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Finals Week 1 – Sydney v GWS: A long way to go.


I’m off to the USA next Sunday on holiday for a month. “What!” I hear you say! Am I abandoning my Swans? Have I no faith or hope that we will go deep into the finals?


Quite the opposite. I’m the supreme optimist when it comes to the Swans. I pretty much always think that we will win games and my outlook for the season is always that we will do well. In fact it is for exactly that reason that I’m going. When in the last 10 years have I had a chance to go anywhere in September? The last time I did miss the Finals was in 2009, coincidentally the last year we missed out, when I was on a gospel singing tour in the USA through Memphis, Chicago and New York. Our group (30 white guys and gals) ended up singing in a Gospel Festival in Harlem. That’s probably a story for another time!


Anyway, when the opportunity came earlier in the year to join a group of Aussies heading to the Americana Music Festival in Nashville this September, and a few other music festivals in the South, I decided to jump on board. My emotions about this decision have ridden the rollercoaster, just like our season. When we beat the top-placed Eagles mid-year I was questioning my call, then when we had those forgettable losses to the Suns and Bombers, it looked like it would not matter anyway.


Well, any moments of doubt about our capability were removed by our performances over the last month. And really, other than that flat spot after the bye rounds, what has there been not to like about our year, which has delivered some spectacular victories. I was at the SCG when Buddy sank one from 95 metres out to bury the Giants, then the next week I was home to see Ollie’s bold sealer over the Dogs, then Joey’s barnstorming last quarter to lift us to victory over the Cats, at the Cattery! I could go on, so I will …. Aliir’s winning goal in the Etihad shootout with North and Heeney’s heroics and spectacular marking down back to save the game at the `G against the Demons. I had the opportunity to be at all these games. The Swans provide value for money. They pretty much always turn up to play, and play till the end.


So one game at a time, because we all know that a loss now means the end for us. The Giants provide a formidable challenge. They are talented and tough, though have been hobbled somewhat by a long, long list of injuries.  Though they get up for us, as there is now a genuine rivalry based on some epic encounters over the last three years. Like many other teams this season we have had injuries to key players as well. Yet, we remain competitive and get the job done. Our young brigade has been outstanding and there is a lot to be optimistic about with the likes of Heeney, Hewett, Hayward, Papley, Florent, McCartin and Ronke in the team. Balancing this are the wise heads of McVeigh, Jack and Hannebery. These lads when fit and firing are still key to our performance along with Kennedy and Parker. The back line is still tight as a drum lead by Rampe, Lloyd and Co ably supported by the electrifying Aliir Aliir. Cal Sinclair has been terrific carrying the ruck all season with no support. And a special mention to the under-rated Harry Cunningham on a wing who has had his best and most consistent season by far.


We are a good team and play a team first game, though it’s indisputable that our trump is the amazing Buddy Franklin, the best forward of his generation. It’s been a pleasure to watch him play in our jumper and he has delivered another great season, despite a crook heel, crook knee and crook groin.


It will be a keen tussle in the midfield, though I reckon we can break even, our defence will hold up and a rested Buddy will run Phil Davis around the ground. Don’t expect Buddy to kick a bag, but have no doubt that he will be influential.


If I were not flying out overseas on Sunday, as an old South man still living in Melbourne, I might have flown up to Sydney for this game. It will be a cracker. I’ll have to be content to find a screen down here in Melbourne and ride every bump and urge every goal home. We can get the job done, just like we have done so often this season.


Beyond this week it will an adventure to find a sports bar in the early hours, or alternatively a quiet spot to watch my iPad, in Nashville, then Bristol, then Columbia. One can only hope we are still alive in the hunt for footy glory. I have faith though that we will as always leave it all out there and make us all proud that we follow this team. I’ll be having a ball in the USA in coming weeks. To one and all of our Blood Brothers (and Sisters) enjoy the ride.


One game at a time! Go Bloods!



About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.

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