Marquee matches tend to produce remarkable results.
Think of how many Anzac Day, Queen’s Birthday and Dreamtime at the ‘G games that have come down to the wire and showcased the best the AFL has to offer.
On Friday night, a new leading match on the AFL calendar is born, with North Melbourne taking on the Western Bulldogs in the first Good Friday clash.
And the sentiment isn’t lost on the players lucky enough to run out in a game that North Melbourne had been looking to secure for a long time.
“You don’t really understand the depth of it until you’re around the people who started the push for Good Friday footy,” Kangaroos defender Jamie Macmillan told Aflplayers.com.au.
“It’s been on the radar for long before we all came to the club as players. I’ve only been at the club for eight years but we’ve been pushing for it for nearly 30 so the time has come.
“When I first got to the club and found out we were pushing for the game, I thought to myself that it was new, but then I looked over my shoulder and Brady Rawlings informed me that it had been going for 15 to 20 years before I got here which put things into perspective.
“We need to make sure our playing group grasps the significance and the time and effort that has gone into getting North Melbourne this game and what it means to play on Good Friday, because not every club gets a marquee game and their names up in lights.”
North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs fought hard to secure a marquee match, and for Macmillan, knowing it’ll be the AFL’s first venture into Good Friday football brings a sense of excitement to the playing group.
“Everyone wants to play in marquee games. They draw big crowds and they’re exciting for the players. Everyone wants to play finals, but these are the biggest games outside of finals. For us to get our opportunity to play on the big stage is great.
“In terms of nerves, I’ve played in a few finals now so I’m generally pretty similar with my preparation. I like to keep things light-hearted right up until 15 minutes before the bounce. If I get too serious too early I use up all of my energy. Everyone’s very different but I’m quite jovial and don’t like to take myself too seriously until I have to.
“But when push comes to shove and you’re about to run out, that’s when you get butterflies in the stomach.”
After donating $5,000 in 2016, the Kangaroos players have pledged their entire 2017 Players Care fund to the cause given the size of the occasion.
“It’ll be awesome to say that I was able to play in the first AFL game on Good Friday. It’s an historic moment for the game, so it’s going to be exciting and it’s something that we want to develop into a special day for football, but more importantly for our club. We’re gunning to have it every single year.”