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Finals Week 1 – Sydney v Essendon: What a win, but: One week at a time!

Here we are, heading into the second week of the finals, and you Victorians out there already have one of your mob winning the big one!

I know you’d all love for the Cats to overcome the all-conquering Swans next Friday night, and repeat the same against the Crows in the Prelim. You could then all delight the following week in watching your beloved locals thrash it out on 30 September, but, be warned, you’re in fantasy land!

If the Swans can continue in the same vein as they have since Round 7 this year, then all Bloods people will be more than happy to once again be part of the “us against the world” scenario that we found ourselves in last year, playing the team that all Victorians, and others, wanted to win.

Already, I’m sick of hearing the analogy from Victorian commentators, that the Tigers are last year’s Bulldogs. Clearly they are not; they have come from entirely different positions, and at this point, your Tiges have won one finals game. A good one, admittedly, but just the one so far.

The fat lady hasn’t sung just yet, so with this year’s twists and turns far from over, I’d suggest you put a hold on the celebrations. And I’m certainly not celebrating at this stage either.

***

When I forced myself from my sick bed on Saturday afternoon, determined, no matter how I was feeling, to get to the SCG, little did I believe that my beloved team would come away with such an emphatic victory.

For the past two weeks I’d almost convinced myself that we were going to lose and our year would be over. Why I had those thoughts could, in retrospect, only be put down to the wretched flu and its manifestations – both physical and emotional. I even had a nightmare ten days ago, waking in a sweaty panic because we’d lost! I lay there in bed, unable to get back to sleep, trying to convince myself that the flu had affected my thought processes and had caused my mind to become delirious.

Trying to be positive, I spent the next hour or so thinking of what the Bloods had achieved this year. I re-lived our wins – the thrashings, the close ones, and indeed the miraculous one against our upcoming opponent. I re-lived the sheer guts and determination shown by our boys these past months and how they have defied all odds to get into the eight, creating history in the process. And I reminded myself of their unrelenting belief in themselves, their footy nous, and their ability to do exactly what is necessary to get over the line. They have been magnificent!

It wasn’t long before the nightmare had become a distant memory, to be replaced by sheer joy and anticipation. Anticipation of a wonderful victory on Saturday afternoon against the Bombers.

I drifted off to sleep, only to wake in fright again an hour later. Here I was, still with the wretched flu, feeling terrible and imaging I would be like this forever. How on earth was I going to be well enough to get to the game? How, pray, would I be able to get to Melbourne (if we won) the following week? Would I be able to drive there, in anticipation that if we won that one, we’d have to get to Adelaide, and then if we won that one, back to Melbourne for the grannie? Would we just fly to all the games? No, that didn’t make much sense – much better to drive, stay on in Melbourne, drive to Adelaide and back to Melbourne.

No wonder I found myself in a sweaty panic again! Too many ifs and buts, too many confusing options, and definitely too many anticipations.

One week at a time! One week at a time!

So, nearly two weeks after the flu began, lying in bed or on a mattress on the floor in the lounge room in front of the tele, during which time – when able to – I’ve seen more balls being hit or kicked or passed than ever before while watching the US Open tennis, the cricket in Bangladesh, the Wallabies and the Brisbane Broncos, I forced myself to get up, get dressed and ready for the footy.

No twenty minute walk this time. With no parking available at the ground, we made our way to the bus at Central. Huffing and puffing up the steps to our seats in the unfamiliar Brewongle Stand, we were then treated to three hours of footy heaven.

Daniher’s mark and Essendon’s first 10 minutes almost brought back the sweat-inducing nightmare, but it didn’t take long before our boys had me actually smiling for the first time in weeks. Not only were Dean Towers and Callum Sinclair proving the doubters wrong, our midfield champs were putting on a masterclass, and our backline, led by Macca, was showing just how good it is. The first quarter lead of 11 points was peanuts compared to what the 46,323 fans were in for during the following 30 minutes.

The Buddy scare that had the crowd collectively taking a long hard breath 15 minutes earlier, was very quickly replaced with roars of delight when his footy genius was on display for all to witness: In the first 30 seconds, Parkes to Joey to the man himself: a goal from 50 metres; less than a minute later, Hanners, Paps and Buddy combine: a snap from 20 metres to the champ, a goal; a few minutes later he marks over two Essendon players and slots his third.

And it wasn’t just the Buddy show. It was a 10 goal onslaught from our champs: Sinclair’s mark and goal were inspirational; Heeney’s snap from the pack was brilliant; Lloydy’s followed in minutes; Joey’s was our seventh for the quarter; Gazza kicks to the man himself and Buddy gets his fourth; Towers marks strongly and kicks his second; and not long before the siren our brilliant captain grabs a mark mid-air and kicks truly from 40 metres. An absolutely remarkable 30 minutes of football and with a 61 point lead at half time it was all but over.

There was an interesting observation from a new-to-the-game onlooker sitting behind us during the main break.

“Why did the Essendon players kick the ball over the line deliberately”, she asked her friend, after four separate out-on-the-full decisions went the Swans’ way.

“They were mistakes” he replied.

“But why would they do that?” she asked in bewilderment.

He had no answer. No doubt the Essendon team and their supporters had no answer either.

Two more quarters were played out, and by the time the final siren had sounded we had increased our win to 66 points.

This was a game played by a team determined to continue its winning ways. This was a team effort, where every single player did was expected of him. They gelled as one, as they have done since Round 7 on Sunday 7 May this year, and that is all you can ask of any sporting team.

***

Two days later and I’m still on the mattress on the floor, but slowly improving.

Tickets have been bought for our game against Geelong at the end of the week in Melbourne.

SWANZ is anxiously waiting for its owner to jump into its comfy sheep-skinned covered seats and for its lone driver to steer its leather-covered steering wheel safely to the MCG on Friday night. It is also anxiously waiting for its trip to Adelaide the following weekend, and as it purrs its way back to the home of footy, flags flying from its windows, it is more than happy to make yet another trip to the G in just under three weeks’ time.

Its owner, however, is taking it just one week at a time, and she simply has to be ready to head off down south by Thursday at the latest! No matter what, she’ll be there to cheer on her Mighty Bloods!

 

Read more of our Sydney v Essendon coverage here.

About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book “My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans” was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

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