It’s 11pm on a Friday night after Port Adelaide lost to Richmond and I feel shattered. Although everyone sees the reactions of players and coaches, the people standing behind them feel just as much. Being the child, wife, brother, sister to a player or coach in the AFL is a rollercoaster of emotions. While football fans love the game with a fierce passion, for us it is more than a game. It’s our life. Our weekends are determined by the team’s result. You ride the ups and downs side by side. When the cameras are off and everyone goes home, we feel the fallout of the downs and celebrate the highs in private.
Being family means making sacrifices for those you love, and it was especially relevant for this year’s tumultuous season. We all heard the stories of clubs either taking the quarantine hubs in stride or their struggles, but what about the families? The ones who uprooted their lives from Victoria to live in a hub? Or even one’s like me who could not go out to pubs with friends in SA like everyone else? We were allowed to work, study and do anything of essential importance: grocery shopping, dentist, doctor etc. We had more freedom than people like my dad – we could go to a café and sit down, but only for limited time. The COVID AFL rules were a constant consideration throughout this season.
However, we came to appreciate the rules, because the longer we had to consider them, the closer Port Adelaide came to the 2020 AFL Grand Final. Truth is, I would have been more than happy spending one more week within those rules if it meant Port made the Premiership decider. Yet, it wasn’t meant to be, and on Friday night Port players, coaches and families experienced one of the lows of football.
We were all sitting in the Media Room – wives, children, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers of players and coaches. On Friday night we all met down in the carpark and were escorted up via a service elevator into the Media Room by an AFL Official. Because any family members who lived with players or coaches could not have any contact with the public at the game. Players who did not make it into the selected 22 were also sitting in the room with us. The air was tense and nervous at the start, there was plenty of shouting at umpiring decisions, and the celebrations after a Port Adelaide goal was incredible. Everyone in that room had someone out there on the field or in the coaches box, and we were all there backing them in until the end. In the final few minutes of that last quarter there were several people pacing the room, some couldn’t watch, and others watched on while praying for a miracle. When that final siren went, it was an emotional moment. The room was dead silent and no one wanted to believe that it was well and truly over.
We all have something we are extremely passionate about, and we have family members that have their own passions. It just so happens that my Dad’s passion is football, and while it is just a game for most people, for us it is much more. The COVID rules we followed were annoying, sure, but we would do it all over again if he needed us to.