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In light of last weekend?s disappointments for fans of the Eels and Dragons, spare a thought for other club?s who didn?t quite get there this year.
It was a crisp Saturday morning in Sydney as I awoke from a heavy slumber. I was filled with optimistic thoughts of crushing victories and dazzling football, but this was the norm on game day. Sadly, however, this game was to be different to games gone past. Our fate was sealed; this would be the last of the season.
I gathered my things for what was going to be a rather large weekend - one last chance to cheer on my beloved Raiders against Manly. Thoughts began to cloud my mind on what exactly had gone wrong this year, but I promptly pushed them from my mind and began the long trek down to Canberra along the Hume.
In a car armed to the teeth with Raiders fans, conversation quickly turned to the game. Talk about how great it will be to beat - and sledge - Terry Hill after his comments regarding Raiders second-rower Ian Hindmarsh; the chance to farewell some crowd favourites, such as Ben Cross and Matt Adamson.
Before entering Canberra's Mecca we stopped for a moment, gazing upon the beauty of the bronze Laurie Daley statue. ?If only he was out there today, we might have a chance? I said tongue in cheek - the first, but most certainly not the last, negative comment made on the day.
Eyes flicked to the watch, and realising kick-off was upon us, we marched on. Nestling into Bay 72, alongside the other depressed tragics of the Raiders Army, cheers went up as our fallen heroes graced the field. With a signal from the ref and a whistle, the countdown to the end was on. 80 minutes left to endure.
It only took thirty minutes for it all too become too much for us. Behind by 22 and a man down, waves of depression after a season of woe washed over us. ?Bring on Mad Monday? was met with cheers as our beloved team crashed and burned once more. This was a dark day for a once-proud club.
The last fifty minutes dragged on, our hearts sinking deeper, the wooden spoon edging closer. The full-time siren resembled a death knell, the corpse disposed of ruthlessly to the tune of 36-18. I would be depressed about this for days - surely nothing could make me feel better. I was convinced there would be no cure.
Former Gridiron coach of Michigan State University, Duffy Daugherty once said: ?It's not a matter of life or death. It's more important than that?. I honestly believed this represented my thoughts on league, and more importantly, the Raiders. The feeling of gloom that came after our season finale did nothing to change that.
Until Mad Monday.
As had been arranged previously, we set out for a big one on Monday the 5th, a chance to forget the season and have some much needed fun and laughs over a couple of drinks - a tradition for the club and the Army alike. The players had a chance to unwind, and after a season like this, the supporters needed one too.
I started the day much like the ones gone past, in a state of depression but that didn't last long.
Kicking off at 11am and finishing at roughly 4am on what was crowned ?Terrible Tuesday," there was barely a word spoken about the Raiders' woes.
This was not the day to spend moping about a season that could have been. This was to be part of the healing process for Raiders tragics. It didn?t disappoint!
My post-season blues were cured! My faith had been restored and the weight of disappointment was lifted. Rather than look back at the season with dark thoughts and missed opportunities, I now remember the laughs, smiles and friendships.
Perhaps I had placed too much belief in the words of Duffy Daugherty. Perhaps I took my league too seriously - there was more to life then footy and results!
I now look at league with a new approach, one summed up perfectly by an unlikely man, one who is slightly more famous then Duffy Daugherty.
?Son, sport?s not about winning or losing, it?s how drunk you get? ? Homer Simpson.
I'll drink to that.
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