No ticket, no worries – part two

October 7, 2015 by
Filed under: Category 1 

Friday morning…  I’d been in Melbourne one night and woke up in hell.  Paul and I were in the Queen Victoria Markets to buy meat for Sunday’s grand final recovery.

While ordering a much needed coffee, I spied four ladies decked out in West Coast jumpers and scarves.  They looked like I felt, for different reasons.

The oldest was 86.  Cathy Francis and Leslie Tucker were older than retirement.

 

Cathy said a bus carrying 27 fans left Busselton in Western Australia at six o’clock on Wednesday morning and arrived in Melbourne 48 hours later.

 

Three drivers alternated in shifts, with the only stops being for petrol and short meal breaks.

 

‘It’s just been fabulous, no sleep but fabulous,’ Cathy said.  ‘All age groups from 86 to maybe 18 or 19,’

 

They’d ordered coffee.  I was keeping them from theirs as I sipped mine.

 

‘Did you get any sleep at all?’

 

Cathy said she was finally drifting off to sleep when the bus driver made an announcement.

 

She mimicked the driver – Good morning boys and girls, we’re 40 minutes out of Melbourne, wake up.

 

Cathy watched the sun rise as the bus ambled on, thinking about that ticket in her bag.  Everyone on the bus entered a ballot for grand final tickets.  The quartet of old ladies had gotten lucky.

 

‘We booked everything (weeks ago) but didn’t actually find out until Monday afternoon that we actually had tickets for the grand final,’ she said.

 

Leslie was exhausted but thrilled to be in Melbourne for her first grand final.

 

‘This was on my bucket list,’ she said.  ‘I reckon Eagles by ten.’

 

‘One last question,’ I said.  ‘Have you got a spare ticket?’

 

‘Don’t tell me you’ve come all the way from Brisbane without a ticket,’ Leslie said.

 

‘I don’t have a ticket,’ I said.  ‘I missed out through the AFL and didn’t get a media pass.’

Cathy and Leslie, eyes wide, turned and walked away to their coffee.

 

The grand final parade

A couple of hours later I was with Russ and his daughter Alexandra on Wellington Parade.  Thousands of people lined the streets.  There were more at the MCG.  It was a magnificent turnout.

 

‘I need to find someone wearing sign that says I need a ticket,’ I said.  ‘And I’ll have my story.  If you see someone let me know.’

 

Russ didn’t need to help.  It took a couple of minutes to find a man called Gary Kerwell wearing a sign on his back, G/Final tickets please.

 

Gary wore a Hawthorn jumper.  A long-time member, he’d seen every grand final the Hawks had played.  For the third consecutive year, he didn’t have a ticket to the final.

 

‘Missed out on the Hawthorn ballot,’ Gary said.  ‘We’ve got too many members and the AFL only allocate 15,000 so you need to find other ways.

 

‘Whether you advertise or hold up a sign, whatever you do you need to find a way.

 

For two years Gary secured tickets for himself and his wife by advertising at the parade or the MCG on grand final day.

 

But he wasn’t interested in dealing with scalpers.  He refused to pay above face value for a ticket.

 

Last year, he chastised a scalper for trying to gouge him.

 

‘I said it’s illegal to sell above face value,’ he said.  ‘I’ve said there’s undercover cops around and they’ll confiscate the tickets.

 

‘People realise when they’re coming into Melbourne that the AFL and the police are fair dinkum so they want to stop the scalping.’

 

‘I was offered a ticket for $500 and knocked it back,’ I said.

 

Gary didn’t look surprised.

 

‘I was offered a ticket for $1300,’ he said.  ‘I’m not going to spend that sort of money to go to the grand final.

 

‘You could be getting a crappy seat and paying big dollars.

 

‘A lot of people are desperate to get a seat, but I’m waiting my time until someone says I’m not going to use these tickets.’

 

I wasn’t wearing a sign at the parade.  Gary suggested I wear one at the MCG.

 

On Friday afternoon, I received an email from a Footy Almanac patron who had access to a row Z nose-bleed but missed out because I took too long to call him.

 

Paul was working his connections.  By Friday afternoon, he’d found a ticket for $340.  I said yes.  His nephew Mark said he might be able to get four tickets.

 

But when Mark made contact, the tickets were gone.

 

Later, we went out to the Munich bar for beers.  It was about midnight when I found out those four tickets were now ours.

 

We had to drive 45 minutes north of Melbourne and get the tickets out of a letterbox.  I wanted to go then and there.

 

The following morning, I was a pain in the arse, barging around the house, demanding Paul’s keys.

 

‘Either we’re going or I’m going myself,’ I said.  ‘I’ve got to be at the MCG at 11:00 for work and I want the tickets before I get there.’

 

Paul, Craig and I drove north without breakfast.  Mark didn’t know the exact address, just how to get there.  He looked up Google Maps and plotted our course.

 

‘It’s the last house at the second roundabout,’ Mark said.

 

It was some drive.  I was overcome by doubt that the other mate would get there first.  Free tickets meant I wouldn’t have to pay $340.  It meant Paul could go too, along with a couple of others.

 

We stopped outside the house and debated a search of the letterbox.  I unbuckled.  Paul told me to wait.

 

‘Let me call Mark,’ he said.  ‘You can’t just go through someone’s letterbox without knowing whose house it is.’

 

I got out and marched up the driveway, opened the letterbox and saw the tickets.

 

It was like finding gold.  It was like finding a stack of cash.  It was like finding the greatest thing in Melbourne.  I couldn’t believe it.

 

I snatched the tickets and went to the car.  When I got in I was afire with excitement and urgency.

 

‘Gotta get to the MCG,’ I said.

 

Craig wanted to stop at a country bakery for breakfast.

 

‘Go,’ I said to Paul.

 

As we drove back to Melbourne, I thought about Gary, who wore a sign to the grand final parade and hoped he got tickets, at face value.

 

At the MCG, I walked around with my priceless bounty, gazing at those holding tickets wanted signs with sad sympathy.  I hoped all of them would get what they wanted.

 

At Hayden Bunton’s statue I waited for Paul.  We went inside.  Free tickets in great seats.  Unbelievable.

 

It could never happen again, not like that.

 

As for the ticket I agreed to buy for $340, the owner ended up selling it three hours before the game.  Everyone was happy.

 

The grand final

 

The scores decreed an ordinary grand final.  I didn’t care.  As a neutral fan I admired how Hawthorn neutralised West Coast then tore them apart.

 

Hawthorn did the same to Sydney last year.

 

Midway through the last quarter I was getting carried away.  I wanted blood.  I didn’t want West Coast to score. They were so impotent they didn’t deserve it.

 

It was an awful performance.   The Eagles couldn’t hit a target, couldn’t handle the pressure, even when there was none.

 

Pressure perceived is pressure achieved.  It affected everything they did.  Field kicking.

Shots at goal.  Decision making.  Skill errors.

 

Two years in a row the Hawks have forced opponents to play their worst game for the season on grand final day.

 

I didn’t care.  The result didn’t matter.  Who won didn’t matter.  There was 98,633 people at the MCG, about 0.001 percent of Australia’s population.

 

All those people, desperate to get there…

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