Ball bounces and pea blows for Sydney in a tight one

Michael Symonds never gave me much reason to leap out of my seat.

That’s not a knock on the West Aussie half-forward flanker, but with contemporaries like Hird, Lloyd, Long, Bewick et al, there were others that we could rely upon for the spectacular.

But when his banana/checkside/boomerang goal at the Bradman Stand end sailed through, and gave us a two-goal lead, I thought we were home.

Next thing you know, Maxfield was everywhere and then the Sherrin was in the hands of a burly man from North Ballarat.

I didnt hear the siren, but I saw the rest.

I walked out of the SCG like many a fine batsman has walked off it: head bowed. Having said that, I doubt many of those batsman have had to drive back down The Hume with Dad the next day. Not to mention go to school on Monday…

History shows that the Dons finished that game with less than 18 fit players. Thankfully, 15 years later, the AFL has brought in the sub rule. Or, as any Supercoach guru will call it, ‘the bloody sub rule’. Now we can be comforted in the knowledge that if a player gets a heavy hit, and then leaves the ground (hopefully avoiding any breach of the interchange rules), they can immediately sit out the game instead of maybe waiting 20 minutes or so until someone ruptures their spleen, as Lloydy did on that fateful night.

Since then, I’ve been to Footy Park and, last year, back to the SCG. Still no success. Last year’s game was the sort of contest that the Swans loved: tough, contested, and in the middle of July.

With my interstate record sitting at 0-3, I was convinced that my duck would be broken. My traveling companion, Dave (aka The Doff), had been with me last year and as we wandered around The Rocks in the sunshine we saw fellow red and blackers and we knew they felt the same. Fists were pumped, eyebrows were raised and knowing glances were exchanged. Even the customary ‘Gay FL’ crow calls from the no-neckers brought a defiant scoff.

I had been given Homebush horror stories but I must say that the train ride was smooth and I was impressed as we approached the stadium. Having heard it dubbed as ‘just like Waverley’, I was pleasantly surprised by the sight of the homely temporarily-fenced area surrounding the Novotel bar filling the void of pre-match watering hole. It wasn’t quite The Cricketers Arms…but it certainly had West Lakes Shopping Centre covered.

As we took up our seats behind the goals in the ‘opposition fans’ section (for supporters who know the rules), I realised that my ‘travel light’ policy was fundamentally flawed…no hat. Being of complexion as fair as a Dustin Fletcher spoil (and of the great man himself), I knew this could ruin my day. Thankfully, The Doff is of Italian stock and whilst his main talent is to be able to wear novelty Bucks Day attire and still pull it off (hence the status-laden nickname), he can also tolerate an hour or two of sun with minimal discomfort. With my scalp saved (thanks Doff), we were able to enjoy the game.

In the first 15 minutes, it was clear that the Swans were keen. Privately I was hoping that with Captain Kirk leaving the deck that the Bloods Footy may slip from A to B type, but it seemed that Goodes, Bolton, O’Keefe, Jack et al still relished the thought of any form of halt in play.

But then, in a scene similar to the week previous, the Bombers bounced back.

Heppell was gliding across half back, Hurley was being the centre half-forward presence that we all know he will be and Ryder was oh-so smooth. However, as the Bombers kicked 4 goals to 1 in the first, I knew that didn’t tell the whole story. We were outplayed for a lot of the quarter, and I must say, we got a few favourable decisions. A text message from a Sydney friend read ‘did you bring the umps up with you?’. Knowing he was NSW born and bred, I failed to acknowledge the fact he had been won over by the indigenous code and instead just sent one back containing a glib line about dummy half.

As the 2nd and 3rd quarters played out, I gazed in amazement at how many of my boys had found some belief over summer. Tom Bellchambers held his own against Colonel Hot Dog, Heath Hocking goaled on the run, Jobe showed poise in front of the sticks, and Crameri just kept playing like there were cars parked around the fence.

At the last break, as the sun fell behind the fly-half wing stand, I handed The Doff his cap back and we asked each other whether we could do it. To be honest, we thought we could. And we nearly did. As the Swans kept coming, we kept hanging on and with 3 minutes to go, we were still in front. Then, Kyle Hardingham, who now that Cale Hooker has found some poise has become our ‘What’ll he do this time?’ backman, took on one too many and although he eventually got the handball away, was found to be holding it too long. I just can’t wait for the day he becomes a marquee on-baller so he can get away with that kind of thing. Jude Bolton kicked the goal. Of course he did.

As the Chardonnay Sippers started to find some voice (must’ve been a scoreboard prompt), it became clear that we needed a miracle. With one last forward thrust, my man Hurley was able to get his left foot (which is his opposite, though I can see how you’d be confused) to the ball and sent it hurtling towards the goals at our end. As it became clear the ball would bounce near the goal square, and that our number 5 (on the field, not in the box) was leading his man to it, there seemed to me to be only two possible outcomes: goal to Hurley or goal to Stanton. Luckily, our itinerary was tight and didn’t allow any time at Star City, because the ball took a U-turn, Stanton got shoved in the back and it was all over.

Now I’ve always been of the mind that umpires don’t lose you games. If you aren’t good enough to have put a game on ice by the time the game reaches (to quote Sir Alex Ferguson) ‘Squeaky Bum Time’, you’re leaving yourself open to chance. I’ve also heard the conspiracy theories regarding the AFL, the umpires and The Swans. On top of that, many people in football will tell you that if you’re first in at the ball, you get looked after. Furthermore, The Edelstens are clearance kings and pride themselves on being ‘in and under’.

Unfortunately, when you’re in a ground full of opposition fans who are reading their theme song from a scoreboard sponsored by a bank, the aforementioned points are hard to put together.

As The Doff broke from his stylish persona to let the men in yellow know what he really thought, his face turned to a slight shade of crimson. I am hoping that that was merely a result of his genoroursity rather than a sense of injustice.

We left the ground before the players did. We should’ve clapped the boys off, but I was mindful of our 7pm Qantas flight, so we bounded up the stairs and towards the exit. I wasn’t angry, I was just in a hurry. I just wish I could explain that to that toddler from the North Shore who came off second best.

The Bombers were passionate, brave, exciting and very robust, but the Bloods were just a bit better and had done it all before.

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.

Comments

  1. johnharms says

    Andrew,

    Sorry Fate wasn’t kinder with the rsult, and the circumstances which brought it about, but at least you were given some good material! Some terrific lines here (love the line about the walking on to the SCG like many a batsman has walked off) to go on top of the writing from your first piece (loved the parsley line in that one – a beauty). Looking forward to reading more, and would love to hear something of your Uni Blacks exploits if you have a moment.

    Cheers
    JTH

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Hi Andrew, I only saw the last quarter on TV -the first footy I’ve seen for the season I might add. I thought there were some poor umpiring decisions, but as you said – we should have iced it by then. I was pleased to see that the Bombers were kicking the ball when they got it – not wondering, looking sideways,backwards, up in the air etc. The challenge now is to play with the same passion and confidence after a loss.
    I too think Hurley is a beauty.
    Hope your next long trip is a joyful one. Go Bombers!

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