Paul Roos reflects on winning the 2005 AFL Grand Final.
Streamers, adoring fans, sweaty embraces, cup lifting and team songs – there are some images automatically associated with Grand Final victories. But in 2005, when Paul Roos coached the Sydney (nee South Melbourne) Swans to their first premiership flag in 72 years, he took his time not to be overwhelmed by the sensation, and to be mindful of what he was experiencing. From the pages of his memoir, Here It Is, this image captures this not-so-typical coach after the game, soaking up one of his life’s great achievements. In the passage below he details the emotional significance of the victory, and how he processed the experience on his own terms.
I turned around and everyone was screaming, going crazy. The game was over. It had come down to the last moment and we had won 8.10 (58) to 7.12 (54). They had been almost dead and buried, but this Swans team would never lie down. Elation. It was a fine line between winning and losing, but a gulf when it came to the emotion.
I didn’t want to race straight down onto the MCG. I wanted to spend a minute or two celebrating in the box with the other coaches. We had worked so hard together.
I was deliberately mindful and aware. I took my time to walk slowly down to the ground and to embrace the moment – the Swans fans, the euphoria, the energy in the arena after 72 years without a premiership.
Then to walk on the field and see my wife and my kids… it was just amazing. To see players who had given so much to the Swans over the past decades but never won a flag – Bobby Skilton, Barry Round, Paul Kelly and Ricky Quade, guys who had bled for the footy club. And people who had kept the club afloat, such as Peter Weinert, Mike Willesee and Basil Sellers. Every single one of those people contributed to that premiership.
If I had let myself get overwhelmed or over-excited, I would have missed soaking up what was happening. My memories are still so vivid of what we created together and the absolute joy that football brings to people.
Seeing all those people made me realise what an enormous effort it was, not just for the players and coaches that day, but for the football club as a whole. Our pre-match banner had read, ‘Two cities, one team, together living the dream.’
Now we’d won and the old South Melbourne people and the Sydney fans were united. The day was about healing the pain and the wounds and bringing the two parts of the club back together.
Earlier in the day, I had rehearsed a short speech, but as I stood on the stage with the 2005 Premiership Cup in my hand, other words came to me and I went off my script.
‘For the people who’ve waited 72 years to see South Melbourne, slash Sydney Swans, win the premiership, HERE IT IS!’
It was three years, almost to the day, since I’d presented my plan to the board with the final PowerPoint slide: ‘I will inspire, teach and lead the Sydney Swans to be winners and ultimately deliver a Premiership.’
It shows you the power of a strong plan and a vision. But it was ‘we’ who had delivered a premiership. So many people had contributed to that victory and so much planning had gone into it.
I told the players we were forever indebted to them. The only sad note was that Stuey Maxfield, who had unflinchingly driven our new culture, had not been able to play. It was a football tragedy.
After the game, as we mingled in the dressing rooms with the players’ families and all the staff, I felt an incredible sense of satisfaction. At one stage I sat by myself for a few minutes, reflecting how hard it had been to make it to that Grand Final, and how amazing it was to have won.
Around two hours after the game, Andrew Ireland suggested that the team, key staff and the coaches should take the Premiership Cup out to the middle of the MCG. Under dim lights, before empty grandstands, we stood in a circle and belted out our club song. ‘Cheer, cheer the red and the white’ had never sounded so good. We were a team in the true sense of the word. We had worked so hard, and it was all worth it.
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