By Tim Wakeling
They say no one remembers who came second. How wrong they were. On Wednesday, Church Street in Parramatta was closed off as thousands of fans of the Western Sydney Wanderers lined the streets to get a glimpse of their heroes, Sunday’s A-league Grand Final runners-up.
“After the grand final on Sunday, I’ve never seen fans leaving a game that they’ve actually lost but still been so happy with smiles on their faces,” said Joe Signorelli, a member of the Wanderers’ club since day one.
Steven Issa, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Parramatta, is an active supporter of the Wanderers and was a key organiser of the parade.
“Today is remarkable,” Councillor Issa said. “We had about 10,000 fans paying tribute to a team that lost the grand final. That speaks volumes for the pride and passion the fans and the community have in the club. It was a fitting tribute to a great season, a great team and a great community built around a football team.
“The highlight of the season isn’t really about a particular game or a particular goal. It’s really about seeing all the fans come together. The highlight for me is the community spirit that’s been built around the club.”
That community spirit was in abundance at Prince Alfred Park, where the parade finished. Following live music from Fairfield band ‘Exit Row’, John Chedid, the Lord Mayor of Parramatta, presented Wanderers’ captain Michael Beauchamp and coach Tony Popovic with the Keys to the City. It was a gesture that recognised the positive impact the team has had in western Sydney.
Shannon Bowes, a Blacktown resident and student at the University of Western Sydney, said, “We finally have a team that represents our area. Our area has banded together for this one team and it’s really nice. It’s brought people together in a way that it’s kind of been missing.”
Commenting on the parade, Shannon said, “It feels weird that everyone is so excited when we didn’t really win, but no one seems to care. They’re just so happy that the club exists and that they did so well and no one expected it.”
George Cavlar, a laboratory manager and Blacktown local, added, “I think today is a celebration, you know. It’s good to get out here, and voice your support for the team. It’s just a huge celebration. It’s a lovely day; there are families and kids around. It seems to have been very well organised with lots of activities for the kids. It’s going to be a great afternoon.”
Of the day’s activities, Brad Millner, the Wanderers Ticketing and Membership Coordinator, said, “We’ve got some local clubs who are playing and they were involved in the parade. We’ve got a shootout and we’ve got a little game, five on five here. These young kids now want to go to the game and they bring their families as well. It’s good to see them out here enjoying today.”
As she watches her children scramble for the players’ autographs, Lidia Ristevski said, “The Wanderers support the southern districts and they sponsor teams that I used to play for, so I thought if they can support us, then we can support them. Today’s parade has been well deserved. Today is an acknowledgement of a great team.”
This sentiment was echoed by Lyall Gorman, chairman of the Wanderers’ Club, as he addressed the fans from the stage.
“I can honestly say coming down Church Street today will stay in my mind for many, many years. This great story will go down in the archives of Australian sport. We as a club celebrate you and thank you so much.”
But it was Lyall Gorman’s prediction for the future of the club that received perhaps the biggest cheer of the day when he said, “This will go down in history as the year that the greatest football club in any code in Australia was born.”