AFL Round 9 – Collingwood v Sydney: A long way from Victoria Park

It’s a pleasant Saturday afternoon at Victoria Park.  I’ve wandered down from my nearby inner city house and have arrived in time to hear the end of the ABC’s Coodabeen Champions live at the ground.  A preliminary game between an Indigenous under 16’s squad and another from multicultural backgrounds is in its final stages .  At its completion the lads recreate the famous scene of 20 years ago at this ground – Nicky Winmar raising his jumper and pointing to his skin declaring to the abusive crowd … I’m black and proud.

These days the ground is remodelled with the old outer southern stands replaced by terraced landscaped areas with bbqs.  Turner Street is lined with renovated houses and a new high rise apartment block overlooks the Falls End at Trenerry Crescent.  The 500 or so spectators comprise a mix of young families from the neighbourhood and traditional footy followers.  The scene is quite urbane and gentrified except perhaps for the keen Collingwood and Essendon fans waiting for the upcoming VFL game.

It’s a far cry from back in 1976 when I first came to watch a game here as a teenager from the outer eastern suburbs.  In those days Victoria Park was an intimidating place to come to, still a working class suburb with a fanatical aggressive bunch of supporters.  That day I was privileged to see my Swans, still South Melbourne then, break a drought of over 20 years and beat Collingwood here in front of a crowd of over 25,000 on a Saturday afternoon.  How sweet …. that memory remains.

These days the Pies play at the MCG of course and games are played at all times over the weekend from Friday night through to Sunday evening.  Last night I was present to see the Sydney Swans again break a long drought and beat the Pies at the G for the first time since 2000.  I was also privileged to see a best on ground performance from one of the great players of this era – Adam Goodes.

The opening game of the AFL’s Indigenous Round attracted over 65,000, the second largest crowd for home and away games between these teams.  This was my first live Swans game for the year having been away overseas for the last few months.  From what I could glean from the internet we have been under-performing lately, while the Pies impressed knocking off the rampant Cats just last week.  I was not sure what to expect.

However, from early the Swans mid-field led by Hannebery, Jack and O’Keeffe dominated and ran hard both ways to control the game.  A well drilled defence with Malceski continually mopping up across half back denied the Pies forwards opportunities and apart from big Cloke they never looked like impacting the scoreboard.  Up forward Reid provided a mobile target until injured and McGlynn and Morton were always dangerous.  And Canadian Mike Pyke provided a good target and finished with 2 goals.

A highlight was Lewis Jetta’s running goal from the 50 metre line leaving Maxwell in his wake after a perfectly weighted chip from Parker.

However it was Goodes down back, up and down the wings and up forward who was the dominant player on the ground.  Finishing with 3 goals, he could easily have had 5 if not for a few early misses, he marked and ran with an energy belying his age of 33 years.  Two premiership medals, two Brownlows, three Bobby Skilton Medals, four- time All-Australian and member of the Indigenous Team of the Century, he is undoubtedly a champion.

Some things have changed over time with AFL footy – in particular the suburban grounds have been replaced by mega stadiums.  Collingwood now has the ability to pack the enormous MCG with their thousands of supporters.   One thing never changes though.  It’s oh so sweet to beat Collingwood anywhere, any time!  And the sight of about 30,000 of the black and white hordes leaving early is a modern day migratory phenomenon .

I’ve been lucky to see Adam Goodes play since the late 1990’s and he has given me great joy.  Given his current form I think he might yet have a few more years to go.  He is a worthy role model for the indigenous lads who now comprise about ten per cent of the overall playing groups.

This great game of ours does reflect our society and deserves to be played and enjoyed by all who call this country home.  Hopefully in my time I’ll have the opportunity to see many more great Indigenous players as well as the next generation of migrants’ kids from African, the Middle East and beyond.

Votes: 3 Goodes 2 Hannebery 1 Malceski

COLLINGWOOD 3.2 3.4 4.5 8.7 (55)
SYDNEY SWANS 4.5 7.9 11.11 15.12 (102)

Collingwood: Cloke 3, Elliot 2, Witts, Dwyer, Seedsman
Sydney Swans: Goodes 3, Pyke 2, McGlynn 2, Hannebery 2, Reid, Bird, Morton, Jetta, Jack, Bolton

Collingwood: Pendlebury, Sidebottom. Russell, Macaffer, Cloke
Sydney Swans: Goodes, Hannebery, O’Keefe, McGlynn, Pyke, McVeigh, Jack, Malceski

Collingwood: Russell (ankle)
Sydney Swans: Reid (left quad)

Collingwood: Ben Kennedy replaced Jarrod Witts in the third quarter
Sydney Swans: Jed Lamb replaced Sam Reid in the third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Margetts, Nicholls, Meredith

Official crowd: 65,306 at the MCG


About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.

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