The pleasures of men in white at a deserted SCG

With the razzmatazz of that wretched 20/20 well and truly behind us, what a delight it is to pop into the SCG on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon to see those white-clad cricketers doing what they love most.

Sunday afternoons have become a ritual for us these last few years; no rigidity, mind you, but a ritual nevertheless, especially in the footy off-season.

With Swans cap atop my head (Marshall won’t wear his unless it’s for a game) we stroll through the back streets of Surry Hills, until we reach Messina in Crown St. Joining the queue, the staff usually greet us with “Glad to see you again. The same as last week?” I smile with a “Yes”. Always the same for me: two scoops in a cone. Marshall, not being at all rigid, enjoys the challenge of a different version every single time – in a cup.

I’m not sure if we are the oldest couple attending Messina regularly for our weekly treat, but we seem to have gained a reputation.

Several years ago, before heading off for a footy game in Melbourne, we were told that Messina had opened in Fitzroy. Loving their ice cream, we of course dropped by. Within a few moments, a woman behind the counter called out “Wow, fancy seeing you here, I remember serving you in our Darlinghurst shop all those years ago.” We’d been some of the very first customers when they opened in 2002, but we were amazed that she remembered us. She kindly gave us a freebie that day.

A year or so later, on the eve of our Grand Final in 2016, me dressed from head to toe in red and white, we dropped by again. Another young woman behind the counter exclaimed “Oh, we know what you have, a red scoop and a white one!” (Well, I can’t help it if I like yogurt berry – mainly white – and raspberry). She also had been in Darlinghurst, and remembered us.

Then, just last year, up in Brissie for the Ashes, we gleefully noticed a Messina place had opened up, near our apartment in West End. As we walked in, a guy looked carefully at us for a few seconds and said “I used to serve you guys on Sunday afternoons in Surry Hills”. Simply amazed, I replied “This is so weird, every time we pop into a new Messina, someone knows us”. It indeed was weird.

And that’s not all! For six weeks last October/November we were overseas. Obviously no ice creams in Surry Hills during that time. Upon our return, and yes, on a Sunday, in we went. Again, me with my Swans cap atop the head. “Look, look, guys” one of the staff shouted excitedly to others in the back room, “they’re back, they’re back”!

Astounded that they’d actually noticed our absence, I must have been looking a little surprised, and they both came to the counter and greeted us, one saying “Oh, we were really worried that something had happened to you, we’re so pleased to see you both again”.

They seemed very genuine that we were still alive (but kindly didn’t use those actual words) and we were given extra large scoops that day!

But I diverge…..the men in white at the SCG.

Messina is relevant, however. After our Sunday treat today, we went for a walk across Moore Park to the lake outside the SCG to see how our two swans were going since their cygnets left them a while ago. We often take this walk.

Loud, obnoxious music could be heard from Allianz Stadium where a soccer game was about to commence. It was relentless, and obtrusively loud, presumably appealing to the young of today.

I then noticed an employee standing at the Members entrance to the SCG, 40 metres away, and as is often our wont when something is happening there, we went in.

I hadn’t realised that a Shield game was on today. I knew all about my Queensland’s game at the MCG this weekend, but despite not being particularly interested in the fortunes of the NSW team (unless they affect Queensland’s position on the table), it was indeed a surprise to know we had a couple of hours to spend watching the Blues and the Redbacks, and be allowed to sit in the Members area.

The cricket itself didn’t really matter; South Australia was on the verge of victory in just on three days, but what did matter was the silence. That beautiful sound of silence. None of the jarring ‘thump thump’ crassness that we are subjected to these days before, during and after the bastardised versions of cricket, and football before and after quarters.

All I could hear at the SCG today was the sound of ball hitting bat, the odd cry of “catch it”, and 74 hands clapping on three occasions when the Blues got a wicket. Yes, I counted 37 people sitting in the Members at 3pm. Perhaps some had already left, knowing that their team was to lose the match.

It was simply heaven: just sitting there, reminiscing about the Swans’ heroic victories there these past 30 odd years, watching cricket as it should be played by those men in white, and appreciating that much sought-after sound of silence.

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.


  1. Keiran Croker says:

    Hi Jan,
    Unlike you I do enjoy the 20/20, though I totally agree with your displeasure at the constant noise at major events. The worst I think is the A League soccer, though I have stopped going in recent years.
    The revamped Junction Oval is about to be launched with a Sheffield Shield game in a few weeks time. I’m looking forward to dropping in and seeing some high class cricket, including hearing the bat on ball and the banter of the players. They may even get a few hundred more than the 50 or so who turn up for Shield games at the MCG.
    Looking forward to seeing our Swannies out on the field again!

  2. Jan you timed this match well. You’d not see South Australia win @ the SCG too often.

    Looking at the performance of some of the NSW players who might fancy a recall to the Australian side: Ed Cowan, Moses Henriques and Peter Nevill, none did their chances for a recall any good.

    That Nick Winter in his second game for the visitors did well, picking up 10-109. You might have seen the beginning of a champion bowler: maybe.


  3. Nice to hear from you Keiran! Enjoy the cricket at Junction Oval. Any we might run into you at Ethiad for our first game against the Dogs in April. Cheer cheer

    And yes, Glen, none of those big names in the NSW did enough to prove themselves worthy of a recall, from what I’ve read. I didn’t see any of Nick Winter’s wickets, but I was impressed by Mickey Edwards – the cult hero at the SCG in the Test against Pakistan in 2017 – and his two wickets in the latter stages of day three.

    In retrospect it was good NSW being beaten (usually like them to lose anyway!) as it helped my team retain top position. Talking of such, why on earth in a four day match would a team bother accumulating over 400 runs, knowing that in all likelihood it will end in a draw? As in the Qld Vic game. Bit of a silly thought really, come to think of it; they obviously would be hoping to get the other team out for much less, unlike what happened at the MCG last weekend.

    Unfortunately Qld isn’t playing in Sydney this year. We have to travel to Woolongong in March for their Shield game there. Thanks

  4. I know zip about cricket. But I can hear the sound of bat hitting ball on cricket pitch. A really rich yet deep and well-rounded clunk – I can still hear it from childhood!

    Onya Jan and Marsh! My Messina favourite is chilli chocolate!

  5. That is one flavour I could NEVER even imagine eating, Jude. And I’m not just talking about the chocolate!

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