September. A nine-letter word that in this country means football, really important football.

Peter Newlinds writes about the footy fever that is about to grip the nation!

September. A nine-letter word that in this country means football, really important football.

If the format of the AFL and the NRL meant that the team with the most points at the end of the home and away rounds won the title, our two most popular football codes would have a noticeably different rhythm.

As it is when the calendar ticks over to September and weather forecasters review their data for the winter just gone, the short, sharp but undoubtedly best part of the football season begins.

If they are wise, any groups of supporters that find their team playing in September are unlikely to take the situation for granted. Richmond’s black-and-gold army this week will be breathing the warmer, sweeter pollen-filled air of spring time in Melbourne with joy, as much for lasting pleasure of the 2017 flag triumph as for the chance to atone for the anguished memories of nearly three entire decades of empty September weekends. The walk of the Richmond faithful to the MCG on Thursday night to watch their team commence their premiership defence against Hawthorn will not be a complacent one.

Richmond and their opponents on Thursday, the perennially competitive Hawthorn, have never played in a VFL/AFL final before, further proof that quirks of history can be has hard to read as the bounce of the red Sherrin itself.

For the Melbourne Demons, a dozen years have slid by since they trained under the warmer rays of the September sun. On their walk to the MCG on Friday night, supporters might contemplate the prospect of their elimination final with excitement and trepidation. Twenty-two home and away rounds have lead to this moment, an emotion-fuelled clash with Geelong, a team whose supporters, whilst themselves accustomed to the rituals and patterns of September football in recent times, leave nothing to chance and social diaries clear. Concerts and dinners can wait: a big final cannot.

A thousand kilometres north in the Harbour city the beaches might be busy this Saturday afternoon but so will all roads leading to the SCG where the Swans will play the Giants. Only three times since 1995 have the Swans not played in a finals series. The intensity of their play and the enthusiasm of their following suggests that this is a record either party would be happy to see continue well into the future. On the other hand, GWS supporters don’t need long memories. This will be their third finals series in a row in a collective history of only seven seasons. If any group of supporters are entitled to feel that September is a privilege, not a right, then it’s those residing within the borders of NSW with footy scarves either bright red or burnt orange.

A tribe with an altogether different take on finals football is the vast body of humanity that follows Collingwood. September history is seared into the consciousness of Magpie supporters whose team with its high ambitions and relatively epic failures (15 premierships from 43 grand finals) has a history that takes a lot of learning and carries expectations that take a lot of meeting.

Far on the other side of the continent, a confident opponent waits for the Magpies. Since joining the national league in 1987, the West Coast Eagles have on only seven occasions had a season finish in double-digit figures. Unfamiliar as I am with the Perth climate, I’d imagine the sight of the Eagles training in September is a cue for even more competitive football, as much for the warmer weather to come.

When the finals season is over we’ll be reminded with increasing frequency of the number of shopping days till Christmas. This is, after all, September, the bridging month, where the colder weather is meeting a challenge from its climatic opposite, half the football fans in the country are already thinking about the next season to come and armies of football fans (both new and old) around the country are preparing for matches that mean more than just about anything else.

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