This article was written by Melissa Muscat.
Given how much of a diehard supporter I am of live sport, most notably football and rugby league, I’ve been to very few away games interstate, until recently. And I didn’t realise what I was missing.
In January this year I visited the last state I was yet to see in Australia, Western Australia. I’m not going to lie, I based the timing of the trip around the Sydney FC schedule and school holidays, originally not to miss a home game but was then pleasantly surprised to see Perth were playing Sydney around the time I was going. That swayed my decision to book in early January. I base my entire social calendar all year long around my sporting schedule. When I say my, I mean my teams, Sydney FC and The Parramatta Eels.
I have to say that my first trip to Perth and in particular NIB stadium was a fabulous and memorable one. Such a picturesque stadium and the people, like in all of Perth, were so pleasant. I travelled solo and as I took my seat in the away bay on game day, a security guard came over to advise where the facilities were and that if I felt unsafe at any time, he and the other guards were at the back of the bay. It’s the little things that make wherever you go a positive experience. I thought that was something else. The home fans were passionate but likable. At no stage did I feel intimidated as an away supporter there solo.
Maybe I interrupted the peace at the very end when I couldn’t resist a photo opportunity with some striking cardboard cutouts of the Perth Glory players. They looked great so I decided to throw my Sydney FC scarf around the one of Ante Franjic to get a cheeky snap. The locals didn’t appreciate that but still, it was nothing other than a good laugh. I think I was forgiven when I congratulated the Glory fans on their win and informed them because of such a pleasant experience, I may now have Perth in my top three A League teams. I even got a round of applause emoji off Franjic on Twitter, stating that when there is good banter, it needs to be applauded. Relief I didn’t upset anybody!
The second interstate match which I attended recently was the now annual A League Fixture, the Big Blue in Melbourne on Australia Day. The fierce rivalry between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, brings so much passion to this game between both the teams and the supporters, it’s exciting and nerve racking at the same time. I will say though, that the home fans aren’t as welcoming to Sydney FC supporters. Which I assumed, but felt the full extent of when I visited AAMI Park for a second consecutive year. It doesn’t bother me too much, especially given I have travel companions when visiting Melbourne, as long as things don’t get violent or too hostile. Football supporters take the game very seriously, especially Melburnians and possibly from their point of view, there is no room for friendly fire, only serious business and to get the job done to collect the vital three points. There is a heightened sense of excitement as an away fan. What the away crowd lacks in numbers, they make up for in volume. Everyone lifts to another level. The Big Blue match is something else. Both fans bring out the best and worst in each other.
My favourite away rugby league game is The Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks in The Shire. Not quite interstate but wonderful because it’s the only week of the season I don’t have to travel an hour to watch my beloved blue and gold. The stadium is approximately an eight minute drive from home. I love this game so much that I am planning a European trip around that fixture. Originally planning to leave the first week of June, do I now leave a week before the match, or hold out one more week to watch my favourite game of the season, then fly out the next day? That’s the dilemma I’m currently facing.
I’ve enjoyed the interstate away experience so much that I am determined to get to an Eels game somewhere else in Australia this year. Parra have launched a Women in League jersey for the first time in quite a few years. 200 lucky female members will have their name printed on the Eels jersey against the Gold Coast Titans in round 22. As a member of 10 years, I’m not sure I’ll make the cut as I know there are many passionate female Eels members out there, and have been for a lot longer than me. If I do though, I think that will be my interstate away match of the season. If not, then possibly Suncorp Stadium needs to head the list. I have only ever heard wonderful reports of that ground.
With the A League finals approaching and the NRL season about to begin, if you’re wondering or have half the opportunity to watch your team interstate, do it. You won’t regret it. Just don’t forget your team colours and your vocal cords. On that note, happy NRL season to all who follow as we begin again Thursday. For the second year in a row, my preseason money is on the Sydney Roosters to take out the premiership. Good luck to all 16 teams but especially my team, the Parramatta Eels.