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Grand Final 2016 – Sydney v Western Bulldogs: A broken heart and tear-stained eyes………

With a severely broken heart and tear-stained eyes I left Bulldogs-centric Melbourne the morning after our loss.

The morning after is the worst. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to drive, and I didn’t want to arrive. I didn’t want anything. I didn’t want to be comforted. I didn’t want to speak and I didn’t want to be spoken to. I was numb. I felt as if I didn’t exist, but the tears and pain deep in my soul told me I did.

SWANZ had arrived in Melbourne a week earlier for the Prelim on Friday night. Oh what a night that was! We decided to stay on in Melbourne for the week. I was kept busy with a couple of television interviews and two ABC radio chats. Then I was told of the Fan of the Year award. The week, for me, was all about footy, all about my beloved team. By the time the Parade on the Friday arrived, my spirits were high. On Saturday morning the Courtin clan breakfasted in South Melbourne before going our separate ways; some to the game, others to the Rising Sun to mix with the hundreds packed into the spiritual pub of the Bloods.

Several hours later it was all over. The siren had sounded and the Bulldogs-centric Melburnians were rejoicing. Footscray supporters were also rejoicing and no doubt the diehards amongst them were delirious and unbelieving. We stayed at the ground for their celebrations and I appreciated the gesture to Bob Murphy. I stayed because I wanted to cheer our boys from the ground. No such luck, as the noise was overwhelming, but I cheered them anyway. Then, as quickly as the season had begun, not that many months ago, it was now all over. There is an emptiness.

That emptiness feels, in some ways, like a death. Of course I know it’s not. Of course I know that a death is a tragedy, and that real tragedies are happening all over the world to millions of people every day of the year, and every day to some people’s lives. Of course I know that perspective is needed every minute of our daily lives, but sometimes, just sometimes, I want to say “f… perspective”. Just for a few minutes, a few hours, a few days. Just until the emptiness passes and the tears stop.

I drove all day Sunday in a blur. Unlike in 1996 after our GF loss, when I had to stop the car because of the uncontrollable bursts of sadness, I was able to drive, even through the bouts of tears. We decided to drive to Canberra to go to the Portrait Gallery to see the painting of Adam Goodes. Maybe Adam could bring a smile, of sorts, to our faces?

Went to gallery the next morning, looked at every portrait, couldn’t find Adam and were bewildered. The assistant said “Sorry, Adam’s portrait isn’t hanging in this exhibition.” We then went to the front desk. The same reply. “You mean to tell me that the National Portrait Gallery advertises in various leading newspapers that an exhibition is showing and that the portrait of Adam Goodes is used in the advert, but is not hanging?” The woman behind the desk apologised profusely and admitted there had been other unhappy customers, and suggested I send in a complaint. How can such a respected organisation mislead the public in such a way?

With no smiles, we drove home to Sydney.

Five days later the bouts of tears are lessening and I imagine I’ll be sort of back to normal in a week or so. For the first couple of days I was kept busy replying to condolence emails. I couldn’t just ignore others’ well wishes. There were 40 or so, mostly from people I’ve never met, people who’ve bought my book, people who’ve been following the Bloods for as long – and even longer – than I have, people who have wanted to share their families’ stories and connections to our mighty Club – all of them also devastated by our loss.

I’ve even had “Carn the Doggies” sentiments thrown my way! Or “Sad about your loss but you have to admit, it’s great for the Doggies”. You must be joking! Certainly in no mood for sentimentality.

Two letters I received in the mail helped lift my spirits. One from an 82 year old Bloods’ man who had bought two copies of my book, and the other from an 88 year old who had umpired his first VFL game in 1956.

The younger of the two wrote: “I can claim a certain seniority status in the ranks of Bloods’ supporters, having been conceived, I am told, in Albert Park in the back seat of Grandpa’s Buick, in the general joy that engulfed the family on that Saturday in September 1933!” He also sent me a printed copy of his monthly column in The Portland Observer that has appeared in every issue for 32 years – possibly a journalistic record! Wonderful letter.

Then, accompanying a letter from the other person, the 88 year old, was this:

Ken Woolfe 1956 South Melb Umpires Document

I was staggered! I couldn’t believe he was giving me such a wonderful 60-year old relic!

In his letter he said: “Enclosed is the original team sheet of the match Round 8 in 1956 Richmond v South. This was my VFL umpiring debut, an unforgettable moment and glad that I was able to get your team home by 3 points. This document was always handed to the Field Umpire for any reports and Brownlow votes. I notice a couple of numbers have been altered, for what reason I am unable to recall. When you look at some of the names, viz, Clegg, Skilton, Goldsmith, Taylor, Dorgan etc it is amazing that the club did not compete in the 1950s finals.”

As soon as I read the letter and looked at his name, Ken Woolfe, I remembered him as being an umpire at the time, actually from 1956- 1959. When I emailed him to thank him profusely for his wonderful gift and to ask whether I could quote him and show the 1956 relic on the Almanac, he said that his wife was more than happy to lessen his load of memorabilia, of which he has thousands of wonderful items!

So, these sorts of letters have kept me going for the week. Not reading any newspapers or watching footy shows on tele has also helped. I certainly didn’t need reminding of my week in Bulldogs-centric Melbourne, and I didn’t need to know that Footscray has created history in all sorts of ways, and that they are celebrating as we did in 2005, and that the older ones can now die happily! It has happened. The footy has finished for the year, and a new season awaits, and although still sad, I am genuinely pleased for the diehard Dogs supporters.

My Swans will be back, better than ever next year. Our results in 2016 far surpassed the beliefs and predictions of most – yet again – and with experience under their belts, the young brigade of stars will join with their older brothers to create more Bloods’ history. All being well, I’ll be there with them, Shaking Down the Thunder from the Sky and cheering them Onwards to Victory! Oh how I love them all!

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. Keiran Croker says

    Jan, yes it’s an awful emptiness after a GF loss. No redemption possible. Terrible for the supporters, must be bloody difficult for players and staff. We had a great season and we will be back, it’s a long wait though till 2017 comes around. Cricket soon to distract us till then.
    P.S: I’m reading Paul Kennedy’s excellent “Fifteen Young Men” at the moment.

  2. Great, heartfelt article, Jan. We had a wonderful year, and I look forward to 2017.
    Go Swannies!

  3. jan courtin says

    Thanks guys
    Friday night and no footy! Then it hit me, forcefully: No footy tomorrow or the day after….Go away nasty emptiness!

    Cheer cheer

  4. Julie Cattlin says

    What a lovely gift from Ken Woolf, Jan!! I reckon that would have really raised my spirits. A really lovely, kind person giving you a gift.
    And 2017 is another year of football for you and the Swans.
    PS: I still don’t know how you supporters do it!! All that tension and heartbreak. I’m exhausted thinking about it!


  5. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Come on Jan. Can’t be as bad as 1935-36? !!

  6. That’s a very heartfelt wonderful article, Jan, and a noble final paragraph of you !
    You are a wonderful “religious leader” !
    May you heal quickly and look forward to winning next year !

  7. jan courtin says

    Thanks Julie, Phil and Kathy

    I don’t know why we do it either Julie, subjecting ourselves to the ups and downs that, in normal life, would need to be treated!

    Thanks Kathy, I’m glad you’ve got “religious leader” in quotes!!

    Phil, I need to compose your reply.

  8. jan courtin says

    Thanks again Phil,

    Haven’t I ever told you of my previous incarnation. I just happened to be born in Melbourne then too, and was a South Melbourne follower. I went to my first match when I was 10, in 1884, I missed our VFA premierships in 1881 and 1885 but was there for our and three-in-a-row in 1888, 1889 and 1890. Then when the VFL was formed. I experienced our wonderful grand final wins in 1909, 1918 and 1933. Alas, with Bobby Pratt out of the team in 1935 (run over by a tram on grand final eve), we lost to your mob, but I was there at the G for that one too. Then, losing by 11 points the following year to the team that, even then, everyone loved to hate, was certainly heartbreaking.

    The problem is that even though I recall those games, I can’t recall the emotions at the time. So, in answer to your question, the losses in my current incarnation are worse!!


  9. chris bracher says

    We will all stick fat Jan. Congratulations on your Fan of the Year award.
    Go Bloods.

  10. Cat from the Country says

    Congratulations on your Fan of the Year Award.

    I know exactly how you feel, after the Swans did it to Geelong several times over the years keeping us out iof the Granny.
    Life goes on

  11. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Touche Jan !!
    I reckon you’ve tapped in to the emotions of your previous incarnation beautifully. Bit disappointed that you neglected to mention 1896, though. Seriously, losing GF’s are the worst. I’ve seen 7 losses and 2 draws. You learn to live with it…somehow.

    When I was a kid I used to watch Star Trek and would imagine being transported back to the 1920s-30s to watch Coventry, Collier, Pratt, Nash, Dyer and co. Footy’s first golden era featured our teams significantly. Good luck in 2017. I’m sure your Bloods will be back with a vengeance. Cheers

  12. jan courtin says

    Thanks Chris and Cat fan and, again, Phil

    Let’s look forward to next year, Chris. What else is there to say really. Cheer Cheer

    Cat from the Country: I understand about our wins over you in finals, but this was a Grand Final loss! And I know you’ve had lots of those in between your great years, so you know the feeling. And, of course, life goes on.

    Opps, Phil, completely forgot 1896. For the life of me, I can’t remember!! It must have involved Collingwood, yes?

  13. Great article, Jan. I love footy but YES, you are really the fan of the year. Congratulations

  14. Max Cameron says

    Thank you, Jan, for your wonderful book. I closely identified with it and I particularly enjoyed the way you described your life’s journey as part of your passion for the Swans. I feel that I know you….

    I bought the book at the South Melbourne market on Grand Final Eve and have enjoyed reading it while suffering tension before the Grand Final and the acute disappointment for many days afterwards. However, your book reminded me of the many years of joy that I have experienced following the Swans and some wonderful players.

    I have now read your Footy Almanac article and, as with all your writings, I identified with it immediately and I still do – the suffering is not over yet, perhaps not until the start of next year’s football season!

  15. jan courtin says

    Many thanks Ken and Max
    As I’ve mentioned before, since Saturday, very happy with Fan of the Year but would love Team of the Year!

    I was also at the South Melbourne market GF eve, Max, maybe we bumped into each other!

    Yes, we await 2017!

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Jan would love to your thoughts re the Swans only having grand final celebrations but no commiserations personally absolutely bizarre and crazy any one can support a winner fat more important to stick together after a loss goes against all the bloods values thank you

  17. Jan, I thoroughly enjoyed this Almanac article. You really should write more books, most authors tell a good story, you show a part of your soul that allows the reader to connect with their own.

  18. jan courtin says

    Hi Malcolm
    I really have no idea why there was nothing held after the loss, either in Melbourne or Sydney, other than what I’ve read on the Swans website ie only if we won would there be greetings. Maybe it was based on the numbers who turned up in the past (2006 and 2014). I remember in Sydney in 2006, not many at all were there to greet the players at the SCG, and the same in Melbourne in 2014; I didn’t get to Sydney in time that year to see what happened at the SCG, but from memory, most stayed away.

    I have no idea what other Clubs have done in the past when the team hasn’t won a Grand Final. Do you know?

    Thanks, Nic, for your kind words.

    Cheer cheer

  19. Tony Courtin says

    Jan,I know exactly how you and,presumably, all other diehard Swans supporters feel. While it’s great to finally be contending regularly at the pointy end of the season,4 GF losses in 21 years is starting to bite. Your article is my first footy read since last Saturday’s shattering loss. Bulldogs euphoria is now into its 4th week. All involved with the club must be thoroughly enjoying the ride,and deservedly so,but anything about Bulldogs success necessarily reminds me of Swans’ failure to snatch the big one. I’ve successfully avoided all media coverage since the GF,but bulldogs hysteria is hard to avoid. Driving to work along Canterbury Road on Thursday I was stuck in the left lane behind a car with a Bulldogs scarf stretched across the rear window. Thought I’d lose him when turning left into Liverpool Road,but he also turned left there and had to endure the red,white and blue scarf for another 5 kms. Had no choice but to look straight ahead,as the law dictates,for what seemed an eternity. After 10 minutes of suffering,we went our separate ways. Great gift from Ken Woolfe. Go Bloods in 2017.

  20. jan courtin says

    All I can say, Tony, is that I’m glad I left Melbourne the day after! Just a week there was enough. I glanced at the SMH yesterday and today, and there’s just no real footy anyway, so I’m not not being subjected to anything AFL. I certainly haven’t watched anything relating to footy on tele. However, at some stage I might just look at the game itself, to see what I’d missed at the ground. I certainly haven’t watched 2014 and I did in fact watch 2006 earlier this year – for the first time. In retrospect, maybe I should wait another 10 years to watch this year’s?!

    Just have to be thankful for what we HAVE achieved these past 20 years (especially compared to the previous 57 in my case, and 47 in yours) and hope success continues. We are a great Club now.

    Thanks and cheer cheer until next year!

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