Legendary lap: Is this the grandest Toyota test drive of all time?

When I was told I was going to be doing laps in the all-new Toyota Corolla, I imagined myself tearing around Mount Panorama, putting the shiftless transmission through its paces, testing its cutting-edge collision-avoidance technology as I belted down Conrod Straight.

Instead the car crawls along at a pace fit for Punt Road in peak hour. Still, it's a more thrilling experience than I ever could have hoped for. As I take a very slow corner, thousands of people cheer wildly.

Admittedly, they aren't going crazy for the way the Corolla handles off-road. It's down to the fact that I'm at the AFL Grand Final, trailing a motorcade with retiring footy stars, like four-time premiership winner Cyril Rioli and Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell, and AFL Hall of Fame Legend Kevin Sheedy (plus a few umpires).

Speedy Sheedy

I don't want to boast, but Sheeds and I have a history together (even if it's only thirty-minutes old). Before the lap of honour, being a friendly bloke and wondering who the hell I was, he asked, "Are you the security?"

I don't look like security, at all. We chuckle at the joke, I introduce myself and get a photo with the great, and then I hop in the back of his Toyota Hilux. Then his family pile in. I don't know what I was thinking and whether Sheeds called the actual security, but someone came and told me to get out of the ute and into my Corolla. 

Now, as we circle the MCG, Sheeds and the other players wave to the crowd from the trays of the Hiluxes. Fans crane forward to get a grainy picture they can upload to Instagram (after deleting the photo they accidentally took of a grinning nobody sitting in a Corolla).

Realising a dream

Like anyone who laced up a pair footy boots as a kid, I used to dream of running out on the MCG on Grand Final day. That dream died because, well, I wasn't much good. Being on the ground now is surreal.

You hear footy players say winning a Grand Final is the greatest moment of their lives, aside from the birth of their kids or getting married. I've got two children and after having just a taste of the on-field atmosphere during the big day, I think footy players are being diplomatic. Nothing could match the occasion – sorry kids (and wife).

Looking up into the stadium, seeing some 100,000 footy fans ready to scream their lungs out as Collingwood and West Coast battle for the ultimate prize, is truly awe-inspiring.


Cheer squad

Before I even realise it, the lap is finished. It would have been nice to get the Corolla out of first gear – maybe do a few donuts in the goal square and send the hallowed turf of the MCG flying in the face of a few Collingwood fans, but they'll suffer enough before the day is over.

Instead we head back down the tunnel into the bowels of the MCG. The cheers of the crowd fade then fall silent. It's time for another chapter in the history of football to be written – and it turns out to be a cracking one.

I can't begin to imagine how the retiring footy players feel about leaving the sport after playing at the highest level. I only heard the cheers of the crowd for 10 minutes, and I already miss it.