THERE is something mildly satisfying about supporting a club known for its ability to disappoint. You always harbour the inner belief that one day it will all be worth it.
Following a perennial battler or a team known for shooting itself in the foot creates a bond between fellow sufferers.
You know all too well the pain of losing the unloseable, the emptiness of sitting through humiliating defeats, the frustration of an injury at the wrong time.
They are feelings those who follow teams with a pre-booked finals ticket each season fail to understand.
For fans of the Western Bulldogs, Richmond and the Cronulla Sharks – so long the butt of many jokes – the disappointment became a key stop on their long, pot-holed-filled trips to the top.
In 2016, the Sharks broke a 49-year drought in the NRL.
It came the same year as the Bulldogs’ fairytale AFL flag which ended a 62-year dry spell and delivered a second premiership cup to Whitten Oval.
A club branded “irrelevant” by some sections of the media just three years earlier had become everyone’s second-favourite team.
Similarly, Richmond fans can now swat away jokes about finishing ninth and marvel at their drought-breaking 2017 flag.
Melbourne – an AFL club which has drowned in its own misery for the best part of a decade – is hoping it can continue the fairytale theme this year.
The Dees have endured more heartache than most – on and off the field.
Their most recent premiership was in 1964 and there’s been little for the red and blue faithful to celebrate since.
Humiliating losses – and there’s been a few – pale in comparison to the off-field trauma which has hit Australia’s oldest football club.
Club icon Jimmy Stynes’ cancer battle rocked the Dees. Troy Broadbridge, Sean Wight, Dean Bailey and Robbie Flower all passed too soon.
Then there’s former coach Neale Daniher’s brave public battle with motor neurone disease.
Now, Melbourne looks like it’s ready to give its supporters a reason to flock to games.
The Dees made their first final in 12 years and banished one of the modern era’s best, Geelong, in an elimination final.
Next they face Hawthorn, another perennial success story.
Neutral fans will cheer the Dees, hoping for a third AFL fairytale in three years.
Who knows? Maybe they will inspire other battlers next season.
St Kilda and Fremantle fans – themselves accustomed to repeated failures – certainly hope so.
Trust me, as an avid Dockers fan, the rocky road to the top would be worth it.
Justine McCullagh-Beasy is a Fairfax journalist.