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Round 15 – Melbourne v Sydney: The flames from hell, and those Demons!



Another footy road trip.

Another day for the unexpected.

It started no differently to most other days. Sydney’s winter sunshine greeted us through our bedroom window in Surry Hills on Thursday morning, assuring us that at least the weather might be conducive to a pleasant road trip through southern NSW, on our way down for another footy game in Melbourne.

I love driving, and I love road trips. I also love that I can sit still for hours on end listening to music and at the same time enjoy the seasonal-changing landscape. Perhaps what I love most of all is that my mind can wander; I can just allow random thoughts to come and go, and develop them as I want.

The Swans, deeply embedded into my psyche, are sure to come to mind at some stage on this trip, but, as SWANZ exits the M5 tunnel and onto the Hume, I’m more than happy for Beethoven to keep me company at the driver’s wheel.

We stop for coffee at Goulburn and read the papers. Me, the sport. With several Melbourne stars including Nathan Jones, Jack Watts, Jeff Garlett, Jesse Hogan and Christian Salem not playing on Friday night, my mind is all Swans as we continue our Hume journey.

I think about our last two games and tell myself that we’ll certainly need to play a more consistent brand of footy if we’re to have a chance against Melbourne. I re-live Gary Rohan’s amazing two goals, in the Richmond and Essendon games, and despite fuzzy warm feelings and a smile, I also know that we can’t continue in that same vein if we’re to go anywhere this season. We need consistency throughout games. And we need to kick straight!

Then, out of nowhere, a nasty thought enters my mind. Not a nice thought at all!

It goes like this: Viney, Gawn, Petracca, Oliver, and that blond guy with longish hair and a head band, are all unable to play. They’re suffering from food poisoning and have been ruled out for the game. The footy world, especially the Melbourne footy club, is devastated, but I’m, well – I hate to admit it – celebrating!

Maybe twenty seconds pass, and I’m feeling bad. In reality I would never wish that on anyone. What a thing to even think-up – let alone feel good about – you wicked woman. How could you? You’re supposed to be a compassionate and caring person – get those thoughts out of your head.

Then suddenly I’m a young teenager back in Melbourne, feeling the weight of my Catholic guilt. Although many decades have passed since those early years, I find myself remembering those frequent visits to the priest in that dark, dingy hole in the wall – the confessional.

‘Forgive me my sins, Father, I have had bad thoughts.’

‘How long since your last confession, my child?’

‘Only a week, Father, I’m often having bad thoughts.’

‘Tell me about those thoughts, my child.’

‘I’ve been thinking about boys and well, you know, things like that, Father.’

‘Oh, you mean impure thoughts, my child?’………

SWANZ is travelling well, the sun is still shining, Beethoven is playing, and Marshall is completely oblivious to my scattered thoughts as he reads his newspaper. But my mind keeps returning to my Catholic upbringing. Those years when the fear of committing a venial or mortal sin was almost worse than knowing whether or not you actually had! I don’t recall being told what the real difference was in the two sins, mind you, but I assumed that having ‘bad thoughts’ belonged to the venial, whereas acting out those thoughts belonged to the most wicked of all, the mortal.

‘You don’t want to burn in hell, do you my child?’ rings in my ears, as we head towards Gundagai.

Hell. Flames. The Devil. Demons.

Sitting on a steady cruise-controlled 110km, I see flashing lights and two mutilated cars from the corner of my eye on the right hand side of the Hume. One, upside down among the bushes on the median strip separating north and south bound traffic, and the other, lying side-on clinging to a metal railing. I can’t slow down, a car is up my backside. Slowing down won’t help. I feel sick to the stomach. Surely no one could have survived? Oh, god, those poor people, their poor families and loved ones. Horror! Horror! The sadness of it all.

For half an hour my thoughts are for those poor people. One split second is all it would have taken. One split second between life and death. I see my entire life flash before me. I see and feel the fragility of it all. And the suddenness.

Somewhat recovered an hour or so later, I go to pass a car and as we draw level there is a little bird in the middle of the road. Oh No! I just know it’s going to fly to its right and straight into SWANZ and kill itself. It has nowhere else to go. The thud is horrendous. Immediately my eyes look to the rear vision mirror, and all I can see is a flurry of feathers – seems like hundreds of them – flying in the air, and a dead small thing on the road. I can’t stop. Another car is approaching and up my backside. Stopping won’t help.

Oh dear god, the poor little thing. Probably out scavenging for food for its babies. Poor defenceless little bird, why did it have to do that, and why my bloody car? That’s the second bird I’ve killed now – and a dog years ago in Brisbane – oh, god!

Punishment, Janet, you shouldn’t have had thoughts about those Melbourne players! More of those venials. You deserve to be punished!

I try some more Beethoven, then Bach. But Bach can definitely bring a tear to the eye, so decide to have no music while I try to calm my mind and relax. Marshall, sitting there still oblivious to my inner ramblings, doesn’t seem to mind the peace and quiet.

An hour from Albury I pass a semi, loaded with sheep. The sight of those little creatures through the bars of the container, stuffed belly to belly, face to face, and bum to bum, suffocating themselves even before they reach the slaughterhouse, is simply horrendous.

Again, I see my life flash before me. I wonder if the humans 200 km back, lying dead in their cars, perhaps had a similar flash. I wonder if the bird had time for even a smidgeon of a flash. And I wonder if the poor sheep have any idea of what lies ahead for them. I try not let it all affect me.

I decide I want some Brahms. Brahms usually does the trick. He calms me a little and his musical genius has me listening intently – nothing but the music.

And then, approaching Albury and out of nowhere, I could have been forgiven for thinking that the flames of hell had come to swallow me up as one of the most amazing sunsets appears out there in the distant sky. It is so spectacular and sudden that I just have to stop the car on the side of the road and try and capture the moment. It lasts literally moments, and is gone in a flash.



‘That’s it, no more driving today, Marsh, nothing can beat that amazing sight as the perfect ending to this rather weird day’, I exclaim as we arrive in Albury at 6pm. ‘What’s so weird about it?’ he asks. If only he knew.

We check in to the motel and walk to the RSL type place for a feed and more music. No Beethoven, Bach or Brahms here. It’s your typical country/rock/blues, as played perhaps in many Australian country towns. And, with a live musician, wearing a cowboy hat!

As we grab a table near the cowboy with a guitar and a great voice, and watch the ‘50s rockers of the past still rocking to their hearts’ content, I say to Marshall ‘There’s not a person under 65. Everyone’s old!’ ‘Well, we’ll fit in quite well, won’t we?’


Friday night, MCG:

Freezing like never before in Melbourne, with five layers of clothing still not doing the job, we shiver our way through the first quarter of this much anticipated game between a supposed premiership contender on the rise and one that knows a thing or two about such holy grails.

Gary Rohan: 3 marks, 3 behinds. Please guys, not another week of this! We’re 0.8 before our first goal, after the siren. Though Melbourne’s kicked three quick goals in the last few minutes of the quarter, the game should have been over. Nine shots on goal for 1.8. Four shots on goal for 4.0. Frustrating!

Half way through the second quarter, with scores level, Buddy, at last, kicks truly. At 2.14 Isaac Heeney adds another, and the frustration reaches boiling point when Luke Parker’s snap over his shoulder 15 metres out hits the post. Further goals to Kieren Jack and Tom Papley put us ahead by 20 points at half time. Limiting Melbourne to one point for the quarter, playing most of it in our forward line, and with 19 scoring shots to 5, the game should definitely have been over!

The Demons have other ideas. They kick the first for the third quarter and unbelievably only 13 points separate the teams. Ten consecutive possessions (7 passes and 3 kicks) and a resulting point from Buddy highlight our dominance, and when Dean Towers and Jake Lloyd combine for a goal, and Buddy’s 50m long bomb goes through for another, the Swans surge further. We’re 30 points up at three-quarter time. Frustration easing.

The Melbourne crowd starts getting excited when Melksham kicks truly from 40 metres out, close to the boundary line, and my mind starts ticking over again. Surely they can’t come back? It would be a travesty if we lost this one! Before I start getting too anxious, Buddy pulls another trick from his bag and dribbles through a perfectly executed bouncing, swinging ball from an angle 25 metres from goal. He then kicks his 4th and our 10th, and when Tom Papley adds a further 6-pointer, it’s as good as done. The last five minutes peter out, the Demons knowing they’ve been comprehensibly beaten in all parts of the ground by a team desperate to atone for their sins earlier in the season.

I will take a 35 point win every time, great stuff Bloods, but how much nicer it would have been had our score been 19.11 instead of 11.19 and perhaps a 75 point thrashing! But footy doesn’t work like that.

There were encouraging signs though: of our 19 behinds, only 4 were kicked in the last half. Maybe next week we can reverse our last two weeks of inaccuracy.

And a ps to Tom Bugg: You’ll get your just rewards, mate, and in your absence from the game you’ll definitely need to get to that confessional box and ask forgiveness for that grave mortal sin.

My highlights from the game:
BOG performance of Luke Parker
Buddy, not far behind
Jarrad McVeigh’s influence and leadership
Joey Kennedy – as usual
Nic Newman’s continued excellence
Just getting the 4 points!


MELBOURNE  4.0    4.1    5.4    7.8 (50)
SYDNEY         1.8   5.15  8.16  11.19 (85)

Melbourne: T.McDonald 2, Petracca 2, Hannan, Hunt, Melksham
Sydney Swans: Franklin 4, Papley 2, Parker, Heeney, Jack, Reid, Lloyd

Melbourne: Hibberd, Vince, T.McDonald, Tyson, Jetta
Sydney Swans: Parker, Kennedy, Lloyd, Jones, Franklin, Newman

Melbourne: Viney (foot)
Sydney Swans: Mills (concussion), Jones (cut head)

Reports: T. Bugg (Melbourne) reported in the first quarter for striking C. Mills (Sydney Swans)

Umpires: Fisher, Stevic, McInerney

Official crowd: 47,464 at the MCG

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. Good stuff Jan,,
    Sydney are a very well-organised team class team, make no mistake, and coached by probably the best in the business.
    Sydney strategy
    1. Intimidate opposition by playing tough and almost, almost, over the edge, but no suspensions. Hit opposition in a way that you can’t be suspended..we don’t need that
    2. Intimidate some more especially after a goal and
    3. Get in the face of the other team. Hopefully, the other team will steadily drop off intensity.
    4. If you lose, always complain about umpires to ensure a good run for the next month, and you will get it.

  2. Really enjoyed this Jan. Agree with Bach in the car -especially at sunset. Faure is another.

    Swans are hot.

  3. Julie Cattlin says

    You’ve obviously forgotten the difference between venial and mortal sins, Jan. Well, if you die with a mortal sin on your soul, you go straight to HELL! There is just nothing to be done!
    How come so many lapsed Catholics are quite sane and normal people, considering all that dreadful stuff we were taught? I remember when I followed football as a kid, I thought that six venial sins equaled one mortal sin, the same as six behinds equalled one goal!! You can tell I didn’t really know much about footy, or the Catholic teachings. (I do understand, though, that six points and one goal are the same score.)
    The dead bird and the truck full of sheep, and of course the accident. I understand how you felt.
    But you won! Must have washed away some of the sadness.

  4. Paul: You could pretty much apply your points to most teams, but I do agree with the preamble.
    John: Faure hasn’t produced tears – yet. Bach, Schubert’s Ave Maria (sung version) and Van Gogh close and personal in the Louvre have done it for me.
    Julie: Yes, we won. And the trip back home was uneventful – maybe because my mind wasn’t receptive to fantasy, and subsequent sins.

    Thanks one and all

  5. Daniel Flesch says

    Nice story as usual , Jan. As a Hawthorn supporter , i didn’t mind seeing Buddy head north after nine years of great service to the Hawks. But Clarkson’s decision that the young Josh Kennedy had no place at Hawthorn was a mortal sin ; the fact he’s never been a Catholic, practising or lapsed , notwithstanding.

  6. I agree, Daniel. Strange, isn’t it, how the talents of some young players don’t become really evident until they arrive at another Club. Clarkson must be rueing that decision every time he hears, reads about or watches Joey play. What a champion. Sure pleased we have him!

  7. Joe De Petro says

    Nice work, Jan. There is simply not enough written about Catholic guilt classical music road trips.

  8. Just about to turn the computer off, Joe, and have an early night – after driving all day back to Sydney – when your comment popped up.

    Actually I don’t recall reading anything from anyone on this site about classical music – think I’m the only one who mentions it, which I tend to do when we drive to Melbourne, Adelaide or Brissie for a Swans game. My mother was a classical pianist and singer, so it’s in my veins.

    As for Catholic guilt!! Well, I could write a book about that! I take it you know a bit about it?!

    Many thanks.

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