A new deal, a wedding, and the football

Yesterday the AFL signed away their television rights for 2012-2016. They will receive $1.25 billion from Foxtel for the rights to broadcast every AFL game live on Fox. It’s a win for the X% of the 30% of Australians who subscribe to Foxtel and are interested in the game. For everyone else, well there’s a Royal Wedding on tonight.

That’s not entirely true. I’m not disappointed about the deal. Minimum of four live, free-to-air games a week is plenty. And NSW did fair better than Victoria – they only get three live, one delayed on free-to-air (they’ll be asking: who’s game is this?).

What is true – and every media outlet everywhere has been reminding us all week – is there’s a Royal Wedding on tonight. They clearly didn’t factor in the Swans Carlton match when they chose a date. Sorry Wills and Kate.

It’s my first time to the SCG to watch the football. I’m travelling from Wollongong with my “colleagues”. We’re AFL development officers. Or, at least, they are. I’ve had two shifts. We’ve been invited to see the game for free providing we attend a meeting beforehand.


Our “boss” Dave Johnson (old guy, didn’t play for Geelong) is driving. He holds court before we pick up our final two passengers at the bottom of Bulli pass. They’re a couple of uni students/footy players/surfers – Connor and Varity. They squeeze in beside me in the back seat of Dave’s leather infused jeep. Sitting in front of me is Mark Gillespie, a 44-year-old U12s coach who speaks with a deep labourer’s prosody.

“Are we there yet Dad,” Variety says smartly as we pull onto the highway. She’s right; it feels like we’re kids on a family outing. Just quietly, I’m already excited.

The dense Sydney rain has only been falling for an hour but it makes the tyres go swoosh as we catch the evening tide through the shire. Traffic isn’t bad. Friday night is in the air. Most cars are willing to let cars through.

When we arrive the black pavement is shiny wet but it’s not raining, although my breath-fog is getting thicker.

“Perhaps it’s the weather,” Dave says, noticing the lack of staff here.

There’s around 20 of us.

“We were expecting about 40.”

When it’s clear there’s no more coming, we’re ushered into a lecture theatre by a heavy-set bald guy in a suit and goatee named Anthony. Everyone instinctively takes a seat at the back – there’s a bit of jock in all of us. Anthony stresses the need to communicate. He does this by communicating the need to communicate either by email or over the phone. “Just communicate,” he says.

The rest goes above my head and I feel a bit out of place. Once we get our tickets and meal vouchers the excitement returns.

It’s raining when we leave the theatre. There’s a bit of a walk to get to gate E and not much of it is under cover. We walk quickly. It’s dark now and there are plenty of people moving outside the gates. Again, if you’d lost your calendar, you would still know its Friday. Everyone’s just happy. People mingle under the old wooden pergolas outside the SCG gates. The voices form into a hum as I walk faster still. I know that if I get soaked now, there’s a long way back to comfort.

Rain falls and is charged by the floodlights which are spaced apart, creating a sort of film noir effect. It makes me feel like I’m in a 1930’s documentary. I hear a shout from my left: “Record, get your Record.”


I’m brought back to 2011 by electronic beeping as people move through the turnstiles.

With an hour until game time, Mark and I decide to grab a pie. It’s like a different currency exists in here. People are happy to pay $6 for a beer. I remember something else Anthony said in the meeting: “We can get free tickets like that; you just have to let me know.” He was talking about enticing people into turning up to a game. That must be what people are paying for with food, I think.

Varity, Connor and Dave catch up with us at the double siren. Although she’s the only girl in our contingent, Varity doesn’t seem out of place at all. She played footy with the boys’ right up until U17s when, halfway through the season, the AFL changed the rules about girls playing footy. Her team was threatened with a $200 fine and five premiership point deductions per game, if she was allowed to play. Her team remained righteous for a few rounds but she decided to quit because it wasn’t fair on the club. She was gutted but is still in love with footy.

The rain plays a consistent role all night. When the groundsmen remove the centre square cover, a large puddle spills down the length of the cricket pitch. Oops.

Both teams are slow to adjust and could’ve benefitted from doing away with out-in-front marks.

The Swans do it better for the first half. Mumford’s huge frame is ubiquitous. Tadhg Kennelly’s return is quiet, but solid. But the in and under of Kieran Jack, Jude Bolton and Benny McGlynn prevails as they take a first quarter lead. It’s scrappy but I’m loving it.

In the second quarter we’re all waiting for the Adam Goodes’ impact but it doesn’t come. In the week of the ANZAC it seems that age is wearying him. But although the Swans dominate play, a scorecard of zero goals, six behinds means the Blues are able to narrow the lead to two points at half time.

Our seats are just under cover – my knees are periodically feeling the cold sting when the wind turns and brings the rain down on an angle. So I decide it’s time for a hot chocolate. Waiting in line at Gascoigne’s, a restaurant under the O’Reilly stand, I notice around thirty people gathered around a TV. It can’t be, I think. Surely not. Sure enough, it’s the Royal Wedding. I find it hard to believe that people are inside the SCG on Friday night gathered around the Royal Wedding. Mark, Dave, Connor and Varity share my disgust. Although Connor gives Varity some lip because she wants to know what Kate’s dress looks like.

The rain has eased and the Carlton momentum shift is halted as the Swans stretch their lead by two goals. The Swans are stunned however as they are strangled by the Blues and a lone Blues supporter behind us is inspired to belt out a song, to the tune of ‘Comin’ ‘round the mountain’:

“It’s all gone quiet once again,

It’s all gone quiet once again,

It’s all gone quiet,

It’s all gone quiet,

It’s all gone quiet once again.”

Kieran Jack did an excellent job tagging Judd in the first half but Judd has seemed to get free since half time. You can sense something coming.

Judd’s new found freedom allows him to prove why he was awarded the 2010 Brownlow. He just keeps winning clearances. Eddie Betts capitalises on this by kicking three straight to take the Blues into the lead for the first time, 51-50. They go seven points ahead when a controversial 50m free is given from the bounce following an interchange infringement. How hard is it to change players! Steam rises from atop the stadium, near the coaches box, into the wet night; it could well be from John Longmire’s ears. The Swans later say they believed they had five on the bench when Adam Goods came off. The consequential goal is an important one but not the only reason Longmire would be unimpressed. The AFL will investigate the infringement.

Mumford kicks a last minute goal and its back to a point. But the Swan’s goalless second half looks to have hurt them.

Fired up and ready for an exciting final quarter, the crowd gets vocal when the umpire throws the ball up. A six year-old is in tears in the row in front of us. Perhaps he knows more than we do (although, it could be a hot-chip related issue). A red and white clad lady sitting next to them starts to get annoyed by Sydney’s waning control. She’s entertainingly irked by the littlest things – especially so when Carlton supporters celebrate their team’s acceleration. They wave goodbye to Swans fans, who are contemplating whether they should’ve watched Wills and Kate instead, as the Blues race to a four goal lead. A few Swans supporters remain hopeful when the outstanding Benny McGlynn and Shane Mumford score consolidating goals. But it’s too late and the Blues win at the SCG for the first time since ’93.

Score Board (from AFL.com.au):

Sydney Swans    5.2    5.8    8.8    10.11 (71)
Carlton        3.1    5.6    8.9    12.15 (87)

Sydney Swans:
McGlynn 4, McVeigh 2, Mumford 2, Moore, Jack
Carlton: Betts 4, Garlett 2, Walker 2, Waite, White, O’hAilpin, Joseph


Sydney Swans:
McVeigh, McGlynn, Kennedy, Hannebery, Mumford, Bolton
Carlton: Judd, Betts, Jamison, Scotland, Ellard, Gibbs

Sydney Swans:
Heath Grundy replaced in selected side by Mike Pyke
Carlton: Chris Yarran (hamstring) replaced in selected side by Dennis Armfield, Shaun Hampson replaced in selected side by Setanta O’hAilpin

Sydney Swans:
Jesse White replaced by Andrejs Everitt in third quarter
Carlton: Aaron Joseph replaced in Dennis Armfield in third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Chamberlin, Jeffery

Official crowd: 28,081 at SCG


  1. John Butler says

    Keiran, I like the way you captured the setting of the evening.

    As a bluebagger, I enjoyed the game even more. :)

  2. What’s wrong with Goodes? He looked completely disinterested. And no second efforts at all.

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