, live from the MCG.

It was cool and breezy outside the MCG at 6.50am grand final morning, but not as inhospitable as it had been during the previous evening.

Diehard grand final fan and Hawk devotee Rohan, at the head of the MCC member’s queue, had been in place since 7.20pm the previous evening, and in his understated way, admitted that it “got a bit windy” the previous night. And a bit wet. Several heavy downpours drenched those who lined up in search of their preferred seats. Rohan took refuge beneath a tarpaulin on a fold-up bed, watching his iPad.

He said there were about 40 brave souls there all night, and the crowds really started to assemble at 4am.

Rohan happily admits he is a “little bit OCD” for going to such lengths to snare his favourite seats – level three, second row, above the Long Room. “We like to sit where we like to sit. Its easier to come early than to get up in the middle of the night.”

Rohan was measured in his assessment of the game. “After last year, we’ll just see how it goes. I thought we’d win last year. Getting the Geelong monkey off our backs will have been good for the boys. We can beat Fremantle if we play our best.”

At the rear of the MCC queue at 7.15am were Simon O’Brien, a North Melbourne fan and Daniel Carmody, A Tiger tragic. They came at 4am last year but felt demand would not be as high in 2013. All up,approximately 8000 MCC seats are attained by those who line up on the day.

About 10,000 are assigned by ballot. There is a strong possibility that restricted members will be allowed to buy tickets later this morning, if the reserve does not look like filling up. Such members should check the MCC website after 10am to see if tickets will be made available. Daniel’s tip for the big one? He thinks the Hawks – “if they can get out of the blocks”.

Typical of the commitment of MCC footyheads was Carlton fan ‘L’, who has attended the grand final every year since 1981. Close to the gates in the special needs queue, he would grab his seat at 8am, then attend Peter MacCallum centre for a treatment of radiotherapy at 12.30pm, before returning to the big game.

He admitted the treatment was “knocking him around a bit”, but grand final day air had given him a burst of energy, and he wasn’t going to let the small matter of cancer treatment stop him from being there for footy’s biggest day.

The quiet around the MCG at 7.28am grand final day is calming, and a little perplexing, considering the tumult to come. The 8000 queuing for MCC seats are rugged up and reserved, saving their energy for the game ahead.

So when an industrial strength speaker starts blurting out Gangnam Style, the noise reverberates off the canyon walls of the MCG, and the St John’s Ambulance folk prick up their ears, wondering if they will have some early duties. Turns out the Korean disco ceased quickly, to be replaced by the Hawthorn theme song, at mega decibels.

The broadcast was courtesy of the day’s first barbequers, Hawkers Matt Burns, Jason Cowling, Jay Burns and Clay Litherland, who arrived at 5am to claim the best berth, about 20 metres from the back of Gate Three, and alongside their main aural competition, coming from the elaborate 3AW grandstand/marquee.

Their playlist, apart from We’re A Happy Team At Hawthorn? “A couple of footy songs, then mostly motivational – Eye Of The Tiger, that sort of stuff…” said Matt. I hadn’t known Gangnam Style to be particularly motivational, but one learns things on grand final day.

We’ve all heard those stories about people dressing up in various ways to get into the grand final. Most such loopholes are assiduously guarded these days. Probably one of the best remaining ways to avoid paying through the nose for entry is to do an honest day’s work, as a Record seller. At 7.30am, Tom Carns, Zac Kayll and Lachie McLeod were preparing to offload 80 stacks of the now glossy official program. Their shift extends until 50 minutes after the game starts, when they go downstairs to settle how many they have sold. Then they get to watch the rest of the game. It seems a decent wage.

Loud music, check. Beer in ice, check. Snags, check. Get to G at 5.30am to ensure you get prime barbeque possie? Check. Matt Burns’ set-up outside gate three, 7.28am.

The supposedly elitist MCC has a very simple, egalitarian ethos come grand final day: First in, first served. Here are the hardy souls who fronted the queue of 8000 for walk-up seats, many having camped overnight in wet and windy weather.

The 3AW complex, complete with outdoor broadcasting booth and grandstand, is now a established feature of the grand final precinct. Watching radio veterans such as Tony Leonard at work, you realise that the talking medium demands a level of energy beyond normal conversation, everything heightened. Tough to keep up for hours on end.

Taking care of a crowd of 100,000 revellers and distracted fans takes an army of often unnoticed workers. Key amongst them is the array of St John’s Ambulance volunteers. On grand final day, 65 paramedics, nurses and assistants are in the vicinity, from 8.30am until after the post-game concert ends at 9pm. To prepare for the day ahead, team leader Robert McManus (no relation to the ubiquitous Docker clan) helps prepare 10 kilos of bacon and countless dozen boxes of eggs to feed the troops before they enter the fray. St John’s experts are ready for anything, but mostly attend to “trips and falls” and what they diplomatically referred to as “people who need hydration”.

Nick Constance has been running a major BBQ event for friends and family for the past 28 years. A Hawker “through and through”, he nonetheless decided that he wanted his mob to have more of an involvement on the big day, in case Hawthorn did not make it to the decider. So he started designing jumpers featuring both teams for everyone to wear. By 2013, the party is a major undertaking, with two marquees, two BBQs, a sound system and a large flat screen all powered by a large portable generator. Over 50 footyheads crowd the sprawling party central, which even has a red carpet. At 10 o’clock, the gathering was humming along nicely.

It appears that Hawthorn has been assigned the city end, and Fremantle the Punt Road end, the club logos painted at those ends of the arena, and the cheer squads having begun to colour the fences behind their respective goals with their banners. The ground is in perfect order, despite recent heavy rain, and looks magnificent under brilliant sunshine. But the wind is blowing, so everything could change by game time. The tops of the goal posts are swaying giddily. For fans obsessed with the impact of the weather on the fortunes of both teams, it is worth remembering that wind affects skills more than rain, especially on a surface as good as the current MCG.

Ever wondered what the press box at the MCG is like? Perhaps not. Well, I’ll tell you anyway. It is steep, a little cramped, and the middle-aged fella on the door watches anything but footy on his TV – this morning, obscure tennis, then a Katy Perry video. A few of the behind scenes technicians are filing in – the room didn’t even open until after 10am, leaving digital types to their own devices – but Dermott Brereton has arrived, keen as mustard and working out where his son will watch his first ever grand final.

The sports betting competitors are relentless in their pursuit of coverage for their products. But amongst their torrent of press releases, there are ocasionally genuinely eye-raising stories. Sportingbet南京夜网.au reports that a punter stands to win $148,000 if Fremantle gun Nathan Fyfe kicks the first goal of the grand final. Given the thousands of dollars he has expended on the best, it is probably not going to be a rags to riches win if it happens. Given how expensive getting to Melbourne has been this week for Dockers fans, perhaps the winner can act as benefactor to some out of pocket diehards if he gets lucky.

Anyone doubting the sacrifices being made by Freo fans paying through the nose for accommodation, transport and tickets, here is a fact kindly sent through from Roy Morgan research: Hawthorn fans spend an average of $190 per week on leisure activities; Fremantle fans an average of $143.

How about this for some cheap grand final entertainment – which might free up some funds to allow some more real fans into the game: little league; long kicking and accuracy competition; one lap of the ‘G footrace; the TAC Cup back as the morning curtain-raiser. And rock bands that like footy.

During the week, one could be forgiven for thinking that the whole Buddy Franklin issue had been defused, and lost the attention of the public. Several media articles addressed this anomaly at the end of the week. But it would seem the social media portion of the public has still been talking about the superstar Hawthorn forward and whether he will leave the Hawks for GWS after this game…

“Hawthorn’s Buddy Franklin (@Buddy_Franklin) has been crowned as this season’s most followed (with over 243,000 followers) and most talked about player on Twitter. Swans’ Adam Goodes  (@AdamRoy37) was the second most mentioned player on the platform, followed by North Melbourne’s forward Majak Daw (@MajakDaw)”

Earlier this week, Jon Pierik had this to say about the grand final teams’ respective defences:

“How the Hawks will handle Fremantle’s defensive intensity, and master tagger Ryan Crowley, have become heightened themes after the Dockers shocked many in the football world with their ferocity against the Swans last weekend.

While the Dockers have boasted the stingiest defence in the league, the Hawks, too, have plenty to crow about.”

Read more here.

The grand final sprint heats are under way: in heat 1, Patrick Dangerfield has taken first place easily. The Freeeeooo chant is STILL going arounf the MCG. In heat 2, Gary Rohan has taken first place, with similar ease to Dangerfield.

Fremantle has some significant hurdles to jump if after 19 seasons in the competition it is finally to win its first AFL premiership this afternoon, writes Rohan Connolly. Read more here.

The grand final sprint has been run and won and it’s Patrick Dangerfield has gone back-to-back-to-back. Huge effort by Dangerfield, not that you’d know it to watch him actually run. He won it by a country mile ahead of such speedsters as Chris Yarran, Gary Rohan, Jordan Murdoch and Campbell Brown.

And while being interviewed post-sprint, Dangerfield has thrown in a Craig Willis impersonation to boot.

Brenton Sanderson explains how the Hawks can win the flag:

The Hawthorn game style of spreading hard to create space and then using the ball by foot is well suited to playing against Fremantle. Read more here.

Darren Crocker makes the case for the Dockers:

Fremantle will maintain the clearance dominance it has had during the finals, and Hawthorn will struggle to get clean clearance wins. Read more here.

In this day and age, the MCG does not provide much entertainment for any fans who come in super early. Previously, TAC under-18s games were played in the morning, a treat for MCC members who get in at 8am to secure a favoured seat. At 10.30, the last quarter of the 2012 grand final was played on the big screen, and you remembered just how exciting that game’s finale was, as Anthony Hudson’s urgency boomed around the mostly empty stadium.

Some restless Dockers went out on to the member’s flank for a kick at 11.30, clad in purple polo shirts and slick black tracksuit bottoms. They are now sauntering across the playing space shivering as the weather changes from brilliant sunshine to drizzly cold. Spring in Melbourne means a battle between sun and rain, summer and winter. It looks like both seasons will land big blows today.

Tegan Higginbotham attended this morning’s North Melbourne grand final breakfast at Etihad.

Heading in to the Grand Final Breakfast & surrounded by die hard supporters. The Freo fans are excited…the Hawks fans all looked stressed.— Tegan Higginbotham (@TeganMH) September 27, 2013

Demetriou point’s out that 1966, the year of the first GF Breakfast, was the same year Hendrix released “Purple Haze”. The place goes wild.— Tegan Higginbotham (@TeganMH) September 27, 2013

With the crowd starting to filter into the stadium, and the big screen launching into a loud, very overwrought commentary of the past 50 years of grand finals, overgrown, sponsored little leaguers playing mini-games at either end of the arena, and the hubbub of meeja types filling the pressbox, the countdown is on in earnest for the grand final. It began with the rain, which lasted for about 15 minutes, despite blue skies on either horizon.

GWS supporter (and Prime Minister) Tony Abbott spoke earlier this morning at North Melbourne’s grand final breakfast.

“It’s good to see people here in such numbers and with such enthusiasm because I know it has been a tough year for the AFL. Some people were even charged with bringing the game into disrepute. I’m grateful, I really am, that there’s no offence of bringing parliament into disrepute because I fear all MPs might be guilty.”

The PM congratulated both teams for making it to the last Saturday in September. He’s tipping the Hawks, for all those interested, because “if you lose one big event you deserve to win the next one”.

And he added his thoughts about the Kennett Curse:

“…I gather there’s something in AFL called ‘Kennett’s Curse.’ I can’t believe there would be anything called ‘Kennett’s Curse’ because Jeff is a terrific person, I love him, but whatever ‘Kennett’s Curse’ might be, let’s hope no one suffers from it today.”

Spotlight on the fringes: Ben Stratton, Hawthorn. It is a sign of the depth of Hawthorn that one of its more unheralded players is a 189 cm backman of 78 games experience, who is likely one of the first players picked each week. Quick and flexible despite his height, he can take a variety of forwards with poise, uses the ball well, and backs up his tall defenders when they encounter the league’s “gorillas”

Time again to turn the focus to the big game.

Spotlight on the fringes: Cameron Sutcliffe, Fremantle.The least well-known Docker in Freo’s grand final line-up is yet another tall, physically robust utility, who Ross Lyon has used mostly in defence. The 21-year-old right-footer has played 18 of his 22 AFL games this season, often as sub, and proved durable and dependable.

12.14 marked the first strike in the barracking battle this afternoon. Between ads and songs booming out of the big screen, the “FREE-OOOOHHH!!!” chant starts up from the Punt Road end. The purple army isn’t waiting any longer to get in and experience – and create – the atmosphere. Their end of the ground is vastly more populated than the city end, Hawthorn’s cheer squad base.

Final teams are in and there are no late changes for either team.

Simpkin, Hawthorn’s only inclusion this week, will be the sub for his side. Neale will wear the green vest for the Dockers.

After a huge morning of pre-game coverage, we’re wrapping up here. But the action continues over on our game blog with Scott Spits. Click here for more.

Here is Ross, who pre-planned a visit to Melbourne in June, so his flight “only” cost $1700. He made the voyage once before, in 2006, which was a downer as Docker arch-enemy the West Coast Eagles prevailed. “If they’re in it, you have to do it,” he said. He was in early, like most Freo fans, who wanted to soak up every minute of the experience. As a result, Fremantle fans owned the early pre-game,with the FREEE-OOOOOOHHH!!!! chant breaking out repeatedly. Hawks fans didn’t start arriving in big numbers until after 12.30.

Every nook and some crannies never before seen by man or beast are being used to entertain within the MCC. Soundtrack in this relatively down to earth section? Epic U2 circa Still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

The atmosphere at the stadium, despite all the gladhanders, is ripe, thanks to the passion of real fans. No mention of supplements. The team is bigger than the player; the club is bigger than the team; the league is bigger than the club; the game is bigger than the league. And it’s only because of every fan who loves it.

A touch of yachtie psuedo-glamour comes to Brunton Avenue with the ‘September Club’, which looks like a bayside eatery. It is complete with cover band doing Mustang Sally. Some fans, I am sure, have accepted the frills just to get a ticket to the game as part of an exorbitant package, making the band one of the least essential acts in musical history.

The pattern has been established: sunny, warm patches followed by chilly, wet blasts. It is becoming the norm at these games. Here 3AW fans bid for a grand final ticket with stories of woe and amusement. The signs attract the attention of the commentators, the fan tells their yarn, and the decision is made who gets in. It is very Roman – thumbs up or thumbs down.

Have a great day, footy lovers. It’s our Christmas!

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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