Melbourne Demons, Western Bulldogs fans nervous as Perth stadium awaits first AFL grand final

© Provided by ABC NEWS Devout Demons fan Joan Lawson is ready for a win tonight. (ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

As Perth wakes to its first AFL grand final in the history of the game, today is personal for 82-year-old Dees disciple Joan Lawson, who last watched the cup go to the Demons when she was in her twenties.

“I’ve been a supporter all my life,” the devout third-generation Melbourne Demons supporter said.

“Since I was born, and maybe I was born with a red-and-blue spoon in my mouth.”

After moving to Perth in 1973, she said having her team play the premiership in her home town was “surreal”.

More than 61,000 football fans are set to descend on Perth stadium this afternoon, ready to devour 9,000 kilograms of chips, about 23,000 pies, 6,000 pieces of fish, 14,000 chicken wings and 7,000 hot dogs.

More than 2,500 staff will be working at the stadium.

The company supplying much of the food said it had never received an order of that scale before.

The WA government has made every bus and train available to get fans to and from the game for free, with more than 500 extra staff working.

From muddy pitch to slick stadium

Ms Lawson fondly remembers her beloved Demons taking the cup in 1964 and suffered through their defeat in 2000 at the hands of Collingwood.

“It’s hard to believe and I just sort of pinch myself,” Ms Lawson said.

She said much had changed since 1964, when the Demons took out their last premiership.

“They were bigger guys then, because they all had day jobs,” she said.

“So they would come to the MCG, where they trained after work.

“It’s a totally different game to what it was.

“They played in mud in those days too, because the MCG, of course, is a cricket pitch, and it was just glug in the middle.

“The banner you ran out [through] was down the race and it was like plaited crepe paper, … and that’s what they came through.”

Wanneroo café draped in red, white and blue

Over in the Bulldogs camp, born-and-bred Dogs supporter, Taylor Moore, does not have the same memories of the muddy MCG, but his excitement is just as palpable.

He was there in 2016 when the Bulldogs beat the Sydney Swans by 22 points and he feels incredibly lucky to witness them play in another grand final, this time in Perth.

“It was something I could never have believed, but here we are,” he said.

Mr Moore’s family ties to his team make him a fourth-generation supporter.

“Dad was born in Footscray, our grandparents were born in Footscray, my great grandpa [Park Krygger] actually played a game for the Bulldogs back in the ’20s,” he said.

“It was only the one game before he broke his leg – but still!”

In the lead-up to the grand final, he has covered his Wanneroo café in the colours of his team to try and bring a bit of Footscray to Perth.

“It would be foolish to not decorate my cafe in red, white and blue,” he said.

In a city where neither of its home teams are playing, Mr Moore said customers had mixed reviews of the decor.

“Look, there’s been a lot of sledging,” he said.

“I’m sure they’d rather see some purple and white or some blue and yellow … but for the most part it’s been well received.”

In celebration, his café has also been offering free coffees to Western Bulldogs members, plus a special meat pie footy deal.

For other football fans across the country, but particularly in Perth, today involves adopting one of the Victorian teams to help get into the spirit.

East Perth resident Daniel Smee, who lives just a stone’s throw from the stadium, was excited for the atmosphere game day would bring to his neighbourhood.

“I’ll just be sitting on the deck and enjoying East Perth, waving to all the people as they go past,” he said.

His wife Mary is a mad Dockers supporter, but more so a fan of the game itself, so much so she decorated their house in both teams’ colours.

“Even though she goes for the Dockers, she just loves watching football and she will go to as many games as available, so she is in heaven right now,” Mr Smee said.

Former Premier wants to see Perth host again

The grand final fever has also infected the man in charge of building Perth’s state-of-the-art sport arena.

Former WA Premier Colin Barnett said he knew the stadium would attract a grand final at some stage.

“But I certainly didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, and I’ve got to say, in quite sad circumstances given the situation in Melbourne,” he said.

Mr Barnett said those watching the final from interstate and overseas would notice the landscape around the stadium, and he expected thousands who missed out on tickets would enjoy all the festivities around the ground.

Meanwhile, on top of the game and all its excitement, he said the fans inside the stadium would enjoy the cup holders for all the beer they are set to drink.

“That was my suggestion,” he said.

Mr Barnett said he thought it was “short-sighted” of the AFL to commit to the MCG for so many decades and he hoped the grand final would get sent around the country in the future too.

“That would be good for the game nationally,” he said.

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