Ahead of this week’s clash, this article continues my occasional series on the most memorable wins the Pies have had against each other club in my footy watching lifetime, which began as a toddler in the mid-1960s. Today, I look at the most memorable best wins the Pies have had against the Swans (as both South Melbourne and Sydney). I cover five games, our good record this century against Sydney meaning that I have had to be a bit creative to fit in a win against the old South Melbourne.
I will start with that game, which sits at number five in my list. The Round 19, 1969 game at Vic Park was remarkable for only one reason, the 16.4 (out of a team score of 19.15) kicked by The Sharpshooter Peter McKenna. While the Swans were in eleventh place going into this game, they were not hopeless, having won their last two games, and building towards a finals appearance the following season, their first in 25 years. Indeed, this game was closely fought until half-time.
I was only six at the time, but my father was a close friend of The Sharpshooter and regularly used to drive him and/or his mother, Winnie, to games. It is part of our family footy folklore that in the car on the way to this game, The Sharpshooter noted that he had a niggling leg injury, and that there had been serious discussion about withdrawing him earlier that morning, as there were only two weeks to the finals, and we were likely to have the double chance. Luckily he played, and from start to finish, kicked goals from everywhere. It was a career-high tally for him, and his 84% of the team’s goals that day is, remarkably, only 11th in the all-time list (minimum 8 team goals, click here for the list).
Game number four comes from our entirely unremarkable 2014 season. We travelled to ANZ Stadium in Round 2 with our tails between our legs after a first-round mauling by Freo had placed us fairly and squarely under the media blowtorch. The Swans, with their multi-million recruit Buddy, were one of the pre-season flag favourites, but had suffered a shock loss in Round 1 to the Giants.
It was a game aptly described by the Floreat Pica Society’s Andrea McNamara as “ugly, gutsy, often shambolic, unskilled and heart-in-mouth stuff.” Buddy’s opponent for the evening was rookie-listed Jack Frost, in only his fourth game, a match-up marked by a massive gap in experience, pay cheque and some might say class. We trailed narrowly throughout the first half, hanging in there through the superb efforts of new skipper Pendles and Beams in the midfield, and the defence led by the now ex-skipper Maxy and the unsung Frost.
We managed to get our noses in front in the third quarter by virtue of a combination of good old-fashioned Collingwood grit and some brilliance from Jamie Elliott. The last quarter saw a titanic struggle, with scores level with nine minutes remaining on the clock. Bodies were put on the line and Beams, Elliott and Young all converted to give us a much-needed win and keep the media wolves from the door (at least until the second half of that season!)
Game number three was at the SCG in Round 4, 2000. After being wooden spooners in 1999, a refurbished list under new coach Mighty Mick Malthouse had in equal parts shocked and delighted us by starting with three straight wins. I remember these weeks as the most enjoyable period of any home and away season, when performance far exceeded expectation, the latter starting the season at a very low level.
The Swans had also won their first three games. This clash featured plenty of players who once had worn the opposition’s colours – the Swans had Andrew Schauble and Robbie AhMat, while we had Anthony Rocca, Paul Licuria and Mark Orchard, who had been and returned. (Of course our team also featured Paul Williams and Nick Davis who would both become premiership players for the Swans).
This game was a colossal struggle, which we led by a solitary point at the first break before scores were tied at both half and three-quarter time. A draw seemed both a likely and appropriate result when scores were again level at the 29 minute mark of the last quarter. High drama ensued, firstly when Swan Wayne Schwass outmarked Burnsy just inside 50. His shot was accurate and a large pack rose on the goal line as the kick ran out of legs.
Possibly beginning what has since become an AFL tradition, a goal line conference was held, featuring a goal umpire, a field umpire and two boundary umpires. Eventually, and correctly, they decided upon a point. While the conference was in session, Bucks made his way to the goal square to prepare to take what would hopefully be a kick-in. He booted it long and straight up the guts, nearly to the centre of the (admittedly short) SCG, where the crumb fell to Licca, who kicked it to an unmarked Anthony Rocca at centre half forward. With less than a minute left on the clock, Pebbles went back and slotted it through the middle at goal post height. Finals-like celebrations followed the siren (and are worth seeing, with the final minutes of the game here, as well as the match details).
Number two on the list is the 2007 Elimination Final at the MCG, remarkably the first final between the two clubs since 1945. Going into this game, we hadn’t won a final since 2003 and our young team would have to be at their best against a team that had great finals experience, having finished premiers and runners-up the previous two seasons.
A magnificent rundown by Josh Fraser on Leo Barry, and the resultant goal, sparked a huge start for the Pies. We led by five goals at quarter-time, and by six goals early in the second, before the Swans hit back hard. When Jude Bolton goaled after the half-time siren, the margin was back to ten points, and for older supporters, the ghosts of big finals leads lost in the past (the 1970 and 1979 Grand Finals, the 1973 Preliminary Final) were beginning to stir, especially when the Swans kicked the first goal of the second half.
This young team showed it was made of stern stuff and snuffed out the Swans’ challenge both quickly and emphatically, starting with Pebbles goaling from outside 50 to break the run, one of his six for the match. He was ably supported by his young sidekicks Travis Cloke, who was dominant (in what was a Copeland Trophy winning year for him at age 20) and the injury-riddled Sean Rusling, both of whom kicked three. We led by five goals at three quarter- time and never looked back.
This was an authoritative win which established this young team and list as serious contenders both this season and in the coming seasons. My match report for the Floreat Pica Society included:
“The young blokes appeared completely at home in the big occasion, with Pendles again excellent and every week looking like he will be an elite midfielder in the mould of Del Santo, but kicking more goals. Clarke, Goldsack and O’Brien were all solid and Heath Shaw continues to play and look like a bloke who has played 150 rather than 50 games.”
There was a sad aftermath to this win. As Floreat Pica Society tradition dictates, I awarded our best player the (non-existent) medal, which always features the name of an ex-player who has represented both clubs. I awarded the Len Thompson Medal to Pebbles. Sadly, big Thommo died unexpectedly ten days later, just a couple of days after our great win in Perth against the Weagles.
Number 1 on the list is the game at ANZ Stadium in Round 20, 2012. A week before the game it was shaping as massive, with the Swans the ladder leaders, having won nine on the trot, playing the third-placed Pies. It became even bigger when Swanny was suspended by the club for two weeks, for turning up to training suffering the effects of a very big night. The Swans hadn’t beaten us in their last ten attempts, and were also without some talent, notably Jude Bolton (who was replaced by future Pie Tony Armstrong!).
This was a typically tight and low-scoring contest between the teams. The absence of Swanny was exacerbated by Daisy Thomas getting a bad corkie in the first quarter and hobbling off, eventually replaced in the second quarter by sub Alan Didak, who himself was returning from 8 weeks on the sidelines with injury. Dids made his presence felt immediately, feinting to create space before kicking a ripper to give us back the lead just before half-time.
Beams, Pendles and Wellingham all stepped up magnificently to cover our midfield absences, but we looked like we were in deep trouble late in the third quarter when the Swans got out to a 17 point lead, the biggest of the game, which could have been greater if not for their inaccuracy. Goals to Travis, Fas and a ripper by Beams narrowed our deficit to one point at the last change.
We regained the lead early in the last quarter, through Blair, and, when the Swans hadn’t scored a goal for over 40 minutes, looked like we had done enough to get the chocolates. However, when they broke their goal drought, there was only two points the difference and thirty seconds on the clock. Jolly won the hit outs at both the vital last centre bounce and the subsequent one in our forward half, with Beams crumbing to snap a beauty and seal the win on the siren. The Swans of course went on to win the flag six weeks later, and a win away against red-hot high quality opposition in a tumultuous week for the club pushed this win to top spot on my list.
There have been other great wins against the Swans, including the Round 12, 2006 game at ANZ Stadium when we knocked off the reigning premiers by 13 points. May there be plenty more, starting with the clash this week.