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Round 2 – Sydney v Port Adelaide: Hungry for a win

Sunday 1st of April 2018
4:40 pm
SCG, Sydney

 

It’s the mark of the week.

 

The ball falling out of the night like a comet. Going back with the flight, hands aloft, no concern as to the pack forming behind. Expecting a spoiling fist over the shoulder, instead the ball sticks on the hands like Velcro. The match winning intercept. Crowd cheering in admiration.

Shame it was after the game.

 

Heading across Moore Park towards South Dowling St., dodging the usual chaotic crowd kick to kick. School fence one side and the never-ending hoarding of the light rail work on the other. Deep in thought about the game I barely notice the ball coming my way. Pure instinct to look up and take a solid two-handed grab.

 

“Where was that tonight?” Someone grumbles.

 

I steady myself to chip it back. An easy kick. Instead the Sherrin slides off the side of my Vans, vanishing into the warm night to hit someone’s back. Head down I scurry into the open park, grateful for the dark. That wouldn’t have looked out of place on the SCG this evening.

 

Winding through Surry Hills I cross Crown St. rifling my mind for a single word summation of the game.

 

Fumble.

 

To do or handle something clumsily.

 

This mishandling started days ago. As soon as McVeigh linked the words ‘SCG’ and ‘fortress’ in an interview I thought damn you it’s The Curse. Some symbolism needs to be censored before press conferences. The SCG is at best a steep walk from the city not some cable car ride up jagged cliffs to a ‘Where Eagles Dare’ impregnable bastion of stone and weaponry.

 

So, no mention of home ground fortresses. That and the promise of free burgers.

 

This season the Swans are giving out Big Macs whenever we win home games. Free. For everyone. Nothing like setting up expectations. An oxymoronic guarantee; our healthy, energetic game vs. a lump of salt, sugar and grease. Usually not something that entices me. But now as I head down towards Central Station I’m starving. Sans Big Mac and devoid of answers as to where it all slipped away.

 

Second quarter maybe. Definitely the third.

 

Undeniably a failure to build on what had been up to then mostly one sided, if uncharacteristically sloppy, play. Lots of forward fifty entries, far too many behinds, Parker and Buddy scoring the only majors. Mills with strong intercept marks then butchering the return kicks. A rattled Melican dropping sitters and scrambling with Grundy and Rampe to cover The Enemy pressure. I had expected a strong statement. The Enemy had gone over the top of us last season. We didn’t need that again.

 

We looked stronger at the start of the second. Sinclair winning the ruck hitouts, a beauty from a roving Hayward, Buddy walking through walls to score. The Enemy were building though with enough pressure to force wayward handballs, missed marks and turnovers.

 

After half time the team had seemingly slipped off down to Macca’s with all the vouchers. Sluggish and panicked misdirection by hand and foot. The Enemy pounced; we were outplayed on the field and out manoeuvred in the box. With Buddy double teamed we should’ve had a man spare but I couldn’t see where.

 

There were good signs early in the forth. An absolutely freakish goal from Buddy round his shoulder outside the fifty lifted us. A few minutes later he hit Towers with a bullet kick who went on to score.

 

Was a comeback possible? This was after all Easter Sunday.

 

But even old JC himself would’ve had trouble hitting up a target. He definitely couldn’t have reversed the free kick count. The Enemy awarded at crucial moments whilst throws, in the backs and tackled without the ball calls for us going unnoticed in an umpiring Bermuda Triangle. A bewildering fifty-meter penalty in our forward pocket that led to an Enemy goal was the last straw. Pen and mind shut down for the night. Resigned to that hideous theme song punctuated by celebratory screeching from an Enemy supporter some rows back. Trudging back to Central with the subdued throng.

 

Platform 19 now. I text Tony Reed, fellow Almanacker, for some wisdom. Long suffering Carlton supporters have a way of levelling things out for me. Can we even play the SCG anymore? I asked. Is our game plan now suited to wider expanses? Not enough scorers. I tell him I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet with the non-Big Mac.

 

The train hurtles into the night. We hit Ashfield. I disembark. The phone buzzes. I look at the message.

 

Everyone knows the burgers are better at Hungry Jacks.

 


 

SYDNEY                2.4   6.6   8.10   10.11 (71)
PORT ADELAIDE  1.2    4.4   11.7   14.10 (94)

GOALS
Sydney: Franklin 4, Parker, Hayward, Papley, Cunningham, Heeney, Towers
Port Adelaide: Marshall 3, Boak 2, Wingard 2, Polec 2, Wines, Powell-Pepper, Motlop, R.Gray, Bonner

BEST
Sydney: Kennedy, Franklin, Parker, McVeigh, Smith, Florent
Port Adelaide: Wines, R.Gray, Marshall, Dixon, Westhoff, Boak

Crowd: 34,636

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."

Comments

  1. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Lovely account Tom. You’ve captured beautifully the sheer disbelief of the early season supporter with an impressive Round 1 win under the belt who just can’t believe that the team is mortal after all.

    Sometimes the distance between a team’s skill level week to week does amaze. I thought it last year. Maybe ‘backing up’ in the modern game is harder than we know.

    As my Cygnet texted me on the siren … ‘there’s always next week or the one after or the one after or the one after that.’

  2. Never having eaten a burger (with the meat), I wouldn’t know one from the other. Maccas certainly saved thousands of $’s this weekend!

    GWS next week. We can redeem ourselves, or not! Let’s hope the former.

    Cheer cheer

  3. Keiran Croker says:

    You paint a nice picture of the chaos both on and off the field Tom. Hoping we have a fumble free zone this week.

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