Last weekend we saw a terrible tragedy unfold at the MCG. The Sydney Swans, who had dominated all season, fell at the last hurdle. It was awful to watch. I am referring to the emotional dissembling of the died-in-the-wool Swans supporters with whom we watched the 2014 AFL Grand Final. One of them had to go to another room, so great was their trauma.
Being a St Kilda tragic, I was full of empathy, having been in exactly the same position in 2010.
That is not what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t just walk by the scattered remains of a seasons hopes without a sympathetic mention.
This week IS about the AFL Grand Final, a DIFFERENT Grand Final, and the story does involve St.Kilda and The Sydney Swans. It is a story of faith, and hope, blind, senseless faith and hope and how one man’s senseless faith and hope can inspire another to similar acts of senseless faith and hope.
The story is first about the 2009 AFL Grand Final. All through 2009, St.Kilda were in the ascendancy and they lost only 3 games all season. So great was my expectation of finals victory, I booked flights and accommodation for September very early in the season. I reckoned that if we weren’t able to get tickets for the game, any pub in Melbourne on Grand Final Day was going to be better than sitting at home.
My hopes were realised and St.Kilda made it to the Grand Final. We were not able to get tickets from anywhere before the day but we flew to Melbourne undaunted. I said to my wife Helen “we’ll go to the ground early and surely we will pick up a couple of spare tickets from someone”.
So two hours before the game we headed for the ground. I started to practice my pitch for tickets along the way. I have done this successfully many times at rugby union tests but I soon realised this was a different game. I was met with huge laughter and ridicule. Everyone thought this was the funniest, stupidest thing, a guy walking towards the MCG on Grand Final day, expecting to pick up tickets.
I persevered anyway. After 15 minutes, Helen retreated to a safe distance, out of the drizzle and out of the embarrassment zone. She said she was praying. I approached anyone that looked like they had a ticket in their hands. Half past one came and with it rising anxiety. Two o’clock came – nothing. Ten past two passed with no result and the situation was getting a little desperate. With only 15 minutes to go to kickoff I started to consider Plan B – a dash to the nearest pub. I decided to hold on for 5 more minutes. We heard the cheer as the teams came out . We heard the National Anthem being sung. “Just one more lap” I said to myself, of a forecourt by now almost empty.
“Are you looking for something” a voice behind me said. I turned and looked at this guy and said (thinking as I said it what a ridiculous proposition). “I was hoping to buy a couple of tickets”. He took an envelope out of his pocket and said “would these do?” I looked and in his hand were two Premium Centre Square Corporate tickets. “They are yours if you want them”, he said. My eyes started to misbehave and I could barely see a thing. I remember giving him a great big bearhug and stammering “thank you, thank you, thank you” and then rushing for the gate to save both our embarrassments. Helen was happy her prayers had worked.
It took a while to get our breath back and for the blessing to sink in. The guy beside Helen paid almost $2,000.00 for his ticket. The seats were awesome – under cover on a rainy day with perfect views. Our benefactor had managed the corporate ticket sales programme and had a few tickets left over. He decided to look for a couple of deserving punters outside rather than burn the tickets.
You can imagine that story has been told many, many times since then. The tickets are framed and on the wall of my study, and it reminds me that faith and hope, even blind, senseless faith and hope, works. By the way, St.Kilda lost at the end of the day, but that pain pales in comparison with the joy of the victory at the beginning.
And now I come to this week’s moment of absolute clarity.
Mid-morning last Saturday, the morning of the Grand Final I got a text from a friend:
“Hey Brian, we are in Melbourne for the SWANNIEs!!!
What time did you head down to get your tickets?”
“Go well – I was there from about 12.30 – go with
faith and patience. Cheers, Brian”
90 minutes later:
“Hallelujah we got tickets!!! :-)”
It hit me there and then – We MUST tell our stories of faith and hope!
We never know when our story can be just the thing to encourage someone to step out in faith and hope themselves – even the blind, senseless faith and hope that believes you can get tickets to the AFL Grand Final on the day!
Based on someone’s story, my friends stepped out in their own faith and hope and it was rewarded.
Have a good week, Brian
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