Charter flights and sellout crowds: Finals hype builds for Blues, Pies fans

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A cohort of Carlton fans will board a charter flight to Brisbane and Collingwood’s preliminary final against GWS will be played at a sold-out MCG as supporters of two of Melbourne’s biggest AFL clubs dare to dream about another premiership.

Both teams trained in front of rapturous supporters on Monday morning, before their do-or-die finals this weekend.

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps greets fans at training on Monday.Credit: Eddie Jim

Carlton superstar Charlie Curnow said his club’s supporters had been “out in force” recently – and that was the case again on Monday morning, with some estimates putting the crowd figure at Ikon Park at about 5000.

“It was awesome, pretty cool experience,” he said.

Curnow will be playing on Saturday evening in front of a sold-out Gabba, after the AFL announced all preliminary finals tickets were gone by Monday afternoon.

Among those fans at the Gabba will be more than 1500 people, according to a club figure with knowledge of the arrangements, who bought various special packages through the Blues.

Those packages, which are also sold out, include a private charter flight to take fans to Brisbane and back, a two-night accommodation and travel package and three separate pre-game functions in Brisbane.

Rose Siracusa, 27, is one of the Blues fans who will be at the Gabba. She was born after Carlton’s last premiership in 1995.

Rose and her mother booked flights to the Gold Coast before the semi-final had even been played.Their backup plan, if the Blues hadn’t beaten Melbourne on Friday night, was to turn the trip into a short holiday.

Now their side is only a win away from their first grand final since 1999.

“I’ve never experienced real Carlton success, I’ve only ever known the sad times,” Rose said.

Cousins Dominic and Rose Siracusa are fired up over Carlton’s run to an AFL preliminary final this Saturday.Credit: Chris Hopkins

“But once we started winning again it has been unreal. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about being a Carlton supporter than I am right now.”

Most fans know airfares rise steeply during footy finals and Rose estimated the price they paid for two return tickets would be lucky to cover a one-way plane ticket if she had tried to book post-game.

Carlton’s win on Friday was a 41st birthday present for Dominic Siracusa, Rose’s cousin, who celebrated in style among the 96,000-strong crowd.

“The MCG was just insane,” Dominic said. “It was electric. I’ve never experienced the whole MCG rumble like that.”

While Blues fans enjoy their return to the finals, Collingwood diehard Matt Hansford will be watching from Abu Dhabi.

The 41-year-old and his wife moved to the United Arab Emirates six years ago and now with two young sons, they have to plan carefully for each finals series.

Hansford will watch Friday night’s preliminary final against GWS on the Watch AFL app, which is available to people overseas and includes live coverage and the Fox Footy channel.

Hansford works a four-and-a-half hour day that ends at lunchtime on Friday, so he will be able to watch the game, which is due to start at 1.50pm Abu Dhabi time.

“Thankfully I can find some time to watch the game, which will be traumatic but much better than the alternative experience,” he said, having missed the qualifying final win against Melbourne because it was played on a Thursday.

Last year he had booked to stay in Melbourne for the grand final after watching his team in the preliminary final against Sydney, which the Pies lost. he flew to Sydney for the preliminary final loss to the Swans and booked to . He had booked to stay in Melbourne until after the grand final, hoping his Magpies would be playing. Instead, it was a dour week.

This time Hansford, who has retained his Magpies Legends membership despite being overseas so he can access finals tickets, has a flight tentatively booked should his Magpies salute on Friday night.

He did briefly consider coming home early.

“When that was put to my wife her response was my full name, including my middle name, which indicated to me that was not something she wanted to hear,” Hansford said with a laugh.

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