The AFL will never be the same after the drama of this week. While the reputation of the game, some teams and players will be forever tarnished, what it has shown is that when the times are tough, fans stick together.
Essendon has bore the brunt of the bad publicity this week as the club announced it had asked the AFL and ASADA to launch an investigation into supplements given to its players. This was quickly followed by the Australian Crime Commission’s announcement of an investigation into drugs, match fixing and organised crime in sport in Australia. With not a lot of information has been released, the Bombers will continue to be the headlines until the investigation is finished or another club is named.
For a few Bomber supporters, the last week has been too much and they have vowed never to support the club again. For most, it has reinforced the love they have for the club. All you need to do is look at social media sites to see the passion from supporters. The minute someone criticises the club, the supporters are there defending its honour.
While some supporters have taken their comments too far, it’s only because they love the club and don’t want anything to happen to it. On Friday night, a united campaign from a group of supporters resulted in #teambombers trending on Twitter in Melbourne and briefly Australia wide.
This won’t be a one off with 100s of fans pledging to go to Essendon’s opening NAB Cup opening game and others trying to arrange a gathering at Bombers training to show they are behind the team. Club membership has also jumped following the announcement of the investigation.
Bomber supporters aren’t the first and won’t be the last supporter groups to go into bat for their club when it needs them most. For many supporters, the club is like a member of the family and they’ll do what they can to make sure nothing happens to it.
Whether the club needs money, support in the hard times or good times, supporters are there.
Ask Hawthorn, Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne where they would be without the money donated by supporters to save the club. Each one of these clubs has been on the verge of extinction or set to merge with another club and if it wasn’t for the fans, they wouldn’t still be playing today.
Ask Carlton, a club that could have quite possibly gone in a different direction following salary cap breaches had the supporters not rallied together to support it. Ask St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs, two clubs that, even though they have had a lack of success, have a band of faithful supporters who are waiting for them to finally realise a dream of a second premiership.
As they say, good things come to those who wait. While the breaking of Sydney’s premiership drought in 2005 meant a lot to those at the club, it meant the world to the long suffering supporters who had stuck with the team during the hard times.
With a lot of questions still to be answered from the Bombers investigation and to an even bigger extent, the Australian Crime Commission’s report, supporters are still in for a tough time ahead.
As we’ve seen, having supporters group together not only helps supporters but it gives the club something good to focus on. If one thing is to come out of bad things in sport, it’s seeing who the club’s supporters and even the sport’s real supporters are.