I can’t quite believe I’m doing this.

I’m sitting at Melbourne Airport, waiting for a flight to Darwin – once I arrive, I’ll spend two weeks in quarantine, then fly to Brisbane. All for the chance to see the Saints play finals.

I’ve always wanted to say this: Yep, that was me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Let’s go back to where it began.

I was made redundant from my full-time job in May, due to the ongoing financial damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. At this stage, Melbourne was starting to open up again – cafes and restaurants were taking bookings, football was coming back on 11 June, and the phrase “Stage 4” hadn’t even entered our collective vocabulary. The Saints were sitting 10th on the ladder with one heartbreaking loss to our name.

But then, something happened. Our boys galvanised, under the fresh, positive, yet clinical leadership of Brett Ratten. They beat the Bulldogs, Richmond, Port Adelaide in Adelaide (!!) and suddenly, it seemed that the season might pan out better than a typically pessimistic Saints fan like myself might think. Maybe this time, after nine years of drafting, trading, and letting beloved sons go in the name of our seemingly endless quest for our second premiership, it was starting to work out.

Block J3 at 'Dougal' Howard Springs Quarantine Facility

Fast-forward to September. The job hunt isn’t quite working out. Melbourne’s in full lockdown. A friend sends me an interesting article from the Herald Sun. According to the article, people from Victoria can relocate anywhere in Australia, provided they spend two weeks in quarantine in Darwin at their own expense. The long way round.

At first it seemed ridiculous and just the tiniest bit financially reckless – but like all good ideas, it gnawed away at me. What if we actually made it? What if I could actually see the Saints play finals for the first time in a decade? Besides, I wasn’t really doing anything. Nor had I left the house in 8 weeks. The itch was there.

00:54 Mins
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This is why we play.

This is St Kilda... red, white and black. A new chapter, with new heroes.This is the finals .This is why we play.This is football's greatest quest.And Together We Rise.

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I had planned to travel to wherever we played our first final, whenever it eventuated. To me, that was a given. But the lockdowns then border closures made it seem increasingly unlikely. But despite all the odds, here lay the opportunity. I believed in our team – Jarryn Geary, Seb Ross and Jack Steele aren’t the sort of leaders who would let us go quietly. Dan Butler, Max King and the new-look Saints forward line still had some life in it. And surely above all else, our team wouldn’t let the home-and-away season slip by without one more cheesy grin from Rowan Marshall. Thus, it was settled: I would relocate to Queensland to try my luck at finding a job, all while bearing witness to St Kilda’s first finals campaign since 2011.

So, on Monday 14 September, I boarded that flight and arrived at Darwin Airport, and was immediately transported to the Manigurr-ma Quarantine Village, just outside the town of Howard Springs (presumably named after Dougal) for my 2 weeks' quarantine. I’ve got my Saints jumper, scarf, beanie and cap all lined up on my shelf. A mini shrine, if you will.

The all-important Saints merchandise, ready for transport to the Gabba

I’ve also got a laptop set up with Kayo and the AFL app, which I used to watch the magic moment when we finally qualified for the finals by beating the Giants. We finally got that big Rowan smile after all. Speaking as a person who had invested time and money into being quarantined, there was a sense of relief. But as a member of a Saints-mad family, the overwhelming feeling was elation.

We’re a family of Saints fans on my mum’s side. During the 1960s, my grandfather John – or Poppa to me – taught all six of his kids one guiding principle: support the Saints, despise the Pies. Only one of the kids double-crossed him. She’s a Hawthorn fan now and we don’t talk about her. But this notion has travelled down the generations, with those children marrying and passing on Poppa’s wisdom to children of their own. In 2003, Poppa even bought me my first membership when I was six. As a family of grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings, we’ve been cheering on the red, white and black for over 80 years, and you’ll usually find us in Aisle 26 at Marvel Stadium making slightly too much noise.

I’m moving in with one of those cousins and her partner on the Gold Coast once quarantine is over, and as a trio, we’ll be doing our best to bring the energy of Aisle 26 to the Gabba when we take on the Bulldogs next Saturday.

It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve made it. The long way round.

Miles Glaspole is 24 years old and has been a St Kilda member for 18 years. He's a writer and speaker, who wrote that Kardashian banner that the team ran through from a few years ago that you probably hated.

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