Swans win the proverbial drought breaker

By Neil Jackson


6TH June 2010

The headlines for this game will probably read: “An arm-wrestle on a raining afternoon”. From a Sydney Swans fan’s prospective it should read: “From the dark clouds comes the bright light-finally a close and important win. ‘

Swans-Bombers games have for eight years honoured the “Marngrook” trophy for the winner.  According to Wikipedia, Marn Grook (also spelt marngrook), literally meaning “Game ball”, is the collective name given to a number of traditional Indigenous Australian recreational pastime believed to have been played at gatherings and celebrations of up to 50 players. Another Kevin Sheedy inspiration, the Marngrook trophy honours the great Indigenous Australian players and others who have been involved in the game of Australian Rules Football. Presently both clubs have several Indigenous Australian players, the great Adam Goodes, the exciting new Lewis Jetta, Trent Dennis-Lane, and Bryon Sumner for Sydney. And Essendon has Leroy Jetta, Jarrod Atkinson, Alwyn Davey, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Paddy Ryder and Mark Williams. It was also fitting that the trophy was presented this year by a Swan with the greatest number of games of any player in the club’s 136 year history, Michael O’Loughlin.

Today, 6th June, also represents the 11th anniversary of one of greatest moments in the history of the Sydney Cricket Ground covering all sports, on 6th June 1999 Tony Locket transformed the game in the harbor city by kicking his record 1300th goal.

But notwithstanding the prestige and distinction surrounding the Marngrook trophy, or the Plugger anniversary, this also happened to be your classic 8 point game. That is, two closely ranked teams that, although not consistently brilliant, (and probably not top 4), have played agreeably enough to be in mix for September well into the later rounds of the home and away season.  The pressure was particularly on the home team, who have lost two of their last three outings at the SCG, including a controversial narrow lost in 2007, when both the umpires, and winning captain Matthew Lloyd, were booed by an uncharacteristically passionately angry Sydney crowd.

The home ground for this 2010 clash might have been the SCG, but the weather marking the day was typically ‘winter in Melbourne’-overcast, cold, with rain threatening throughout the first half.

Then we had the arm-wrestle! A total of 16 lead changes, 9 at half time, 14 by three-quarter time. Not once did either side lead by more than 7 points, save the last minute of the game when the lead for the winning Swans stretch to a massive 9 points. The scores level at both half- time (47 all) and again at three-quarter time (72 all) (Stat geeks, tell me, how times in the history of the competition has draws at both the main and last breaks occurred?).

The last quarter was played in horrendous conditions: cold, pouring rain, windy. However, the Sydney crowd was passionate. And they had a good reason to be passionate. As Swans fans will know, there has been a long run of close frustrating recent losses- three against the Saints, (including a 2010 NAB Cup Quarter Final), Geelong last year, and Hawthorn last week. How could this run of bad luck continued? Surely the coin would fall to tails, (that is Swans tails), this time! Surely another close lost couldn’t occur, particularly in an eight point game.  The last quarter was consequently excoriating for the average Swan fan. Essendon had at least had their recent share of recent narrow and exciting wins, witness, St Kilda twice recently, the Bulldogs last week by 9 points.

Sydney finally won the arm-wrestle with an a goal from ironically in terms of his recent critically very poor goal kicking records, Adam Goodes. Relief, the month long despair for Swans fans is finally over.

For Sydney, the evergreen Jude Bolton was magnificent in the middle. Bolton played one the performances of his long career. 36 possessions, most of them contested. Supporting him was Jarrad McVeigh, (often tagging Bomber big brother Mark), giant Shane Mumford, as well as Ryan O’Keefe. Gary Rohan is becoming an important young player for the Swans. Playing his 5th game, he was finally on the winning side. Sydney fans would also be impressed for the performances of Jesse White up forward, (with three goals kicked), and Lewis Roberts-Thompson down back.

For Essendon, it was a case of bravery and tenacity notwithstanding falling short of the vital four points. The Bombers were handicapped in the contest by hamstring injuries to ruckman David Hille and the young Angus Monfries. Further, Brent Stanton withdrew before the game. Nevertheless, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Andrew Welsh, Brent Prismall, Jason Winderlich, and Leroy Jetta (with three goals) played with that Bomber spirit that often signifies some of their famous wins on ANZAC Day.

And my headline?: “This is a great game!”

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