In all honesty, I was most looking forward to attending this game because of the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about regarding the new Bubbledome Stadium. And unless I have a sudden change of heart regarding attendance of the A-League, this was set to be a very opportunity indeed.
Outside the ground, memories come flooding back, with one in particular standing out - it hasn't gotten any easier to find parking on that side of the precinct, with my crew ending up on the other side of the MCG. Walking past the food stalls around that ground, we were a little perplexed by one of the stalls selling something called Albanian marinated chicken rolls. We didn't bother sampling, with my reasoning being, if it's not cooked in a garage kitchen, it's not authentic Albanian food.
Anyway, outside the ground, it seemed like everyone that has ever been associated with Green Gully was bussed in, which meant mostly lots of juniors and their parents attending perhaps their first ever Gully game - there may have been a couple left over from their 2005 championship win, but I doubt it too much. I like the gimmick, and hopefully we can make it there next year so we can do the same, but the resulting atmosphere was dead for the entire match except for the goals. I doubt whether 90% of the Gully fans knew who any of the players were.
Speaking of random fan appearances, the Heyington Bridge Crew, or at least people resembling it, turned up to their first game in... I don't know how to count that far. Our once upon a time sorta kinda colleague and/or collaborator Neil Zimmerman was there, had a very brief chat with him. Seems in good health. Overall, seemingly very poor turnout by the Richmond faithful. Obviously they couldn't or didn't think to pull of the Green Gully juniors bus in stunt, and I know they have low numbers and there wasn't much to get excited about last night, but still a very low presence.
The game itself was pretty poor. Gully are a grinding team. Always have been when I've watched them. Yesterday they actually tried playing football, and it was somehow even more tedious to watch than their drudgery. Still, it was better than Richmond's virtual non-appearance at the game for about 70 of the alloted 93 minutes. There was no energy, no creativity, no nothing. The second goal they conceded was especially poor, with Graham Hockless dribbling a a terrible shot in from about the penalty spot - with our crew behind the goals thinking surely Richmond goalkeeper Stephen Gal (who had a terrible game in general) will at least dive to stop it going in, hell, even just walk across and pick it up, the ball rolled slowly past him after which he dived like he was going lie down on a couch.
Richmond were resorting to long balls, looked slow and uncoordinated, but the managed to pick themselves up a bit in the second half, to no avail. It seemed to me that they should have received some clear penalties, but the referees last night were clearly on Gully's side, especially the linesman on the crowd side, who kept giving thrown ins to Gully even when it seemed utterly clear they should have gone the other way. Eventually Gully got a terrible penalty awarded to them, and that was finally that. Richmond finally came up against a team that didn't waste chance after chance and didn't stick Kyle Joryeff on the right wing when what was needed was Sebastian Petrovic to shut down the game when you're 2-0 up. Ahem.
If I was to have a guess, and it would only be a guess, I reckon the crowd would have been around the 2000 mark. The figure wasn't announced unlike previous VPL grand finals that I've been to. The venue itself is fantastic, viewing quality is amazing pretty much wherever you sit, though I think elevating the stands a little more above the level of the playing field would have improved the viewing quality even further - the rows immediately behind the goals seem to suffer the most. It felt odd after so many years of traipsing around local grounds to be at a soccer match with a video scoreboard, this feeling coming despite watching Socceroos matches at Docklands and the MCG. Is this something we can look forward to at South at the new improved Lakeside? I sure hope so.
Security and amenities seemed quite all over the place though. The usual bag checks took place, but there were no cavity searches for flares. I suppose they deemed it unnecessary what with the two clubs that had reach the grand final having no hardcore ultras kulcha. There was, surprisingly, a little bit of argle bargle involving a Green Gully fan. Green Gully, the club that tells us they aren't really Maltese (or are they) had one bloke decked out in a full on Malta jacket. I'm not saying that's nor right, you can make of that what you will though. The choice of food was of course, poor. It's the VPL, but with no chevaps or souvs. I hope this isn't the future the FFV has planned for everyone, and yes I know they don't control the food outlets, but it's a pretty distressing picture of Australia's and soccer's multiculturalism when the most appealing and diverse food seems to be the usual cow(?) guts and hooves stuck in a roll or flaky pastry. The match program consisted of a single A4 sheet of paper with squad lists, and they couldn't even get that right, screwing up the number order of Green Gully's team. I'd put up a sample, but I threw mine away in disgust.
From a South watch point of view, apparently Rhodri Payne was there, but I don't remember seeing him. Fernando was there. Eddie Krncevic was there, obviously with his son playing it would be remiss of him not to attend. Jesse Krncevic did little to endear me to the possibility of taking him back to cure our striking problems. After the game and the presentations we tried getting into the MCG to watch the last quarter of the Bulldogs/Swans game, but apparently the free entry after three quarter time caper no longer exists. A pity, that. What we were left with on the night, was a lot of what could have been and what might possibly bes, and a stupid joke involving Heidelberg, Green Gully merchandise and FK Pelister. If that makes any sense whatsoever.