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22 September 2021

Sunday night's Brownlow Medal was the signal that the sunny end of the year is upon us.

Unless you are in Melbourne, of course.

Whether you cooked yourself a meat pie and mash or poured yourself a hard-earned, watching the Brownlow on TV was as good as it ever was.

It was the redemption Brownlow, where notorious characters with infamous pasts were given a second shot of life.

And it was good to see Ben Cousins and Julie Bishop there also.

Now bring on Saturday's twilight grand final in Perth.

I love grand final week. It's a nostalgic bonanza for any AFL fan, especially now when we can safely take a journey down memory lane to distract us from the fact we can do little more than go to the wild west that is the local supermarket.

Well, on the east coast at least. West Australians get to not only attend the grand final, but they also get to attend a mate's place or a pub in person to watch the game. Bliss.

Still, it's hard to hold it against the great football State in the west whose Eagles have won some very tough and memorable AFL premierships.

I'm still reeling from Collingwood's defeat at the hands of West Coast in 2018. The team made short work of my beloved Pies.

This year is the second time the grand final has been played outside Victoria after last year's first "pandemic premiership" went to Richmond at the Gabba.

Melbourne and Western Bulldogs fans will be torn that the match is not being played on the hallowed turf of the MCG.

In fact, it's only the seventh time the premiership match hasn't been played at the "G".

And this is where my memory was jogged. Cast your mind back 30 years to 1991. This was the last time, pre-pandemic, the grand final wasn't played at the MCG.

It was West Coast's first go at a grand final, playing the powerhouse that was late 80s/early 90s Hawthorn.

The Hawks, who would not win another premiership for 17 years, were victorious under the stewardship of the legendary Michael Tuck. He was backed in by Dunstall, Brereton and Langford.

Meanwhile, the Eagles, with Worsfold, Matera, Turley and Jakovich among others, were settling into streak that would see them take two premiership trophies across the Nullarbor in four years.

A simpler time but no less nostalgic than any other grand final.

Held for the first and only time at the old-school Waverley "Arctic" Park while the MCG got a glow up, a grainy YouTube clip was a reminder that the stadium was both freezing and the carpark was massive.

But it was the half-time entertainment that really stole the show.

Leading a convoy of Ford Capris doing laps of the ground, 1991 Brownlow Medal winner Jim Stynes was always in a league of his own.

The late, great Melbourne champion stole every footy fan's heart across his huge career and will no doubt be smiling from the heavens on Saturday as his beloved Dees play for their first cup in 57 years.

He was followed by Victoria's Olympic team heading to Barcelona the following year, including a very young looking "Oarsome Foursome", wearing green suits and big smiles.

Then came former Rose Tattoo frontman Angry Anderson and marathon legend Robert de Castella in the Batmobile. If you don't believe me, google it.

After an awkward intro from de Castella, Anderson jumped out of the car to do a rousing rendition of his solo hit "Bound for Glory".

From the footage, it was as fantastically daggy then as it looks today. The Olympic hopefuls were literally cracking up in the cars as the pint-sized Anderson stormed around the field.

Those were halcyon days, and it begs the question, can Angry be brought back for a 30th anniversary tour? Could he save us from the pandemic blues?

Here's hoping WA's Birds of Tokyo and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra have learnt the words and music to "Bound for Glory" by heart for the 2021 grand final's "Aussie Anthems" themed musical show.

Regardless, we will all be watching the big show. It will hopefully be the last time I see a grand final played outside of Melbourne, but I intend to be on the couch treasuring every moment of it with my family.

Because I'm pretty sure come 2022 and the lifting of Melbourne lockdown, my older teenage children will never be seen again.

As for the result, for a diehard Pies fan like myself, it's never easy to pick a side when we aren't in the mix.

But my electorate abuts the western suburbs and I have two British Bulldogs, so I'll let them decide.. 
This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 22 September 2021.