By Luke Voogt
Helen Gaffney was just one-year-old and living in London when the Melbourne Demons last won a premiership.
“I was born in 1963 and they won in ’64,” the almost lifelong fan from Ocean Grove said ahead of tomorrow’s grand final.
“We came over here from England when I was three and my parents got attached to Aussie rules football.”
Growing up in Glen Waverley, Helen chose the Dees to be different to her mum, dad and three brothers, who supported either Richmond or Collingwood.
“I loved going to the football and we would catch the bus to Waverley Park,” she said.
“When I was 15, I was allowed to get on the train [to the MCG], so I joined the cheer squad.
“It’s good if go to the football by yourself – you know you’ve got a bunch of people waiting there to welcome you in, and my parents knew that I was safe,” she said.
“I used to go to training every Tuesday and Thursday night and make the run-throughs – they call them banners now.”
“I’ve met Ron Barassi, Neale Daniher, Jim Stynes – I’ve met them all going to after parties and other events.”
Helen left the cheer squad after high school, but later bought season seats for herself and daughter Haylee.
“For 20 years she’s been coming to games with me,” she said.
After more than half a century supporting the Demons and attending more than 500 hundred games, Helen knows “the words to every single other team’s song”.
“I’ve had to listen to them all over the years,” she said.
The Demons have longest current premiership drought – 57 years – of any VFL/AFL team.
“You learn to be a really good loser,” Helen said.
“You learn to forgive, forget and look forward to next week. When we win, it’s like winning a premiership.”
But this year the Demons are a big chance to win the real thing.
“They’ve beaten every team this year – we’ve never seen this from our team,” Helen said.
“They’re playing like mates.”
She missed out on attending the Demons’ last grand final in 2000, and will again tomorrow with the AFL moving the game to Perth and interstate travel off limits amid COVID-19.
But she and Haylee donated their members’ barcodes to families in Perth, which both managed to score tickets in the ballot.
They plan to order in food and cocktails to make the most of watching the big game at home.
“This is the most exciting time in my whole life!” Helen said.