Eight years, two kids and a mortgage later and my wife said the most wonderful thing to me the other night.
"Gee I really hate Collingwood," she uttered unprompted, as Eddie McGuire's mug beams through the television, after the Pies’ breathtaking preliminary final win over Richmond.
Like the rest of the Illawarra, Emma was brought up on a strict diet of rugby league – and only introduced to a Sherrin when she met a simple country boy, who moved to Wollongong to work for the Mercury in 2008.
It was a slow burn, but the shift was solidified by her sister playing for the Wollongong Saints in the AFL Sydney Women's league.
And so here we are.
Grand final day.
The Shellharbour branch of the West Coast Eagles supporters club. The South Coast Eagles.
It's a small group, just the two kids under the age of three, mum, and dad, who, at the age of five, chose to support the Eagles when they came into the league.
Like most children in kindergarten, geography wasn't a strong point, so it took some adjustment to comprehend your footy team is based 3500 kilometres away.
In Wagga, most boys would grow up following both major footy codes, so while covering the Dragons and NRL in Wollongong became a profession, AFL has remained a passion for 30 years. In the 80 and 90s, the Eagles were rarely on television before finals and coverage was a footnote to the news bulletin.
Or otherwise, when Sandy Roberts would remind viewers "If you don't wish to know the score, look away now" during match-of-the-day in Victoria.
The Eagles update flashed up on the screen to the tune of Diesel's "Right on the tip of my tongue", fading out as a cue for when to safely look again for those awaiting delayed telecast.
Not that it would dampen my enthusiasm at all.
From mum telling me to stop jumping on the lounge while cheering the 1992 and 1994 premierships, to watching it on a 40-centimetre television with the sound off – in a dark corner of a Canadian pub at 2am – when the Eagles beat the Swans by a point in 2006.
The only reason I knew the final siren had sounded was because of Dean Cox’s iconic moment, arms spread in triumph.
And the heartache. Oh the pain, at the hands of Hawthorn (1991 and 2015) and Sydney (2005).
Leo Barry's mark has been permanently erased from my memory and I've switched the TV off every time it had been replayed since.
These days it's easy to have a long-distance relationship with a footy club, with every game live and the endless analysis around it.
But there's a real pride in supporting a team since day one and a real connection to winning a flag.
The embarrassing part about this grand final week has been Collingwood players lining up to urge Victorian and interstate neutrals to barrack for the Pies on Saturday. Just embrace the hate.
And it's remarkable that in both the AFL and NRL grand finals this weekend – Pies, Eagles, Storm, Roosters – there is no sentimental favourite for supporters of other teams, just grit your teeth or watch something else.
For the Eagles part, we've heard it all before.
The old West Coke Eagles jokes, the bullying boo factory in Perth apparently influencing the umpires.
There was once a time when Eagles fans had to worry about being threatened or spat on, for daring to wear their colours when they would play Collingwood at Victoria Park.
And I would certainly never ask a Swans fan to get on the West Coast wagon for a day, I know I'd be wasting my breath. But we do have something in common.
As interstate rivals, we both know the frustration of never really getting the credit the team deserves for making it to the grand final against a Victorian team.
All last week, the narrative was about Melbourne’s fairytale and Richmond's invincibility. Neither materialised.
And so the South Coast Eagles members will wake on Saturday morning, full of anxious optimism.
Whatever the result, one thing is certain.
"Gee, I really hate Collingwood".