AFL grand final: No distance too far for Tiger fanatic Emily Dowling

Emily Dowling, formerly of Albury, might just be the most dedicated Richmond supporter at the 2017 AFL grand final, having travelled more than 16,600 kilometres to watch her team.

Three years ago, Ms Dowling packed up her family and life to move to Belgium for work, but after years of early-morning lonesome footy matches she decided no amount of distance was too far to travel to see her Tiges in the finals. 

“When I left for Belgium I actually thought, well there’s no chance we’ll be in a premiership for three years so it’ll be OK,” Ms Dowling said. 

“After the Geelong game a mate sent me a video of Swan Street, I saw the atmosphere and decided I couldn’t miss it.”

That night Ms Dowling booked tickets across the world for herself and her daughter Imogen, 4.

While her family understood her split-second decision, her dedication baffled Belgian friends and work colleagues.

“People here know I’m so crazy for the Tigers that they weren’t totally surprised, but they were a bit shocked I went ahead with it,” Ms Dowling said.

“In Belgium no one knows much about football so they don’t understand.

“Usually I watch the games first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, by myself and just decided enough is enough.”

For daughter Imogen, 4, who’s grown up predominately away from Australia’s football obsession, the grand final will be her ‘first big game’. 

Ms Dowling booked her flights to attend the preliminary finals, flying back to Belgium a day after the grand final in the hope Richmond would go all the way. 

It’s been a long and sometimes difficult road for the lifelong Tigers supporter.

“The last premiership was the year before I was born,” she said.

“I figured I’d waited my whole life I wasn’t going to miss this and I don’t want my daughter Imi to wait another 37 years.

“Growing up as a Tiger supporter you live through years of heartache and when we made it everyone was embracing and crying – it was worth it.”