AFL Grand Final: Now let’s make it back-to-back

The politics of lounge room sitting positions have been resolved (i.e. I get the best seat in the house) and the national anthem is being sung: this is it, my first Swans Grand Final!
Adorned in red and white from head to toe, I’m exhilarated despite the pre-game show delivering the news of Bolton’s bung knee and rumours of Mumford’s hammy.

The Hawks win the toss, and get first score on the board, but Jetta’s ‘almost’ goal is promising. Then Malceski answers a Hawks major from an impossible angle. I don’t care what the unpredictable wind was doing, it takes skill to fluke a goal that perfectly!
Hawks misses would be encouraging but for the Swans’ inability to get the ball inside their forward 50. And, aside from Mal’s blinder, Hannebery’s reckless abandon and Jetta’s speed, the first quarter delivers a severe knock to my nerves as Buddy, Breust and Gunston goal to put the Hawks 19 points up by the first break.

Mum’s predicting a walkover, which I swiftly counter with the blind faith of someone who was reacquainted with the game three years ago and never looked back.

The second quarter starts on better terms with Joey Kennedy converting against his old club. Jack and McVeigh back up the effort to show that this quarter is a whole new ball game to the one witnessed in the first.
The sight of Goodes being attended by docs is sickening, but Reid finishes off a chain of passes with a beauty to put us in front for the first time today.
As the goals mount up for the Swans (I’ve decided I love Mitch Morton) Hawthorn look lost: clean marks are not resulting in movement and their forwards seem determined to miss (Buddy being a major culprit). The momentum is well and truly in our hands, but the 16 point buffer at half time does not quite dissolve my paranoia as I remember the last time these two sides met.

As the Temper Trap gets underway, I recall my corporate box vantage point of Round 22 that witnessed a damaging Hawthorn outfit stage a brilliant comeback in the third term. No amount of hope can convince me that the Hawks will go down without a fight today, but, beneath the breadth of love I hold for my Swans, there’s a part of me that actually wants the Hawks to find their footing and make it a close one – my nerves might not survive it, but deep down I know my heart can, and that victory will be sweeter for it.

Joey once again gets us off to an attractive start, but, as predicted, the Hawks aren’t going to allow a short comeback to push them into the dirt. The momentum swings between each side as the Hawks find their feet, and then, a quarter and a half after their last goal, Hale boots a major.
Buddy brilliance soon follows, and within ten minutes the Hawks have overrun a 28 point deficit to lead by 4. As sensational as the game is shaping up to be, it’s also looking threatening.
Macca gives us the narrowest of margins after converting a free, and it is by that single point that I am still breathing when the quarter comes to an end.

As I fight to keep my heart rate in check, mum entreats the Swans to swap Parker in for a sore Jetta.
The Hawks have activated their sub to gain fresh legs, but I can see the sense in our boys holding off: Mummy, Teddy and Goodes look worse for wear and there are battered bodies all over the field.
Meanwhile, dad is increasingly berating my volume (though, in hindsight, it may have been my volume that increased as the game progressed) and I resort to holding my breath and strangling the cushions in turns as the final stanza gets underway.

The quarter begins with Breust and Hale pulling the Hawks into the lead with a goal apiece, and after deliberating their injury concerns Sydney decides to sub Mummy out, leaving big Canadian Pyke to ruck alone.
Hanners halts the Hawks momentum with a massive kick on goal and then Jack levels the scores with eight minutes to go, after keeping his feet in the goal square against Young, who goes to ground. The intermittent rain throughout the day has made conditions slippery.

Then, Goodes snaps a lifesaver with six minutes to go to put us in front, but six minutes is long time in football.
Reid lands a beautiful tackle, and Jack gets taken high with no free given, as the tension builds and the Swans retain a four point lead – Gunston hit the post, and Sewell missed two due to the crazy pressure that has infiltrated the game. I worry that a goal by the Hawks will come too late for the Swans to retaliate, and implore somebody, anybody, to kick the match-winner.
Finally, Jetta takes a mark on 50, yet barely looks able to stand let alone goal. That being said, he almost delivers with the kick falling just short.
The Swans keep the ball in front of goal, and then Malceski, out of nowhere, snaps one around his body to seal the deal with 34 seconds to go!
As the boys swamp Mal I allow myself to hope, but it isn’t until there are 17 seconds remaining that I can believe we have won. Mal’s goal offered the perfect symmetry after booting the impossible first major for the Swans (I don’t care if he wasn’t supposed to be in the forward 50!), and as the siren sounds and a roar fills the stadium I find myself moved to tears as my heroes embrace each other in relief and triumph.

Ten points is the only difference standing between the Red and White euphoria, and the devastation and dejection of the Hawks.
As Sydney staff and players spill onto the ground, it is heartening to witness McGlynn included in the celebrations, and the love expressed by the team is beautiful as they share this moment together. The experience must be all the more sweet for Mal, Macca and Teddy, who swallowed the disappointment of ’06, and the pure glee of young Hanners and Johnson is especially infectious.
For me, the enduring image this season will be of a premiership team that typified ‘Never Say Die’ and refused to allow doubters to dictate their season.
Now let’s make it back-to-back – Onwards To Victory!

Comments

  1. “it takes skill to fluke a goal that perfectly!”

    What a great line. Enjoyed reliving the game, Emma.

  2. N eil Anderson says:

    Emma you reminded me to never give up my team with your description of the pure joy of players and supporters experiencing the ultimate prize. I want a bit of that and I want it now!
    Unfortunately when the Swans won in 2005 and ended the longest premiership drought, the Bulldogs were handed the poison challis and we now head into our 59th barren year. As usual I give the Bulldogs no hope after the last game but five weeks later I’m over it madly looking at draught choices etc and looking for positive signs. I suppose it means I’m a true believer and I just want my Club to survive.
    Anyway thanks again for the reminder of what can be achieved over a long period of time. Back in the olden days the Bulldogs and the Swans were nestled side by side on the bottom of the ladder as Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon and then Hawthorn dominated the finals, the newspapers and the replays year after year.
    I got as much pleasure out of seeing the Swannies win as I would seeing the Bulldogs win…well almost.

  3. Emma Rene says:

    Thankyou Dips, it’s great to get positive feedback for my first piece.

    And thankyou Neil – that blind faith is certainly the mark of a true supporter.
    In 2010 I attended my first AFL game, Swans v Geelong at ANZ. As the final quarter increased the margin between us and victory I still maintained that we could win…..until conceding that 10 goals in 6 minutes was (probably) unfeasible!
    Fortunately I’ve been introduced to the game when the Swans are doing well, but I understand the pain it must cause to see your team miss out year after year – you know how deserving your team is because you’ve ridden every bump with them for so long.
    Footy fans consistently forgive every low point because we know that the prize, no matter how long it takes in coming, will always be worth it.
    It was my pleasure to remind you of that, and hopefully the Bulldogs pick it up again next year (as long as they don’t meddle too much with my Swans!)

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