September means a few things in Australia. For a start, we’re finally done with winter. Spring has sprung! If you happen to be reading this from Darwin or Cooktown, this change of seasons might not seem a big deal. For those of us who live south of the Tweed – and this includes every single writing to you from Outdoor Living Direct central HQ – we can assure you tropical types that winter definitely happens. We’ve had some solid months of chill setting in our bones. After so much winter, and despite the fact that we’ve all been through this before and we all learnt about the tilt of the Earth’s axis to explain the changing of the seasons way back in primary school and basically we really just ought to know better by know.. well.. after so much winter it started getting a bit hard to avoid the nagging, dragging feeling that maybe this time it was permanent. These icy mornings and afternoon sunsets might just go on forever. They were never going away. We finally resigned ourselves to a cruel eternal frost, when, all of a sudden the sun now shines and we can happily venture outside.
More than this, though, September in Australia means footy finals. This is happening on either side of the Barassi Line: the AFL finals season happens entirely in September, while the NRL season finishes in the first week of October. For a lot of us, this end of our winter hibernation coincides with the winding up of both major codes to make Grand Final day the first time in a while that the barbie gets a thorough cleaning out, and everyone can enjoy a leisurely get-together in the backyard before all pouring into the lounge room to watch the game.
Are you considering hosting a Grand Final barbie? Good on ya. Hosting a barbecue on Grand Final day is truly a superb modern Australian tradition. Some might call it the finest side of patriotism.
Here’s our guide to making the day a winner:
Catering is important when hosting a Grand Final barbecue. Be prepared for lots of hungry footy fans and a very long day! With the games starting around 2pm expect your guests to arrive around 12pm, and they’ll be hungry. After all it is lunch time! Be prepared with food as soon as your first guest arrives. Chips and nibbles are a great starting point. Whilst your guests are enjoying these nibbles this is your perfect chance to fire up the barbeque and starting cooking all those handmade burgers you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen preparing. Definitely fire up the barbecue sooner rather than later. Who wants to be cooking at bounce time? I know I don’t! Anyone who shows up after the bounce can source their own food, I’m sure there’ll be the odd chip or cheese cube lying around still. Expect your guests to enjoy the barbecued food during the match and being the good host that you are remember that serving party pies and sausage rolls, with lots of tomato sauce, at half time is a very good move. It’s also important not to forget the vegetarians and gluten free people amongst the bunch. Ensuring you look after these people who make for a happier day, and even the most ardent carnivore knows in his heart of hearts that vegetarian spring rolls are delicious. By 3/4 time the alcohol will be well and truly flowing. By the end of the match you’ll most likely have people drinking hard. This may be because they’re celebrating a great win or drowning their sorrows using the alcohol to numb their feelings. Now, we’re not trying to tell you that binge drinking is a smart move.. but realistically, these things are known to happen sometimes. To ensure you don’t have people passed out in your lounge or outdoor area why not heat up another batch of hot food? Most people at this stage would most likely run out of food, but this is the crucial time when food is important. It is at this point you fire up the barbeque and serve your hungry, and maybe a little intoxicated friends a hearty barbecue dinner. Food is important on any given day but on Grand Final day, it’s crucial! You can never over cater – there is no such thing on Grand Final day.
Pick a Team
Okay, so only two teams make it through to the last game of the season, which means odds are good that it’s probably not yours. Or maybe you’re really not into footy at all? For the next few hours, let go of all this. This is a Grand Final day barbie. Get in the spirit of things. Nothing dulls the excitement of match day like the person who visibly doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because your team didn’t make it or you just don’t care for the sport or the code. Either way, it’s a buzzkill. Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy. Even those “I hate football” people who loudly proclaim from pre-season onwards to the world at large just how much they can’t stand football.. even they don’t like “who cares” guy. Genuine, committed footy haters will instead go to an event like the Anti Grand Final Day Lunch as a strident expression of their contempt for the leather ball. This is well within the spirit of the day – because it’s about passion.
So pick a team. Back them to the hilt: for the duration of the game, at least. If you can’t bring yourself to support one of the teams, at least choose one that you really want to lose. If you can’t make up your mind on this, try to work out who in the room is the most passionate about their team, and make a clear point of supporting the other one.
Prepare for Tears
It’s the tragic fate of those who truly love their footy to see this love so often answered with cruelty. Of all the teams in the competition, only two can make it to the Grand Final. And of those two teams, only one actually wins. Supporters of the losing team have spent most of the year, from before the pre-season really, watching their boys edge ever closer to the ultimate victory, only for it to all go wrong for them right at the very end. This can be the most devastating blow of all.
For the truly passionate supporter, a Grand Final loss can be highly distressing. There’s also a good chance that by the end of the game, he or she might be somewhat intoxicated and uninhibited. This can be one of life’s best chances to see an adult break down and cry. Prepare for this. Ensure your smartphone has enough battery at the end of the game to capture the moment on video. After all, it’s pretty funny.
Here are some of our favourite Grand Final food ideas: You can’t go past the famous chilli dog. Yes, that may sound American and nothing to do with Australian Rules Football. But consider the facts: It’s a dog in bread loaded with chilli sauce and cheesy goodness. Why would you talk yourself out of that? Don’t. It’s stupid. For the vegetarians of the group why not try nachos? Corn chips, guacomole, beans and sour cream, yum yum! Chances are good that non vegetarians of the group might want a piece of this too. Sausage rolls, chicken wings, mini beef burgers and party pies will also sure to be a hit amongst your guests at this years party! Remember to keep it simple and easy. The last thing you want to be doing is slaving away in a hot kitchen all afternoon and missing the match. Keep your ideas quick and easy and we guarantee success and enjoyments amongst the group! Finger food is king. As interesting as it can be to try new things, there’s also quite a lot to be said for the classics: Snags on the barbeque wrapped in bread with some tomato sauce are a huge winner as are homemade burgers, chicken skewers or lamb chops. If there’s half a chance you might find yourself drinking a cold refreshing beer at some point during the day then these are a great accompaniment.
If however you’re looking for something a little different to snags in bread why not make pizzas? Pizzas are always a great idea as you can throw a whole lot of toppings together to create delicious snacks for all your guests. The beauty of making your own pizzas is that you know exactly what you’re putting on there without any online or over the phone mix ups. Another idea could be to invite your guests over earlier and you could all make pizzas together. Have bowls out filled with delicious fillings and invite everyone to make their own. Not only is this a fun idea to do with your mates before the bounce, it’s also a great way of ensuring everyone is 100% happy with what their eating and if there’s people at your party who may have not met before this is a great opportunity for people to mingle and get to know one another. Cook your pizza on an outdoor fire pit BBQ and you won’t even need to head into the kitchen.
Grand Final Breakfast
Like some footy fanatics, you may be one of the early risers, too excited to sleep, waiting for the first bounce. If that sounds like you why not consider a Grand Final Breakfast. This could be breakfast for one or you could invite your mates around to enjoy the delicious food and the highly anticipated first bounce. Who doesn’t love a good, hearty breakfast? Especially on the morning of Grand Final Day. If you do find you’re not the only one up early, invite your early riser mates around to enjoy a few of these yummy treats: Why not consider a bacon and egg roll? If you wanted to make it a little more fancy you could add some avocado, relish, egg or beans. Another idea is the breakfast bruschetta or even pancakes topped with your favourite toppings. And if you wanted to really get into the AFL spirit why not top your pancake with your teams colours? That may be going over board, but for the footy fanatic within this could sound reasonably inviting!
Half Time Kick-to-Kick
Have a ball handy for a bit of kick-to-kick at half time. Also have some thought to where to do this, so that your barbecue, outdoor furniture, television set and so on are well out of the way.
Make Some Effort to Not Set People on Fire
This might be the first time in a while that you’ve used your barbecue. It’s a good idea to check that everything works, and works safely. Get on top of this before the big day: before your guests arrive and the drinks might start flowing freely. Examine the cylinder for rust or damage, and check the hose and connections for leaks. Last year the MFB published an article on Grand Final day barbecue safety that’s well worth the read.
A few antics are all par for the course on this great day. We here at the Outdoor Living Direct team highly recommend you limit your shenanigans to the non-flammable, non-explosive variety. Poorly maintained gas barbecues can be dangerous. The only thing you want to see burnt on Grand Final day is maybe the odd snag.
Watch the Game Outside
If it’s not raining, this is probably your first time since winter hibernation to enjoy a backyard bash. If it’s practical, try setting your TV up outside so that you don’t have to relocate inside. If your outdoor seating is sorted for everyone then this is the best way to enjoy the game without interrupting the flow of your day. It also means that if any barbecueing still needs to be done after the bounce then nobody has to choose between tending the food and watching the game.
Set up a boom box or hi-fi, because tunes are always a good idea. Remember though to switch it off for the pre-match entertainment. You might see something really special: who can forget Meat Loaf at the 2011 AFL Grand Final? Each league might do its very best to organise competent and able performers for the year’s most important match, but we in the audience understand that it’s the disasters that really make the day. The more tragic, the better.
You should also keep the music off, or at least have the volume turned way down during the match. You are going to want to hear the commentary team. Chances are they will say a lot of really dumb things over the course of the game. It’s okay to bag them for it, or more to the point, you’re letting everyone down if you don’t. Paying out on idiotic statements by football commentators is an important Aussie tradition. It must be maintained.
Expect mess. You might not get around to cleaning up until the next day. This is okay. If you overindulged a little bit the day before, you might be cleaning up with a sore head and a twist in the guts. This is also okay. Have plenty of bags organised ahead of time to clear the myriad of rubbish and recycling materials into, and be sure you’re not short of surface spray and other such items as well.
This is the most important rule.
We hope these tips make your Grand Final day great, whoever you’re barracking for.