Round 1 – Sydney v Port Adelaide: Polite Punters
I am a Bulldogs supporter through and through but when I came to Sydney 30 years ago, if I wanted to see any football live, I needed to go to the SCG for a Swans game. In those days the Swans were drawing huge crowds with Warwick Capper charming the chardonnay set, his crotch-hugging shorts soaring more like an eagle over the packs than a Swan. There was a genuine sense of excitement and wonder at our game. Sydney fans loved it.
I kept going to the games and recording snippets of Footscray (Western Bulldogs) on my VCR from Drew Morphett’s weekly footy round-up on the ABC ‘The Winners’. Sydney liked winners. Inevitably their form faltered however and I distinctly remember going to the Moore Park Bowling Club along with everyone in the crowd after the Swans finally got up after a losing streak of something like 18 months. Barrasi was the coach and shook hands with everyone in the crowd; many of whom had driven in from areas as far away as Parramatta when they heard that an upset win over Melbourne was a possibility.
The Swans eventually came good again and I decided if I wanted to avoid queuing for 2 hours to get into a game like I did when a record crowd of over 40,000 turned up to see them play Geelong, I should buy a membership. I found myself with two member’s tickets, one for going to games in Sydney and one in case the Dogs ever made a Grand Final. Last year those years of membership finally paid off. Ironically I was able to get tickets from the Swans membership as well as the Dogs’. However, on the day, there was only one team on the field.
But last Saturday was a new season and here I was at the SCG again with my footy buddy Rick in our regular spot in the concourse. ‘This will be my last year’ said Rick a few months ago when membership renewal time came up ‘unless we get seats in the stand.’ My usual response came back ‘It is much better down here. We are in the action.’ However, after years of complaining, this time I think he means it. And after the Dogs’ great win I ask myself why I keep going to Swans games. Habit? For fun? Just to be in fresh air for a few hours? Probably all of those. Certainly, I don’t have the same passion as I do for Dogs games. Last year’s Preliminary Final and Grand Final were two of the most memorable, passionate and exciting moments of my life. The Swans can’t replicate those.
But let’s forget the past for the moment. We were here to see if the Swans had recovered from their shock defeat the year before (in their eyes anyway). They were expected to win this one too. They got out to a flying start early with Buddy and Sam Reid in the action. Having Reid back was a real bonus and it was good to see him pulling down strong marks and following them up with goals after a horror stretch of injuries. Kennedy and Parker were playing well as usual but as good as the Swans were, Port kept coming back at them through captain Travis Boak, Brad Ebert, young star Ollie Wines and new recruit Sam Powell-Pepper who peppered the goals four times to finish with three goals.
At half-time the rain came down. We whacked on our ponchos and loaded up with beer, pies and chips. ‘Upstairs would have been good’ reiterated Rick. The Swans trailed by 4 points but started mishandling the ball in the wet and Port kept persisting, didn’t give up and were more accurate. The Swans simply ran out of puff. Of the 33,129 in attendance, only 129 were Port supporters but their roar became louder with each goal. They were greeted with a dismayed groan by the locals. I felt pleased for the Port fans as I know what it is like to be an outsider in a large crowd. The visiting team’s supporters get allocated a pokey little spot in the forward pocket and are shown no respect by the Swans hierarchy. However, that being said, the Swans fans have got better over the years. They now understand the game more and have a go at the umpire. In the past they used to politely applaud everything and be too scared to shout out. Today they were polite again. It’s early in the season. The better team won. The weather fined up. Time to go and do other things. I put on my Sydney persona, threw off my faux Swans scarf and exited to a party where the chardonnay was nicely chilling.
Sydney 4.3 8.5 10.6 12.10 (82)
Port Adelaide 4.2 9.3 14.4 17.8 (110)
Sydney Kennedy, Parker, Franklin, Joes, Marsh
Port Adelaide Wines, Boak, Ebert, Powell- Pepper
Umpires: Ryan, Mollison, Hosking
Our votes: Wines, Boak, Kennedy