AFL Premierships are hard to win

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Unless of course your name is Joel Selwood from the Geelong FC or Jonathan Brown from Brisbane Lions FC or you played for Hawthorn, Sydney, the West Coast Eagles, Port Adelaide, Collingwood or Essendon in the last 10 years. 

History tells us that these clubs have all shared that ‘Premiership winning feeling’ in recent years with the likes of Geelong & Brisbane winning 3 flags each.

In the history of the VFL/AFL, playing for any of Carlton, Richmond, Essendon, Hawthorn, Melbourne, and North Melbourne would have given you a good chance of playing in a flag, not so much playing for the Bulldogs or the Saints.

What history also tells us is there are a lot of us former VFL/AFL Players walking the earth who have not played in a Premiership. I will forever and a day be introduced or identified as ‘former AFL player Justin Peckett as opposed to former AFL & Premiership Player Justin Peckett. I had my chance, but along with the team I was playing in we were not good enough on the day to achieve the ultimate glory of an AFL Premiership 

In 1997, I was playing for the St.Kilda FC and we played in the Grand Final against the Adelaide Crows. The Saints had been in the competition for well over 100 years and up until that stage had only won one Premiership. That was a famous win by a single point against Collingwood in 1966. Adelaide on the other hand had only been in the AFL competition for about 7 years. Obviously no one told them about earning their stripes!

As a footballer one of the most exhilarating things you can do is run out onto the MCG on Grand Final Day in front of 100,000 people. It’s what I had dreamed of as a 9 year old boy and  St. Kilda supporter at the beginning my junior footy career.  

The build-up is huge, particularly in Melbourne as the whole city gets wrapped up in Grand Final fever. Given St.Kilda’s history of underperforming we were sentimental favourites plus the whole Victorian versus South Australia tribal mentality added to the weight of expectation. The Saints would win, so everyone thought. 

The weather gets warmer, the grass looks great, the crowds at training are huge, increased media interest, people off the street are wishing you well, and players discuss where they will put their Premiership tattoo. You can’t help but get caught up in the groundswell of support and most of all; expectation. 

My ‘97 Grand Final experience started out as a truly amazing experience and by 5pm it ended in disaster and tears. The Crows had beaten us to win their first Premiership.

At the time I was 25 with another 8 years of footy in front of me and naively at the time I thought we would get another crack at it. Unfortunately for me when I retired at the end of 2006, the Saints had not played in another Grand Final.

Up until 1997 I had never been to an AFL Grand Final, as a player or spectator and I’ve never been to one since. I have never watched a replay of the ‘97 Grand Final and when people want to discuss the game with me I tend to switch off as it brings back challenging memories. It still hurts to know that I had a chance but did not take it; it hurts to watch other teams win them. I’m jealous of the joy it brings, the elation, relief & satisfaction that Premiership glory brings. 

For the past 15years, I have put on a Grand Final BBQ for my mates to help keep me distracted.  I tend to the barbie and make sure my guests are well hydrated,   I avoid the big screen as much as possible.

I am softening though, as my kids get older I find myself getting caught up in their excitement for Grand Final Day. They tell me I need to get over myself and they’re right. Virgin Australia just announced a new five year partnership with the AFL and that made me think, five years is a long time in AFL, maybe even the Saints could make a Grand Final appearance in that time, or maybe not.

To date, the Saints have had just over 1560 players put on the famous Red White & Black jumper yet only 20 players are Premiership Players.  That’s an exclusive club! This is despite recent Grand Final appearances in 1997, 2009, 2010 and seven Grand Finals in total.

I think I’m up to watching this year’s Grand Final but I might still have to look away when the victors are receiving their well earn’t medals.

It must be the most amazing experience to be introduced to the massive crowd to receive your Premiership Medal and then walk back to high five your teammates knowing you are now a part of history.

 

May the best team win, 


Justin Peckett 

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