IT’S sure been a strange AFL season for footy-mad Melburnians, featuring shorter quarters, no games in Victoria, and finally this Saturday a grand final between the Richmond Tigers and Geelong Cats … to be played in Brisbane at The Gabba … at night!
Anticipation levels are particularly high for religiously observant Jews who have footy running through their veins. That’s because the first AFL decider to shift from a Saturday afternoon to a 7.30pm start means they’ll be able to tune in live from about midway through the second quarter, once Shabbat ends.
That’s the plan in Caulfield for diehard Tigers fans David Werdiger and his son Rafi, and equally so for Willy Eckstein, who lives down the road and barracks 100 per cent for the Cats.
Eckstein, who has cheered on Geelong since he was six, has “stuck with them in both the good times and the bad”, and is feeling excited.
“When I’m able to tune in, I’ll be sending messages to about 30 members of a small Jewish Geelong supporters’ group – who knew we had that many fans?” he said.
“I feel quietly confident the Cats can win, but only if they play a direct attacking game.”
David Werdiger, who has had friendly bets on the footy with Eckstein in the past, even created his own spreadsheet for Saturday night, showing live, catch-up and delayed TV viewing options, and even what time to put meat pies in the oven.
He also pinned a large yellow-and-black banner along his front fence along a major road.
“It will be a new experience this Saturday night, and I really hope there will be more night grand finals in future … so I can watch them,” he said.
“I can’t say I’m very confident of winning, but I think we [Richmond] have the right game plan.”
Meanwhile in Israel, Melbourne native David Cherny – who made aliyah in 1987 – decorated his Jerusalem home in navy and white.
His parents once told him that when he was four in 1967, he switched from supporting Richmond to going for Geelong after they happened to win the first match he was taken to.
He’s followed them ever since, and in 2007, he even flew his family to Melbourne just to attend a grand final. Fortunately the Cats won.
“Here in Israel I don’t miss a beat, I watch the footy on the internet … even my phone ring tone is Geelong’s team song,” Cherny said.
“I would love them to win another flag!”