Contributed by: Wesley Hull Sunday, September 26 2021 @ 11:31 am ACST
It is one of the AFL/VFL’s most stirring theme songs – Melbourne’s song being belted out by the faithful at Optus Stadium in Perth after claiming the club’s thirteenth premiership after a 57-year drought.
Last night people across the world were able to join in song with the Demons as emotions ran a faction higher than normal as droughts were broken, curses lifted, debts paid, potential realised and dreams came true.
I knew the words, having been to every Port Melbourne flag from 1974 to 1982 – six flags in nine years, all at the grand old Junction Oval. Port had the same theme song and I belted it out with gusto, and my family, as we took out Oakleigh, Dandenong, Sandringham, Coburg and Preston – all comers. None could down The Boroughs, and the song resonated across Melbourne for years – and in our car on the way home. But it wasn’t often applied to the Melbourne Demons over that era.
In fact, over those same years, Melbourne won three of its wooden spoons and never reached finals. Their best was sixth place in 1976. Back then, the “team of the red and the blue” wasn’t so much Melbourne as their bayside VFA cousins, Port Melbourne.
But, I knew their song backwards. So last night, it was easy to bellow along with Demons everywhere as they savoured one of the great premiership performances – from 19 points down during the third quarter to a 74-point win kicking 16 or the last 17 goals of the match. This featured a third quarter burst of seven goals in sixteen minutes, and an incredible three goals in 31 seconds of playing time to end the third quarter. Emphatic took on a whole new footy meaning.
Their theme song is just ten lines in length, yet all words are powerful. The refrains of “it’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag” are as well known as the club colours. The words “Ev’ry heart beats true for the red and the blue” are equally evocative and emotional. They tell a story that lurks within the flag win yesterday.
Every heart includes tragedy and triumph. The Demons played for every player to ever don the red and blue from every era, though modern audiences and supporters resonate with names like Troy Broadbridge, tragically killed in the 2005 tsunami. The great Jim Stynes, claimed too young by cancer, as was club legend Robbie Flower and former coach Dean Bailey. Every heart. Colin Sylvia taken too young. As was Sean Wight. Every heart. Neale Daniher helped mould this club before retiring as coach in 2007. In 2014, health issues with Motor Neurone Disease saw him become a source of inspiration for so many in and outside of the football world.
But that concept of “every heart” can just as aptly be applied to the 23 players who had their own stories as they took the field. Two club giants, captain Max Gawn and Norm Smith Medal winner Christian Petracca fought back from near career-ending knee injuries to be leaders on one of the club’s greatest days. Ben Brown was rejected by North Melbourne, only to find a flag with the Dees. Michael Hibberd went through the agonies of the Essendon supplements saga, leaving to start anew as a Demon. He even stated he was playing for the “Essendon 34” last night – the reference to all suspended players from the saga.
Steven May and Jake Lever left their original clubs – the Suns and Crows – lured by the prospect of success. It didn’t happen immediately, but it did happen. Likewise, Ed Langdon. Jack Viney did what his dad, Todd, couldn’t – hold a premiership cup aloft. What were the Demons thinking at the 2015 draft when they turned their backs on names like Parish, McKay, Hopper, Rioli and Charlie Curnow to grab a less heralded Clayton Oliver with pick #4? Now we know.
A year ago, Tom McDonald was seconds away from finding a new home. Now he has a premiership medal. Angus Brayshaw’s concussion issues threatened his career. Not any more. Charlie Spargo is a fourth-generation VFL/AFL player with his dad a former Brisbane Bear, grandfather a Bulldog and great-grandfather also a Bulldog and Demon. A story of family history. Jake Bowey’s seventh AFL match was a 17-possession premiership win.
That’s more than a dozen stories. Every heart. There are others equally deserving. Then, of course, there’s coach Simon Goodwin. Groomed by Paul Roos, then critically doubted as the right man for the job, Goodwin stayed true and is now a Jock McHale Medal winner.
Every premiership winning team has similar stories. But, somehow, the “heart beats true” that refers to the 2021 Demons is a heart worn on the sleeve arguably more so than any other winner.
The Melbourne Demons are not only deserving premiers, they are also a club that has faced history eye to eye and prevailed. Barassi would be proud. Truscott would be proud. Flower would be proud. Norm Smith would be proud. Gary Lyon. Hassa Mann. Ivor-Warne-Smith. Alan La Fontaine. Laurie Mithen. Fred Fanning. Jim Stynes.
And, Yes, Nathan Jones would be proud.
Every Heart Beats True.