Grand final fever: ‘Football unites people’

"Football unites people," said Anissha, who sits by her friend Kate, a rival supporter (Photo: Helena Abdou)

After the excitement of grand final eve celebrations, Tigers and Giants fans are pumped for Saturday’s AFL showdown. Helena Abdou and Fatima Halloum report. 

After jamming the streets of Melbourne for the grand final parade on Friday, 100,000 fans will descend on the MCG for the fight for the flag between local favourites Richmond and competition upstarts Greater Western Sydney – the Tigers hoping for premiership number 12, the Giants shooting for their first.

The celebrations on grand final eve – a public holiday in football-mad Melbourne – began early for Richmond fans, with devoted fans converging on Punt Road Oval for the club’s last training session.

Supporters came donning team colours, travelling from across Australia to cheer on the Tigers.

“We came here from Hobart,” said Leanne, who made the trip with her toddler Xavier, who she describes as a big Richmond fan.

The energetic crowd shouted words of encouragement before making their way to the route for the annual grand final parade.

The parade started at The Old Treasury Building before making its way down Wellington Parade and coming to an end at Yarra Park.

The crowd was met with an an assortment of food stalls, activities, rides and a performance by Australian band, Birds of Tokyo.

Teams took to the stage and were met with the screams and cheers of thousands of excited fans.

“I’m so proud of Melbourne, that they go nuts like this for football,” said Ursula, who came out to support Greater Western Sydney.

“To see my team so excited just makes me feel so happy.”

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GWS will play Richmond this weekend in their first grand final

Helena Abdou

The Giants will play in their first grand final having only formed in 2009 as part of the AFL’s expansion.

Richmond supporter, Anissha attended the event with her close friend Kate, an avid GWS fan.

“Football unites people,” said Anissha.

GWS fan Maddison, 9, wasn’t too concerned with the outcome of this weekend’s game.

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Maddison yelling out to her favourite GWS player, Toby Greene at the grand final parade

Helena Abdou

“It doesn’t matter who actually wins, at least we got into the grand final and we tried our hardest,” she said.