AFL Round 2 – Sydney v Gold Coast: Whistling down the wind

The whistle’s roots stretch all the way to ancient China when troops guarding their borders would blow into acorn tops to warn of invading Mongols.  Its first use in a sports match was back in an 1884 New Zealand rugby match.  Before then officials relied on bellowing and screaming to impose some order on the games.  Whistling as an art form and as a major way of halting any sort of forward momentum wasn’t invented until the Swans moved north to Sydney in 1982.

I had whistles on my mind leaving the SCG on Saturday afternoon.  The whole match had been a stop start affair with the umpires almost continuously interrupting the flow with their shrill bleating.  Maybe it was justified; I forgot to record the game and the shiny large screen that’s been installed as part of the SCG upgrade is completely wasted on anyone sitting opposite the members stand.  The few frees that presented themselves on the O’Reilly wing seemed to be awarding ducks into tackles or soft ones paid for a supposed push or high contact in a spoil.  The home crowd were not happy.

It was a scrappy old game all round really.  As we made our way into the newly refurbished stand a steady rain settled in which always puts me on a nervous edge despite the pundits continually favouring the Swans wet weather skills.  After their minor scalp last week I was expecting The Enemy to be up and about and they were certainly putting numbers around the ball early on.

What was evident that the Swans are still warming up as their skill levels and intensity go.  Some absolute disposal shockers had me wondering if I had somehow slipped into the old Delorian and gone back in time to 2010.  Contested marks were far and few between, the strategy being to bring the ball to ground and hope someone was there to crumb.  We had a strong enough presence across full and half back, although Johnson is sorely missed, but from there on it was a case of bombing it into the forward line with little accuracy at finding a target.  The rain turned the centre square into a mud bowl and the ball into a slippery eel.

There were encouraging signs though in all the mess.  McVeigh and Jack certainly know the meaning of leading from the front; the former stepping up a gear in the second quarter with two goals and two behinds.  Anyone’s doubts about Pyke’s spot in the side should be well and truly gone by now with the big Canadian standing tall and not dropping the sitters.  Hannebury had a blinder of a game with strong tackling and Bolton was his usual suicidal self where the Sherrin was concerned.  McGylnn may have had a couple of selfish moments but you could tell he’s really pushing to re-establish his spot after Morton’s late blooming.

Overall the feeling was the boys were trying to be way too clever with their handballs against an Enemy that weren’t going to be fooled.  That tricky double-back-thread-the-needle type disposal is beautiful when it works, as it did late in the piece when The Enemy had just about run out of gas, but there were numerous times you could see they’d anticipated the direction of play and either wrapped things up or exposed our rustiness with attack of their own.

Speaking of rustiness the crowd too seemed a bit listless during the first half as if we had forgotten what all this was football lark was about.  The few chants that got going were out of sync quite quickly.  It seemed to lack purpose, like we’d all shambled outside for the afternoon dressed in red and white and somehow converged unknowingly at the SCG.

Still like a car running on one headlight the Swans navigated safely through the early evening gloom securing a forty one point victory.  Not a pretty win but I guess they don’t have to be.  Clearly in the need for momentum we skipped the massive bus queue and stalked back to Surrey Hills to dissect the game.  We needed a drink and not even a whistle was going to stop us.

About Tom Bally

Born in 1834 Tom Bally was instrumental in establishing the rules of the modern game. It's a little known fact and the rare times he talks about it all he'll say is "that bloody Wills chap got me full of grape one night and the next thing I know he's peacocking around Richmond Paddock like he dreamt up the whole thing on his lonesome. Still I got the last laugh didn't I eh? Introducing the Umpire and all that."

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