Round 4 – West Coast v Sydney: Outnumbered in the Wild Wild West.
I’m in the Wild West deep in enemy territory. Having decided to travel over here for a few weeks holiday over Easter many months back I never entertained the possibility we’d be 0-3 with our backs against the wall.
I’m staying with an old workmate, Joe, who has been in the West for over a decade. He and partner Sandy have a lovely old house in East Fremantle overlooking the picturesque Swan River. Arriving Wednesday evening the sojourn, taking in the local ambience, has been very pleasant. That is until I have to board the train to Subiaco and I’m surrounded by hordes of Eagles fans. There are a few Swans on board though I’m thinking that I’ll need to circle the wagon train for protection.
Some form of comfort comes when I find my way to my seat high at the City end of the ground behind the goals with the sun setting in the west over the tiered stand at the far end. I am among an enclave of several hundred red and white brothers and sisters. The two blokes closest are locals and lament the fact that they only get one Swans game a year.
This is my first time at Subiaco, and no doubt my last if the new ground at Burswood is ready for next season. Subiaco a big ground. There is a sizeable gap between the centre square and the 50 metre arc, unlike the SCG. With a few talls missing we have gone with a smaller quicker team.
We start brightly with plenty of ball and forward entries, though our kicking and turnovers are costly, a familiar story so far this year. And soon a soldier is down. Buddy has picked up a cork in a big clash with their skipper Hurn. He is hobbled. We steady though and even up the score at the first break with a nice goal to ‘Six’ Foote his first in senior footy.
The Eagles are moving the ball more cleanly in the second term. Although our endeavour and work effort are high, we lack precision and flow . They get a break with some clinical thrusts through our defence but we are hanging in. Buddy gets one from a free. His movement is still hampered though. And when Tommy Papley, a valuable reinforcement to our ranks goals we are still within striking distance at the main break. Some of our trusty lieutenants Hannas and Kizza have been missing in action and need to find some form. Joey Kennedy is leading from the front as always.
The Eagles land several blows early after the break and extend the lead to around four goals. It looks like the defences are about to be broken. The intensity lifts from both teams. This is hand to hand combat. For the Swans it’s the young brigade who provide the spark. Hayward and Florent look like two 15 year olds who have falsified their birth certificates to gain entry to the stoush. Hayward in particular is everywhere and delivers a perfect pass to Buddy for an easy goal, then bobs up to get one himself. We have held our ground and go in within three goals.
Into the final stanza we finally string together a few consecutive goals. Hayward again bobs up with a clever goal from the pocket. When Lloyd goals from the 50m arc we are within 6 points. We are up and running. Reid is presenting from half forward and in the ruck and our mids have lifted. Though just when we look like we have wrestled back the ascendency the Eagles strike back with a sharp goal from Shuey from a lucky free, then a snap from McGovern. Our spirit is shaken and though we fight it out we have lost this battle.
Back on the train in my post-game melancholia I leave the Eagles fans to their joy. I don’t speak to them and they don’t engage with me. I’m not in the mood.
Back in Freo I meet Joe and Sandy for a drink at the National, a nice old renovated pub. A duo – drums and guitar – are playing standards. They are pretty good. The replay is on about four different screens from every angle and hard to avoid. I glance up from time to time to check whether we really did get dudded on a number of frees. We lost the count again. There is a middle aged Swans couple in the corner who have moved on quicker than me, with their attention clearly on something other than footy.
We head home. Give me a day or so and I’ll be up for the next battle, as will our brave Swans. Hopefully some reinforcements are on the way with Tippett, Naismith, McVeigh, Heeney, Rohan and Rampe waiting in the wings. Our best team will be competitive. And the kids out there are showing skill and fight. I’ve not given up on this campaign yet. Meanwhile the joys of Perth, Fremantle and the south-west await.
Our Votes: 3 Shuey (WCE), 2 Yeo (WCE), 1 Kennedy (Syd)