The School of Historical Studies’ Professor Joy Damousi talks about this weekend’s grand final, the role of the AFL in Melbourne’s history and culture, why Collingwood and its supporters evoke such extreme reaction, the professionalisation of football and the associated expectation for players to behave professionally off and on the ground. A lifelong Magpies supporter….she tips Collingwood to win this weekend.
“The AFL grand final is a huge weekend in Melbourne, and always a massive day in the Melbourne calendar. It has been part of the city’s history for over 100 years, after all.
“But especially this week, with two of the oldest teams, two of the great teams in St Kilda and Collingwood, both hungry for success, there’s a great interest, not just from those teams’ supporters but among Melburnians and just among supporters who love the game. These are two teams who have played very well and whose style of play is a beauty to watch, so we’re looking forward to a fantastic game on Saturday afternoon.”
Professor Damousi says that in many ways Collingwood is a victim of its own success, and because of that, draws a lot of passion from supporters and haters alike.
“Collingwood has been a very glamorous team for much of its history: it has a glamour and an aura associated with it.
“Their supporters love them because they’re a winning team, usually performing well each season, and opposition teams hate them because of that. They’re a consistently impressive team, but still, premierships have not come too readily. That inspires a desperation among supporters, which I think you’ll find Saturday in large numbers.”
Speaking more widely about the professionalisation of football, Professor Damousie says football clubs used to be tied to suburbs in Melbourne, with supporters going to their local grounds on Saturday afternoons – something which has all gone now, and is a loss that people lament.
“But things are just different, not necessarily better or worse but different, and certainly football and the MCG is a fundamental part of Melbourne’s history. The connection to the MCG is still very strong and it gives people a sense of place, and of history. Football is also a generational thing. Support for a team is passed down in families and can help define family history.”