Finals Diary: Week 3

m de h Sydney GF week


The morning of the preliminary final, Sydney starts to show its colours. It’s contained. A fella sits in front of me on the train in a hand knitted red and white scarf. It could be coincidence, except my radar tells me it’s not. Leaving the station at Circular Quay, I spot a worker wearing a Swans jersey under his suit jacket heading into the AMP centre. Go Swans I say, just as we cross paths, and his concentrated day-face breaks into a childlike smile.

It’s my birthday. The sun is beaming. There’s half a day of work ahead. The gallery has a new show opening – an annual spring event which showcases new Australian artists; it’s in its final stages of prep. A couple of the Indigenous artists from way far north wander into the bookstore with shy English and Swans scarves.

You going to the footy tonight? I proffer. It’s a universal language.

Yes, they say in unison. Buddy.

Ah, I add. And Goodesy and Jetts.

And Buddy.

It’s clear who they’ve come to see.

The Cob picks me up with a colour coded cake from the French patisserie. A wicked stack of vanilla dacquoise and crushed raspberry cream topped with a two inch high white chocolate rose, sprayed with pearl and studded with more raspberries. Celebration or consolation; either way it will work. I wonder how J the barista is doing. We collect the Cygnet and head to the last trapeze of the term. He catches a trick he’s been working on for weeks, the penny roll. 50 pennies worth. Doesn’t that Roo Ben Brown wear 50?

But it turns out to be a victory so comfortable that it warrants the sit back and relax. The cake is fine! We heat and sink the knife so it cuts perfectly.

Butterflies underlie almost everything in grand final week. Jitters that alternate between excitement and nerves. We’ve been through it before so it’s not the wide mouthed Gawd! of the first time. And it’s not the See! of the back up. It’s something else, an awareness of what it all means that alternates between background and full frame. My footy synaesthesia has taken hold once more. I filter my Instagram pics in increments of 24 for Rampe’s success down back. I notice my computer is 37% charged, an omen for the game of Goodes’ life. The Cygnet turned double digits on Tuesday, on the 23rd. These are the small adjustments of the week, which go some way to recognising the pinnacle. Saturday’s forecast to be 21 in Sydney – for McGlynn the man who missed out.

The Cygnet watched his first grand final at two days old. The Cob wheeled him to the maternity ward tea room to see Port beat the Brisbane champs. The Cygnet celebrated his first birthday the day the Swans won in 2005. A huge posse of friends gathered for an almighty grand final breakfast in Glebe, every one of them dressed in red and white, his cake iced by his aunty in a giant Sydney logo. It was champagne and toy cars in the afternoon as Leo Barry built up to that mark. The Cygnet was taken to the losing grand final at 2 years old. We paid with three years of allegiance to the West Coast Eagles, tiny yellow and navy socks on the line.

And now it’s Thursday. We’re parked along the couch, the three of us, watching Marngrook. Gavin Wanganeen, the man who made me love the back line, is on the panel and Micky O is on his way. Suddenly Sydney are favourites and some out there don’t like it. They’re talking COLA and stars. They’re talking dollars and dickheads. The secateurs are out and the spring poppies are looking vulnerable. But they’re not talking negatives on Marngrook.

We’re going to sister-in-law’s for the big game. She’ll let us do prawns if we clean the bbq. They always put the Frenchie on dessert. A Hawk friend messaged from Melbourne tonight: I can’t think of Saturday without my heart going boom boom boom. I’ll spend tomorrow trawling for red and white desserts. I’ll spend it at work, where my imagination will be pocketed for moments at a time on the MCG; Jetta in full flight, Rioli metres behind; Buddy seeking the arced white line of the forward pocket and slinging that leg across; Pyke to Kennedy or Pyke to Parker; Rohan running coast to coast; Goodes kicking the sealer. Breathe in. Breathe out. I can’t think of Saturday without a Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing going thump thump thump.


About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.


  1. Wasn’t the purity and underdog status of 2005 and 2012 so much more joyful? Weren’t they the team you nurtured instead of bought? What gaineth a man/woman should he inherit the earth, but loseth his soul?

  2. Happy birthday for last week.
    And to the cygnet.
    Love these observations, Mathilde.
    The omen numbers.
    The Frenchy on dessert.
    Best wishes to you & your swans.
    I’ll be barracking. They’re a brilliant team to watch.
    (And fancy a Grand Final team that includes Australian of the Year; incredible).

  3. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Ah Pete_B, this seems to be the bee in your spring bonnet.
    And, with respect, fancy a West Coast supporter preaching the spiritual integrity of pure premierships! For our COLA, there was your COCA!
    But I don’t consider Ben Cousins et al to have tainted the Eagles moments of 2005 and 2006. Because there was Kerr and Judd, and Hunter and Cox and Embley and Hansen and Wirrpanda and … those are great years of rivalry with the Weagles and I, for one, am grateful for them.
    The Sydney Swans faithful know and love all tiers. And they’re all damn good. Lance is the cherry. (And maybe Kurt is the icing? – although I have never been that fond of icing … ) But the butter and sugar and eggs and flour are Teddy and Reg and Josh and Parker and Macca and Hanners and Kieren and Jetts and Goodes and … Harry and Jake Lloyd! All of them nurtured, often not by their first clubs, but thoroughly by their second. Good recruiting, great development, deep culture. And yes, players that have been paid for. Our cake and eating it! I feel joyful when I watch them all together.

  4. Lovely work, Mathilde,

    Talk of synesthesia prompted me to respond to your lovely, colourful piece. As a fellow synesthete, I can attest to a life of words, letters, numbers and the colours fashioned from them. I’m sorry to say that the name, ‘Sydney Swans’, is an awkward mix of red, yellow and brown. However, as ‘s’ is red to my mind, and also the bookend letter, the colour thankfully predominates, despite the efforts of ‘d’ and ‘n’ (brown), and ‘y’ (yellow) attempting to confuse. ‘Sydney Swans’ is visualised as red words. The letters from ‘Hawthorn’ are a tasteless mix of purple, green, blue and gold. Pretty much how I feel about Hawthorn in general.

    Hope your Swans have a great day. Despite being a Cat, I too have a cygnet. We took in the 2012 GF, which was a beautiful moment between father and son. One I’ll never forget. We will be glued to our screen at home today, however.

    Cheer, cheer!


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