Round 2 – Western Bulldogs v Sydney: Reasons to be cheerful
Do not lose heart, comrades. This was a match devoid of four points, but this team is not defeated. Although winless, be proud of this brave Bloods effort. There are many reasons to be.
Maxi Jazz, lead vocalist for British electronica heavyweights, Faithless penned the vocals to their track ‘Reasons’ while in a particularly optimistic mood. Of course he was significantly influenced by Ian Dury whose distinctive song had quite an impact when it first came out in the late 1970s. This mirrors my current disposition when pondering the prospects of our Swans. Maxi’s chorus goes:
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three.
While Mr. Jazz is referring to the debauchery of a Saturday night on the town, this particular Friday night within the soulless confines of Etihad Stadium provided our very own reasons for cheerfulness. We entered this match missing some key contributors. The commencement of the new footy year was always going to prove difficult. We have players missing, and others are underdone. The troops will trickle back in over the next few weeks and the team will benefit from some welcome returns and enhanced depth.
This match pitted last year’s Grand Final combatants against one another for the first time since that fateful September afternoon. I made an early exit from that match to partake in some reflective discussion with Mum and Dad’s chooks on the reasons we had failed at the final hurdle. As it turns out, chooks aren’t the most supportive bunch. So, as I mournfully searched for meaning over the summer months, I turned to the time-honoured tradition of sourcing literature to ease my pain.
The outcome of this search resulted in the purchase of Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. The New York Times described it as a manifesto for the improvement of art museums. The Times described it as one of the most intellectually exciting books of the year. I described it as a wonderful antidote to AFL rule confusion syndrome.
De Botton and Armstrong speak of art making us think and feel afresh. Perhaps this is what our opposition is seeking to do as well. Revolutionary techniques such as the Footscray frow, the Spotswood slide and the Yarraville yank seemed to stun the officials in charge on Grand Final day into retreating from normal programming. Ah well, it wouldn’t happen again. Surely.
It has. This match was not a Grand Final re-match it was a Grand Final replay. Scores were close until the final few minutes, with our opposition kicking late goals to seal the win. Both matches have been highly contested, tough, rugged affairs with both teams cracking in at the contest with equal vigor. How then, have the opposition turned winning the whistle into their very own art form? Perhaps Longmire is right: ‘We must have missed something’.
Come on Joe, let’s have a sing along – it’ll make you feel better – Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three.
Ok then, so we’ll put the cumulative total of 51 free kicks to 26 over the two matches to one side and we’ll find some reasons to be cheerful. And there are plenty.
When Stuart Maxfield and Co. devised the formalisation of the Bloods culture in 2003 they would’ve envisaged moments such as second-gamer Ollie Florent’s dogged chase and tackle resulting in a crucial goal to help halt the opposition’s momentum and first-gamer Will Hayward’s relentless pursuit of the man and the Sherrin. They would’ve burst with pride at the thought of another first-gamer kicking a high-pressure goal in the shadows of half-time, as Nic Newman did. They would’ve hoped for understated, unsung heroes in the form that Jake Lloyd is taking in to each and every match. This clutch of cygnets is a cracking next batch. These kids are true Bloods.
The art therapists taught me about the seven functions of art and the importance of hope in one’s life. Even for an eternal optimist like myself, we often suffer from excessive gloom in many facets of life. They speak of cheerfulness as being an achievement and hope as being something to celebrate. When hope takes the form of Buddy Franklin, well, that my friends is most certainly a reason be jubilant. With the game on the line, our main man exploded into life and appeared to be gracing our presence from some type of magical far away galaxy where water probably turns to wine, the rushed behind rule is understood by all and we’re not pinged for holding the ball every time we’re brought to ground. Just imagine.
Reasons to be cheerful, our number twenty three.
Sorrow is also one of the seven functions of art and I’ve also learnt to not ignore or turn away my sorrow from last year’s decider. But that won’t stop me from indulging in some purely hypothetical ‘if only’s’. On this week’s form, if only Sam Reid could have played. Lets hope he can continue his outstanding form from this, his one-hundredth match. His is a story that has many chapters to run.
There remain many reasons to be truly cheerful about our team’s immediate future. While not being at our absolute best this week, we went down fighting in the face of much adversity. As Messrs Heeney, Rampe, McVeigh, Papley, Rohan and Tippett begin to filter back into the line-up, our fortunes will improve. We have the third-youngest list in the land and we’ve once again unearthed a couple of beauties in the early part of the season. Crows fan Dave Brown recently sang the praises of Sydney in The Footy Almanac. ‘The Swans are just amazing,’ he wrote, ‘having been hit with trade sanctions for following the rules too well, Sydney has had no choice but to recruit cannily and develop the heck out of its players.’ Make no mistake this list is in an exceptional state.
If like me, you’ve been seeking therapy for your own dose of AFL rule confusion syndrome, then I suggest you don’t seek a replay of this match. Instead, find some reasons to remain in that elusive optimistic state. You could just watch Buddy’s highlight reel I guess. Over and over and over.