HERE is your chance country football fans. Do not mess this up. Central Highlands Football League’s decision to allow fans to walk on Mars will undoubtedly add to the parochial country vibe this league does so well.
But ground access is a privilege, not a right, for supporters on grand final day and should be respected as such.
Gone are the days when Central Highlands fans would line their cars up on grand final eve along Creswick Road to ensure they could stake a spot on the boundary line, backing in their utes, for the big day.
The Northern Oval precinct has long hosted what is arguably the biggest football day for the region, largely due to capacity for huge crowds this grand final day attracts.
Only now, Mars is an AFL standard, without room for utes to set up camp. There are new grandstands to seat about 5000 people with a mound on the showgrounds wing that gives an old-school outer football feel – great for country football. With nice new things come new standards. There is a fine balance between what is appropriate and what is expected from grand final days gone by.
All players should have the chance to contest their crowns on the best ground and facilities in the region.
One Central Highlands football fan was quoted in The Courier this week as saying “this day belongs to the supporters of the clubs” and to let them back on the grounds, which fans were unable to do until after the seniors last year.
Grand final day is about the players, coaches and their support staff for clubs who achieved the massive feat to be out there for the big dance. Premiership contenders, from under-15s up to seniors, have an important job to do.
The CHFL board have deemed it important to have people involved and on the ground. This columnist does not dispute this.
Supporters around the huddles, listening to the coach’s address, can really add to the electric vibe and urgency for what is at stake. This can build atmosphere in the outer when nervous or pumped up fans return to their viewing platform.
Family, close friends and supporters should have a chance to share in glory or commiserations. They have shared in this journey.
But keep in mind, you are not the only ones there on grand final business. This day belongs to other teams on premiership missions too.
CHFL has four football grand finals to play. Such a big day does not allow a lot of wiggle room for straggling fans to leave the playing arena after huddles or on-field celebrations.
Each team needs its fair chance to run out and warm up unimpeded. They do not need wannabe heroes kicking footballs or getting in their way. Not to mention players get bigger and arguably stronger and faster with each match. Fans must show them the same respect.
Parochial support is crucial for atmosphere and there is so much potential to grow this in the grandstands.
The chance to get back around the huddles and post-match celebrations is exciting and adds flavour but keep in mind the bigger grand final picture. This is a day for the players and coaches who earnt it.
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