Returning to the very streets where it all began back in 2012, was one of the most uplifting things that has happened to me, in Australian Football.
To walk the same road, over the same bridge, down the same streets with the same people and some new generation supporters, is the stuff of dreams and such an emotional moment. It’s something you can only experience for yourself, because words that I write and the stories that I speak of, barley scratches the surface and will only explain, so much.
But I will attempt to give you an idea, so imagine this;
You get on a train that takes you to Parramatta, from Lidcombe. With each stop along the way, it picks up more clusters of Red and Black. With each station, you’re greeted with a smile. Your tribe recognising you, after a long awaited 3 years, as they join you on the train ride into the heart of Western Sydney.
You get off at your stop, run through ticket barriers and up the stairs to street level, through the streets of Parramatta, passing red and black flags, streamers, posters and billboards, lights shinning from buildings and the echo of drums, coming from the far end of Church Street.
The closer you run, the closer the sound gets, the more your own steps begin to follow the same beat of the drum. You can see the red smoke rising into the air, peaking through the Parramatta city skyline, and finally as you turn the corner, you’re greeted with an Army of red and black, being escorted towards the new stadium, that stands tall, behind you.
You feel this adrenaline beginning to flow through every vein in your body. As the crowd is closing in, you’re now shoulder to shoulder with some familiar faces and some strangers, but they’re wearing the same colours as you, sharing the same smile as you, singing the same song as you. The heat of the flares, breaking through the cold air, bright red lights reflecting off the damp, black asphalt, as the rain begins to start up again, scattering across the venue as you make your way inside.
The active has returned, the flags are being flown, a massive banner of the crest that you wear over your chest is being draped over the second level bay, just above the RBB. The tune and lyrics to ‘Glorious’, blanketing the active section. Once the game kicks off and the Banner is collected, you run down the second level steps and down to the RBB, to join the rest of the red and black family.
Capo with his megaphone, the drums are in place.
The Tifo is dropped, the whistle is blown, and now the whole of Australia will see that West Sydney is home.
POETIC, AYE? Now let’s get to the fun stuff.
We kicked off against the Mariners, just like we did all those years ago, in 2012. And we all remember how that season went? We went top of the ladder, won the Premiers plate and then …… We don’t talk about what happened, after.
BUT, back to this game. We’re in a new home, have a new team, a boss that dresses like he just walked out of Peaky Blinders, and I’m LOVING IT!
CORRECTION, I was loving it, up until we gave away a goal, as Central Coast scored from a wonderful kick that was too much for our keeper, Lopar, as it smacked the cross bar and landed in the back of the net, right in front of the RBB.
Ohhhh, we felt f*ckin’ GREAT about ourselves. And I’m sure so did the Mariners and Alen Stajcic…which at this moment, I was beginning to remember the bet I made with him the last time I bumped into the legend.
“If we win, I’m getting you a mariners kit” … and with the way the Wanderers were playing, I was convinced I’d see a kit in the TLL mailbox, by Monday morning.
Many would probably wonder how I had any idea of what was happening during the match, and ask what I could see from within the RBB?
F*ck all. I’m 5ft 3, I had to climb onto the safe standing fence and sit on it, to see the Capo’s instructions, watch the game, and get an idea on what the hell was happening. And from what I could grasp, while trying not to fall off the damn thing, was that we were not as threatening as we should have been, for a returning home game. We did better against Leeds United, while during this game, we were plain, bland, and lucky to get a goal before half time.
As the game kicked off in the second half, the flat feeling continued, as our boys in red and black tried to break the deadlock.
Running in towards the direction of the Red and Black Bloc, this time, there were a few more attempts to break away from it ending in a draw. Finally, we see the team pick up in pace, Mohamad Adam showing off his skill and proving that this, once, young Academy boy, certainly deserves his spot on the first team. But Birighitti was not going to make it too easy for us, putting his body behind each attack the Red and Black, threw at him.
In the end, the extra pressure that we put on the Mariners defense, finally began to work in our favour. After chanting “V – A – R” for a good few minutes (OHHH THE IRONY of a supporter group like us, praying the VAR saves us, aye), a handball review granted us a gift from the gods, to put us in the lead.
Capitano, Mitchell Duke stepped up to the spot, took the shot, sent Birighitti the wrong way, making it 2 -1, sending the stadium into a euphoric state. It had been such a long time, I had no idea what to do with my hands.
But the scoreline was not the only highlight of the return to Parramatta. Young Daniel Wilmering, the OG ball boy for the Wandercrew, from back in the days, made his debut appearance for the first time, as a first team professional player. A dream come true. ON YA LAD!
As the RBB amped up the volume, the 7 years worth of clapping choreography, and the torn up magazine paper that was used as confetti (Mitchell, mate, you were the front cover of the match day program, Sorry for tearing your face up but it was all with good intention), this all became the final push the boys needed to ensure we kept the lead.
With time counting down, the Mariners tried to pull one last slap in the face. The ball was sent into the box, and a sea of red and black, mixed with bright yellow spent about 30 seconds frantically kicking and clearing the ball. Lopar coming to the rescue with another amazing reflex save, and Mitchell Duke following with a line clearance, to send the ball RIGHT the hell away from the back of the net.
After clearing the ball towards the Mariners half, and Kosta Grozos chasing it down to ensure that’s where it stayed, the final whistle was blown and the first 3 points and 2nd position on the ladder, was gifted to the Western Sydney Wanderers. Seeing ourselves 2nd on the ladder is the weirdest thing I’ve seen so far, right next to Troisi in an Adelaide United Kit. But, it’s something I hope I will be getting use to.
For a game that was quite even, a game that was quiet ‘meh’, the return to the RBB was the grandest experience of the night.
And Capo called me a “sick b*tch” and gave me a fist bump, and that was the biggest highlight and compliment of my night.
It pays to be a complete passionate nutcase. I praise my Balkan footballing roots, for being like this.
As for Staj, massive respect, well played, it’s good to have you in football permanently. But which WSW kit would you like, mate? The home kit or the nice gold away one?
By Christina Trajceska