• The AFL grand final bus which took dozens of West Coast supporters to Melbourne to watch their team play the Grand Final. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
NITV News WA correspondent Craig Quartermaine headed across the Nullarbor Plain on a bus with fellow fans to Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final between the West Coast Eagles and Hawthorn on the October long weekend.
By
Craig Quartermaine, NITV News

1 Oct 2015 - 12:56 PM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2015 - 4:44 PM

TUESDAY 6 OCTOBER

Well that certainly didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. A 46-point loss to a team we beat convincingly a few weeks ago doesn’t seem like fair return for such an amazing year and certainly if you just caught a bus across the country to watch it.

AFL Grand Final

But that is the result West Coast fans got when the Rolls Royce of the AFL decided to play at it's absolute best and dismantle their rivals. Yet as shattered I was after that flat performance. there was something else that ended up putting everything into perspective.

My team got smashed by 46 points in the biggest game of the year after I bussed it across the country and stayed in a broom closet of a hotel I’m sure was modelled on Shawshank, accompanied by my mother who only came because I convinced her.

She has loved the Eagles since day one and drove 300 kilometres to Perth before flying into Melbourne at 5:00am, dipping into savings to pay for accommodation and food against all better judgment.

It was stressful trying to get over, find somewhere to stay and even get to the event. But it all dissipated when we saw 98,000 people in the one place for the footy, it all seemed worth it. Ellie Goulding was a bit painful, yes, but hell I'll admit it, Bryan Adams put on a great show.

As we watched our team fumble its way to a depressing loss, a wave of emotion came over me as I sat next to the biggest diehard fan I know, who came over because I convinced her

As we watched our team fumble its way to a depressing loss, a wave of emotion came over me as I sat next to the biggest diehard fan I know, who came over because I convinced her.

With every goal my heart sank. I started thinking about the financial, emotional, and physical strain of the trip, which started to catch up to me. I thought about what we went through to get to this game and I was on the verge of tears.  

Craig Quartermaine's mum

The bus ride from Perth to Melbourne wasn't torture, it was uncomfortable. The selection of only service-station food during the trip wasn't a human rights issue, it was a gastric issue. Airlines putting on cheap flights 12 hours before the game after people paid top dollar a month ago wasn’t sadomasochism, it was capitalism.

The loss to Hawthorn wasn't a tragedy, the fact that Adam Goodes didn't do his lap of honour was.

People tend to feel an extreme level of entitlement following extraordinarily little effort on their behalf. It's a symptom of the luxury our society is blessed with.

"Whether it's the amount of personal space we should have on public transport or the speed in which we are served in a restaurant, we do demand a lot for our input"

Whether it's the amount of personal space we should have on public transport or the speed in which we are served in a restaurant, we do demand a lot for our input. So it stands to reason why after such effort to get to a sporting event some of us felt we were owed a win because of how hard it was for us to get there.

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way and neither does the attitude that because you bought a ticket to a game you are entitled to disrespect a person to the point Adam Goodes was and still is.

Disrespected to the point where one of the greatest there has ever been didn't feel he was welcome to do a lap of honour with the other retirees.

Sydney Swans AFL player Adam Goodes takes part in a training session in Sydney

I don't really believe in karma but if there is some counter balance in the universe then that grand final result was fair enough for those people who felt their entitlement trumped Adam Goodes' achievements when they booed him essentially into retirement.

As a Goodes fan and Eagles follower I’m cool with that, if he didn’t get to enjoy the 2015 Grand Final, why the hell should we? 

FRIDAY 2 OCTOBER 

The pleasures of filming on a bus - so many choices to frame my shot.
Shooting some yarns on the AFL Grand Final bus
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THURSDAY 1 OCTOBER

Batteries and power points are what people's lives revolve around, I'm noticing on this road trip. The lack of sleep and personal space over a long distance is fine and completely tolerable...until your phone goes flat.

Caiguna truck stop was the last stop before we crossed the South Australia/Western Australia border and the midnight fog gave it a Wolf Creekish kind of charm. It also marked the 1,000-kilometre point of our trip, which either impressed or depressed my fellow travellers...depending on how much charge you had on your phone.

The first coherent stop we have is at the Nullabor Roadhouse where we pull up for 30 minutes. I am amused that even in this remote location I still manage to have people walk through my camera shot as I try to file for tonight's bulletin.

I am amused that even in this remote location I still manage to have people walk through my camera shot.

The rest of the day carries on quite smoothly my biggest issue is balancing power usage between my devices for the moment I have enough signal to send my vision to Sydney. Then it happens.

Ever since the booing of Adam Goodes the West Coast fan base has had a shadow lingering over it much like Carlton and Collingwood beforehand. But, see, this is my team on the way to the grand final and I feel a responsibility to correct any of this behaviour and for a while one passenger in particular has been circling me wanting to discuss the Goodes incident.

Now I have to admit I am a pretty confrontational person. I enjoy a good clash of ideals. Some may say I'm argumentative. But I think it's a healthy skill to have, and like any skill, needs to be honed. I do prefer people who make great points rather than repeat redundant ones constantly at an increasing volume but sometimes you don't get to pick your fights.

I consider myself the equivalent of Michael Jordan mixed with A Buddhist Monk and a touch of Ronda Rousey when it comes to this particular topic.

So my fellow passenger and I, who had gotten on very well 'til this point, discussed the Goodes incident. As someone who as written and reported on the treatment of Adam Goodes as well as played footy my whole life and experienced racism in almost every social situation possible, I consider myself the equivalent of Michael Jordan mixed with a Buddhist monk and a touch of Ronda Rousey when it comes to this particular topic.

It wasn't the situation I wanted to find myself in but it's what I got, and you can imagine my disappointment when the same catch cries of "I'm not racist", "he's a sook" came out. After poking holes in these arguments by pointing out the lack of legitimate reasons given Goodes' record and longevity and the uniqueness of his situation I was hit with the Hail Mary: "What about my right to boo?" Your right? I'm saddened at the thought that Adam Goodes will most likely not do a lap of honour around the MCG for his retirement, one of the greatest there has ever been won't be seen and adored like he deserves, because some people believe more in their thin cowardly reasons than his right to be respected.

I'm saddened at the thought that Adam Goodes will most likely not do a lap of honour around the MCG for his retirement, one of the greatest there has ever been wont be seen and adored like he deserves, because some people believe more in their thin cowardly reasons than his right to be respected.

Now this isn't a condemnation of all Eagles fans at all, just individuals who feel they need to declare loudly that they're not racists.

I could go on about this for ages but my battery is running low.

On the bus from Perth to Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final between the West Coast Eagles and Hawthorn on Saturday (NITV)

We stopped off Caiguna Roadhouse in the dead of the night. This place looks like a zombie movie set and only half because of the semi-awake passengers.

Caiguna community is about 1,000 kilometres from Perth. The 147-kilometre stretch of road between the last community, Balladonia, and Caiguna is one of the longest straight stretches of road in the world.

The first night of our road trip to Melbourne on the AFL Grand Final bus (NITV)

Stopping off at Caiguna (NITV)


WEDNESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER

As Freo and West Coast both entered the preliminary finals the realisation that a Western Derby grand final was very much on the cards was soon followed by the sinking feeling that travelling to Melbourne at the last minute with every other footy fan was inevitable. It's a question ever since the VFL expanded to include other capital cities and become the AFL: What do we do if we make the Grand Final?

the sinking feeling that travelling to Melbourne at the last minute with every other footy fan was inevitable

Well, since 1991 non-Victorian teams have had to travel to play for the premiership cup at the home of football on the last day of September. Poetic? Yes. Convenient? Most definitely not. I'm on a bus at the moment with about 80 other footy fans just leaving the hills where the country flattens out towards the Wheatbelt. I'm writing on my phone to conserve my laptop's battery with two full days of travel to go with my fellow football followers and the smiles on their faces mask a steely determination.

It says a lot about the love for a team when 4,000 kilometres on a bus is just 'What ya gotta do' 

It says a lot about the love for a team when 4,000 kilometres on a bus is just "What ya gotta do" as Thommo and his mate Stricko point out to me from across the aisle.

'But do you?' I wonder. There are few flaws in the argument for the "tradition" of the Grand Final always being at the MCG. First, it's been played at Waverley in the past so it's not an unbreakable rule. But the AFL is contracted to play there until 2037. There is an aura about the MCG, no doubt, but there is also no stadium permanently built to hold 90 000 people. Tradition tends to translate to "revenue".

The game has also become a bit of a showpiece for corporates to entertain rathen than for team colour bleeding fans. With tickets costing $900 and upwards access to be game for the common punter seem out of reach. But that's all a part of it too - the last minute vying for tickets adds to the tension especially for those crossing the country.

I'm saddened at the thought that passionate footy tragics from Kununurra and Carnarvnon will miss out because of these thinly veiled "traditions" while a turtleshell-framed-glasses-wearing hipster might get to go see the game then go home and write how lame and barbaric organised sports are in their next poetry slam.

While I sit on this lumbering bus passing salt lakes and wheat silos to the tune of Shaggy's Mr Bombastic (the cd came with the bus I think?) I think of my family. They're full of diehard football fans who will probably never see an AFL grand final live let alone one their team is playing in. I'm saddened at the thought that passionate footy tragics from Kununurra and Carnarvnon will miss out because of these thinly veiled "traditions" while a turtleshell-framed-glasses-wearing hipster might get to go see the game then go home and write how lame and barbaric organised sports are in their next poetry slam. Just because they live around the corner. 

Who knows, maybe I'll get swept up in it and by the end of this pilgrammage I'll think the AFL Grand final should never be moved . Who knows? I've got 7,800 kilometres and a game of footy still to go.

On the bus from Perth to Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final between the West Coast Eagles and Hawthorn on Saturday (NITV)