AFL Grand Final: A strange love story

I think I might be in love with the Sydney Swans. I have never felt this way about a club other than my beloved Richmond Tigers and perhaps North Melbourne. I think they have grown on me. I definitely didn’t feel this way seven years ago not even when everyone was getting rowdy about their drought breaking premiership. They were just another team back then but not anymore. I’m not even sure if I felt this way last week when Lewis Jetta seemed to be quicker than Usian Bolt scoring what is probably the most impressive and gutsy goal I have ever seen. I did get  rowdy that night, maybe that was the start of it. Although they have always been the only interstate team that I don’t hate.

This Grand Final week has felt different to any other Grand Final week that I have ever experienced. I have always loved the spectacle of Grand Final week but it was never anything more than that. I always loved going into Federation Square, that is where these feelings seem to be the most intense. The Grand Final parade no other match gets that, I always dreamed that one of those teams was not in the cars but the Yellow and Black had replaced them but this year I was content with the Red and White being in those cars it didn’t bother me at all. In fact it was blissful seeing the smile on the faces of the journey men, the players who were told they would never be good enough, the coach he could have been the youngest player to kick 100 goals in a season but fell two goals short. A team that was once described by that suit Demetriou as the “ugly ducklings” of the AFL. As I observed from a far I was captivated by the facial expressions of each player, the glint in their eyes and determination in their mind with a cheeky wry smile expressing their disbelief that they had gotten this far. Maybe that was it. Essentially there are three types of players who well don the opera house jumper tomorrow; the recycled player who has been given his second, third or maybe even fourth chance far away from the fishbowl of Melbourne football – Shane Mumford, Rhyce Shaw, Josh Kennedy, Marty Mattner and Mitch Morton. The young exciting upstart who has nothing to lose and can not believe that he has been given this opportunity – Lewis Jetta, Kieran Jack and Dan Hannebery. Those who seem to have the Benjamin Button thing going on – Adam Goodes, Ryan O’Keefe and Ted Richards. I love those players that everybody said would never be good but then go onto prove everyone wrong Ted Richards examplifies this.

I always liked the way that Sydney play their footy but then I used to like the way Geelong played their footy and I don’t mind the way Fremantle plays their footy especially the freakish playing style of Nat Fyfe but I would never profess love to those teams. So what is it about the Sydney Swans that I love? I really can’t tell you, but there is something about the team.

On my way into the city in the middle of the biggest week of the year. As each day wears on the anticipation and the passion intensify. Momentum is building until it all grinds to a halt when the city and if you believe the AFL stop what they are doing and the ball is bounced on Saturday afternoon. The big one.

The passion and anticipation was evident on the train as there was an active young child in a fresh Hawthorn jumper with number 33 on the back. A bloke with a Melbourne beanie on he seemed confused but I was wearing my Tigers beanie the other day so I’m probably confused as well – starvation does that to you. I got talking to an elderly man about the big game this week. He told me about how he grew up around Kew and Balwyn the same areas as where I have grown up. He even knew the names of the streets around where I live. He told me that football was very territorial in those days you either barrack for a team because it belonged to the area that you lived in or because it was in the family and was passed down to you. Usually both. Neither criteria applied for his love of the Swans, he was the son of Lithuanian immigrant parents so there was no team in the family. He explains that he still does not know why he chose the Swans. All his friends at primary school barracked for Hawthorn and Collingwood he didn’t like either of them. Over time his dislike for both teams has only grown stronger. He told me about how every Saturday afternoon his Dad would take him to Lake Oval to watch his beloved Swans play a game that neither of them understood much but there was something that captured him. On the way in he would often meet friends from school. He always loved a chat on the train. They would always get off at Glenferrie station. He wouldn’t except for once or twice in the year when his Swans were playing the Hawks. He told me that he was devastated when his beloved South Melbourne moved to Sydney. This never disheartened him, he still barracks for old South Melbourne in spirit and he loves the fact that new Sydney have always played with the spirit of old South Melbourne.

This week has been different. I don’t really feel guilty about this one but I don’t want Richmond to find out. Initially I didn’t think that I had ever been so detached from a Finals series so this is unexpected. And now I think that I may be in love with a team that is playing in the big one. Maybe it is just lust.

There is something romantic about the Swans. They are the underdog and are probably not even supposed to be here. They have the girl next door appeal but you have never known them before so they seem exotic at the same time. Regardless it is not conventional so you had better keep it a secret. They get that girl next door appeal from their Melbourne sensibility the soul of the club is still in South Melbourne. They still retain the style of Melbourne but are not like anything that has ever been in Melbourne before. This has happened whilst I have simultaneously fallen in love with their old home of South Melbourne and Albert Park. As well as the Esplanade Hotel and surrounding area. I still don’t like the St. Kilda Football Club but “I would give up all that land and all that water for that one sweet promenade.”

In 2008 Hawthorn lost to Richmond and went on to win the Grand Final. In 2012 Hawthorn lost to Richmond…

In 2005 Sydney finished 3rd on the regular season ladder and went on to win the Grand Final. In 2012 Sydney finished 3rd on the regular season ladder…

It is anyone’s game.

About Will Brussen

Will Brussen is a Tiger, he loves the Richmond Tigers and he has suffered. He finds solace in the fact that he did not choose the Tigers, they chose him. He finds comfort in watching replays of the 1980 grand final, on repeat. He finds joy in singing the club song, whenever he wants. He believes that supporting the Richmond Football Club has taught him many life lessons.


  1. All the AFL ever does is bring society down

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