MORE LOCAL ELECTION COVERAGE
As candidates stalked the streets of the electorates working hard for every vote, the battle for supremacy on fields and courts reigned across the Illawarra as the winter sporting season came to a close.
It was a day of victories for some and crushing losses for others in both the political and sporting arenas.
The sullen look on Port Kembla Blacks' Stuart Baker's face said it all. The 28-year-old was shattered after a humiliating defeat to Albatross 58-51 on Saturday in the South Coast AFL.
Mr Baker, who plays reserve grade, said it was his team's second grand final loss in two years.
"We beat Albatross by 80 points two weeks ago," Mr Baker said. "So this is a hard loss to take."
After the game Mr Baker was off to cast his vote in the federal election.
"I don't really like voting, I'm not a political person, but I will probably vote for Rudd," said Mr Baker. "I don't like Tony Abbott. I'm worried that Abbott will bring in WorkChoices and that would be hard for me because as a sheet-metal worker I do a lot of overtime."
Across the Illawarra rickety cardboard booths were set up in schools and community centres as the decided and the undecided came to vote and buy a sausage sizzle.
The gates were manned by volunteers everywhere in a last-ditch effort to woo those who were yet to make up their mind.
Keith Woodward, 90, has been handing out how-to-vote cards since he was 10 when his father was president of the ALP's Thirroul branch. The party stalwart joined the party when he was 22.
"When I came home from the war [WWII] my dad had the papers ready for me to fill out," Mr Woodward said. "Back then you couldn't join a political party until you were 21 and I had my birthday in the highlands of Papua New Guinea."
Mr Woodward has rarely missed the party's monthly meeting in Thirroul and over the course of his life he has manned the booths at 67 elections - 26 federal, 21 state and 20 local government.
In the northern suburbs he is almost a living treasure and people from all sides of politics greeted him throughout the day with warmth and affection.
"I remember helping my dad electioneering at this very intersection," Mr Woodward said.
"I was only a kid but even back then I knew that Labor was in our blood. That it was for the worker. My dad was a railway chap and he had most of the 400 railway men in Thirroul join the party."
Back in the '30s Mr Woodward said the party was divided by Protestants and Catholics. Once, after losing a particularly bitter by-election, one of his Catholic neighbours couldn't wait to rub in the loss.
"How do you like your eggs boiled now, Woody," the neighbour had yelled out to Mr Woodward's father.
"It's not like that now, which is good," said Mr Woodward. "Today I'm hoping Rudd will get in. They say he won't, but I'm telling them all to go to buggery until the final count comes in."
Retired barrister and part-time judge John Hampton and his wife Laura became Australian citizens earlier in the year after migrating from England five years ago to be with family.
For first-time voters in an Australian election they were surprised that the issues of defence and nuclear power were not on the agenda in the weeks of campaigning leading up to the election.
The pair, who have returned from a trip to Cape York, slammed Australia's defence policy.
"When we were up north we saw one customs boat," Mrs Hampton said. "That was the only sign of any defence for Australia and it's a bit too ridiculous to leave it up to the crocodiles to defend the country."
Mr Hampton said Australia had its head in the sand when it came to nuclear power.
"Australia will have to address the issue of clean energy in the future," he said. "It has so much uranium under the ground that really the only sensible thing would be to use it."
For generations Cringila has been Labor Party turf. Nestled under the steelworks its blue-collar stronghold is steeped in working-class traditions.
Following a 15-day stint in hospital Pasquale Colelle struggled to walk up the steep path that led to the Cringila Community Centre. The die-hard Labor supporter, who suffers from emphysema and requires an oxygen tank to breathe, was determined to vote.
The short walk took its toll on the 83-year-old and by the time he had reached the steps he was gasping for air. So polling booth staff brought the ballot to him and he and his wife, Adriana Colelle, 81, cast their vote on the steps.
"Labor, I am voting Labor," Mr Colelle said in a loud voice. "The Liberals they work for the rich people. [Kevin] Rudd is a nice, quiet man. He smiles at the people and speaks with kindness. The other one [Tony] Abbott wants to sack so many people because that's the kind of man he is."
"Shut up," Mrs Colelle scolded, embarrassed her husband had raised his voice.
"I won't shut up," replied the elderly Italian. "Those Liberals work for the rich."
Around the corner at Cringila Public School, parents and students were enjoying their first school fete.
Blue skies and sunshine ruled the day as parents basked in the glory of their success and children tucked into mountains of blue fairy floss.
‘‘I voted yesterday because I knew I was coming here,’’ said Fatima Mehdi, 29. ‘‘We were really hoping that our fete would be held on the election day and luck was on our side because it turned out that way. We knew the election would bring more people to the fete and we needed that because we’re a small school, with a big community and a big heart.’’
The Berkeley woman said she had voted Labor, not due to any policy, issue or sense of tradition but by pure chance.
‘‘Truthfully, it doesn’t really matter who we vote for because no-one’s going to listen to us,’’ she said. ‘‘I told my kids to pick eeny-meeny-miny-mo and Labor won out.’’
By mid-afternoon and after hours in the sunshine, some party hopefuls resorted to umbrellas to provide them with some much-needed shade, including Roxy Anderson, the daughter of Gary ‘‘Angry’’ Anderson, who stood in the seat of Throsby for the Nationals.
Ms Anderson, a bridal event planner, had travelled from Sydney to hand out how-to-vote cards for her father at Cringila.
‘‘I support my dad 100 per cent,’’ she said. ‘‘He has always had this secret desire to get into politics, I think he’ll do well because he’s a people person.’’
Dog lover Krystal Downs, 23, a former Labor voter, said she was going to vote for Mr Abbott this time because she was angry over Labor’s dangerous dog policy.
‘‘Labor wants to muzzle dogs on the top-10 dangerous list,’’ she said. ‘‘Well I have three dogs on that list and I don’t think that’s fair. Dogs are only vicious if you teach them to be vicious. It’s their owners fault, not the dogs. So for the first time, I’ll be voting for the Liberal Party.’’