A Voice from the Stands: Unpredictable

Football is an unpredictable sport. It’s part of the reason we love it. In those moments before the first bounce, anything is possible.

Sometimes we are met with glory. Goals that win games after the siren, a mark deep in the goal square that snatches victory from the jaws of certain defeat. Desperate acts of pressure and defence and sublime moments of play that seem otherworldly in the moment and just as seemingly supernatural afterwards.

Image: Kirby Fenwick

Other times we are met with pain, with devastation, with distress. We endeavour not to dwell on these moments but it’s hard not to.

We can forgive ourselves for the what if and if only’s that flood our minds after the final siren because everything is so much clearer with hindsight.

But we cannot have one without the other. No glory without pain. No victory without defeat. No success without distress.

The penultimate round of the 2018 season delivered moments from both ends of the spectrum as it is wont to do. While I waited, somewhat impatiently, to take my place in the stands again on Sunday afternoon, I saw as much on my television.

Adelaide and Fremantle opened the round in Darwin on Friday night. Both teams were clinging to a chance, however slim, of making it the big dance and it showed in their hard fought and tense battle that came down to the final minutes.

The Crows, clearly not willing to give up a chance of a premiership defence without a fight, hung in for a four-point win and kept their dreams alive.

Both of Saturday’s games could be construed as upsets depending on your allegiances.

The Pies downed the Lions in a strong showing that demonstrated just how good a team they could be. A trio of goals each from Bernardi and a confident looking Hope was music, no doubt, to the ears of the black and white faithful.

While the loss makes the Lions’ tilt for flag much tougher, nothing is ever certain in the game of ours.

Later that day, the Giants outplayed my beloved Bulldogs in the nation’s capital, giving themselves a serious chance to make the Grand Final.

Courtney Gum racked up 23 possessions in a sensational performance that had many questioning how Adelaide had possibly overlooked such exciting home grown talent.

And on Sunday afternoon, I made my way to that old faithful, Princes Park. Despite its aging facade and signs of yesteryear, it’s a place that holds a special piece of my heart forever linked as it is to the very first AFLW game.

Like in rounds before, I took friends along to this game. One to her first AFLW match. We sat along the wing a few rows back from the fence and together watched Melbourne come out firing in the first quarter.

While they seemed to lift the foot from the pedal in the second half, the Dees never looked in doubt against the Blues.

Melbourne’s joy, however, was soured by the season ending injury of vice-captain, Mel Hickey in the third quarter. That the Dees could find themselves in a Grand Final in two short weeks only adds to the devastation.

As we stare down the barrel of the final round of the season, I find myself pausing to reflect. To wander along that spectrum from glory to pain and catalogue these moments that have held our rapt attention these past two months.

Breakout stars, new heroines, impossible goals and remarkable acts of courage sit beside tears and frustration, season-ending injuries and those missed opportunities forever rued.

These are the moments and memories that make footy.

But as magnificently and painfully unpredictable as round six was, it also set up the most thrilling of final rounds. Punters far smarter than me have taken to their notepads and got out their calculators in an attempt to make sense of the ladder and the Grand Final chances of each team.

A win here and it’s a certain Grand Final berth. A loss here and it’s waiting with bated breath to see which way the Sherrin bounces.

It’s bellies full of nerves with either ecstasy or misery awaiting. It’s unpredictable and it’s beautiful, and we love it.

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