AFL Round 11 – Adelaide v Sydney: Now the boot’s on the other foot

I think I am attached to one of the longest umbilical cords in Melbourne. It is literally a two-minute walk from my place to the 112 tram stop. We ride it through to the end of Clarendon Street in South Melbourne and walk along the Albert Road service road to Eastern Road, turn left and head up to the corner of Raglan Street to The Rising Sun, a local South Melbourne/Sydney Swans stronghold. Depending on the result of the game we celebrate or partially drown our sorrows, walk back up to Clarendon, get back on the 112 and return to the womb in Northcote. No worries about driving through the city, parking or being breathalyzed, and almost guaranteed to sit all the way in both directions. Like the unborn child we get a maximum of input for a minimum of exertion.

And you can meet such interesting people. Yesterday it was a couple of young women who hopped on at Swanston Street and asked us at about Queen Street if this was the way to get to Brunswick Street. We filled them in – right tram route, wrong direction – and they hopped off again with profuse thanks.

Last week it was a lean fellow in well-worn clothes with sad eyes and a friendly face. He took in our caps and scarves and started to ask us what we thought about the Eddie McGuire stuff. We gave our thoughts: the comment was racist but Eddie isn’t, he should engage brain before opening mouth, etcetera. He seemed pleased, and got off at Johnston Street with a big smile saying, ”Well, I leave you with this: Go Pies!”

The Rising Sun was full of happy customers again last evening. The spluttering lawn mower that had finally roared into life and mown down the Magpies and gone on to trim the Bombers seemed to have morphed into a combine harvester that proceeded to behead the Crows.

It was tight to begin: the Crows kicked a couple of behinds that could easily have been goals and although the customers fidgeted we weren’t unduly anxious because it was obvious from the off that the team had turned up to play. Craig Bird, probably the most regularly underrated Swan, took a clean mark in a crowded inside 50 and methodically potted the goal. There was an exhalation of bated breath and from then on the Swans weren’t headed.

It became the most complete performance I have ever seen from them. Up to last September’s second Qualifying Final, Adelaide had the wood on us. One of the questions going into this game was whether we had finally got the monkey off our backs; by the time it ended, the monkey had become a gorilla and was riding the Crows. In the second quarter the scores went Sydney 6.5, Adelaide 2.0; in the third Sydney scored 7.3, Adelaide 0.5. The Crows won the last quarter 3.5 to the Swans’ 2.1, and some fans were miffed that we hadn’t kept going at the same rate. I was happy to take a 77 point win – let’s not lapse into hubris – and happy to go a bit easier in the final quarter; we’ve had enough injuries already without tempting fate, thank you. As it was, Adelaide lost Petrenko with shoulder damage from running into Mummy (that’ll larn him to pick on his own size), but his head connected with Mummy’s face to cause a depressed fracture of the cheekbone that saw him subbed off after the third quarter and will keep him off the field for 3-4 weeks. The Swans sub was Brandon Jack, younger brother of co-captain Kieren, who set up Jude Bolton for another goal within 20 seconds of taking the field in his first senior game.

It is commonplace that games are won and lost in the midfield but I can’t remember when I last saw such a dominant display over a sustained period against a decent quality team. The tackling was relentless, good players were forced into errors (Sloane tried hard, as did Dangerfield, Rutten and others) but they were overwhelmed by sheer speed and brutally efficient tackling, harassing and disposal. In a best-on-ground effort Hanners racked up 28 disposals in the first half and ended up with 42 for the game; his running capacity is awesome. Jack jolted ‘em (nine tackles), Bird blitzed ’em (four tackles, 2 goals), Kennedy killed ‘em, Parker parcelled ’em up. O’Keefe was hugely influential in establishing our ascendancy (28 possessions, 15 tackles). Tom Mitchell, in his second appearance and first full senior game, had 31 possessions, 10 tackles and kicked a goal.

Adelaide coach Sanderson at one point threw away his marker to whoever felt like catching it.

The back six were the best in the business last year and are currently second behind Fremantle. The veterans in Ted, Reg, Smithy and Nic Mal had great games. The no-longer-new boy Dane Rampe has stepped into Marty Mattner’s shoes in one of those smooth transitions we seem to manage. Andrejs Everitt seems to have found his place in the team and had a night out, the highlight a thumping drop punt from 55 metres out that sailed through at behind post height. But the greatest of all was McVeigh, displaying a captain’s guiding mind with virtually impeccable disposal time and again, directing the play like a stage production; he played a superb game.

Some have seen the forwards as the group that needed reinforcements, hence the signing of Kurt Tippett after last season. The problem now is where are we going to put all the talent? As well as Tippett there will be Sam Reid, LRT and perhaps Gary Rohan. In their absence Jesse White played his role with great determination, taking seven marks and kicking 3.1. Adelaide rejected him as part of the Tippett deal; they would have been very happy to have him this weekend. Morton’s goals were pure excitement, none more so than a truly balletic effort out of midair, executed with a deft checkside caress of the ball. Benny was his usual tough, energetic self, Jude placed himself nicely and finished well. And Goodes does what he does best whether it was on the ball, forward kicking or setting up goals, down the back taking marks; he was everywhere. The ruckmen were a constant threat, and while Mike Pyke had a quiet game by his standards, it cost Adelaide; when he went forward they put Rutten on him, a mark of real respect.

Just a wonderful game for Swans fans to watch, and having been there at times ourselves I could sympathize with the shocked Adelaide fans. Their coach Brenton Sanderson did his team an injustice by labeling their effort as insipid; they worked hard, never gave up and got a goal or two back in the final quarter when the Swans’ pressure eased a little. They will do better, but Sydney played a level of football that would win a premiership almost regardless of who they were playing. Let’s hope they can reproduce it, preferably on the last Saturday in September.


  1. Ben Footner says

    I was horrified by my teams efforts on Saturday. I thought we were beyond performances like that, but obviously not.

    A nice article in the local rag yesterday suggesting that Adelaide fans put a lid back on it after hilighting that the average age of the squad was 2 years less than that of Sydneys.

    As this year continues it’s becoming very evident that while Adelaide has the raw talent, it still lacks the experience to consistently challenge the top sides in the competition.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    Yeah fraid so!

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