Welcome to Grand Final weekend! This weekend we have a double-header of sporting finals - the Australian Rules final on Saturday followed by the National Rugby League final on the Sunday night. Incredibly, both finals are represented by teams from outside the state hosting the finals, and both host states are expecting an influx of "out of towners" lobbing into town in the low-percentage hope of picking up a late ticket to the game - there are any number of stories of people facing the 40-odd hour bus ride from Perth to Melbourne just to be there on the day.
The AFL originated from the VFL - the Victorian Football League - and this year has finalists from New South Wales (the Sydney Swans) and Western Australia (the West Coast Eagles). Despite this, the final is to be held, as always, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), or "The 'G" as it is known in the Melbourne heartland. Melbourne is still expected to turn out a capacity crowd of close to a hundred thousand for the event, plus the other many thousand who will pack into the nearby pubs to soak in the atmosphere of the day. The game is expected to be an absolute corker as it's a replay of last year's final between the two teams in which the Sydney Swans won by a meagre 4 points - not much when one straight kick will earn you a 6 pointer.
In a parallel, the NRL game originated from the New South Wales version - the NSWRL - and is played at the Olympic Stadium from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. The two teams fighting it out for this year's title are based in Melbourne (the Melbourne Storm) and Brisbane (the Broncos) - and again, despite the teams being from out of state, another capacity crowd is expected. The Storm have only lost 4 of their 24 games in the regular season, with the Broncos losing 10 of theirs. Both teams, however, have been in spectacular form over the last 5 or 6 weeks and the game is expected to warrant every bit of the yearly Grand Final buildup.
I guess you could say that this weekend is the Australian equivalent of "Super Bowl Sunday" albeit with only a fraction of the worldwide audience, but a big weekend for us downunder. Add to that the fact it's a public holiday in New South Wales on Monday, and we're expecting a beautiful Spring weekend and you couldn't ask for much more if you like your sport.
Personally - I'll be going for Brisbane in the League (I'll always be a Queenslander), and I'll be cheering in the Swans in the AFL (not quite the Brisbane Lions, but next in line for my love when it comes to the AFL).
--- update - Sunday 11am
The AFL game has been decided in a thriller. The West Coast Eagles lost to Sydney last year by 4 points and, after leading by 25 points at halftime, defended well to win this year's title by 1 point 12.13.85 to 12.12.84.
--- update - Monday 10am
The mighty Brisbane Broncos downed the Melbourne Storm to make it 6 wins from 6 grand final appearances in the NRL. The Broncos have farewelled retiring legend Shane Webcke with a 15-8 win in a physical encounter in which he epitomised the workhorse forward of rugby league - no moment more telling than the run to setup the field goal to clinch the win. In the 73rd minute Webcke hit the line, pivoted for another couple of metres, then strained forward to gain another 5 metres with 2 or 3 opponents hanging off him to take the ball into field goal range. Webcke ends a 12 year career with 20 Test appearances, and 21 for Queensland in the State of Origin. It's also another win for supercoach Wayne Bennett who now coached the Broncos for all six wins (he's also the only coach Brisbane has ever had). My highlight of the match is an amazing try in the 62nd minute to Brent Tate after the ball seemed to go through 15 sets of hands on the fifth tackle for a try in the corner.