AFL Qualifying Final – Sydney v Fremantle: Captain Kirk’s homecoming

Brett Kirk is not a Docker. He just doesn’t look right in the purple polo shirt. Since moving to Perth he has taken to wearing thick rimmed, sturdy glasses – reminiscent of the cheap Groucho Marx sets bought for kids dress-ups, minus the nose and moustache. Perhaps a “prop” designed to obscure the eyes that can’t lie to the football world. Just as Bedford and McKenna will never be remembered as Blues, Hawkins not as a Lion and Len Thompson not a Swan, Kirky will always be one of us. TV shots of him alongside the Freo senior coach today belies the fact that he must still bleed red and white.

We spied Kirky at The G on Grand Final Day 2012 whilst the Bloods did their victory lap, wearing the corporate clobber of his TV station employer and feigning disengagement with the celebrations. We asked for a wave and instead he gave us the clenched fist victory salute; in an instant forgetting the commentators code of un-alignment. I’m tipping that a Swans victory by days end today will see him inwardly pleased, whilst feigning purple dismay.

The first Qualifying Final is the second Qualifying Final played. With the Kennett curse well and truly broken, the Hawks have become the first team to graduate to the Preliminary Final and have laid down a benchmark against which all other finalists are measured for a week. My Bloods and the Dockers aspire to the slot on the other side of the draw, with the reward of feet-up for a week whilst their next opponent bruises themselves on the longer journey to a Prelim.

No Johnson, no McPharlin and a plane unfit to fly represent high hurdles for Ross Lyon’s army. A Buddy Franklin match-up with Rossy’s love-child Zac Dawson is beautiful in its contemplation. Swans fan joy at the prospect of a Buddy-bag is counter-balanced by the output prospects of big “Sandy”, little Hayden, the great Pav and returning superstar in the making, Nat Fyfe. For the red and the white the return from Rd 23 “soreness and illness” of five of our best, means that we have a substantially better outfit on the park than when we slipped against the Tigers seven days ago.

The contracted Homebush finals fixture has Swans fans complaining. The ground surface, the train ride from Central and perceptions of a diminished home-ground advantage fuel the complaints. I’m not convinced of the home-ground advantage component of the complaints dossier. Ten years ago we lost a preliminary final at Olympic Park to the rampaging Brisbane Lions after being right in it at ¾ time. I can’t recall a Finals loss since. Freo have not played at the ground since the 2006 Prelim. That reeks of home ground advantage.

Whilst Melbourne basks in early Spring delights, Sydney has turned on another of its seasonal wet weeks. The prospect of more is reflected in a crowd of less than 40 000, that looks even smaller amongst the vastness of this arena. The recipe for a finals atmosphere is missing an ingredient.

Swans success in recent years has diminished the usual sense of foreboding, forged over 4 decades of loving a perennial cellar-dweller. Is this the sense of “arrogance” that I previously considered the high-times domain of Carlton, Collingwood and (lately) Hawthorn supporters, or deep-seated new security in The Bloods capacity to perform in the moment? This security is not shared by my teenage daughter alongside, who opts for a period of “quiet reflection” away from the action as quarters 1 & 2 see us just 5 points to the better at the long break, despite dominating the play. She does not share my confidence that “cousin of Stephen” Silvagni cannot possibly contain Franklin all day and that even though he must be the slowest mover in the AFL, Tippett will eventually relish the fact that he was the lucky guy to get Dawson.

Our best teams of recent years have moved to a forward beat that starts on the half-back line. Malcevski has been the big bass drummer in 2014 and his early loss today has thrown our rhythm. A half-time tweak to our set-up has seemed to put the song back in our game and finally, we have some space. Hannebery, Parker and Jetta are racking up stats and Smithy has serial-pest Ballantyne on a leash. McGlynn and Jack are starting to find more of it and top-off their quarters off with goals, Goodesy chips in for an important one and we are 22 points up at orange time.

That comfortable “I reckon we’re right” feeling is all but upon me when Pav again reminds us all of his skill and capacity. For all of his tenacity and commitment, Ted Richards is not of the class of the the great man. Ted’s “Dustin Martin moment” from the week before flashes before my eyes as goal number 4 for Pav cuts the margin to just 10 points with 18 minutes on the clock.

Enter Lance. Few players have the kick-carry on the run, of the $10 million man. His 60 metre effort over the pack followed by a piercing shot from almost in the stands on the left flank is stuff to sink Hawks fans hearts, who have marveled about his “trademark” goals from that spot for years. Pykey shows unusual coordination to get in on the act and seal the issue from close-in but the match is won and lost the moment number 23 threaded that beauty. Time a-plenty but Docker spirit broken. Kirky’s eyes may just be a-smilin’, behind the Groucho Marx specs.

Final Scores:

Sydney                  13.15.95

Fremantle           10.9.69

 

Votes:

  1. Luke Parker
  2. Matthew Pavlich
  3. Nick Smith

About chris bracher

Known to stare longingly down Clarendon St still wondering how his red and white heroes ever left him, Chris Bracher's pining for his relocated team has been somewhat appeased by recent Bloods glory....but the pain never truly goes away!

Comments

  1. Hayden Ballantyne is in hospital having surgery for a broken jaw. By now he should know better than giving Ross lip at 3/4 time when you’re losing.

  2. A great read, Chris. I concur with your sentiments regarding playing our finals at ANZ Stadium. I was at that 2003 Prelim v Brisbane, and with 70,000 there, it was an amazing atmosphere. Our finals record there is great. Most definitely still a home ground advantage. I would much rather see us sell out the SCG in September though.

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Well done Chris. I, like all Swans supporters hope that we can get Kirky back at the club at some point. Though it seems like Stewie Dew is set up to be next coach after Longy.

  4. Ross Treverton says

    Hopefully it’s shades of 1980. The Swans defeat Richmond in the last round of the season who then go on to win the flag. Kirky in Purple, Bedford in navy blue, Pratty in the blue and red of Coburg – its just wrong….nice article Chris

  5. chris bracher says

    I was there on that day in 1980 Ross. I remember someone spitting on Mark Lee as he exited the ground via the race. Until then I thought that was something that was the sole domain of Victoria Park!
    In the interests of balance ( a foreign notion to us all when in the “moment”), I also get the “wrongness” of the trade of champions at their original club that has benefitted our team….Lockett, Franklin (sorry!!), Fields (WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS!), John Murphy, John Scarlett…..although I have an emotional propensity to forgive if it brings a flag!)

  6. Ross Treverton says

    Funny what you remember from individual games. I can’t even recall Mark Lee playing that day, but I can still see a little known Swan named Mark Fraser doing an absolute number on Kevin Bartlett – well before the ‘tagger’ term was ever coined. I always marvelled at how far Fields could kick the ball when it never seemed to get more than 2 feet off the ground. The ‘wrongmess’ of that trade wasn’t quite so evident in those early games of 1978, it certainly was by the time Daniher had played in multiple premierships and played 300 games. Speaking of the previous owner of the No.12 jumper, Norm Goss in brown and gold with those hideous gold rimmed brown shorts was also a disaster. A true Swan. How did that happen?

  7. Keiran Croker says

    I knew the Daniher trade was a huge mistake from the minute I heard about it. Anyone could see that Terry was going to be a very good player. And we are still paying for it with Joe deciding to go to the Bombers instead of the Swans.

  8. chris bracher says

    True words Keiran.
    And Ross….revenge for the loss of Gossy came in the form of the Hawks taking Stephen Allender off our hands a little later!

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