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Round 4 – Western Bulldogs v Sydney: That was a tough one (what a relief!)

Exiting the check-in security a few morning’s back, at Sydney airport, on our way down to Melbourne, a friendly, European-accented older man came up to me and said, “Excuse me, you remind me of Bette Davis”.


I was amazed!


“That’s just what so many people told my Mum!” I exclaimed.


“She was a great actress” he replied, and gave me a smile.


Bette Davis. That’s a first. It must be the haircut, I thought, the fringe they gave me yesterday at the hairdressers.


As a teenager and young adult, my rather fullish lips seemed to bring Diana Dors to mind. “Wow, you look just like Diana Dors!” I was told many a time. I never quite knew whether it was a compliment or not.


And, many decades later, at the launch of my Swans book, Richard Colless (former Swans Chairman) said that the photo of me in the Melbourne Herald, back in 1970 when I was 27, reminded him of Marianne Faithful.


I find it difficult to conjure up an image of Diana Dors, Marianne Faithful and Bette Davis – as a single entity – mind you, but, in terms of female facial attributes, I’m not complaining!


The unexpected familiarity we feel when faces remind us of others is an interesting phenomenon. I’m sure we all encounter these momentary sightings at times – not just the face, but body language that could easily belong to another.


So, as I stood in line to board the flight to Melbourne, I’m reminded of Bette Davis and my mother. My dear mother, who looked just like the great actress.


It’s a pity that Bette Davis had not had the chance to glimpse my mother. “People tell me I look just like that wonderful musician Agnes Bliss” she could well have said, with a knowing smile.



Down here in Melbourne for the first of seven home and away matches this year (two more than usual), I’m approaching this game against the Dogs with a small amount of trepidation. With Sammy Reid and Lewis Melican out with injuries, the balance of the team is, again, being put to the test – especially up forward – with Buddy being the only main tall target. And with the Bulldogs now back on the winning list, well, I’m just a wee bit nervous.


Melbourne’s notorious ‘cool change’ has come. The warmth of the past few days is behind us, and as we head for the train at Windsor station, the wind and rain remind me of those good old days, decades ago, when most Saturday’s at the footy were spent in just such conditions. What we would have given for a protective roof way back then!


Rugged up in coats borrowed from my sister, we make our way up the ramps to Level 3 at Etihad and sit where we normally do, in the Adam Goodes section – Bay 37. Surrounded by Swans supporters, including two small children (who never stopped squealing Sydneey, Sydneey directly into my ear throughout the game), we soon discover that these Bulldogs are playing as well as they were in that sad and sorry season of 2016.


With Allir playing in the forward line, and Buddy being held for most of the early stages, our goals are left up to Tom Papley and Luke Parker in the first quarter, and with a deficit of nine points at the break, we know this is going to be a tight one.


My uneasy feelings all week that a surprise could well and truly be on the cards are compounded in the second quarter. In the blink of any eye, the Dogs pepper the goals and we’re down by 22 points. We seem slow, out of position, and simply not able to stop their rampaging 10 minutes of 2016-style footy. Not a particularly happy Jan! We then settle and when Luke Parker kicks his third and our fifth, and Isaac Heeney goals on the siren, we’ve reduced the deficit to 10 points, and some form of balance has been restored.


I spend the half time break thinking about Buddy. Wondering – fearing – what sort of Swans team we would be without our champ. He had scared the living daylights out of us when he’d gone down, clutching his shoulder, in that quarter. Minutes later, he was fine, marking and taking shots at goal – to no avail – but knowing he was able to compete and not injured, was a major relief.


The first ten minutes of the third quarter is all Swans. Harry Cunningham snaps from a congested pack, and Buddy finally gets on the board, thanks to a Dogs turnover. He follows it up within minutes, after marking strongly overhead in a pack, and then our young star Isaac kicks a beauty from the boundary line 40 metres out. The Dogs are then gifted a goal when Dane Rampe and Heath Grundy collide 10 metres from the goal-line and Bomtempelli kicks truly. When the ball eventually gets down to our forward line, Buddy misses two shots he’d normally kick blindfolded.


The scores are now level at the start of the final term, and the tension is being felt by all 32,870 fans. Buddy kicks his third, then astoundingly misses from 30 metres dead in front! The still much-maligned Dean Towers takes mark of the day 40 metres from goal, and suddenly we’re 14 points up. But, as has happened all day, the pendulum swings and the Dogs fight their way back to within one point. We all groan when Aliir misses, running into an open goal, and when Dunkley drops a mark in their goal square, and we clear the ball from danger, it’s still anyone’s game. Jarrad McVeigh, superb all day, clears repeatedly from our backline, and when Isaac marks and kicks to Ollie Florent, with 27 minutes on the clock, our young gun gives us a moment to remember. With no hesitation, he takes off: runs, bounces, looks over his shoulder and runs some more. With the Dogs ruckman, English, on his bum, Ollie kicks from 45 metres, the ball lands in the goal square, bounces beautifully, and in it rolls – to the absolute delight of all Swans people. As I jump from my seat, I anxiously phone my sister to find out how long to go. 20 seconds! We’re home!


What a bloody relief!


Thank God they kicked badly for goal. Thank God we were accurate, even though Buddy missed a couple, and thank God, despite all the stats favouring the home team, we found that little extra when it really mattered. Although not back to our best footy, a 3-1 start is just fine, and hopefully improvement will come as the season progresses.


No more “You look just like….” at Melbourne airport, just the usual scanning and checking routines, and as we step onto the plane I think about our future trips to Melbourne this year – pretty much fortnightly – alternating flying and driving, and hope I’ll be as relieved and happy as I was on Saturday to get those vital 4-points.


WESTERN BULLDOGS         5.3       7 7.      9.10.    11.13(79)
SYDNEY                                  4.0       6.3       10.4     13.8(86)


Western Bulldogs: Dickson 2, Bontempelli 2, Redpath, Gowers, Jong, Dale, Wallis, Daniel, Dahlhaus
Sydney: Franklin 3, Parker 3, Papley 2, Heeney 2, Cunningham, Towers, Florent


Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Suckling, Dunkley, Bontempelli, Dahlhaus
Sydney: Franklin, Rampe, Parker, Heeney, McVeigh, Hannebery, Papley


Western Bulldogs: Nil
Sydney: Nil


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Stevic, Deboy, Gavine


Official crowd: 32,870 at Etihad Stadium


About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016.


  1. Neil Anderson says

    Really pleased with the Dogs’ effort on Saturday Jan (Bette). To get so close to one of the premiership favorites with such a young team was a credit to them. By mid-year, 6 or 7 regular players will be back to combine with those youngsters and they should finish the year strongly.
    I hope that guy at the airport was thinking about the young Bette Davis and not during her latter and probably last performance in ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane’. I’m sure it was the younger Bette.

  2. Keiran Croker says

    We were in Bay 35 Jan. Great game wth ebbs and flows, though too close for comfort. I think Dean Towers now looks like he belongs, is playing with confidence and looks assured. I was one of his doubters, though am very happy he is proving me wrong.

    Neil, Dogs were great and with a few talls back in e.g. Roughhead, Trengove, etc.. you will be a very good team. I think we were fortunate to get over the line, as either team could have won.

  3. Jan Courtin says

    Not sure he was referring to the younger Bette, Neil, as he was seeing me for the first time at the age I am now!

    Yes, the game could have gone either way, Keiran, and the Doggies certainly played well considering the loss of so many players, Neil

    Pity we couldn’t have popped over a few bays, Keiran, and said hello

    Maybe next time.

    Thanks to you both

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