AFL Round 2 – Port Adelaide v Sydney: Is that the best weekend ever?

If you combine a good mate who works in the wine industry, the McLaren Vale and a game of football and top it off with one of the best Swans away performances for some time , what do you get? Possibly one of the best weekends of my life…

The expectation of a good weekend had me up and about far too early on Friday morning. It was certainly still dark at 0545 and I wished I had packed the previous night as I prodded around trying not to wake the house up. My mate Mal picked me up at 0645 and we were on our way. The flight to Adelaide on Virgin Australia was uneventful, aside from having a bloke who was about 150kgs in the seat next to me. I’m not small, (190cm and 120kg) so let’s just say elbow room was at a premium.

Arriving in Adelaide, the weather was far better than the dark murky clouds that we left. Bearing in mind that this was not going to be a weekend for driving, we got a taxi for the 45 minute drive down the freeway to McLaren Vale and onto lunch at D’Arenburg.  A quick catch up with d’Arry Osborn, the family patriarch (lovely lovely guy who was born into the business after his father started the D’Arenberg vineyard back in the 1920’s) and we retired to the terrace for lunch at d’Arry’s Verandah restaurant. A glass of Dadd champagne (Mumm champagne were not impressed with the choice of name – no idea why!!) was the first drink of the day accompanied by some crumbed olives and fresh homemade bread with olive oil.  A couple of glasses of Rousanne and Chardonnay followed as both Mal and I tuck into a beautiful entrée of lobster.  As I write this I can almost feel the autumnal sun streaming onto the terrace and see the magnificent vista of the McLaren Vale vines in the distance.  The weekend was off to a good start.

As the conversation flowed, so did the food and wine.  My main course of lamb shoulder was quite magnificent and by this time we were well into the red and a glass of Coppermine Road Cabernet was a perfect accompanying beverage to an outstanding meal.  Being a sweet tooth, I knew that I was in trouble when the dessert menu was offered.  There wasn’t a whole lot of space left in the stomach, but when you see the desert menu, you realise there isn’t really a choice to be made.  I settled on the Fig and Shiraz Jam filled doughnuts with a glass of sticky (2010 Noble Wrinkled).  It was the perfect end to a fantastic meal which was accompanied by a number of wines from the D’Arenberg range.  Thanks to D’Arcy, Chester, Phil and the rest of the team.  Quite magnificent.

With some time to kill before we caught up with friends for dinner, what else were we meant to do but to either visit another cellar door or two or go to the pub?  We chose the pub and unsurprisingly found barman at the McLaren Vale Hotel more than happy to talk about the game.  Two hours went quickly (Cooper’s Pale does taste better in SA – maybe it’s just fresher??) and the pub got a lot busier as the locals finished work.  Mark Maxwell (of Maxwell Wines) and his partner Bec were our hosts for the evening (and the next day) and Mark came and collected us from the pub.  We went back to his house for a wonderful evening of flowing conversation, a lovely home cooked green curry and a glass or two of the local product, including an 07 Little Demon Cabernet Merlot as well as the always outstanding 08 Ellen Street Shiraz. It’s fair to say that by this time I was beginning to feel the pace of the day catching up with me and I pulled the pin. Mal and Mark continued to talk and got decided that a Johnny Walker Blue on ice was a good way to finish the day. This was admitted as a mistake on Saturday morning. So it was soon time to retire to bed and the thought went through my head of how the hell the weekend could get any better than this.  24 hours later we were going to find out just how much.

Up early on Saturday and feeling better than I deserved, we went into McLaren Vale for some breakfast. With a few hours to kill before lunch back at the Maxwell Vineyard, we took in the Willunga Saturday markets and a drive across to the coast and onto the beach at Silver Sands.  I had a good chuckle seeing a speed limit sign as we drove off the road and onto the beach.  The water was cold.  Very cold.  In fact it was so cold that even standing in the water numbed my legs.  Any thought of diving in and eliminating the hangover with shock treatment was quickly dispensed with on the basis that if I was to die, hypothermia was not going to be the reason.  For somewhere so close to the metro area it was remarkably quiet and unspoilt and a beautiful part of the SA coast.

As we took an indirect route back through Noarlunga back to the Maxwell Vineyard in McLaren Vale, we saw an oval and drove straight into the U16 game between Port Noarlunga and Noarlunga.  Noarlunga U16 look a pretty good outfit and certainly did a number on their local rivals.  We didn’t stay till the end as lunch awaited prior to our return to Adelaide but the result was in no doubt.

Lunch at the Ellen Street Restaurant at the Maxwell Vineyard was the end of the foodie experience, but what a way to go!! It lost nothing in comparison to D’Arenberg the previous day. We started with a stunning Rosé (2012 Molly Rosé) as we enjoyed the surrounding countryside. It’s worth point out that the Rosé is made with Grenache that comes from 88-year-old Grenache vines and as someone who isn’t a massive Rosé fan, it was beautiful.  For entrée I chose a pea and ham broth (I could have chosen the crab like Mal, but the anchovies put me off!!) accompanied with a straight grenache which was a great choice.  As the clock wound down into the afternoon, our conversation started to focus more on the match and where we had a chance of winning.  To be honest, we weren’t confident at all after the respective performances the week before. We consoled ourselves that we’d be happy with a good performance and the result would look after itself.

The main course soon arrived and we both chose Barramundi which was sensational. There are some say that drinking red with fish isn’t the right thing to do.  To those doubters I say that when you are drinking a wine of the quality of a 08 Lime Cave Cabernet and food that is that good, it’s a perfect combination. An interesting story about the naming of the Lime Cave is that it takes its name from a 60 metre long man-made cave, hand-dug in 1916 into the solid limestone hill that is now home to the estate vineyards.

It was soon time to wrap things up, finish off lunch and go to Adelaide for the Swans pre match function at the Cathedral Hotel.  Quick check into the hotel on Melbourne Street and a 15 minute walk to the pub for the pre match function where we caught up with friends who had also made the trip across.  The function was enjoyable but came and went without fanfare. The wallet also got a surprise to the tune of $8 schooners of beer…

We walked the short distance from the pre match function to the ground, got our tickets and walked into the magnificent stadium that is the re-developed Adelaide Oval.  The comparison between being at the game last week at ANZ (which is the most soul-destroying place in Australia to watch sport of any kind) and Adelaide Oval was the starkest of contrasts. The Swans came out early and I wasn’t overly surprised to see Goodsey wear the green vest. We seemed to wait longer than normal for Port and the explosion of noise when they came onto the oval did not auger well. It was ramped up further by fireworks and David Koch and the Farris brothers from INXS leading a stadium wide rendition of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. Little did they know that was precisely what would happen. All credit to Port for creating the most intimidating atmosphere I have felt at an AFL match. Brilliant stuff. If we weren’t worried before the game, we were now. Must get off to a good start.


The first 20 minutes are reminiscent of finals football at its best. Choking pressure, tackles flying in and hard, accountable football. Both teams are playing with a spare man meaning that worthwhile forward entries are hard to get and harder to convert. We snag the first goal from Lewis Jetta (gee, he played well) to settle the nerves before Schultz pulls out a cracker to goal from a tight angle.  We continue to gain the ascendancy through the first quarter and Jarrad McVeigh is having a day out. We missed him so much last week and it really shows with the amount of time he seems to have on the ball when everyone else is rushing to dispose of the ball, often poorly. Quarter time comes and we are in front by a couple.

The 2nd quarter sees the pressure lift as Port continue to attack and the Swans defence holds. We urge the boys from our nose bleed seats in the Gavin Wanganeen Stand to hold firm and not allow Port back-to-back goals as we win the quarter and extend the lead to just over 3 goals. We dominate the 3rd quarter and the game is almost over. Port fans start to leave and are wished a safe trip home by the Swans fans they pass. Watching the game live you never feel safe as it didn’t feel like it at the time but the rest of the game followed a script that the Swans wrote. Choking pressure, turnovers and a bit of Buddy brilliance. We win the game by 8 goals and it’s a perfect end to a perfect weekend. I’m about as happy as I can be and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face with a sledgehammer. These 4 points will be very important later in the season as not many teams will come to the “Portress” and win.


In looking back at the game, the turnovers by both sides were frustrating and the glass-half-empty view is that I can’t help feeling that a better side than Port would have made us pay. Then I take the glass-half-full view that we didn’t allow them to make us pay. Either way, we need to stop giving the ball away cheaply!! Tippett and Pyke dominated the hit outs and nullified Ryder’s influence, although there is no doubt he’ll get better and far more effective once Lobbe comes back. I’m going to put my money on Heeney for the Rising Star right now. The Swans don’t hand debuts to anyone unless they deserve it and the fact that he has earned his placed in the Swans team after just being drafted means that kid is a superstar in the making. Dean Towers is another one who is new to the Swans senior team but is now in his 3rd year at the club. He has got a bit of X-factor about him and I can see him filling a very important role during the season.


The game ends, and “Cheer Cheer” is belted out by the travelling fans. Teddy is chaired off after his 200th and we retire back to the pub for a de-brief and a couple of beers before walking back to the hotel and hitting the sack with a contented feeling that you can only get from having had one of the best weekends ever.


Port Adelaide    1.1          4.2          6.5          6.8          44

Sydney                 3.1          7.4          11.6        14.8        92



3. McVeigh

2. Kennedy

1. Smith


About Stuart Hunter

Swans tragic since 1989 and father of two boys. Would rather forfeit a game than travel to ANZ Stadium. Also passionate about most other sports involving a ball.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Sounds like a normal weekend for most Adelaideans Stuart.

    And it seems like your glass was full, then empty, then full, then empty again most of the weekend.

  2. Stuart- that’s a superb weekend you’ve designed and executed!

    Your Swans were a cracking cabernet sauvignon, and Port was a flat can of hot West End Draught.

    Thanks for that.

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