The Waifs, The Albany Shantymen and eight-year-old Leah Waktins give WA AFL grand final an Albany flavour
By the time the Melbourne players starting filing up to the stage to collect their AFL premiership medals on Saturday night, Jake Lever’s job was done.
The star defender had collected 17 touches as the Demons broke a 57-year VFL-AFL premiership drought with a 21.14 (140) 10.6 (66) win over the Western Bulldogs.
But for Albany girl Leah Watkins, the nerves were just hitting their peak.
Leah, 8, who was one of the 23 lucky Auskick players chosen to feature at WA’s historic AFL grand final, was tasked with handing Lever his medal.
She did not put a foot wrong.
“I had a million butterflies in my tummy,” Leah told the Albany Advertiser on Sunday.
“I was really shy. I said, ‘Thank you’.”
Once the Auskick kids had completed their official duties, they celebrated with a confetti fight in the centre of Optus Stadium.
It was a fitting end to a magical grand final experience for Leah, who had formed a guard of honour for the Demons earlier in the evening as they ran out after the half-time break.
Coincidentally, Leah has been wearing the Demons guernsey all year with her Auskick team in the Southern Districts Junior Football Association.
A West Coast supporter at heart, she went to the grand final barracking for the Demons.
One day, she hopes to play for the Eagles in the AFLW.
But for now, she will have to settle for being part of the first AFL grand final held in WA.
Leah was not the only person representing Albany on the day WA took centrestage in Australian sport.
Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson, of The Waifs, formed part of the WA supergroup that received rave reviews for their pre-match entertainment inside the stadium.
Simpson later described the experience as “surreal”.
Meanwhile, outside the stadium, The Albany Shantymen had Premier Mark McGowan joining in with them as they revved up the crowds.
The Shantymen had been invited to belt out some of their favourite tunes at the gates.
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