General Footy Writing: Musings from a Swans fan on the Eade factor

Although raised as a diehard South Melbourne supporter, I was euphoric when they moved to Sydney in 1982. Finally, I thought, I am going to be able to experience the feeling of seeing my poor, humble, working-class team win a flag.

Well, most football historians would agree that it was a tough road that led to 2005. Since that premiership my football allegiances have changed somewhat. I have lost that desire and passion to watch football games with that tunnel-visioned, biased and one-eyed approach that I have had all my life. After all, it changes once you have been to the top of the mountain and seen Roosy say:

“This is for all the people who have waited 72 years for South Melbourne/Sydney Swans win the Premiership cup … HERE IT IS!!!”

The liberation from this maniacal madness has allowed me to focus on other things like taking my boys to the footy and actually being a neutral observer with a strong sense of objectivity. This has brought me to the realisation that footy is a fantastic games to watch and, also, I never realised how much utter rubbish some people speak at the footy, whether it be towards an umpire or some player who has genuinely made an attempt to commit to some play, but things didn’t work out.

One thing that I have taken an interest in while being in this football limbo is the Western Bulldogs. They are just so similar to South Melbourne: working class and ready to win a flag. Besides, some of the coaching staff are ex-Swannies: Paul Williams (midfield coach), Rowan Warfe (board man) and of course Rocket Eade (coach). I am a sucker for family ties!

One thing that I have noticed with the Doggies is that they play absolutely  scintillating football at the beginning of the year and yet they haven’t been able to produce that same polished football come September. Why?

This phenomenon was alive and kicking when Rocket was at the Swans between 1996 -2002 (Round 12). As a side they were just brilliant during the first half of the season and yet we died come August/September. I recall 1997  when we won the first four games of the season and then ventured  to Subiaco to play an in form West Coast and, with our recruit Wayne Schwass, beat the home side in what was a finals-style game by a couple of goals. It was a magnificent performance that was heralded as the club’s most important win since moving to Sydney.

Yet this same side wasn’t able to beat Adelaide at home in September. This pattern went on for the next couple of years. We would have great starts and then a mid-season slump that we were never able to completely leave behind. Our performances in September in ’97, ’99 and 2000 were similar. Lest we forget, our Grand Final in ’96 almost didn’t happen because we just fell in against Hawthorn in a semi final. Then Plugger’s famous point won us a trip to the MCG, where a last half fadeout gave North the pennant.

By the way both of these narrow finals wins, against Hawthorn and Essendon, were home games, and during the Eade era the SCG wasn’t a great prospect for any team venturing north.

The fact that the playing group was getting older most likely had an impact. Never at any stage have I ever thought that Rocket was the problem as I think he is the best tactician and thinker in the business. I have often wondered whether the training methods were too hard and players tired towards the end of the year or, alternatively, they weren’t working hard enough. Whatever the problem, the Swans’ inability to produce its best football in September remains a mystery.

But in following the Dogs over the past couple of seasons, and seeing them fail to produce their best form during August/September, made me think whether there are similarities between the training methods at Doggie land and the Swannies under the Eade era???

When Paul Roos took over the reigns in Sydney before Round 13, 2002,  he made a comment at one of his press conferences that he wanted the players to enjoy their footy and he made some positional/role changes. Some players had thought they were being played out of position.  Adam Goodes was one such player: he’d been played forward without much success and then he was given a run on the ball. The rest is history.

Taking into consideration where players are most happy, willing and excited about playing football may have an exponential effect on their playing performance. Happy people are productive people, I have been told over the years, so why can’t this apply to footballers?

Maybe this could be the catalyst for moving a few Doggie players who aren’t performing and giving them roles that they feel will enable them to develop in mind, body and spirit.

One player who could be the difference between a Doggie flag or not is Will Minson. He just looks like a fish out of water when he is in the ruck and up forward. Maybe centre half-back … who knows?

But what is there to lose?

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