FOR the past 49 AFL grand finals, Gavin Francis has taken his place in the crowd.
There won’t be a banner for the Ballarat solicitor and Hawthorn supporter to run through on Saturday, but he will have a milestone of his own. And, by happy coincidence, his beloved Hawks will be playing.
Mr Francis went to his first grand final in 1965 and since then has only missed two – the drawn grand final in 1977 and the replay the following week when North Melbourne steamrolled Collingwood – after his mum bought a colour TV so the family could watch it together.
He has caught up in a fashion, though, thanks to a second drawn grand final and Collingwood’s subsequent victory over St Kilda the following weekend.
So for the 50th time on Friday, Mr Francis will go through the annual ritual. He will take a collapsible chair, a Driza-Bone coat and his cold weather clothing.
“I used to sleep outside the ground back when they sold the tickets at the MCG, and in 1967 and 1968 I was actually selling tickets at the MCG,” Mr Francis says.
Mr Francis, a lawyer with Saines Lucas Solicitors, has not bothered to check the weather report because “there’s not much I can do about it so there’s no point”.
While he is delighted Hawthorn is playing, it would have made little difference to his plans if the Hawks weren’t.
“I would have gone regardless. It’s the most amazing game of the year,” Mr Francis said.
“But equally, I’d always have a team to barrack for on the day anyway.
“If the Swans were playing Essendon – or anyone was playing Essendon – I would have been going for them.”