FUN MADNESS? Maybe a little, but this is what Central Highlands football conjures up better than any other sport in the Ballarat region.
This taps into the true essence of sporting success. A whole army riding behind athletes.
Or, as Beaufort locals put it, flying as one.
Beaufort’s beloved Crows last senior grand final appearance was 15 years ago. The Crows’ last taste of premiership glory was even before that, in the mid-1990s, with back-to-back flags.
The whole town has been turning red, yellow and navy blue – so much so, that decorations in these colours have run out to Ballarat. There is campaign encouraging everyone in town to finish a conversation, business transaction or quick greeting up the street with a hearty “GO CROWS”.
No where else in across the Goldfields does team passion reach these heights.
Hepburn is renowned for its parochial supporters. The Burras are a regular CHFL grand final fixture.
Reaching a senior football grand final is a massive feat. But in this competition, each title contender has bettered 16 other rivals to get to this point.
This league pulls together country towns where for most, football-netball clubs are the key community gathering place.
Finals fever runs rampant and the week leading into the final becomes just as important for towns as the day of the big show.
Long-time Crows supporter Geoff Carnes tells Press Box this is all about support for the team – senior players travel from across Geelong, Melbourne and Ballarat to pull on a Crows guernsey and he says they should feel the whole town is proud of their efforts.
And, Carnes says, this is all about saying thank you.
Beaufort, like most CHFL clubs, has strong multi-generational ties in volunteers and players. Most people in the town are or have been involved in the runnings of the club.
Carnes, who is leading a whole-town support campaign, says the club brings the community together. A grand final gives the whole community something to celebrate for the hard work and efforts of those who got the team this far.
There is such club pride in other football league and other sporting clubs across Ballarat. But none seem to rally whole communities quite like the Central Highlands, where everyone from the local librarians to publicans and postmasters feel involved.
In Beaufort, even the local butcher is a Crows legend with his commemorative guernsey proudly hanging in his shop window this week.
Ballarat captured a little of this spirit when Western Bulldogs arrived last month, but not quite with the same zest that Central Highlands towns can muster.
This grand final day will be different.
Gone will be the cars around the boundary, or utes backed in and packed with people clad in town colours on the trays.
What feverish town pride guarantees is a raw, electric vibe from the moment opposing teams run out for any Central Highlands football or netball final. Mars Stadium will be filled with one mighty roar.