AFL Finals Week 2 – Sydney v Carlton: A blue road trip

As a Blues supporter it has been the ultimate rollercoaster ride this last month.  Having lost the virtually unlosable game to Essendon that threw us out of the finals, to winning the unwinnable game against a parochial Port Adelaide and therefore be moved into the finals on a technicality, before overpowering and outrunning the tigers in the Elimination Final, you begin to think anything is possible.

It is perhaps for that reason that I decide to follow up my recent road trip to Adelaide with one to ANZ stadium, this time with my sister and a mate in the car, to see us take on the reigning premiers on home turf.

The Swans are our bogey team but we don’t even consider that because we know we shouldn’t even be there.  We joke amongst ourselves as we drive up that we know we’ve had an average season, will turn over large chunks of our team, but incredibly are over 2 games away from a Grand Final.  We know this is folly talk, but we don’t care as we feel invincible.

Half way there I receive a text from a Sydney friend stating “It’s not too late to turn back”.  Hah!  We respond triumphantly: “Steamrolling in for a glorious victory”.  Time will clearly tell.  We also stop at a Gundagai roadhouse, where I respectfully order a Nick Duigan subway meal to the bemusement of the assistant.

After counting an array of road kill on the Hume (10 kangaroos or wallabies, a few foxes, a wombat and assorted animals that are so disfigured we couldn’t work out their species), we finally arrive at our Hotel next to Central station.   It’s about 5.30 pm so we move to the hotel bar for a couple of quiet ones.  The bar is classic Sydney.  A large screen tv surrounded by banners of the competing teams, with a small tv in the background being set up for the AFL, but only when the game starts.  I ask the others who they think will be ahead at half time and at the end of the match, and we all agree that Carlton will win purely on the basis we can’t say we drove all the way up there and tipped Sydney before the match.

We move onto the train which is an express to ANZ stadium and somewhat surprisingly it is filled mainly with Carlton supporters.  These supporters are typically half-whacked and singing loudly positive songs about Eddie Betts and to my surprise ‘our Mick Malthouse’.  I overhear a quiet Swans supporter say “we’ll have no problems beating them tonight, but we’ll have no chance next week”.  I worry that a sense of perspective is occurring but quickly move on when we see a couple of other supporters we know.

As we enter the arena, we move to our seats in Row 10 (which happens to be 6 rows from the front).  Most seats are occupied by the Red and White army, a few wearing onesie’s, but interspersed are a few wearing blue and those nearby quickly engage with one other.  We learn there’s a family from Colac nearby and a few ex-pats that are supporting the Blues.  It’s not long before the banner finally appears and Carlton’s banner remains full of hope by simply saying: “BELIEVE”.  I’m definitely in the zone and when I read the Swans banner “Thanks to our sponsors for season 2013” I am convinced that they have already conceded the game.

Not long after the ball is bounced and it is like reality hits me all at once.  While it is obvious the ground is a joke, with players slipping and sliding everywhere despite the surface being essentially dry and in good nick, the Swans have come to play and possess the ball much more than the blues and tackle and outnumber at ever contest.  They’re the real deal I think, when I was hoping for a side short of starts and with injury concerns.

I’m momentarily confident things change when Tippett and Mitchell are subbed off and benched respectfully in the first quarter, but other than Walker, we’re not getting the ball.  Carlton seems to be hanging in there, until Jude Bolton kicks an impressive goal on the siren to cheers of ‘hey Jude’, to regain the ascendency and crowd.

The second quarter was nothing short of dominance by the Swans.  The key moment appears to be when Curnow is subbed off early in the quarter and McVeigh literally is an unmanned sweeper.  The scoreboard continually updates us on his possession – in the first 8 mins he has 11 possessions and at the half he had 20 for the quarter and 25 to date.  Midfielders and key personnel such as Hannebery, O’Keefe and Grundy appear everywhere and Carlton has no answers.  There’s even a questionable goal review that goes the Swans way and somewhat embarrassingly the Blues are only 22 points down at the main break.

We talk amongst ourselves and consider whether we can come back from a 4 goal deficit – again.  Of course we can.  We’re on a roll – Juddy will get them up for it.  They’ll change their shoes and run them off their feet.  Right?

Wrong!

The 3rd quarter is the premiership quarter and it’s all class from the bloods.  5 goals to no score for the quarter breaking the game wide open.  A 9 goal deficit is just too much to overcome in the final stanza.  I feel sorry for the warrior Simpson in his 200th game.  Milestone games used to be a guaranteed win at Carlton but not anymore.

The final quarter is a gentle affair with Carlton kicking 3or 4 quick ones in the first ten minutes, only for the Swans to wake from their slumber and control things for the remainder of the match without actually scoring for the quarter.  We look at each other and my sister says “you know I don’t feel disappointed with this loss” and I think that is a truthful a statement as any I’ve heard.  When you see a quality team, in testy conditions, comfortably defeat a team that is cockahoop with used adrenalin, you soon appreciate the gap that exists between a genuine contender from the pretender.

Overall, I’m happy with the way the season played out but still feel if more needs to be done with the list.  If you speak to a Carlton supporter there will be at least 5 (if not 10) common names to be delisted.  This is where we are now – thinking about spent players and next year.  The Swans on the other hand, continue to Believe.

Comments

  1. Nice one Tony. A bit of an analogy with the roadkill and Carlton, hey? Our day will come, just don’t know when. Let the de-listing begin.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Well Done Tony There have been some outstanding write ups re this Game yours is yet
    Another 1 ! Thank you

  3. Great write up Tony. No sighting of Betts or Yarran hitchhiking back to Princes Park?

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