It’s a tough life, being a Demons supporter.
You tell a group of people that you’re a Melbourne fan and feel the room fall flat. You’re constantly getting one of two looks – either the scrunched up nose, or the sympathetic one usually reserved for when someone’s dog dies. You go to every game knowing that you’re more than likely going to leave the ground a combination of disappointed, angry and apathetic. You don’t look forward to the weekend as much as others do.
You question whether you’re even going to raise your future children as Dees supporters, question whether you can be responsible for burdening their tiny hearts with such a terrible thing.
The only silver lining is that if you’re brave enough to wear your Demons gear to a pub after a big loss, people will take one look at your downtrodden expression and give you a free beer and a pat on the back. (That, and the fact you can escape to the snow for the weekend when things get really bad. Which is often.)
But you stick fast, because you know that there’s eventually going to be a pay off. Because the thing about being a Melbourne Demons supporter is that the highs are like nothing any other footy fan can experience.
When you’re conditioned to expect the worst, every win feels like something bigger and greater than what it really is. It’s four points to any other team; it’s an excuse for a three day bender for a Melbourne fan.
The Dees have never really been good as long as I’ve been alive. There was a purple patch in the early 2000’s (although we had to sit through a ten goal Grand Final loss), and there were the late 80’s, although fortunately enough I was still an infant and unaware of the piercing pain the ’87 prelim and ’88 Grand Final dished out.
However, the past few years have seen a whole new layer of trauma inflicted upon a long suffering fan base.
Six coaches in seven years, if you count the interims. Regular 100 point beltings and record beatings. The passing of Jim Stynes. The “tanking” saga. Board unrest. Terrible trades and even worse draft picks. Mitch Clark’s foot. The loss of Tom Scully (although that one hasn’t turned out as bad as we all feared, when you consider his performance for GWS has been less than spectacular).
Seeing Paul Roos wearing a Melbourne polo shirt today made me forget all of that. Dees fans are buzzing – with good cause.
Securing Roos as coach feels like our biggest win in a very long time, because it IS our biggest win in a very long time.
He’ll bring a myriad of things to the club, but the biggest two are confidence and hope.
I talked myself into the Dean Bailey era and defended Mark Neeld. But with Roos, I’m finally confident that Melbourne has someone in place that can actually re-build the Club, and make it great again.
The Dees have tried the unproven, young coaches. Now they’re doing what they should have done when they had the opportunity to hire Kevin Sheedy for the 2008 season, but opted against it.
Roos is knowledgeable, experienced and successful, but importantly, he’s going to come into the group and immediately command respect.
He will also be an important figure when it comes to player retention and recruiting.
Players on the verge of leaving (ie Colin Sylvia and Jack Watts) will likely reconsider. Those from other clubs who had no intention of talking to the Dees during trade week have suddenly found a reason to answer their phone when Melbourne calls.
No one expects instant results. All we really want to see is improvement, and that goes for both ladder position and attitude on the field.
Melbourne won two games this season. With Roos at the helm, and a bit of stability and swagger about the place again, there’s no reason why that figure can’t climb as high as six next year.
People always ask me why I still go to games. Why I stay so invested in something that strategically strips pieces from my soul every winter.
Put simply, because I knew it will be worth it. And after today, it looks like the pay-off is finally on its way.