Thank you very much.
I want to thank James Brayshaw, Mike Fitzpatrick, Gill McLachlan for bringing us together for this fantastic tradition – for the 50th year running, the 2016 Mazda North Melbourne Grand Final Breakfast.
It is a great bipartisan morning too – Julie Bishop and I are here and of course we have the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Premier Dan Andrews.
But today, we have to get our heads around something that is a little bit different – an AFL Grand Final that does not involve Jeff Kennett and his brown-and-gold scarf, suit and shoes.
Jeff’s in mothballs for this year.
And so we get to celebrate a contest between two sides that have not enjoyed as much success as the traditional powerhouse clubs of the AFL.
I appreciate that having a Sydney team in the Grand Final is never universally popular here in Melbourne.
But I say to all Victorians, it could have been worse. I’m looking at Tony Shepherd there – it could have been worse, much worse.
But for late goals to Jack McCrae and Marcus Bontempelli, it could have been an all-Sydney affair at the MCG today.
Now Premier, that might have been a reason to have a holiday – there you go. I suppose anything to escape the barbarians at the gates, anyway.
The Sydney Swans are my neighbourhood team. They train and play in my electorate, and they had an outstanding season as minor premiers.
They not only deserve to be here. The football public deserves to see them here – to see Buddy and the AFL’s most formidable midfield display their awesome skills on the biggest stage of all.
And, of course, the Swans represent a proud footy heritage for many thousands of South Melbourne supporters who never lost their love for the Bloods.
But if ever there was a day for anyone’s loyalty to be tested, it is this day.
Who among us would not declare themselves fans of the wonderful Western Bulldogs side?
They have come to the Grand Final the hard way – and as someone born exactly 30 days after their first and only premiership, it is tantalising to think their moment might have arrived.
Yes…it's been that long!
And there is in my neck of the woods, a little corner of red-blue-and-white at Paddington’s Trumper Park where the mighty East Sydney Bulldogs are our local Auskick team.
But, today, my loyalty to the Swans trumps my admiration for the Dogs.
Sadly, therefore there can be no unity ticket with Julia Gillard.
And I suppose there’s not much chance of a unity ticket with Bill. Just ask Julia.
So, as much we applaud the Bulldogs and the way they go about it, it’s the Swans for mine.
This is a tough game and a hard season.
We think of Bob Murphy, the spiritual leader of the Bulldogs team, who will miss out through injury. And of Allir Allir who is also sidelined with injury.
In my national statement to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, I was proud to tell the inspiring story of Allir’s journey in life from a refugee camp in Kenya to a career as an elite athlete in our home grown game.
Because Allir embodies that great strength of the AFL – it’s capacity to excite, inspire and unite Australians - magnificent in our diversity.
From our First Australians to our newest Australians - their stories are our stories, their successes are our successes.
That is why we are all so excited by the launch of the inaugural AFL Women’s competition.
My best wishes to both teams.
Either would be a deserving champion - but go Swans.
Thank you very much.