We need a public holiday for the grand final

The Dreyfus Files - The Age

Victoria is alive with excitement about the imminent AFL grand final. This week, Victorian Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, called for an annual public holiday to mark the event, which would give Victorian families an opportunity to take a break and join in the grand final parade celebrations on the Friday before the game.

This weekend marks the 115th time two teams will do battle in the AFL grand final. This time it will be the Geelong and Collingwood football clubs squaring off for a place in history. For many Victorians whose team isn't in the grand final this weekend, it will be a time to unite in support of any club other than Collingwood, which is the one club everyone loves to hate.

For the past two years I have ridden the emotional rollercoaster that close to 100,000 fans will experience on Saturday afternoon at the MCG and millions more will experience across the country. As a diehard St Kilda member these two years have seen three grand finals for no result - and I attended all three. It certainly tests your resolve and makes you wonder if it is all worth it.

Being a St Kilda fan has delivered some highs and many pretty significant lows. I still have moments where I pause and reflect on last year's first grand final and that moment when the unique and unpredictable nature of our game saw the football bounce the wrong way. Nine times out of 10, the bounce would have been more conventional and seen Stephen Milne kick the winning goal and deliver St Kilda its elusive second premiership.

Instead, the game famously ended in a draw, and we all know how the result went the following week! But I'm still left asking myself every now and then: "What if?"

Melburnians like to think of our city as the sporting capital of the world. On Saturday night, Melburnians united in their support of the Melbourne Storm and watched on in disbelief as the New Zealand Warriors went through to the NRL grand final.

We commemorate the Melbourne Cup with a public holiday, on the first Tuesday in November, when at 3.20pm "the race that stops a nation" sees 24 horses race in front of more than 100,000 spectators and millions more watching with family and friends at home around the barbecue.

This summer, we will see the unveiling of a new Australian cricket team and we will all embrace the Australian Open tennis tournament, where Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic will give us the chance to cheer for our first Australian Open female champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978 and first male champion since Mark Edmondson in 1976.

And who can forget the scenes of excitement and passion we saw at Federation Square when the Socceroos qualified for the soccer World Cup for the first time in decades in November 2005 at the Sydney Olympic Stadium?

There is a common theme to all these events and that is the concept of community. Many of these events see people from all cultural and social backgrounds come together in heartfelt and passionate support for a sporting cause. There is no discrimination, no judgment, just fun and excitement shared by the community.

There is no bigger sporting event than the AFL grand final. I share Daniel Andrews' support of the Facebook campaign, which calls on the Victorian government to consider introducing a new Victorian public holiday on the Friday before the event. This day would give everyone a break and give regional townships the ability to hold community events to share this significant occasion.

Supporting community goes to the core of Labor values. The introduction of the eight-hour working day more than 100 years ago was intended to give people time to live life so that we could work to live rather than live to work. A public holiday to commemorate one of the biggest events on Victoria's calendar that would give people the opportunity to spend more time to live life together is worthy of consideration.