Back the grand final fairytale

Not for the first time ever, the AFL and NRL grand finals will each feature a Victorian and New South Wales’ side.

The rivalry between the two states has always been strong. From which sporting code is better to who has the best food scene, Victoria and NSW just don’t get along.

But this weekend of grand final festivities in the nation’s most popular football codes has only added another level of competitiveness to this great rivalry.

NSW has kicked off the cross-state sledging with certain commentators claiming this grand final week is “all about Sydney”.

“This weekend… will be time to show the southern city you (Sydney) are simply out of their League… and playing in a realm of Rules they can only dream about, let alone try to match,” Peter FitzSimons said in his Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece.

But this sort of superfluous language couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, history could be made in both of these games. There’s more to support this weekend than mere state rivalry.

Firstly, there’s the NRL grand final, where the Cronulla Sharks will come up against minor premiers Melbourne Storm.

For the first time in their 49-year history, the Sharks could hold up the premiership cup. After losing three grand finals over the journey, and after such a strong season in 2016, a potential win on the biggest stage looks promising.

Their opposition, the Melbourne Storm, have been relatively successful in their time. Two premierships to their name, and another two lost as a result of salary cap breaches, has placed them as one of the most successful expansion clubs in the league.

This storyline is almost identical to what’s happening in the AFL.

The Western Bulldogs have made their first grand final in 55 years and they will also be vying for their first premiership in 62 seasons. The Dogs have defied all odds, making the grand final from seventh place, a feat never before achieved.

The Sydney Swans, on the other hand, are going into their third grand final in the last five years. They have won two premierships since 2005, when they broke their 72-year premiership drought, and they boast a sleuth of the game’s best stars.

These two matches have the potential to be some of the great grand finals. So if your team is not in the final two, which side do you support on the day?

Supporters from each state will undoubtedly want to follow state pride and back their home team. As a Victorian, I would love to see the Dogs and Storm do the double.

But everybody loves an underdog. It’s in the Australian psyche to back the ‘little’ guy, the battler. Without a doubt, this role fits both the Bulldogs and the Sharks.
It’s always exciting to see something new and different happen – to see history be made.

That’s what’s on offer this year. The 2016 grand finals are begging for a fairytale finish. After all, for two of these sides, the road to this point has been paved with hardship and loss over decades.

So rather than hold on firmly to state colours, I will follow the underdog.

After all, it would be nice to see the success-starved Western Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks carry a premiership cup into 2017.

(First published on The Roar on October 1st 2016)

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