AFL Round 9 – Collingwood v Sydney: Starting the mower

By Don Meadows 

It’s never an issue from late winter through to late autumn. I prime the carburettor, grab the rope and pull, and away we go. But the first mow of the new growing season can be a pain. Prime the carby, pull the rope, nothing. Repeat. Close the choke and repeat. Open the choke and repeat. Try kick starting. Retreat to dress wounded toes.

Sneak up quietly, grab rope and pull. Cough, splutter. Ah, signs of life at last. Try again. Cough, cough, motor catches, revs rise, then stop dead. Repeat.

Up to Friday 24 May the Swans’ season had been like that. Lots of cough and splutter, the motor occasionally catching, accompanied by John Longmire repeatedly enlarging on the importance of playing four quarters of footy. But that night the Swans finally roared into life and mowed down the Magpies.

True, there was some initial coughing and spluttering. Jude Bolton burst into the clear with the ball out of a pack and kicked low and straight, but Collingwood ran the ball down as it was crossing the line: one point. Hannebery took a clean mark at an angle about 30 metres out: behind. Cough. An uncharacteristic McVeigh fumble saw the ball end up marked by Witts: goal to Collingwood. Splutter. Cloke started in ominous form, the double tag deployed but not in position smartly enough to spoil an accurate long kick from Pendlebury: goal. Cough, splutter and mutter enviously. Maybe some day we will have a genuine power forward like that …

Not long after, Mike Pyke marks and goals. That’s more like it. Two more behinds to the Magpies, partly due to a poor kick by Lynch, partly because the Sydney midfield is lifting and the defenders are working hard. Morton intercepts the ball, clears it to O’Keefe who kicks long to Ben McGlynn for a great mark over a bigger defender (all defenders are bigger than Benny) and goal.

The revs are building. Goodes, busy in general play, kicks to the left of goal. A few minutes later he marks and kicks to the right of goal. Two behinds, finding his direction. Reid seconds the motion.

Krakouer to Blair to Cloke who marks strongly again and goals. Pies lead 20-17, but my nerves have settled, the run of play is favouring the Swans and that turns out to be the last time the Magpies are in front.

Bird marks out on the end of the arc, another bird runs through the protected zone and the kick is moved to point blank range. A few minutes later Hanners goals out of a scramble in front of the posts, the Swans’ lead goes to 29-20 and they stop for a quick tune-up from Horse.

In the next two quarters the Swans kick seven goals to Collingwood’s one, scored by Cloke in Q3. The spluttering skills of previous matches are largely replaced by rapid-fire precision handballs and beautifully weighted kicks. For me the highlight comes in the third quarter with just under four minutes on the clock. Luke Parker kicks forward and across into the right of field where Jetta is lurking, covered by Maxwell who is well aware of the danger. Awareness is no match for sheer speed; in three steps Jetta is past the striving Maxwell, gathers the ball, runs to the arc and kicks. We stop screaming and collectively will the ball to dip right. It does. Goal, and jubilation. Tuned by Horse and attuned to each other the parts have cohered into a single unit, recognizable for the first time this season as the reigning premiers.

Even the departure of as vital a component as Sam Reid with a torn quad was not enough to stall the motor. He was replaced by Jed Lamb. Don’t be misled by his name; he immediately launched into his celebrated imitation of a hunting wolf.

In the final quarter the teams went goal for goal but Collingwood couldn’t bridge the gap. Ironically, in a game that will be remembered for Adam Goodes’ stance against racism, I doubt most of the 65,000 or so people present were even aware of it until they found it in the media the next day, partly because by the time the incident happened, a few minutes before the final siren, many of them had left.

Where had this resurgence in form come from? There emerged a theory that transport had something to do with it. The team bus had broken down and some of the players caught taxis to the MCG. Others followed suit but their taxis became stalled in traffic, so the players abandoned them and boarded a tram without benefit of Myki. They were very amused, and it lightened the pre-match atmosphere no end, lowering the tension but not the desire. And could these happy parts be joined into one cohesive motor? One Horse power was enough.



  1. Tasman Hughes says

    The mower is well and truly going now. When we have Kurt Tippet up forward as well we’ll be unstoppable. The weeds that stand in the way of the sydney mower had better watch out!

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