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Friday 23 of August 4:40pm, my body is over come with mixed feelings of anticipation and youthful joy. The Bulldog's verdict was due for announcement and I left work early to attend the Return 2 Kogarah Immortals Dinner and celebrate my daughter's birthday.
Driving home and hearing the somewhat soft stance the NRL took on the dogs ($500,000 is nothing really and their exclusion from the finals series was a forgone conclusion) I completely pushed the cheats out of my thoughts and replaced them by images of Kogarah Oval and the memorable times I had there.
How can I ever forget my first time at our spiritual home? Standing on the hill as a kid being overwhelmed by the massive crowd waiting for the good guys, the ones in the red and white to run out onto the field.
The crowd was a buzz, eagerly waiting with all eyes fixed on the players tunnel. Those few anxious seconds seemed like an eternity. And than without warning wave after wave of RED VEE's inundate the ground as" Oh When The Saints." was blasting thru the speakers. Simultaneously the crowd erupts, red and white everywhere. Flags, scarfs, hats people jumping, signing clapping. I swear it seemed like our players grew an extra inch or two upon hearing the crowd's reaction to their appearance. That day an unbreakable bond was formed between the team, ground and me. I knew I belonged here. I was part of the TRIBE, this is our spiritual home and I felt untouchable.
Obviously Kogarah Oval has special meaning to a verity of people from all walks of life. As was evident at the Immortals dinner. Looking around the packed hall in disbelief. I began to notice the attendees. Politicians, businessmen, workers, students, kids all together united and determined in their common cause of bringing the Dragons Home.
Andy Paschilidis did an exceptional job as MC. He was witty, funny, and full of entertaining stories that kept the crowd amused and the hall filled with laughter. He was nice enough to pose for a photo with the birthday girl Andrijana and wasn't at all surprised when I reminded him of the night I put three goals past him at an indoor soccer game. Although a Balmain supporter Andy is very sympathetic towards Kogarah Oval and being a local resident would like nothing better than to watch St.George battle Balmain there.
After several speeches from a number of politicians all promising their unconditional support and undivided commitment to a Return 2 Kogarah, Mark Coyne took the stand. He gave a players perspective of what Jubilee Oval meant. He spoke about the ground, the special moments and in particular the unforgettable feeling of pride he got the first time he ran onto Kogarah Oval and saw the hill full of red and white. A "true home ground" that's what Kogarah Oval is for the players. Mark was also nice enough to pose for a photo with the birthday girl and her brother Stefan.
Our delicious meal was interrupted by a special guest appearance by the "Phantom Siren" who had the place reverberating with laughter after his trademark siren impersonation. At this time the guests were encouraged to mingle with the Immortals and other celebrities or maybe study all the auction able items on display. I took this opportunity to get an old SAINTS jersey signed by the Immortals.
Anthony Mundine sent an apology for not being there and donated 10 ringside seats to his next match for auction. Along with the tickets the successful bidder would get to spend a day with Anthony, train with him and have there photo taken with him.
It was time for the main event, the Immortals were introduced as the hall erupted in applause. Over come by feelings of pride, at ease with the friendly and receptive audience the Immortal spoke from the heart. Telling us how special it was to wear the RED VEE, be part of the St.George family and of course the bond with Kogarah Oval. They boasted about playing with honour and passion for the fans. The RED VEE that was their motivation. In fact players could get better money elsewhere but chose instead to play for us, such was the appeal of St.George.
They echoed their disappointment with today's modern "DRAGONS" and in particular the boards unwillingness to name the Northern grandstand at WIN after Langlands. Which brings me to an interesting point raised by one of the speakers "will the Illawarra community contribute to a Return 2 Kogarah as the St.George community thru the leagues club did for the Northern stand?"
Don't want to end this with a negative, after all the night was a fantastic affair one which will forever be etched in my memory banks as a reminder of the TRIBAL bonding, camaraderie and never give up attitude on display.
Nonetheless I need to point out my disappointment in both the clubs management and it's players for their deliberate snub of this historic event. If one could transform an iota of pride and passion from the three Immortal and install it in the current board and players we would be on top of the World again.
Take a bow Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands and John Raper and thanks to R2K for having the vision and determination to stage such an event.
WELL DONE TO ALL CONCERNED!!!!!!
Together we can make this happen!!!!!!!
PS: Andrijana can now boast that she had the three Immortals, Mark Coyne, Andi Paschilidis among others at her birthday :)