I almost gave up.
About 10 weeks ago, if you had asked me about Geelong, I would have shaken my head and changed the subject.
After the devastating loss to the Bulldogs in Round 15, with Harry Taylor’s after the siren miss, I told my Dad that I was ‘at peace with missing out on finals’.
We lost to Adelaide two weeks later and I had to mentally remove myself from the game. The frustration of the ‘almosts’ were getting to my head.
It was when I was in sunny Los Angeles, on a grand adventure, that I believed that football had gotten on my last nerve; tampered with my emotions one too many times for my liking.
It has been a long 2018 season, for me and Dad, both at local level, with our team Power House in Division 2 of the VAFA (Victorian Amateur Football Association) and with the Cats, both frustrating us on many occasions.
Our America trip was a well-deserved break from footy and the heavy expectations placed upon my Dad.
It opened my mind up to a world outside of football, which, for 17 years now has been my always and everything.
I came to discover that footy is now a layer in the fabric of my existence, instead of the foreground of my being that it had usually been.
But, once I touched back down in the cold, wet and windy place I call home, I knew I was invested in AFL once again.
Now, weeks on from America, we’re back into our traditional routines and although Power House is finished for 2018, Geelong’s pride still lives on…
It was the last drive to Kardinia for the 2018 season and it’s always bitter sweet; the excitement for finals but the sadness of leaving the familiarity of our home away from home.
It’s the same walk up to the Bob Davis Gate and has been like this always.
As we reach the entrance I realise I have not given up, I never had. I’m too attached to let this place, this team, this family go.
All those ‘almosts’ always seem worth it when we walk out into the sun, or rain, of Kardinia Park and know we are safe and most importantly, we are a capable team.
We sit with our gang, our mates in front and behind us and catch up on the past few weeks. We talk footy and finals and life, while sharing treats and anecdotes from years of footy past.
The game starts and Ablett makes his way to the forward line, met with big cheers from our crowd. Even when we thought he gave up on us, we knew deep down that he’d find his way back home.
Dangerfield quickly misses three set shots in the first quarter and we all shuffle nervously in our seats.
But our pressure acts in the forward line are too good for the Suns and eventually we break through, with Tom Hawkins, Dan Menzel and Sam Menegola all hitting the scoreboard.
I miss Ryan Abbott’s goal on my way back to the seats to kick start the second quarter dominance.
I mention to my Uncle James that ‘this season beat me’ and he laughs.
It was true however, for some reason I was tired for most of the year.
Maybe it was because of last year? Power House only lost two games and played in the Grand Final and Geelong made a preliminary final.
Maybe I was expecting too much?
Someone told me once that you should never expect in football.
But maybe that’s what I was doing. Was I really expecting too much in 2018?
I’m back in game mode and I watch in awe as Tim Kelly, Gary Ablett and even Mark Blicavs dominate around the footy, piling on eight goals to one to settle us for the game.
But the Cats weren’t giving up there.
They hold the Suns to only one goal in the third term and Dangerfield dominates, he makes up for those early misses with a wondrous snap around the body that only Danger can pull off.
The fourth quarter sees five more Geelong goals and it’s intriguing to see how the boys use the ‘Geelong highway’ to get the ball moving.
Tom Stewart leads with 13 marks, assisted by the return of Jed Bews and they hold the Suns forwards to only five goals for the match. I’m hoping they can produce that in the finals.
Michael Barlow was the only shining light for the Suns, with 35 disposals in what may be his last ever AFL appearance.
Tom Hawkins had 11 goals assists and worked like a true team player.
The last two weeks have boosted my confidence. Even though Fremantle and Gold Coast aren’t finals contenders, there’s nothing wrong with two good wins.
We hug our friends; our family around us. We tell them we’ll see them next season, still hopeful, still the same fighting spirit that I’ve grown to rely on in my life.
I have always been a football realist, even though I have been very lucky to see Geelong have such success. Realism overrules faith, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a little bit hope left inside.
I’m not giving up yet.
GEELONG 4.6 12.8 17.8 22.10 (142)
GOLD COAST 2.3 3.2 4.8 5.10 (40)
Geelong: Dangerfield 4, Kelly 3, Hawkins 2, Ablett 2, Menzel 2, Menegola 2, Murdoch 2, Abbott, Blicavs, S. Selwood, Tuohy, Duncan
Gold Coast: Sexton, Scheer, Schoenfeld, Crossley, Lyons
Geelong: Dangerfield, Ablett, Kelly, Duncan, Hawkins, Stewart, J. Selwood, S. Selwood
Gold Coast: Barlow, Harbrow, Bowes, Weller
Geelong: Guthrie (leg)
Gold Coast: Schoenfeld replaced Ainsworth (hip) in the selected side, Leslie (knee)
Umpires: Donlon, Gavine, Williamson
Official crowd: 28,004 at GMHBA Stadium