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Ode to the interstate sporting trip

mds1970 Roar Guru

By mds1970, mds1970 is a Roar Guru

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    There’s something special about travelling interstate to watch your team play. Professional sport in this country is based around national competitions with teams spread across this massive island continent of ours.

    We’ve all seen our local team play at home, with familiar surroundings and a team that knows the ground well. The vast majority of the crowd supporting the local team. The home team will win more often than not.

    Then there’s the derby, the clash against the local rival. There’s a couple of them per season. In some cases, the away derby will see you in a different seat, but at the same stadium. The stands are more populated, the support is split and there’s plenty of noise and atmosphere for both teams. There’s plenty of feeling. It’s something you look forward to all season.

    For non-derby games, if you’re at home you’ll see a small pocket of away fans, outnumbered and likely to lose.

    But what’s it like to be in that small pocket?

    For the true diehard fan, there’s nothing like the adventure of an interstate away trip. Wearing your team colours on the flight and to the ground, lost in a sea of opposition colours. There’s a pride in being there, vastly outnumbered by the locals. You’re there to fly the flag for your team and to be as vocal as you can so your team knows that even in a hostile environment, they aren’t alone.

    Supporters who may not be part of the vocal cheer squad group at home will join them for an interstate trip. If you’ve travelled to fly the flag for your club, to be around your own kind and get some sort of critical mass to generate support is part of the experience.

    For the AFL’s newest team, Greater Western Sydney Giants, last Sunday saw them make their first visit to Melbourne, taking on Carlton at Docklands. They are a new club and are yet to win a game. Surely no-one would be there to follow them, would they?

    I’d checked myself in for a 6:30am flight, and was pleasantly surprised at the gate to see a couple decked out in the charcoal and orange, also flying down for the game. Touching down at Tullamarine, I took the bus into Melbourne and had a stroll through the city.

    It was too early for most fans to be arriving, but there were the odd comments from passers-by. “Go Blues” said many, some wearing their navy merchandise. “Wow, a Giants supporter! Didn’t think there’d be any down here”. Many were happy to talk footy.

    Then back to Southern Cross Station and over the bridge to the Docklands. It was overcast, but the roof was open. By now, fans were coming in on the trains. Navy blue everywhere, but the occasional sighting of a person in orange. A sponsor was giving away Giants badges. The Giants had a membership marquee up and merchandise stands were doing a busy trade. With this being GWS’s first game in Melbourne, there was a reasonable amount of charcoal and orange merchandise being sold.

    Our seats were behind the goals at the southern end. The cheer squad had flown down with some flags, but Docklands regulations mean the flags are smaller than what are waved in Sydney. Slowly but surely the grandstands fill, a running tally coming up on the small scoreboard panels.

    And a contingent of Giants fans make their way in. Anyone spotted near the cheer squad area in charcoal and orange is invited to move around to the cheer squad area. Some decline, but most accept. Some have flown down from Sydney, but a surprisingly high number are locals. An oasis of orange in a desert of navy blue.

    The players run through their banners, as the team songs are played. As the players take their positions for the game to start, the cheer squad capo jumps to his feet. “Give us a G”, “Give us an I” and so on. “What does it spell?” And the cheer squad come to life “GIANTS”. Applause echoes around the ground. The Carlton fans nearby certainly heard us.

    Carlton are kicking to our end in the first quarter and they’re soon on the attack. The Blues have a set shot to our end, a tough angle but not too far out. Trying to put him off, the flags wave and the kick is off-line. But soon the Blues have three goals.

    Not that Carlton getting the jump daunts the spirit of the Giants’ fans. After goals, at various throw-ins and ball-ups, the capo jumps up to generate more noise. “Let’s go Giants, let’s go”, hands clap and feet are stamped, echoing and shaking the retractable grandstand.

    But the Giants fought back. Setanta o’hAilpin, discarded from Carlton and given another chance with the Giants, spearheads the charge with a couple of goals late in the quarter. A few ignorant Carlton fans boo, but O’hAilpin had been delisted by Carlton before signing with the Giants.

    The Giants played with plenty of spirit. It was hard and physical, the young Giants throwing their all into every contest, tackling with vigour and denying the Blues any easy possessions. Twice the Giants levelled the scores and the orange flags waved proudly. Hopes of an upset were raised. Carlton scored two late goals to lead by 10 points at half time, but if Carlton had come into the game expecting a walk in the park, they knew now that they were being given a run for their money.

    But the Giants were never able to take the lead, and more concerning was the injury toll of their talls. Dean Brogan damaged his shoulder, but although he tried to return to the action, it just wasn’t working and he had to be subbed out of the game. O’hAilpin went over on his knee, and looks to be out for the season. Jonathan Giles copped a knock and his game was over.

    The young players who are still developing struggled to complete such a hard, physical game. And with the tall players out of action, the team struggled to last the distance and the Blues took control. For all their efforts, the Giants had become the walking wounded, and were unable to manage a score in the final quarter. The Blues got a run-on to win by 67 points.

    The grandstands on the side, quiet during the first half, began to cheer louder as the Blues asserted themselves. The capo sings out “You only sing when you’re winning” before again springing to his feet to attempt another chant to lift the Giants. But a strong first half has faded, and the Giants will have to wait another week for their breakthrough win.

    The final siren sounds, the Carlton song plays on the PA system. The Giants players come to our bay, and the cheer squad clap their hands in appreciation of their efforts. The Giants players respond, then throw footballs into the crowd, souvenirs for the lucky. They came, they saw, and although they didn’t conquer, they showed courage in adversity and continued to develop.

    At the after-match function, coach Kevin Sheedy was upbeat despite the loss. Always the optimist, always the visionary, he is loving his role and what his club stands for. Already, 23 players have made their AFL debut at the club this season, and there’s plenty more who will get their chance this season. This game is giving our top sportspeople more opportunities than ever and more reason to choose our game.

    And then it was time to fly home. Without victory, but with the knowledge that our team never surrendered in the face of adversity.

    And for the fans that travelled, to have put in the hard yards with the team they know that even in Carlton’s territory, there is a place for the Giants.

    This is the experience that hardens the most casual fan and turns them into the true supporter – the interstate away trip. Whatever your sport, whatever your club, don’t miss the chance of doing an interstate away trip.

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • Roar Guru

      May 8th 2012 @ 8:39am
      The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Well done mds, your support for the AFL’s newest team is admirable – in years to come, you can say with full honesty: I’ve been there every step of the way.

      It was reported that there was a tiny smattering of orange amongst the 28k crowd (pretty good crowd, all considering), consisting predominantly of friends and relatives of the players – and to that we can add your good self.

      • Roar Guru

        May 8th 2012 @ 11:15am
        mds1970 said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        There weren’t a lot of us, but more than I was expecting. Hopefully the numbers will grow and we can get some away support on. West Coast and Freo had virtually no supporters when they first played in Melbourne, but they have Victorian cheer squads now; over time a small group will develop.
        I can’t do every away trip – I don’t have the time or the finances for that. But I’m definately up for a couple more this season.

        • Roar Guru

          May 8th 2012 @ 11:26am
          The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:26am | ! Report

          It’s a good point about West Coast and Freo, I too can recall that in the early days they could barely muster the numbers to hold up a banner – very different these days.

          • May 8th 2012 @ 11:51am
            Nathan of Perth said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:51am | ! Report

            Yeah, as time goes on (and style of play, etc earns more supporters) and people migrate across the country, interstate Eagles supporter numbers are certainly growing. Have finally gotten to the point where we can periodically outcheer the smaller Victorian teams, so things are on the up. Maybe we’ll eventually get our Victorian free kick differential up to the Subiaco one 😀

    • May 8th 2012 @ 9:43am
      Roscoe said | May 8th 2012 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Mate- even better travelling overseas to support one of our national teams- oops, AFL fans can’t do that! Still, agree with a good interstate trip. Went to Canberra to see Rebels get smashed. The beers are still cold afterwards!

      • May 8th 2012 @ 10:48am
        Norm said | May 8th 2012 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        One of the thrills of being an AFL supporter is coming back from overseas especially for the Grand Final when your team is in it. I did that twice when I lived in he USA. Great fun coming thru customs decked in your club colours, having banter with fellow passengers & airport staff. Excellent to talk with foreigners about our great Aussie game & how well attended it is. Living in the US gave me the opportunity to tell the Yanks about Aussie Rules & invite them around to see the game.
        These are things that Roscoe can’t do.
        Now I am back in Australia I can follow my team to every state if I want to. So far I have enjoyed weekend trips to Adelaide, Sydney, Gold Coast & Darwin. Assisting the economy & seeing our wonderful country 🙂

        • May 8th 2012 @ 11:07am
          Rough Conduct said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          “These are things that Roscoe can’t do.”

          What? Annoy the crap out of your American mates with constant talk of your beloved folk game that they could not care less about, I’m sure they were all enthralled with your tales of speccies, Buddy and attendance figures!

          • May 8th 2012 @ 11:11am
            Norm said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:11am | ! Report

            Actually it was the 2005 GF that won them over. Had weekly Fri night gatherings to watch the live game on Setanta subsequently…until it went broke!

          • May 8th 2012 @ 11:20am
            JamesP said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            I’d have thought the Americans could relate given their brand of football is also limited to their own country…

            • May 8th 2012 @ 1:52pm
              Australian Rules said | May 8th 2012 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

              That’s correct. Everytime I’ve been in the States the Yanks are fascinated by our Indigenous game…they don’t follow it (well, very few do) but they love seeing and talking about it.

              • May 8th 2012 @ 2:59pm
                Nathan of Perth said | May 8th 2012 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

                Missus is American, has become a very big fan … of the Cats, to my dismay. Loves the free-flowing style of the game. Interestingly also been converted to cricket, but was never really a sports fan in the US.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 9:51am
      Nathan of Perth said | May 8th 2012 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      Have been looking forward to a chance to head interstate somewhere to catch a game, want to catch a Glory and an Eagles game over east and the missus wants a Cats game. Just have to get the finances in order first! Always sounds like a tremendous experience though.

      • Roar Guru

        May 8th 2012 @ 11:20am
        mds1970 said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        It’s a lot easier for us in the east, with Melbourne only an hour’s flight from Sydney; and I paid less than $200 return. You’d be up for a lot more than that to go anywhere to or from Perth.

        With Perth Glory, the Shed runs a tour of duty to the east every season – we had them at Sydney FC a couple of years ago, they were a great group of visiting fans. You’d have a ball travelling with them.

        • Roar Guru

          May 8th 2012 @ 11:36am
          The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          Also pretty easy for Adelaide fans to get to Melbourne, who do so in large numbers at finals time and whenever their teams are up and running.

          In fact Ballarat has a big sign facing West welcoming all Port and crows supporters.

          But Perth, yeh, a bit further, definitely need a cut lunch for that one.

          • May 8th 2012 @ 2:45pm
            Mighty Mitch said | May 8th 2012 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

            I have just moved to Perth. Therefore i get to see my team (Port Adelaide) play at Subiaco this weekend. I was looking forward to it alot more before Sunday’s debacle.

            • May 8th 2012 @ 2:55pm
              Nathan of Perth said | May 8th 2012 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

              Best to go incognito, get a Freo jumper and be prepared for booing 😀

              • May 8th 2012 @ 3:18pm
                Mighty Mitch said | May 8th 2012 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

                I am prepared for the booing. Not the incognito part, I have my teal scarf (far exceeding the maximum limit of healthy levels of teal for one day).

              • May 8th 2012 @ 3:43pm
                Nathan of Perth said | May 8th 2012 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

                Still remember my first trip to Subi, was a Demons game and on the way to the trains there was one lone Demons supporter, a young bloke trying whilst visibly upset to stick up for his club against an entire sea of bemused Eagles supporters…

    • May 8th 2012 @ 10:33am
      Aaron said | May 8th 2012 @ 10:33am | ! Report

      I did two interstate trips last year – saw the Bombers win in Brisbane and lose in Sydney. It’s always great fun, and definitely a ‘true supporter’ experience. The plane trip home after a loss is always rough though. I’ve got plans to see the Dons play GWS in a few weeks time, optimistic for a win against our former coach.

      Also went to the NRL Grand Final to see my beloved Storm not compete (still hurting over that preliminary final loss), was surprised at the number of Storm supporters who were there, and wearing the club’s colours. Have never seen such support for a team that wasn’t actually playing!

    • Roar Guru

      May 8th 2012 @ 11:13am
      The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      Travelled plenty of times to watch the footy around the country and it’s always great fun.

      I recall sometime in the late 80s getting acquainted with the Chardonnay set at the SCG, and true to form, discovering that alongside the pies and chips, you could purchase a plate of calamari – geez, talk about posh footy food!

      • Roar Guru

        May 8th 2012 @ 11:16am
        The Cattery said | May 8th 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        But my most memorable footy trip was organising a charter flight with four mates for the opening of the 1990 footy season.

    • May 8th 2012 @ 5:11pm
      DanMan said | May 8th 2012 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

      I have seen two games live of the Eagles. Game one was at Subi as an ancle biter with my dad – we played calrton back around 1992 or thereabouts.
      Game two was the 2006 GF – I picked up a ticket for the weekend in February knowing that most probably WCE wouldn’t be there again (surely not) and went by myself. Was on my way to the WCE GF breakfast when some generous swan supporter offered me a ticket to the WCE Dinner after the game – said he didn’t need it as the bloods would win.
      So after the 1 point victory I head over to the Crown Palladium room and to my surprise I had a front and center table with all the big corporate guys (felt just a little out of place lol) but man, wouldn’t trade that experiance for anything.

      Cmon WCE!

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