No Dream Ending for Swans

Arms outstretched Adam Goodes plucked the ball from the air to take the mark in the dying seconds before the final siren.  Steadying himself he strode forward and snapped out a long kick.  A collective breath was drawn as the ball spiraled towards goal.  Then forty thousand voices howled out in delight and despair as the ball sailed through the sticks and the Swans plucked victory from the jaws of defeat.

I woke up to a grey Sunday morning, thrashing around in the sheets like an electric eel with Tourettes.  Shambling out to the kitchen in search of coffee I happened to glance down at some pages torn from a notebook; nothing on them but scrawl and scribbles, pure eligible gibberish.  Then something speared me though the heart.  The goddamned final score line.  One point in it.  Dear God was I still dreaming?  Could it be true?

Scoffing homemade sausage rolls in front of the TV the night before I was reasonably confident of a win.  The Enemy were defeated back in round two and there were no doubt thoughts of revenge in their squalid minds.  However the Swans’ form against the Bulldogs a fortnight ago was an impressive solid four quarters of football delivering us a well deserved win.  That umpiring travesty in the Freemantle match forgotten the boys were looking to cement their place in the top eight on Saturday evening.  Even my mate’s quip about bombers running rampant in Sydney didn’t faze me.  The bomb was a fake, just like the team, I thought.

From the opening bounce both teams burst out of the blocks seeking to overwhelm the other.  The Swans drew first blood with Sam Reid taking a superb mark and converting.  Our strong press was causing The Enemy to backtrack.  They only just cleared the ball out of the danger zone before we were back in there.  A desperate scramble ensued before Bird dribbled one through for six.  A few minutes later we were back for six more as Jetta hefted a kick through the goal line towards the stadium roof.  Our defence was holding up strongly, smothering every Enemy attempt to get the ball forward.  They won a free though and didn’t miss their opportunity.  Jetta surged forward again but didn’t take the extra steps required and only got a behind.  The Enemy out marked Richards in the backline for a behind.  A quick clearance saw Goodes way out in the clear but he totally stuffed what should have been a routine goal.  Disturbingly The Enemy were taking clean marks but thankfully missing opportunities.  Shaw danced around them.  Parker took a mark but skewed it off to one side.  Still I reckoned we had the measure of The Enemy and the stats and 13 point lead at quarter time was reassuring.  What no-one was sure of was whether both sides could keep up the frenetic pace.

Keep it up they did, the second quarter almost a reverse of the first with The Enemy winning more ball.  Out marking Shaw they squeezed in a goal.  Jack snapped in a behind with Goodes playing air-traffic controller to one side.  We won a fifty but wasted the advantage.  Goodes was on fire with a superb run and jump mark and resulting goal.  The pressure we were exerting though was a risky ploy as it left our defence depleted.  The Enemy were quick to exploit the gaps, piling on more points.  Goodes shirt-fronted The Enemy and was lucky not to get pinged for a high tackle.  Kennedy got six back for us.  More pressure from The Enemy with only Hannebury averting disaster.  A superb kick from Bolton to a quick running TDL resulted in a goal.  Demonstrating that Brownlow winning skill Goodes toe poked the ball, picked up his own kick and then snapped a long bomb between the posts.  The Enemy got a couple of goals back and in a demonstration of ongoing umpiring stupidity Richards got pinged for deliberately taking the ball out of bounds.  Even the commentators couldn’t believe it.  During the dying seconds TDL’s extremely ordinary attempt at tackling resulted in an Enemy goal putting them only five points behind.

The siren went and we were off into round three.  It was like watching that ridiculous fight from ‘They Live’ with the two combatants bashing the living daylights out of each other.  Whilst our pressure was excellent we were missing crucial opportunities and there were signs of the bad old habits creeping in; kicking to contests, fumbling defence and poor handballs resulting in turnovers.  Reid went down hard and hobbled off which sent a scare up our spines.  Thankfully he was okay.  We settled down again and Mumford snapped a goal.  McGlynn kept the ball alive deep in The Enemy pocket and slipped one through off the side of his boot at an impossible angle.  Another scare as Hannebury, backing into a contest, collided heavily, first with The Enemy then with the turf in a sickening looking neck cruncher.  A few minutes later he was back on, bravely making another attempt on the ball.  Maybe it was the pace of the game but for some reason Shaw forgot where the goal square line was during a kick out.  During the resulting ball up free Goodes, perhaps forgetting the rules, punched the ball through our sticks.  Deliberate was the ruling and The Enemy were gifted a goal.  Minutes later Goodes made amends bursting past two Enemy players to toe poke the ball, knee it off the bounce then off his boot and through on the rebound.  Still, going into the final term The Enemy had slipped ahead 85-78 and I was beginning to get nervous.

At the opening of the forth the Swans looked slow.  Kennelly stuffed a handball turning it over.  Then we lifted a bit but the effort went unrewarded as poor goal kicking skills garnered only behinds.  O’Keefe, quiet for most of the game so far, stepped up to score six.  Here we go I thought but again sloppy kicking kept us within The Enemy’s grasp.  Recovering they slipped through and left us scrambling in defence.  Goodes marked a desperate kick out of our fifty and passed to Jetta who was screaming up field and sixty meters or so out he kicked a massive goal.  Minutes later he stole a great mark but couldn’t convert.  We got a few more behinds and I thought maybe we’d slow it down a bit, revert to type and try and trap the ball away from our fifty.  Drain the clock and bleed The Enemy dry.

Apparently the boys had another tactic in mind and that was when they committed THE mistake.  Jetta’s handball sailed over Malceski and The Enemy swooped running it in for a goal.  The momentum shifted their way and we were forced to amount a scrambled defence.  The Enemy snapped one into our fifty and the player it was aimed at to my eyes did not have full control of the ball.  Marked was the umpire’s decision.  My notebook hit the floor at terminal velocity as The Enemy slammed it through to draw level.  Seconds later they slipped ahead with a behind.  By this time I was on my knees screaming at the TV.  The ball thrashed around a bit before we cleared it uptown with a long looping kick.

Arms outstretched Adam Goodes plucked the ball from the air to take the mark in the dying seconds before the final siren.  Steadying himself he strode forward and snapped out a long kick.  A collective breath was drawn as the ball spiralled towards goal.  Then forty thousand voices howled out in delight and despair as the ball sailed off to one side and The Enemy plucked victory from the jaws of defeat.

Goodes’ expression said it all.  He looked as if he’d lost us the grand final.   We hadn’t been outplayed by a superior team though, we’d simply kicked ourselves out of the game.  That one point felt like a middle finger to every Swans player and fan.  And as I looked at the ruins of my notebook I realised it wasn’t a dream after all.


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."


  1. 2.9 in the final quarter Tom – what the shamblings was that!

  2. Tom Bally says:

    Grand final winners lulling you into a false sense of security.

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