WHEN THE DONS PLAYED THE SWANS IN SYDNEY

I felt the sniffle coming on when I woke up on Saturday morning.  My throat was sore, my head was beating, my eyes were slightly watery and my nose was running wild.  It was only the fact that I couldn’t possibly be sick that made me discount the fact that perhaps I was coming down with a cold.  In a few hours I was off to Sydney where I was planning on cuddling up to a schooner or two while chewing the fat with the locals about the following day’s big clash between the Dons and the Swans in Sydney.

To ensure I’d fit into the Sydney way of drinking, I began sampling a few schooners while still in Melbourne.  With my nose now fully blocked and taste buds failing, I got through the first couple with an ease that assured me I’d be right at home in the NSW Capital.

I boarded my flight and began looking around in earnest for a wide eyed Sydney-sider who I could talk footy with. Kristy, a shopping enthusiast from Sydney’s West, told me she’d never been to a game of football.  Furthermore, she didn’t plan on going to a game in the next decade. So, after blowing my nose, clearing my throat and learning about the benefits of flying from Sydney to Melbourne to go shopping for the day, I was able to explain to Kristy that her city’s team were the Swans and that they wore red and white.  She was impressed.  She liked the colours.

Later that night, while watching Aussie Sam Stosur crash to a straight sets loss in Paris, my mate Ricky and I met a group of bankers from Manly who were warming up for the Manly Vs Brisbane game the following day with a few Saturday night schooners.  After telling me I looked sick, Ben, a twenty one year old trainee told us we’d wasted our time coming to Sydney because “the Swan’s won’t lose five in a row mate, the AFL wouldn’t allow it.  Tomorrow’s match will be fixed.  We’re certainties.” Generously, Ben then bought me a scotch to help with my cold and, it would seem, the pain of certain defeat tomorrow.

On the way to the Captain Cook Hotel the next morning, I cleared my head by sampling a $12.95 nose spray, which gave me a new, clear sense of enthusiasm.  Rick and I met another mate Zak at the pub, and with ex Melbournian, Ian, we sampled a few more schooners while Ian told us how Carlton kicked the ball out on the full 47 times in the last quarter of the 1968 Grand Final against Essendon to win by 3 points. In 1969 the ‘out of bounds on the full’ rule was brought in.  Ian told the same story last year at the Captain Cook.  In fact, we went over a lot of old stories at the Captain Cook, including stories of Essendon’s last 4 premierships and the last time we’d all been sick with the cold.

The game was a beauty.  17 lead changes, great goals, tough contests everywhere, schooners of Carlton Draught, beautiful sunshine and sleeting rain.  Marian, an English woman who accidentally kicked over Ricky’s beer at ¾ time, wondered aloud how a team could be called ‘the Bombers.’  “It’s a bit controversial isn’t it?  You can’t just go around bombing everything can you?”  After assuring her that the only thing we were bombing were our chances of winning, she handed me a couple of tissues and suggested that I go and find a seat under cover to escape the rain.

After the game, feeling a little battered and bruised I slowly walked towards Kings Cross with my mate Rick to contemplate the 9 point loss.  When we arrived at an ‘AFL friendly’bar, we were greeted by a big, bushy bearded ex Sherriff from Nevada, Hal.  Hal wondered why I couldn’t speak.

“What’s happened to your voice?  You been hollerin’ all day?”

“Yes, at the footy Hal.  My team played against Sydney and we lost.”

“Oh, you came all the way up here to watch your team and they lost?”

“Yep.”

“And you’ve been hollerin’ all day.”

“I have.”

It seemed Hal was almost on the same page as me now.

“Did they lose by much?”

“By 9 nine points.”

“And you’ve got yourself a cold?  Now you’re all wet. And you’ve been hollerin’ all day.”

“That’s pretty much it, Hal.”

“Why the hell did you bother coming?”

Hal was scratching his beard, a little bemused. The answer, though, was simple:

“Because there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, Hal.”

We then shared a schooner and did what I’d set out to do when I left Melbourne – we chewed the fat about the Dons and the Swans in Sydney.

About Sam Duncan

My name is Sam Duncan, a very passionte, slightly one eyed and mostly optimistic Essendon supporter. Originally from Yarrawonga, the home of the mighty Pigeons, I moved to Melbourne to go to Swinburne Universtiy in 2002. Feeling right at home as a uni student, I stayed for a long, long time, completing an undergraduate degree in media and communications, an Honours and Masters degree in the same field, and finally, a PhD in sport, media and cultural studies. I’m the author of ‘Rolling with the Punches: Tales of an Aussie Traveller’, lecturer in the Bachelor of Sports Media at Holmesglen and boundary rider for AFL Live. I love footy. I love Essendon. Go Bombers!

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