How I secretly spread my husband’s ashes at the Gabba
The Ashes are coming back to the Gabba.
During the kick-to-kick session following each home game this season Lions fan Sandra Perrett has discretely sprinkled some of her beloved late husband Alex's ashes on the Gabba surface.
Passionate Lions fan Alex Wilson died aged 76 of cancer on December 13 last year but not before Sandra made a promise she is starting to think is acting as a good-luck charm for the side.
"First of all he said just pop my ashes in the ocean but that night it was bothering me because I thought he's not really an ocean person so the next day I asked him, what about the Gabba?'' she said to her husband late last year.
"He said 'but that's illegal'.
"'Well I won't be telling anyone,' I replied and that was it, it was a promise and he passed knowing this was going to happen."
Sandra, 61, managed to keep her ritual a secret for a little while but eventually told some of her closest friends and colleagues at Shine Lawyers who encouraged her to share the heartwarming tale.
She admits to having a few reservations as Round 1 approached, firstly over the deathbed promise's potential to dredge up some painful memories but also a healthy fear of being caught.
So before that match against West Coast she decided instead to sprinkle the ashes at the base of a large tree in the park outside the Gabba.
"I did two laps of that tree but there was still some left, so after the game as I made my way across the ground during the kick-to-kick I sprinkled some on the turf,'' she said.
"When I got to the other side I felt elated and I've been doing it every home game since.
"I think it has helped (with the healing process), it has made me feel better because I know I am doing something that really means a lot to Alex.
"I like to say now that he will never miss a home game.
"And all my friends are saying he's the Lions' guardian angel.''
Sandra never intended the ritual to last the entire season until she discovered to her amazement at just how much ash Alex had produced.
"You can't take a whole lot without it being too obvious and there have been times when people have spotted me and I've just stopped and kept walking, you can see they are wondering exactly what they just saw,'' she said.
Sandra and Alex met in Sydney in 1996. He was a widower who would return to Queensland for every Brisbane Bears home game and, not understanding his passion for football she asked him to take her along one day.
Her introduction to the AFL came on one of the most memorable games in the code's history at the SCG for the '96 preliminary final when Tony "Plugger" Locket kicked the point that put the Swans into their first Grand Final.
She was immediately hooked.
The relationship quickly became serious and when Sandra's son passed away the following year the couple decided to return to Alex' home town where she promptly joined him as a member of the Lions' Century Club.
They were there for all three grand finals and have barely missed a home game for the past 22 years.
They also have one of the most extensive collections of Lions memorabilia, including Sandra's most prized possession, the framed underpants worn by the Fab Four in the 2001 grand final.
"Yes, I have the fab Four's jocks, we went to some gala and there was champagne involved,'' she explained.
"Alex kept trying to grab my arm and pull it down but I wouldn't let him and I managed to win the bid.''