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Almanac Books: Extract – My lifelong love affair with the Swans by Jan Courtin

My lifelong love affair with the Swans

My lifelong love affair with the Swans

 

OUR 72-YEAR WAIT IS OVER

We moved to Sydney at the end of 1998. The following year was a successful one for the Bloods, even though we lost the Elimination Final. In 2000 we missed the finals but in 2001 ended up 7th, again losing badly in the Elimination Final, to Hawthorn. We travelled to both games, and although losing, believed maybe that our boys were on the right path.  We had a range of star players in the early years of the 2000s, and making finals fairly consistently gave us all hope. Players such as Paul Kelly, Jude Bolton, Adam Goodes, Leo Barry, Brett Kirk, Andrew Dunkley, Ryan O’Keefe, Tadhg Kennelly, Jared Crouch, Greg Stafford, Nic Fosdike, Darren Creswell, Ben Matthews, Wayne Schwass, Stuart Maxfield, Troy Luff, Daniel McPherson, Brad Seymour and Dale Lewis – to name perhaps more than a few – all played an important part in contributing to our spectacular rise in the years leading up to 2005.

 

With Amon Buchanan, Barry Hall, Adam Schneider, Jason Ball, Nick Davis, Craig Bolton, Lewis Roberts-Thompson, Sean Dempster, Darren Jolly, Luke Ablett and Paul Bevan all joining the club a year or so prior to that great year, was it any wonder that the Bloods spirit prevailed. To say nothing of the fact that our retired champion player Paul Roos had been appointed coach.

 

Missing out on finals in 2002, we played in the Preliminary Final the following year, losing in the last quarter to a rampant Brisbane Lions. We were not disgraced. In 2004 we were 6th and although beating West Coast by 41 points in the Elimination Final, we lost dismally to St Kilda the following week by 51 points in Melbourne. It was a miserable drive back to Sydney that weekend.

 

And then there was 2005! I will never forget it. South Melbourne supporters, Sydney Swans supporters, and the many, many thousands throughout Australia who wanted us to win the Flag will never forget either. It was surreal.

 

Earlier in the year AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou shocked the footy world with the following statement about the Swans’ game style: “I don’t like at all the way that they’re playing football, but that’s just a personal view. I think it would be fair to say in the early part of the season we saw some games that weren’t attractive, and I think they’ve been described as ugly. Unless the Swans change that style of play, they won’t win many more football matches”.

 

The Swans were not pleased, but continued the one-on-one, contested, “unattractive” style, implemented by our coach Paul Roos. By the end of the home-and-away matches Demetriou’s words had become a distant, forgotten memory, and our “ugly” footy was to win us a premiership!

 

We were 3rd on the ladder by the time the Finals were to start, and although losing to West Coast over in Perth by a lousy four points in the Qualifying Final, we had the double chance, thereby allowing us to redeem ourselves the following week. We were to play Geelong and we were the favourites. The day itself had been a fine and sunny one in Sydney and when the players ran out onto the ground in the evening for the game, the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. To everyone’s surprise though, the players were finding it hard to keep their feet and were inexplicably falling over when going for the ball and trying to clear it from packs, resulting in sloppy play and inaccurate kicking.

 

The first three quarters were dismal and before the last quarter began we had kicked only 3.12 to their 6.11. Geelong kicked the first goal of the last quarter and Swans fans were looking worried. Based on what we’d seen so far, how on earth could we kick at least another four goals to get over the line, especially in the slippery conditions?

 

Well, we did! Actually, we didn’t, Nick Davis did! In front of nearly 40,000 people, mostly Swans, he kicked four miraculous goals, all in the last 12 minutes, the last one coming just seconds before the final siren whilst falling over sideways, about 10 metres from the goal, on an angle! The television commentator, I discovered later, shouted over and over “I see it but I don’t believe it!”  “I see it but I don’t believe it!” We were now ahead by three points, and soon afterwards the siren sounded. The O’Reilly Stand, where we were sitting, literally rocked! And, I’m not exaggerating! You could actually feel it moving, such was the excitement and jumping and hugging and screaming from the delirious red and white throng.

 

We watched the replay when we arrived home and found out that the reason for the slippery conditions was because the SCG authorities had decided that the beautiful green turf, on a clear sunny day, needed watering and that the sprinklers had been on for much of the day before the game!

 

Who cared? We’d won, and gone through to the Preliminary Final the following week.

 

I flew down to Melbourne on the Friday morning of the game whilst Marshall stayed in Sydney to look after the Gallery. We were to play St Kilda that evening and they were definitely the favourites this time.

 

It was a see-sawing game. We led by two goals at quarter time, four points at half-time and the Saints came back in the third quarter to lead by seven points at the last break. The last quarter, whilst nothing as dramatic as the Nick Davis quarter the previous week, also had to be seen to be believed. It was an avalanche of goals from our champions. After our captain and full-forward Barry Hall, affectionately known as “Bazza”, kicked our fifth for the quarter I suddenly jumped up on my red and white cushioned seat, almost falling over, and blurted out as loudly as I could “Go the Mighty Bloods, I love you all my beautiful Swannies”, to the embarrassment of my sisters, brother and nephew.

 

We then went on to kick a further two goals. Our 7.0 to their 0.4 in the quarter guaranteed that our 31-point victory would get us into the Big One again – that last Saturday in September!

 

Our assistant in the Gallery worked the full weekend for us whilst we drove to Melbourne. Everything was about football: attaching flags to the car and seeing them wave proudly and defiantly along the Hume Highway on the way down; the Parade on the Friday; wanting to stay adorned in red and white throughout the night; dressing completely in red and white and having my face painted at the ground the following morning; finding our seats behind the goals on Level 2, surrounded by Swans supporters; enduring the West Coast supporters sitting in the section next to us; and simply waiting for the players to run out onto the ground, and for the game to begin.

 

That game between the Swans and West Coast was one of the most spine-tingling Grand Finals in the game’s history, but as the siren went, in some ways it was like a dream. I remembered Amon’s goal to put us in front in the last quarter; Kirky’s outstretched cramp-inducing horizontal diving mark; the West Coast player, running to scoop up the ball – mere metres from their goal, and leaving it behind; Leo Barry kicking out from a point, only to be marked by Dean Cox; Cox kicking it forward with the clock on about 32 minutes. And then Leo. Leo Barry and that mark!  Of course I remember that! That amazing mark will go down in history as one of the best and most important marks taken by any player, anywhere, ever! Ever!

 

It might have been like a dream, but it was real and it had finally happened! We watched the players receive their medallions. We saw Tadhg do his Irish Jig. We heard our spiritual leader Kirky declare, “This is for the Bloods!” And we cheered, with tears pouring down our cheeks, when Roosy shouted into the microphone: “For the people who have waited 72 years for South Melbourne/Sydney Swans to win the premiership, HERE IT IS!”

 

We rejoiced with the players doing the lap of honour with the premiership cup held aloft, and we simply shared the love that was being shown to everyone decked in red and white.

 

To this day I can still see the tears in the eyes of thousands of Swans supporters. We hugged complete strangers – in the stands, outside the MCG, in the streets; at Punt Road after the game; walking to the hotel at midnight, and at breakfast in South Melbourne the next morning still decked out in red and white. We were all in footy heaven. We had triumphed. We tried to make it last and hoped it would never end. We were ecstatic and almost in disbelief – it had finally happened after not many years shy of a century.

 

I think I could have died happily that night, with not a regret in the world!

 

 

My Lifelong love affair with the Swans by Jan Courtin, self published.

A donation of 10 percent from the sale of each book will be given to the GO Foundation, a charitable organisation established by Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin to provide Indigenous children with scholarships to quality schools.

 

To purchase a copy, visit: www.myswansloveaffair.com

 

Almanac members get a discount, a good read for not just Swans fans but anyone who understands the passion that we carry for our colours.

Comments

  1. Neil Anderson says:

    Ironically the 2005 Swan’s ‘Here it is! Grand Final was the template victory after the drought win that gave me hope the Bulldogs could one day do the same.
    On Saturday of course I will be hoping the Bulldogs can do it even better than the Swans. As I have said previously, I have reasons for not wanting just about every other team to be our opponent except the Swans. Maybe it’s because we were regular cellar- dwellers together when we were Footscray and South Melbourne.
    Grand Final day 2005 was the day I received a call from a theatre company in Melbourne saying they were going to perform my first one-act play. So it was a joyous day all round, with news of the play, just ahead of the Swans break-through in the happiness stakes. Sorry Jan.
    I’m sure we will be still communicating after Saturday whoever wins and I know you will eventually understand my joy if we win, after you have experienced that same feeling in 2005.

  2. Neil our collective hearts go out to you and Bulldog fans, we can empathise with your history and if there was any club I would want to win as much as the Swans it is the doggies. Fate has dealt this cruel hand.

  3. Neil Anderson says:

    Thank you davep.

  4. jan courtin says:

    Hi Neil
    Of course I completely understand your sentiments. Being around the same age and having gone through similar “cellar-dweller” status for all those long years, I honestly want you to experience the utter joy and happiness of winning the big one. HOWEVER, there is really no need to say more is there?! I just hope you do it one day soon when the Bloods aren’t the opposition!

    Were you successful in the ticketing ballot?

    Thanks
    Jan

  5. Neil Anderson says:

    Hi Jan
    Four days out from the GF and it is no wonder we are tensing up about our two teams. Any other opposition and we would be whole-heartedly wishing each other all the best.
    Friends and family have been asking me how I feel about the big match on Saturday. I have been telling them that I was more concerned about playing GWS, and whatever happens from now is a bonus for the Western Bulldogs.
    I made a decision to watch the GF at home if the Dogs made it. I’m sure you are thinking that is as weak as after all the miles you have travelled in the SWANZ,, but for family reasons and pure logistics from here in the South west of Victoria, I decided to watch it in the comfort of my lounge-room.
    I will travel down to the Whitten Oval on Sunday if the Dogs win to be part of the celebrations.

  6. jan courtin says:

    Of course I don’t think “it is as weak as”, Neil, everyone’s situation is different. You mention tensing up before the game. One of my many sisters, who is also a Swan, just happens to really like the Bulldogs, and has for many years. One of her former partners was a doggies fan. She was really barracking for the Dogs on Saturday against GWS but then felt torn about how she would feel during the Grannie.
    “No such thing” I retorted, slightly surprised!
    After much discussion, I asked her a very simple question:
    “Which would evoke the greater emotion: The Swans winning or the Dogs losing?”
    “Impossible to answer”, she says.
    This banter continued for a few minutes, me simply refusing to believe her replies and she coming back at me with “It doesn’t always have to be black and white.”
    “Sorry, dear Sister, it’s always black and white with your footy team!”
    Then I asked her: “Right, scores are level with 30 minutes on the clock, Swans kick a point, siren goes – are you happy or sad?”
    She still wouldn’t answer. However, at one point she said “Well, the Swans have won a couple recently……” So I then KNEW!!
    Bloody hell!! I can’t believe we have two traitors in the family!!

    Thanks
    Jan

  7. Neil Anderson says:

    Wow! That was a real philosophical grilling for your poor sister. Glad the truth came out. Her partner must have really trained her well not to crack under questioning from her sister. I half expected you to ask her if a tree fell over in the woods and no-one was there to see it happen…did it really fall over?
    Speaking of family, my wife has never been interested in football and over the 45 year journey there has been lots of jokes and jibes about her husband being such a diehard footy fan. One of the reasons I didn’t join the rush for tickets for the GF was due to the fact no-one else in my family is interested. Sharyn is always interested in my writing and wants the Bulldogs to win for my sake, but that is usually as far as it goes.
    But on Saturday night she watched most of the match with me ( she said later that she was doing the ironing anyway) and she was making all these comments about the size of the team wearing orange and look at that angry bloke with his eyes bulging out! ( Heath Shaw). It made such a difference having someone else in the room talking footy (sort of) and being almost as excited as me with those last quarter heroics.

  8. jan courtin says:

    That’s funny Neil. I loved Sharyn’s responses to the players, whilst ironing! Marshall at least barracks for the Bloods, but nothing compared to my rants.

    I’ve decided to submit a post based on the above conversation, so your response above would be nice to have there, if you wanted to copy and paste later.

    All the best
    Jan

  9. Got goose bumps, Jan, reading about our wonderful 2005 victory! Great stuff.

    Maybe you could write another book covering 2016 and onwards…?

    Cheer cheer

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