They are an eclectic gaggle of footy fundamentalists, from celebrated musicians and nerdy tax accountants to parochial Victorians whose love of the West Coast Eagles only blossomed on that wonderful last Saturday in September.
One has played 640 games of footy in three States over 36 seasons, another is doing her PhD in gender and sport at Victoria University while another is a wannabe playwright who spends his spare time as a WA Football Commissioner.
There is a rather odd man who describes himself as a right-handed poet, some professional types who twitch at the sight of a Sherrin and a fanatic whose family banned him from watching Eagles games on TV due to his appalling loungeroom etiquette.
Their spiritual leader is Melbourne-based broadcaster, writer and raconteur John Harms and their passion and knowledge shows up many experts who, as it now appears, seemingly know a bee’s-dick more than the rest of us when it comes to our national game.
Meet the writers and thinkers who make up footyalmanac.com.au, one of the game’s most popular platforms. They are known, quite simply, as your average, everyday fan.
And every year post-GF, they produce a collection of the best amateur works about the premier’s highs and lows throughout the season.
The Eagles Almanac — Friends, Family, Flags — is brimming with intriguing insights from those who make up the heart and soul of this great West Australian footy club and the game they play.
Like those recalled by Jebediah front man Kevin Mitchell, aka Bob Evans, who retraces the deep connections he has to the blue and gold.
While recording his second album in Nashville in 2005, the celebrated Fremantle muso remembered how he finally found a pub to watch the Eagles play the Swans in the first of those two epic grand finals.
Unfortunately, the hotel’s internet crashed, and with no images many miles from home, Mitchell struggled to listen to the audio, “the worst kind of way to experience a grand final and a memory I will happily let fade away with age”.
The next year things were different. He also remembered Ben Cousins, having both played junior footy at Bull Creek Bombers, as a “lovely, happy, easy-going kid whose mum and dad were respected by everyone for being thoroughly nice, decent people”.
Then there was 2018, the “most fun I’ve had as an Eagles supporter since I was a kid scrap-booking those games in the early 1990s”.
There is a great piece in there by Michael Sexton revealing how the Eagles’ skipper got his moniker.
It turns out it has been passed down the South Australian generational line. Shannon Hurn’s old man, William, is a “Bunger”, as was his dad, Brian.
Indeed, Brian “Bunger” Hurn cleaned up the visiting Poms in 1958, back in the day when the touring sides played State teams between Tests.
That Bunger Hurn, then a 19-year-old fair and tall speedster from Barossa farming stock, went through the top order like sheep drench. He had no lesser lights than Colin Cowdrey, Tom Graveney, Ted Dexter, Frank Tyson and Tony Lock back in the sheds before they could say “By Gum”.
Bunger the First would be part of South Australia’s 1963-64 Sheffield Shield winning side and, after a long career of public service, go on to become mayor of the Barossa.
Bunger the Second would captain SA at underage footy before playing 135 games for Central Districts in the SANFL.
Sexton sums up what most of us love about Bunger the Third; the characteristics that country footballers so magnificently bring to the great game.
“Rather than getting into groups with whiteboards and fluorescent sports drinks at quarter-time, Hurn and (Jeremy) McGovern should just wander off to the side and drink from some old enamel mugs and say nothing to each other because they already know what to do,” he wrote.
“They just need to pull a couple of splinters out of their fingers and squint up at the sun to check the conditions.”
Kasey Symons, a born-and-bred Victorian Eagles supporter, tackles some of her footy superstitions, particularly those involving fashion.
She tells of the pivotal role her original Eagles childhood scarf played in the success and failure of various squads, along with her signed 2014 guernsey, which she wore to the 2015 grannie, “but looking at it still breaks my heart”.
And her socks. She writes how her beautiful mother bought her two pairs — one emblazoned with Nic Naitanui, the other Josh Kennedy.
“I wore the Nic Naitanui socks to the round 17 match against Collingwood. Nic Nat did his knee. Bin,” she wrote.
“I decided to wear the JK socks for the first time while watching the qualifying final, also against the Pies, to support him coming back into the side.
“He was out of form in the first half and I was a very frustrated fan. To try to relax in a tense game, I made a cup of tea (Gin) at half-time and remembered my experience with the Nic Nat socks.
“About five minutes into the third quarter, I took them off. Then Josh Kennedy kicked his first goal for the game from the boundary, swinging the momentum back to the Eagles — and we secured a home prelim.
Not that I think I was solely responsible for that victory, but you’re welcome, West Coast.”
Rob McKenzie, a West Coast Eagles director, uses his hotshot legal brain to drill down into why Sandgropers were so unpleasant to visiting teams in 2018, a practice which got significant traction among the more insular east coast media.
“Why are we so angry in the West? Why do we harass opposition players? Former champions of the game, who morph into untalented members of the media in the self-proclaimed home of football, condemn us as shocking philistines in stark contrast to themselves.
“Well, the answer as to why we are so furious should be obvious even to them. It’s the GST, stupid.”
There are wonderful odds and sods sprinkled in; Did you know one more person went to 2018’s grand final than 2017’s, and that only five out of 123 grand finals have been decided by five points — and in three of those Collingwood was the loser?
Did you know an anagram of Optus stadium is Output Sadism, or, as Andrew Gigacz points out, “I detect a twist — Sheed’s Goal” can be rearranged into “The West Coast Eagles did it”.
Finally, to John Gordon. The Melbourne-based WA-raised lawyer, Claremont and Eagles nut has spent 22 years in Bleak City and seen all seven Eagles grand finals.
His Father’s Day piece beautifully chronicles the sheer joy footy can bring to those who love the game — in his case, a daughter travelling in Italy, a “thrilled” 92-year-old father in Perth whose “body is letting him down a bit”, and a loving son he sat next to at the ’G on “that wonderful, magical day”.
I will not spoil it, but here is a tip; The Eagles Almanac is worth the price of that piece alone.
Eagles Almanac 2018, published by Malarkey, is available now.