They call it the business end of the year. But for the casual sports fan, it’s just the beginning.
It's that time when footy gets serious. So that means footy ramps up in the water cooler chat stakes.
You know how it works.
A colleague you really don't know all that well but who wants to maintain a veneer of care and friendliness, says, first thing on Monday morning: “So, what about those Tigers, then?”
Fear courses through your veins. Tigers? Uh-oh. Which Tigers?
Richmond? Wests? No, wait, is he from the NSW Central West, is it Oberon Tigers?
No, no, maybe he's talking Premiership League rugby in England and it's the Leicester Tigers ...
Or maybe I'm one of those bizarre breeds of sports fans who has a “second team”.
What even is that? It's the sporting equivalent of having Vegemite on your morning toast on Monday and then Promite on Tuesday. No, just no. It's one or the other, folks.
There's might be 50 shades of grey, but as soon as you cross the white stripe of the footy field (or netball court, or starting grid, or popping crease) it's black and white.
Exactly how you get to “the one” is one of the great mysteries of the world.
A completely unscientific snap office poll suggests four distinct camps.
The “family tradition” answer figured significantly. To me, that reeks of laziness and blind acceptance. Whatever happened to challenging your parents? In a healthy, respectful way, of course.
It's a bit like deciding your political affiliation because “that's how my parents vote”.
Geography understandably plays a part. We have inexorable connections to not just hometowns but to places we've lived. We're tribal beings, after all.
Then there's the almost inexplicable: “Ohhh, I dunno – the colours? The mascot. Not sure, really?”
My favourite is the anti-vote, though it carries trace elements of “underdogism” as well. It’s a phenomenon best explained by a colleague whose school principal supported Manly. That drove her to sustained support of the Newcastle Knights ever since.
Not one person volunteered a “second team”. And yes, there was an opportunity to do so.
So swinging sports fans, it's the pointy end of the season for you. With finals series starting in major codes soon, choose a team and stick with it.
You never know, it might turn out to be more than a one-season stand.
Janine Graham is a Fairfax journalist.