The grand final: From a parent’s point of view

by admin on January 20th, 2019

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The grand final: From a parent’s point of view Easton Wood of the Bulldogs speaks to the media before the 2016 AFL Grand Final Parade. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

WE’RE FLYING: Easton Wood takes a spectacular mark over the top of Port Adelaide’s Paul Stewart. Picture: Getty Images

KEEPING COOL: Fiona Wood is excited to have her son, Easton, leading the Western Bulldogs into the AFL Grand Final. Picture: Rob Gunstone

HAPPY DAYS: Easton Wood with friends after he was drafted by the Bulldogs in 2007. Picture: Angela Milne

RUNNING AWAY: Gary Rohan celebrates after winning the 2008 Hampden league grand final sprint. Picture: Glen Watson

HAPPY DOG: Hamilton’s Liam Picken poses at the Whitten Oval. Picture: Pat Scala/Fairfax Media.

POTENTIAL: Gary Rohan beats Warrnambool legend Jason Rowan to the flight of the ball in 2008.

NUMBER ONE: Gary Rohan after slotting a goal in 2016. Picture: Getty Images

TweetFacebook The journey so farSouth-west Victoria to be represented by three emerging stars in the AFL grand final.►VIDEO: Can the kids tip a grand final winner?

YOUR heart is pounding.

It’s not the same feeling you’d experience if riding a rollercoaster, or at the pinnacle of a sweaty, cardio-intensive workout.

Instead, it’s coupled with a knot in your stomach. It’s coming. The final siren. Immortality.

You can almost feel the seconds tick down, as if each beat of your heart signals another step closer to the siren that would create history before your very eyes.

But you’re helpless. You can’t do anything but watch.

PROUD AS PUNCH: Fiona Wood. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Hundreds of orange-clad supporters spread towards the exits at Spotless Stadium, in Sydney’s west. This is it. Your son is about to become the first captain in 55 years to lead the Western Bulldogs to an AFL grand final.

It’s sinking in. The boy from Gnotuk will lead the long-suffering Western Bulldogs onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the grandest day in club history.

For Fiona Wood, all of this became a reality in just two-and-a-half hours.

Back home, it’s not far past the crack of dawn and Fiona is out in the garden of her family home.

She’s taking photos of her idyllic property, which overlooks the grand Lake Gnotuk, capturing the sun coming over the hills and the greenery of her well-pruned plants.

It’s something of a common routine.

She will shoot three which encapsulate the tranquility and peace of the south-west community – which is just kilometres from Camperdown – before promptly sending them off to her son.

About 300 kilometres away, the acting captain of the Western Bulldogs feels his mobile phone vibrate. He glances down to see a text message from his mum, showing the start of another day in south-west Victoria.

His day, often a mash of training, conditioning, media commitments and leadership duties, always begins with a tender reminder of his childhood home.

Home is very much where the heart is for Easton Wood.

“He often says he just wants to come home and have great home-cooked meals,” his mum, Fiona, laughs.

“He doesn’t like to talk footy because that’s his profession – in a good way. He comes down with Tiff (his partner) and Jagger (his dog) and it’s lovely and private.

“I spend the time cooking and chasing the dog, because he’s bringing pine cones to the doors. It’s a lovely time, though.”

Easton Wood is a deep thinker. That much, Fiona says, has always been evident.

But it’s his calm, quiet nature that she adores. The same nature which was nurtured into a leader through his time at Geelong Grammar.

Easton was offered a dual academic and sports scholarship to the prestigious private school, on the back of what appeared to be a promising cricket career.

It was at Geelong Grammar, while excelling academically, he caught the eye of the Bulldogs’ then-recruiting manager, Scott Clayton.

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Fast-forward to November 24, 2007, and Easton was mooted as a surprise chance to go in the AFL national draft. And he did.

That day will forever be remembered by Fiona Wood.

“We had our family around, and Easton’s mates. It didn’t matter what happened, it really didn’t. It was a really nice day, celebrating my birthday as well,” she says.

“When the call came through that he had been drafted, I nearly fell through the deck.

“The kids do this to you, don’t they?”

As the mother of the Bulldogs’ grand final captain-to-be, Fiona knows how high the stakes are for the Footscray faithful.

She’s become more than just the mother of a star player over the last nine years. In essence, she’s become a fan.

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“They know what they’re playing for. But the gravity of this achievement (making the grand final) has not hit these men yet. Right now, they’re living in the moment and they know they can’t enjoy it yet,” Fiona says.

“I think Easton is in the same ilk as Bob Murphy and Luke Beveridge in that he’s a great communicator. He’s not a rah rah boy and he knows he can’t be like that.

“When he took on the captaincy, Bob’s (Murphy) words were profound to him. Bob told Easton he wasn’t a rah rah boy and that the boys didn’t expect that. He told him to keep being him. To keep on keeping on.

“I thought Easton and Macca (Fiona’s eldest son, McLeod) were brothers in arms. But I’ll tell you, Bob Murphy is right in there with them as the third brother.”

Jake Stringer is primed for a big performance in the AFL grand final. Hit the Getty Images photo to read his story.

For the Picken family, a Bulldogs’ grand final triumph would mean just as much.

Their hopes will be riding on Liam, 30, who could well be tasked with the job of shutting down one of Sydney’s damaging midfield quartet.

Liam, born and raised in Hamilton, honed his craft with the Hamilton Magpies – who later merged with the Imperials to spawn the Hampden league’s Hamilton Kangaroos.

His father, the legendary Billy Picken, played 240 games of AFL football for Collingwood and the Sydney Swans between 1974 and 1986.

That included no less than four losing grand finals.

“I played in five grand finals with Collingwood,” Billy says.

“Four were losing ones while the other was the drawn grand final against North Melbourne in 1977. It would be great if Liam can get the monkey off our back on Saturday.

“I reckon Bevo (coach Luke Beveridge) has given Liam and his teammates the confidence to run and take the game on.

“It’s amazing what a heap of young players can do when they are given confidence.”

In a grand final heavily romanticised for its David versus Goliath qualities, Gary Rohan’s own shot at premiership glory emerges as one of the most interesting sub-plots in the biggest game of the year.

Devastated by a severe broken leg in 2012, ruling him out of the Swans’ premiership victory over Hawthorn, Rohan watched his teammates from the sidelines.

He was on the field when the Swans fell to the Hawks in the 2014 rematch. Now his chance for redemption is here.

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