The winter football codes end this weekend, with the AFL and the NRL grand finals, although rugby followers have a couple more weeks of World Cup action from the northern hemisphere before their season comes to an end.

Soon enough, there’ll be the Melbourne Cup, and by then cricket will be underway, with warmer weather ushering in players in whites on local ground and hours of different leather-on-willow formats playing out on TV screens across the country. It signals another year is drawing to an end, with the long lull of summer to eventually give birth to a new year and starting everything all over again.

While we’re increasingly a 24/7 society, always on, always connected and with a screen within sight day or night, dealing with rapid change and relentless technological pressure, the rhythms of ordinary life still appeal, and sport, for all its hype and industrialisation in recent decades, provides them. It marks out the year, as summer sports gives way to the winter codes, which take us through the bleak winter months (well, in southern capitals at least) until spring arrives with grand finals and the cricket gear is pulled out of the cupboard again.

Like the public holidays that tell us how the year’s advancing — Australia Day, Easter, Anzac Day, the June long weekend, the October long weekend and Melbourne Cup Day, with Christmas looming into view — sports provide a cycle to the year that even those resolutely uninterested in them can feel, and no more so than when grand finals mark the arrival of the warmer months.

Whether your team wins or loses on the weekend, or even if you have no team of all, soon enough we’ll back again, next year, with everything to play for again, just as the triumphs and disappointments of the coming cricket season will give way to another season after that. Sport is an endless cycle, and that’s what’s comforting about it, no matter who you follow.

Peter Fray

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