For the last few weeks, the eyes of the entire nation – or at least those in Victoria – have been focused on the AFL semi-finals.
Of course the Greek community is of no exception, with a few of the participating clubs in the elimination finals enjoying a high level of popularity even among an ethnic group that is more commonly associated with the round ball.
Both the Richmond Tigers and the Collingwood Magpies are teams that have many Greek fans, especially those born and raised in Australia who comprehend the impact that the AFL has on the wider community.
Which is exactly why on Saturday night when the two teams hit the field to find out which would be advancing to next Saturday’s Grand Final, there were plenty of reasons for the Richmond fans to cheer after they managed to pull off a win against Geelong.
Among those celebrating the win was well-known Greek Australian restaurateur, John Rerakis. He took to his social media profile and posted a photo of himself alongside Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis and Father Manuel Lykopanidis, claiming that the Greek Orthodox priest brought him good luck and that he would need his help for his favourite team’s next big game.
Mr Rerakis told Neos Kosmos he has been a huge supporter of the Tigers ever since he can remember, so to see the team make it to a second Grand Final brought him great joy. Richmond last made the final in 2017, when they won the premiership for the first time in 37 years.
But that wasn’t the only reason that Richmond fans were cheering. Late on Saturday night it became known that Collingwood hadn’t made it through to the finals, in what was arguably one of the biggest surprises in AFL finals history.
The Magpies dropped a 33-point lead only to lose by four points to Greater Western Sydney, a team with a short club history, that has never played in a Grand Final.
The result prompted Richmond fans to hit back, poking fun at the team’s performance and asking them what they’re going to do with those Grand Final tickets that they had pre-purchased.
This Saturday’s game will be a great opportunity for Richmond to add to their silverware, considered heavy favourites against the Giants.
Yet Mr Rerakis and the rest of the fans of the club realise that favourites and outsiders don’t mean much once the opening whistle blows, and has enlisted help from above to keep his team on the winning path.
“I’ll gather the kopelia (mates in Cretan dialect) and we’ll go to church on the day of the final to light a candle. It’s tradition. We need all the help we can get and as I said to Father Manolis (Lykopanidis) if he has any… connections, now is the time to use them!”