Grand finals hurt so good

I used to theorise that Australia’s obsession with grand finals was a remanent of the convict stain. Winning is everything. And watching someone losing is almost as satisfying.

Winning is everything. And watching someone losing is almost as satisfying.

Let-s be honest, as neutral football fans, the agony of defeat on display in a heartbreaking finals loss gives us just as much a cheap thrill as the sight of the victorious team cavorting in delirium at their success.

Footballing schadenfreude is something we all indulge in. It-s a dirty habit really, because as fans we all know what it-s like to be on the wrong side of the game-s cruel beauty.

It-s a case of, there but for the grace of the footballing gods go I.

In most competitions around the world the first-past-the-post system determines who is champion and mitigates against this kind of absolutism.

If you finish with the highest number of points, the title is yours. There is a definite winner, but there is no clearly defined and solitary loser, just a bunch of also-rans who to varying degrees weren-t good enough.

With a finals series and a grand final, the collective guilt of failure is dispensed with. Two teams go in, one emerges triumphant. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our loser!

I know some argue that the finals system in the Hyundai A-League undermines the intrinsic value of the hard work of the home and away season and devalues the real qualities required to claim the status of champion. They have a fair case.

The first-past-the-post system rewards teams that show the consistency and mental strength to endure over the long haul, the ability to work your way through tough patches and shake off self-doubt when form seems to have abandoned you.

The self-belief to push that little bit harder over 27 weeks rather than just the 90 minutes of a grand final.

These are all the hallmarks of a champion team.

The Premiers- Plate is designed to recognise those things, but as is the way of things (particularly in Australian sport) it is undervalued because winning on that one day, when it-s all on the line in a grand final, seems ingrained in our national character.

I used to jokingly theorise that Australia-s obsession with grand finals was the last remanent of the convict stain.

It seems to come from our garrison/prisoner mentality, where hierarchies are established through displays of brute strength and power, where the only way to be “top dog “is to publicly and decisively defeat your nearest rival to establish your dominion over them.

A grand final day provides the necessary forum for that power struggle to be played out.

Not that I-m complaining about it. We are who we are, and that “all or nothing” instinct in our sporting culture has made us ferocious competitors with a seemingly inexhaustible drive to succeed.

And, in that sense, the Hyundai A-League grand final gives the world game a distinctive Australian flavour, one we should be proud of and embrace.