IT'S odd for someone almost obsessed with statistics but I'm not sure how many AFL grand finals that I've been fortunate enough to witness.
But it is clear that much has changed dramatically, visually most noticeably the stands at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which bear no resemblance at all to those which surrounded the hallowed turf when I first witnessed a final there live at the end of the 1980s.
And then there is the pre-game and half-time entertainment, which has now taken quite a simplistic course from the big stage show that became the norm in the 1990s. Gone are the thousands of costumed extras, the stars of other sports, the club banners that were drawn down through the lower deck crowds.
The tradition of having a well-known Australian deliver their version of Waltzing Matilda came and went and the footballers sprint was revived in its former half-time slot only to be relegated to well before the team warm-up time. That's not to say it's not as good _ just different.
The style of the footy has also changed markedly _ the `biff' has departed the scene, much to the dismay of many some of whom still cling to the past, this time around vainly prophesying that maybe a Brent Guerra in his last game for the Hawks might just take the opportunity to give a little extra attention to a Docker pest like a Crowley or Ballantyne.
In 25 years the game has become more skilled, strategic and planned. The use of the interchange has ensured faster-paced matches played by considerably fitter players. The on-field intensity has changed from a passion to an aerobic base. Every player and the majority of the support staff are now full-time professionals.
But nothing has changed in terms of the importance to the players, their support crew and their fans of winning an AFL grand final. The vanquished are just as devastated in 2013 as their predecessors. Those who triumph are just as elated. All are exhausted for they carry not only the weight of their own expectation and those of their support teams and families but of every Aussie who dons their club's colours in the hope that their boys will be premiers.
All things being equal, there is now just a one in 18 chance of that happening but we know all too well that things just aren't equal and won't be working out that way.
That's why the pain on the faces of the Dockers supporters was so palpable. In one sense they can be proud of what their club has achieved since joining the big time in 1995. But they can remember playing three finals in 2006, only to find themselves three from the bottom within two years.
Anyone who spent any time in Melbourne over the previous two days would have been left with little doubt that purple and passion go together. Freo's first grand final appearance was mesmerising for its fans and captivating for any onlooker.
How they all got there will become the stuff of myths and legends but they ensured the crowd cracked the 100,000 mark _ extraordinary for a grand final featuring an interstate team located probably $2000 per head away from central Melbourne.
It's a credit to their obsession but once again reflects on the extraordinary allure of the last Saturday in September.