Within the space of two seasons, there is already a magic feeling surrounding the Melbourne derby that permeates the city. The derby is starting to transcend sporting lines in a city where football is relegated to smaller column spaces.
Despite the fact the AFL Record sorry the Herald Sun is back with a vengeance, after that pesky tennis was in the way for a fortnight.
Notwithstanding the fact the new love affair of glorified backyard cricket (20Twenty) and a one-day international is at the MCG this weekend. Amongst the community, there is a feeling the number one sporting event in town this weekend, will be at AAMI Park where the Victory and Heart go head to head for a sixth time in their already eventful rivalry.
Speaking with people who love sport but who do not necessarily love the A-League, the resounding feedback is that if you are going to go to an A-League match then head to a Melbourne derby. Short of the ridiculous hyperbole written for previous Melbourne derbies, comparing them to famous derbies around the world, there is no doubt that this match has already stamped itself in Melbourne’s sporting calendar as not just another match but an event.
Melbourne we know lives and breathes sporting contests, and when the sport is big enough, it gets recognised as an event. We have just had the tennis dominate Melbourne for a fortnight, The Melbourne Cup dominates the spring, AFL has grand final week and the ANZAC Day match; the Formula 1 Grand Prix is in March. All these sports have become events.
For football this is becoming the way for the derby. Sell-outs and big crowds to particular matches and not others suggests that there is something special about them. With the derby we get that.
While the build up felt bigger to the Christmas derby, this match is certainly no less important for the Heart and Victory fans. Heart in their second season will be playing for more than bragging rights with a finals berth to be secured. Melbourne Victory are playing for… well, nobody knows this year, because they are not playing for each other, nor their precious coach, and the jury is out on the incumbent as well.
So the stage is set, we know the costumes and the players, but we don’t know who will take the lead role, nor how the show will end. Nevertheless the audience is pouring in, because recent memories remind them it will deliver.
Oh, and because it’s the most talked and biggest event in town.