AFL Round 4 – North Melbourne v Sydney: Memories of old Swans collide with visions of new

by Keiran Croker

The Swans are back in town for the first time this season.  It’s Round 4 and we are off to see them play North Melbourne at the Docklands Stadium.  This is the lot of loyal southern supporters since we headed north to Sydney.  Particularly since the inclusion of the other interstate teams the Swans only get down here five or six times a year.

I think back to when I left school back in the mid seventies and stopped playing football myself (at around 170cm and 60kg there was probably not much of a playing career ahead for me).  I reckon I went to every game at the Lakeside Oval and most of the games at the other suburban grounds on a Saturday afternoon.  The other thing I remember about footy back then was the high marking.  I can still picture Barker, Jessa, Matthews and Greig taking some great grabs at the Lakeside Oval and for us, John Roberts, Max James and Teasdale pulling in screamers right in front of me on the wing. 

So will we be in for some thrilling footy today or a dour tackle fest? After our promising start to the year I am confident of a win.  My mate Geoff has secured some seats in the Medallion Club through his work.  At least at level two you feel close to the game like back out at Lakeside.  And the roof is open today on a lovely sunny Autumn Saturday afternoon.  More touches of footy as it once was and how I like it.

The game starts at a frenetic pace with both tides applying pressure and moving the ball well through accurate foot passes.  Thomas scores a goal for North after a contested mark, then Hale and Mattner score respectively for each team from doubtful free kicks.  North’s captain Harvey is very lively despite being followed everywhere by young Kieren Jack.  For the Swans our running backs Mattner, Malceski, Shaw and Kennelly are getting plenty of the ball and using it well.  The Roos are shading us for endeavour and effectiveness and get ahead, however when Goodesy breaks through the pack at centre half forward in typical fashion and goals on the run we are within a few points at quarter time.

The second quarter proceeds in similar vein with the Roos maintaining a narrow lead.  After a bit of an arm wrestle, a brief flurry of goals follows, the highlight being Harvey’s goal on the run from the centre bounce.  Bradshaw is prominent for the Swans and is taking a few grabs, however the congested Swans forward line prevents us from taking full advantage on the score board as we start to control the ball around the ground.  After some good team play Goodes goals on the run.  He has moved on to the ball which gives an indication of what’s to follow in the second half.  Again there are only a few points in it at the main break.

At half time we discuss Jesse White’s form and debate whether he needs a break in the twos.  He just can’t seem to get into the game.

As the third quarter proceeds the ABC commentators on the radio are enthused about the game.  I agree, it is one of the more enjoyable games I have been to in a few years.  North is taking it up to us, however Goodes has lifted, as has Moore, and youngsters Hannebury and Jetta are having a real influence.  Wells goals from two set shots after nice ball movement by the Roos to give them a mini break, then Mattner runs from half back after being released by some Goodes magic and kicks a bomb from outside fifty.  The Swans take control with the next four goals including a brilliant snap from Hannebury, and just when we have nearly consigned Jesse to the reserves he takes an absolute hanger right in front of us and converts.  I’ll remember that grab for a long time.

The Swans lead by 18 points at the last break and seem to be in control.  North don’t look like scoring in the last quarter and the Swans dominate with Mumford strong in the ruck and Bradshaw catching everything that comes his way.  Braddy finishes with 4 goals and his best performance so far in the red and white.  Jack has managed to nullify Harvey in the second half, while Goodes move on to the ball and Hannebury’s break through best on ground display has been the difference.  We end up winning by 40 points.  Can we afford to leave Goodesy in the forward line for coming games when he can be so dominant on ball?

I miss being able to see my team live on a regular basis.  It is so much more enjoyable, and much less stressful than watching it on TV.  Well the next time we are down here is Round 7 against the Cats.  In times gone by the drive down Geelong Road was considered a long road trip.  With the new bypass in place it should now be a relatively quick drive.  I guess progress and change in so many ways is here to stay.

Next year I am considering taking up Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Rebels memberships so I can at least follow a local team live on a regular basis in a national comp.  At least until the Swans are back in town!

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