In Melbourne, AFL fans can't go to the grand final, but are still celebrating the game

Ted Dorhmann lives deep in the Western Bulldog’s heartland, but his heart beats red and blue.

“I was born into it, I’m the fourth generation in a Demons family,” he explains.

In Yarraville, just a suburb over from the Bulldogs’ Whitten Oval base, his house is adorned with massive Melbourne posters and murals.

One poster is a club motto and instruction of sorts, it simply reads “Give ’em Hell, Go Dees”.

The stars of Melbourne’s march to grand final day are also celebrated.

Posters of midfielder Christian Petracca and club captain Max Gawn hang along a fence, they pump their fists like Demons fans hope they will when the final siren sounds tonight.

It’s been a long wait for the Melbourne faithful, many of whom are too young to remember the club’s last premiership in 1964.

For so many, it has been an emotional week.

“I’ve been battling,” Ted acknowledges. 

“I thought I was going well earlier this week, everything was calm and relaxed and all the rest, and then the nightmares began a couple of nights ago.”

In his nightmare, Ted says the Dees are down by eight goals at quarter-time. The match blown right from the start.

Melbourne fans are used to heartbreak, it’s a history that has kept supporters stressed all year, even as their side has notched up win after win.

While Ted’s lost sleep to this deep Demon fear, so far, he says he has enjoyed waking from these nightmares with his dreams of a Dees flag still well and truly alive.

A son of the west paints red, white and blue

It’s hard to miss Shannon Yates’s place.

Just across from Williamstown Beach, the weatherboard is now the house of the red, white and blue.

“People are getting right into it around here, cars are tooting their horns as they go past and shouting ‘Go Dogs” he says.

“It’s been all smiles.”

For Shannon, showing his stripes was a way to say thanks to his club.

“I’ve been a Bulldogs supporter since I was born, my father, his father, we’re all Bulldogs,” Shannon says.

“I didn’t think we were going to get another chance to see another grand final so soon, so when we did it was like ‘that’s it, the house is getting painted.”

With Melbourne in lockdown and the grand final being played in Perth, things are more subdued than they were in Melbourne’s west in 2016, when the Bulldogs claimed that historic flag.

That year, Shannon had a Nathan Jones moment.

Like the former Melbourne captain who flew back to Melbourne for the birth of his twins, Shannon put family first in 2016, when his son was due on grand final day.

“I had no choice, I would have been a dead man if I had gone to the grand final,” he jokes.

“But the birth of my son was just as good.”

Shannon’s family reckon his son’s birth was a bit of an omen that year, anyway.

Shannon’s dad was born in 1954 when the Bulldogs when their first flag, his son’s birth saw the club’s second premiership.

There haven’t been any new arrivals in the Yates family this year.

But Shannon hopes his son’s recent fifth birthday is close enough to appease the footy gods.

The boost fans need

If you head west from Williamstown, following Port Phillip Bay, you’ll get to Altona, where cafe owner Chris Galea is a loud and proud Doggies fan.

Like all the traders on Pier Street, he has been deeply affected by Melbourne’s long lockdowns.

The Bulldogs success, in these times, he says is big.

“This has been like a glimmer of hope in just boredom, it is something to hold onto,” he says.

“I don’t know what we do next week when there is no footy.”

For now, Chris is enjoying the week.

His cafe is decorated in the Doggies’ colours and today he will be serving doughnuts decorated for his club.

It has been a long time since Melbourne has had a doughnut day, but here, the footy is still a reason to celebrate.

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