Round 4 – West Coast v Sydney: Ambivalent about the Swans
Being a Dog in a well-feathered but dog eat dog town, is a strange experience. People don’t talk about footy here. Any office talk is about Rugby League – the fortunes of the Rabbitohs etc. Ditto with soccer and Rugby Union –they hardly rate a mention.
As I’ve said before, to see a game of footy (Aussie Rules as it was known then, not AFL as the young kids call it now) when I came to Sydney 30 years ago, you needed to go along to see the Swans in action. So I did just that and saw them go from good times to bad times to good times again. For the last 15 years or so they have mainly been good times, constantly making the finals. As a member, I had the opportunity to go to after-match functions. They were interesting in the early days before their success. However, one evening after a big loss, a so-called supporter who was upset at the loss had a go at Paul Kelly. I was shocked and felt sorry for Kelly as he put his heart and soul into every game. Kelly walked off the stage. I walked out and haven’t been to a Swans function since. I hate negative supporters, no matter what team they pledge allegiance to. I had heard enough whingeing from Dog’s supporters when I got down to the occasional game in Melbourne. I didn’t want to hear it here as well.
I’ve therefore taken an ambivalent interest in the Swans – happy enough to go along and hopefully see a good close game and enjoy their wins but never fully engaged with the song at the end. With ‘away’ games I’ve been even more ambivalent, tuning in to the last half or last quarter, at least in recent years. (I admit I was much more interested ten years ago when they were strong and my Dogs weren’t and rarely scored a guernsey on TV.)
The Swans fans have had it easy over the last decade. On most weekends they would rock up to the SCG and expect a win and most times get it. However, this year is different. The expectation isn’t there anymore. Now their games are feeling like a Dog’s game of the past (will they or won’t they?). Down 0-3, I can feel the southerly change coming. The masters of former years aren’t firing on all cylinders – Hannebery, Parker, Jack and McVeigh, Heeney, Tippett, Rampe and Rohan are injured although Rohan’s ship started sailing away in last year’s Grand Final.
I therefore feel more obliged to watch them tonight. Can they avoid a 0-4 start? I have had a solid week leading into Easter and by the time I’m relaxed and organised it is about 9.30pm. I’m tired, but picked up some pasties from Newtown and being Easter I’ve decided to forego a beer and knock them back with a cup of tea.
The game begins and despite a few stumbles the Swans seem switched on. The first quarter is tight with goals to Cunningham and Foote for the Swans and Gaff and Kennedy for the Eagles. However, in the second quarter the Eagles start to pull away Young Will Hayward is impressive again flying the flag for the Swans. The third quarter sees more dominance from the experienced Eagles – Shuey, Le Cras and McGovern. I can see that the great rivalry that has existed between these two great clubs is now fading. The gap between touted finalists is widening. The effect of the hard week and the pastises is now taking its toll as well, I struggle to stay wake as the Swans struggle to stay in the game. In the end, we got to the end – me watching and the Swans playing.
Next week their biggest test in years looms. The media have tried to hype up the cross-town rivalry thing, but in reality it doesn’t east. No-one up here cares much about GWS despite acknowledging they are a good hand-picked AFL interloper. With their star on the ascent and the Swans’ spiralling out of control, the once hoped for sell-out won’t happen in my opinion. It is a beautiful sunny autumn now in Sydney after a miserable month of rain. Will Sydney-siders come out to see the charging of the guard? I will be there. Rick will be there and even Zuka may fly in. But will the lure of one last day at the beach be too much?
West Coast Eagles 2.2 5.9 9.10 13.13.91
Sydney Swans 2.2 4.3 7.4 10.5. 65
West Coast Eagles: Cripps 3, Gaff 2, Kennedy 2, Le Cras 2, Hill, Shuey, Wellingham
Sydney Swans: Hayward 2, Franklin 2, Cunningham, Foote, Papley. Florent, Lloyd, Reid
Best: West Coast Eagles: Shuey, Yeo, Gaff, Hurn, Priddis, Kennedy
Sydney Swans: Kennedy, Lloyd, Parker, Grundy, Marsh, Hannebery
Our votes: Shuey, Kennedy, Yeo
Umpires: Foot, Dalgleish, Jeffery
Official Attendance 38,065