On Saturday the 30th of September 2006, I was working in a bar overlooking one of the picturesque beaches on the Southern Gold Coast.
The surf was pumping, music was playing, people were laughing and all the patrons could talk about was the Brisbane Broncos and whether they would beat the Storm in the NRL Grand Final, which was to be played the following day.
Broncos shirts were everywhere and you couldn’t avoid hearing the word ‘Locky’ wherever you went.
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Around 2pm, a couple entered and, after looking around, approached me with a puzzled expression and a question; “Excuse me mate but, which TV is playing the AFL?”
I’ll never forget what happened next because there was this noticeable, ‘Hey, we don’t take kindly to your folk round here’ silence.
You see, as it turns out, there was a game of footy being played, a grand final between the Swans and the Eagles.
Not only did this busy Gold Coast Surf Club not know or care in the slightest that it was on, the patrons were visible hostile toward visitors who even broached the subject of ‘aerial ping pong’ being played on any of the TVs.
After all, there was a music max Grand Final countdown on and Simply the Best would surely be up soon.
Fast forward one short decade and the Southern Gold Coast has become a true footy duopoly, a place where aussie rules and rugby league coexist peacefully and respectfully (for the most part anyway).
A pretty amazing evolution in just ten years, one I would argue has happened nowhere else in Australia.
Yet as I listened to Dwayne Russell and Adam Cooney on AFL Trade Radio yesterday morning, my ears pricked up when I heard Cooney suggest that ‘if Tom Lynch leaves the Suns, they may as well pack the whole place up and move to Tassie’.
Melburnians will never understand.
To them we have been gifted a Ferrari and turned it into a lawn mower, ungratefully squandering both cash and precious draft picks that could have gone to ‘proper’ clubs.
They use ‘seven years on’ like it is an eon in human history – I’ve got boardies that are older.
To them we are a basket case team playing in a town of lazy fair-weather fans that can’t even be bothered to pack out our quaint little boutique stadium.
To them, we know nothing.
In fact, it is quite the opposite.
They will never get that stadiums up here will rarely be packed, because to them ‘the footy’ is something you go to to avoid being depressed about how cold it is in Melbourne.
It is a social occasion in and of itself.
Here on the Coast, ‘the footy’ is something we watch on TV at home after a surf, BBQ firing while the kids run around the yard in perfect 26 degree winter weather.
Gold Coasters will never march en masse toward Metricon in beanies and scarves, but nor will we ever disrespectfully (and short-sightedly) call for new franchises or old teams to be scrapped or relocated because one player may choose to leave that club.
Footy on the Gold Coast has evolved here in its own unique way and regardless of who comes and goes for the Suns, the true victory for the AFL and the Gold Coast is much deeper than on-field success.
It is the fact that people can go into any pub or club – including my old place of work – and not even have to ask which TV the game is on, because it will be already on with volume turned up, visitors and locals alike both watching on with interest.