AFL Round 1 – GWS v Sydney: Give Bolton the free

At the start of the last quarter of this opening round fixture I came to the realisation I’d made more effort getting to the game then the Swans were putting into it.

Up until that point I’d relished all the ringing and emailing and cajoling people into going; a necessary shaking off of our collective summer lethargy for Round 1.  Though it was an ‘away’ game at the hideous concrete cavern, ANZ, I hadn’t seriously contemplated not going.  By Thursday morning the offer of half-price tickets sealed the deal.  It’s Round 1, we’re reigning premiers, and in a weird superstitious way I thought by not attending I’ll be dooming our back-to-back chances to go off the rails.

Maybe I should have stayed away because it went up on one set of wheels more than a few times during the afternoon.

Recalling last year’s stand alone game I knew The Enemy would be hard at it. With twelve months of regular campaigning and training under their belt their confidence and strength would naturally have grown.  Even so it’s been hard to develop a sense of rivalry between the two teams.  The PR machine had gone into derby overdrive but those two paragraphs in The Daily Telegraph left no-one the wiser as to what they were gibbering about.  What bridge are we battling over, the Spit Bridge, the Harbour Bridge?  It wasn’t until the Swans issued a deft marketing response from the unlikeliest of sources Josh Kennedy dismissing all this bridge drivel that it became clear someone had established the Anzac Bridge as a demarcation zone.  A dividing line separating the cultured established east from the savage unknown hordes out in the western wastelands.

It made no sense then and still doesn’t but by half time I was taking the rivalry aspect a great deal more seriously.  Our 27 point lead looked edible.  I nervously took my beers back to the seat thinking we could get rolled here.

Other than showing off their beards I couldn’t sense a game plan out there from the Swans.  The first quarter got off to a good start with a goal in the first minute then Kennedy and Mumford getting in on the action too.  Accuracy was a little rusty but we were at least dominating.  Then towards the end of the first a lapse in concentration saw The Enemy accorded capital E status.  Quick ball movement past an outpaced defence gave them at least three chances and only poor inaccuracy spared us.

Asleep at the wheel in the second quarter the Swans careered into a five-goal ditch.  The Enemy were quicker with their attack and vastly more accurate with their disposal.  It took a borderline free on Bolton to stop the rot with a goal of our own.  But from that point on I had to listen to the Enemy supporter behind me shouting out ‘give the free to Bolton’ every time the Swans were awarded one.  It became increasingly difficult to resist a calling to try my hand at some Easter time curing of ‘one possessed by Devils, one which is lunatic.’

Looking at my scrawled six A5 pages of notes I see a familiar pattern to the remainder of the game.  The Swans with a weak start to each quarter followed by a sudden burst of energy.  Lacklustre is one word in capitals.  Uninterested is another.  As a Sydneysider I acknowledge this behaviour from the crowd but not from the players.

The only consistency on show was Razor Ray with his whistle getting a good workout awarding questionable frees against both sides.  I’m extremely disheartened by his slinking return to the oval; it’s the AFL’s knitting needle through the ribs of our back-to-back campaign.  I know I must let such a senseless vendetta go but it’s difficult.  It makes more sense to me than any bridge battle marketing hyperbole ever will.

I shambled out of the game hungry for a better display of footy from the Swans.  One game isn’t any sort of gauge I know but this morning bought the shock news of the Saint’s defeat to the Suns.  If that isn’t a sign that more effort is required I don’t know what is.


  1. Richard Naco says

    It was a pretty patchy sort of game, played once more in the large and fairly quiet cocrete box/ atmosphere free zone that is ANZ. We actually sat next to the Sydney cheer squad this time round (a pathetic attempt on my part to secure some Frequent Family Points after my Swan leaning wife pointed out that we’d sat with the GWS people for both games in 2012). And even in that vast sea of red – Swans’ fans outnumbered the Orange People by at least 5 or 6: 1 in the 23.5k crowd – getting excited was not a factor.

    Swannie sloppiness meant that they were not leading by 10 goals at quarter time, and an inspired burst of 5 goals in 13 minutes at the start of the 2nd/ 4 actually put GWS in front. Then the natural order of things re-assered itself and the Swans kicked 5 of their own in about 9 minutes flat.

    Sporadic moments of genius from both teams in the 3rd & 4th stanza basically served to further maintain the status quo, and the net result was that GWS actually won quarters 2 – 4 (combined) by a single behind.

    GWS looks a bigger and more imposing team than the skinny lads of their inaugural season, and it was good to see Liam Sumner (one of my three favourite GWS players) put in a great one after missing most of last season with a broken foot. The team is certainly far more offensively orientated than in 2012, and after a really tentative and sloppy first quarter they literally played at the same level as the defending champions.

    BUT …

    The increase in bulk has come at the cost of speed and flexibility for some. Johnno Patton is massive, but he seems to have lost a significant metre in pace as a consequence of the added beef and offers little beyond the ability to lead well. And Dean Brogan is even slower and less agile than ever, and was nailed repeatedly attempting to dodge away from tacklers. He and Jonathan Giles were comprehensively owned by the Sydney ruck tandem of Mumford & Pike in general field play (Mummy, especially, was utterly dominant aerially).

    Game Day organisation was the worst I’ve seen at an AFL game. I couldn’t find a Record being sold anywhere (and saw about 2 in other punters’ hands), and the GWS announcer even got Giles’ name totally wrong & skipped Sumner completely when introducing the home team. Symbolic of the shambles was the fact that the GWS banner almost completely blew apart before their team even entered the arena before the game.

    The Swans didn’t look like champions, but then again, nobody wins it all in March. Like a true bunch of professionals, they did enough to secure the win, and will undoubtedly just slowly & steadily play themselves into form for yet another inevitable return to post season participation.

    So while it wasn’t a great advert for the game overall, within the context of the season the contest actually provided several positive results for both teams. I do hope that the next time GWS host the Swans, they do so at the fantastic Skoda Stadium (so superior in almost every way to ANZ) & that they do so without the lame and utterly misleading ‘Battle of the Bridge’ schtik.

    (For the record: my other two fave Giants are the Billy Brownless channelling Andrew “Sauce” Phillips & Phys Palmer, neither of whom were selected, and Rhys’ career especially now sits in a very precarious position.)

  2. kath presdee says

    Tom, glad to see that some Swans supporters saw Razor as mystifying as we did. When you are bottom of the table you know you get questionable umps, but when you play the defending Premiers, you expect a little more.

    Richard – I also want to play the Swans at Skoda. If we have to play in Sydney in the first round I’d rather play at the SCG. Sure it’s a Swans home game but there’s more atmosphere in a ground of half the capacity and it’s more likely to be in better condition than the turf at the Olympic Stadium. Love to be in a crowd of 25,000 at Skoda. That would be wild.

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