Shaking off the giant pressure

The Sierra Madre is full of notoriously remote and lawless towns.  A place where asking too many questions will only end in trouble and bemused shrugs from the locals afterwards.

They’ve also never heard of Aussie Rules and certainly not the Sydney Swans.  In other words the perfect bolt hole should tonight go drastically wrong.

And this isn’t just an ordinary night of football.  History in the making here at Homebush as the Swans, thirty years of being the only horse in town, take on the new comers Greater Western Sydney Giants in the imaginatively titled Sydney Derby.  For journalistic purposes though their club name is too much of a mouthful.  The Great Waste of Space, though apt, potentially too harsh.  Then again The Giants makes them sound like a damn baseball team.  GWS could be a bank, or one of those mining corporations so intent on ripping the guts out our country.

It seems so much simpler to level the playing field then.  Accept their appearance on the footy landscape as one accepts the rain, unwanted but there.  To simply acknowledge them as The Enemy.

The forums and news channels have been alive all week with the notion there will be more Enemy fans than Swans supporters.  Hardly likely, thinks I, given anyone who wanted a decent seat via Ticketek had to say they belonged to the Enemy camp.  Indeed the train ride out is dominated by red and white.  Somewhere down the end of Strathfield platform 3 there’s a flash of what could be Enemy colours.  But they’re too far away and I realise they could be a City Rail employee or just some random lunatic with a weird predilection for fluoro orange.

Ah ANZ Stadium.  That love hate relationship resumed.  Terrible for footy but the simple fact there’s footy on draws me in like a moth.  More Bloods supporters now; a veritable lava flow around the cardio  inducing food vans and the rabbit hutch of The Enemy merchandise stand.  For this is their home ground tonight and perhaps why I feel so strangely off balance.  A text comes in asking if I’m going to the game/massacre.  Flashes of the Tigers game last year as I tap out a cagey reply.

I’m here earlier than usual.  Enough time to see The Enemy’s foam mattress mascot make a danger run through the fireworks, grab a beer, belt out the Swans song and wonder what the Christ is going on with The Enemy’s Russian wedding dance.  Then it’s on.

Let’s get 100 points clear.  No Enemy scores for at least a quarter.  Give ourselves a nice fat percentage for that tough run at the season end.

Seems The Enemy hasn’t read the script.

We’re off to an early attack with Goodes losing a boot in the fray.  Jack gets first blood with a goal.  Nice touch given we’re talking league heartland here.  But The Enemy are fired up and we seem sluggish.  Parker gets floored by what looks to be a high bump.  The Enemy’s tackling pressure and quick defensive rebound are surprisingly effective.  This observation is backed up what seems like a never ending commentary from my Carlton supporting mate.  I rue the moment I left the Dictaphone at home, he could have written this article for me.

Bird gets one, then another.  The crowd noise however remains at an uncommitted buzz.  Only to ramp up as The Enemy press and are rewarded with a goal.  Their very first professional six points and a depressing sight.   I’d hoped this wouldn’t happen until at least the second quarter.

Anyway as footy does the game flows on.  The slippery ground out there is compounding our obvious skill deficiencies.  McVeigh bombs one way across the posts.  Jetta zooms in, way clear, only to butter fingers it right outside the sticks.  Rohan, cleaned up by one of our own, is helped off causing my heart to sink.  The Enemy continue to move the ball well.  Kennedy, picking up the slack, takes a great mark and goals.  25-8 up on the siren.

The second quarter is starting better; McVeigh with a behind, LRT with a goal.  Sam ‘Mr Tickle’ Reid takes a good mark.  There’s some sort of biff behind play however and we turn over the pill.  Minutes later Mr Tickle steps up again but clearly hasn’t been working the kicking over the summer.  We get caught again, damn The Enemy are quick!  McGlynn gets a goal.  The Enemy responding with a set shot then a hacking kick for twelve points.  We’re pushing but The Enemy are flooding the inside fifty, offering no clear opportunities.  52-21 on the siren.

There’s a half time dance off between Cyggy and Mattress Man.  Personally I favour Cyggy’s footwork over Mattress Man’s out of sync bending.  Guest judge Paul Mercurio, clad in one of those ghastly orange scarf and pockets accordingly lined with Sheedy’s $10, thinks otherwise.  I hope this isn’t some sort of sign.  So far the on-field umpiring has been relatively unbiased but its early days.

Third quarter and we’re finally shifting into third gear.  The stats belay how well The Enemy is holding their own.  Our tally of inside 50’s and disposals means we should be 100 up already.  Makes me think we need ‘effective’ stats up on the board rather than basic numbers.  McVeigh and Kennedy slot it through the big sticks.  Jetta bursts through for another.  The boys appear more composed moving the ball around better, finding the gaps.  In another first we’re treated to the video ref decision.  Blind Freddy could have seen the ball hit the post.  It’s a better quarter, still not great though, and we’ve a more respectable 86-22 advantage on the ¾ siren.

Fourth quarter we go M.I.A.  As do the Swans fans.  Lots of noise as The Enemy press but sweet FA whenever we make one of our rare forays forward.  Makes me think that this rivarly thing is going to take a while to get really get going.  Goodes, takes a great mark, finally making an appearance after seemingly resting in the forward line all night.  All up though I keep thinking we’re reverting to type, playing down to the level of the opposition, kicks to no-one in particular and more disturbingly still haven’t purged ourselves of those heart-in-mouth switch kicks across the goal in our defensive 50.  The Enemy aren’t taking it lying down and even though we rally towards the end they still come about a point ahead this quarter.  On the siren I feel it’s simply their lack of stamina that doesn’t allow them to lessen the 100-37 gap.

The trip home is spent in a kind of half downer, half upper frame of mind.  I don’t think anyone expected the Swans to lose but it’s been bothering me about our inability to put teams to the sword convincingly.  Hopefully it’s just summer rust and not a reason to brush to up on my Mexican Spanish.

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. Richard Naco says:

    I think the Swans showed signs of being better than last year, but “The Enemy” this year was a far better prepared & disciplined cohort than the red bunnies in the headlights of Carlton in Round 2 of that season.

    And while it’s undoubtedly galling for the Red & White army, this was always very much about the Giants. The Swans, regardless of their dogged 30 years holding the fort against the barbarians up here, were only ever going to be the support act on a night like that.

    That will change. And it will probably take a few years, but as the talent and experience differentials narrow, margins will get closer while passions inversely increase. What we saw on Saturday night was a good beginning, and things are going to get much much better over the next few years.

  2. Sydney have played to the level of the opposition for years. Last season, we started with a draw against Melbourne and 5 months later beat Geelong at Kardinia Park. We’ve never been much at putting the boot in when the opponent is on the floor. I can’t remember it since we thrashed Richmond 4 or 5 years ago.

    Too much meditation, not enough boxing?

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