Well here we go again. And if I’ve learnt anything from Saturday afternoon it’s that you have to be switched on from the get go.
Monday night. Deadline lurking. Re-run of the game running in the living room as I try to lash this piece together between the TV and memory. It’s bad enough enduring the loss in person but having to witness the commentators gibbering on about a ‘shock win’ and Kochie shambling about the corporate box high-fiving the visiting dignitaries is just rubbing salt into the wound.
All this pressure on myself is down to not paying attention. I’d sauntered out of my apartment on Saturday afternoon happy to be going to the footy and believing I could ease my way into the season. Only to find The Editor’s note in my inbox this morning gently enquiring about ‘The Story’. That sinking feeling realising I should’ve been diligently taking notes instead of moping in my seat, full of mid-strength and watching our grip on the game drift slowly away.
Fitting in many ways. Disorganisation. Dilution. Despondency. Up in the stands and down on the field. Just an all-round missed-the-boat, eye-off-the-Sherrin opener.
It had all started so confidently. There we all were in our usual spots in the O’Reilly Stand. Full of a renewed sense of hope and purpose that even last year’s tainted Grand Final couldn’t dampen. Big cheers and the sort of singing that would make The Voice proud as the boys burst through the banner and back onto the SCG.
“Power,” chanted The Enemy supporters.
“Blackout,” we replied, hoping it would catch on. It didn’t. Some things are perhaps too highbrow for footy.
I thought the game was evenly matched in the first quarter. Reid was up and about, using his reach, taking a few strong grabs. It was heartening to see him back on the turf after his bad luck with injuries. The debutant Florent was also putting himself to good use. But The Enemy had come to play and were bringing plenty of pressure to each contest. There was no easy path to goal. Jones looked impressive, in the thick of it at either end. Towards the end of the first stanza the Swans started to pull ahead with a trifecta of goals from Buddy and Reid, a combo that might work out better than the much-hyped Tippett and Buddy partnership. Even so it was neck and neck on the siren.
Despite The Enemy drawing ahead almost immediately the Swans were finding their rhythm, slowly winding up the pressure. Grundy and Rampe were covering the Enemy’s probing of our defence. It wasn’t slick but we were winning the ball and the scoreboard was ticking over. Towards the end of the quarter though the pendulum swung the other way. Decision making in the last few minutes cost us dearly. Trapped on the defensive wing Lloyd’s kick bounced off the intended player. The Enemy swooped, tumbling the Sherrin towards goal and six points. Seconds later Port got a free, a goal and went into the long break just ahead. It was a disappointing end to all that work. Up in the stands we all looked at each other miserably; had nothing been learnt from last year. Will we ever work out how to run down the clock?
Halfway through the third it became glaringly obvious The Enemy were working way harder. First to the ball. Numbers at the contest. Swarming. Sydney like. We were floundering. Two or three steps behind. Un-Sydney like. More disturbingly The Enemy were unerringly accurate and the game seemed like it was slipping away.
The boys put up a gallant fight in the final term but by then The Enemy well and truly sensed victory. Jack’s sneaky goal gave me some hope and when The Enemy’s goal was disallowed I started thinking we might just see one of those great come-from-behind wins. It was all too little too late though. When The Enemy banged one home from the centre square the siren couldn’t come quickly enough.
Sometimes it’s the manner of the loss rather than the loss itself. There’s cobwebs for sure and in recent times we’ve rarely won Round 1 games. But based on the lack of flow, reverting to the long bombs to contests and decision gaffes there’s some tough times ahead. The Swans will need to be switched on from here on in. The startling news this afternoon that Rampe is now out for a month is a huge blow.
Still if any team can pull it together it’s the Swans.
And when my turn comes around again, I’ll be more ready as well.