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No footy this weekend? I saw plenty when SWANZ took a trip to Rooty Hill.

Yes, that is a suburb! We drove the 50 odd kilometres from Surry Hills to the Blacktown International Sportspark to watch the Swans Reserves play in the Preliminary Final on Saturday morning. And, we all know what traffic hazards we encounter late morning on a Saturday, and this trip was no exception. Sydneysiders will also know that it’s best to avoid Parramatta Road at any time of the day or night, let alone on a Saturday.

Nearly one and a half hours after we set out, believing we’d allowed plenty of traffic time, we arrived half way through the first quarter to a full car park. By the time we’d found a park on a grassy bank and waded through the rain-soaked soggy mess from the previous day’s first-day-of-spring deluge, the first quarter siren had sounded.

The Swans were four goals up. At half time, five goals in the clear. During the third term we kicked an atrocious number of behinds, 4.10, to the opposition (Aspley’s) one behind, and by the time the final siren sounded our winning margin had stretched to 82 points. It was a bit of a shellacking.

Nearly half of our team had played Seniors footy. One, even a premiership to his name! Before the game the half forward line read: Jeremy Laidler, Teddy Richards, Dean Towers. Not a bad line-up! Then, if you add Brandon Jack, James Rose, Toby Nankervis, Tom Derricks, Dan Robinson and Zac Jones into the mix – the latter two would probably still be in the Seniors but for injuries – it’s no wonder we were top of the Ladder at the end of the season.

The Reserves, including nine Senior players, celebrating (NEAFL Website)

The Reserves, including nine Senior players, celebrating (NEAFL Website)

We stayed on to see the Giants turn on a similar performance to easily beat Sydney University by 81 points in the second Prelim.

I don’t imagine that many footy followers (apart from the teams involved) care, or even know too much about the North East Australian Football League (NEAFL). For the AFL teams involved, it is the breeding ground for future champions of the game, in other words, the Reserves.

The Swans, Giants and the Suns join with other teams from NSW, Queensland, Canberra and the Northern Territory – 10 in all – to fight it out for that elusive piece of silverware at the beginning of September. Next week the Bloods play the Giants in the grand final – our fifth in six seasons. If it doesn’t clash with the Seniors in the ANZ game between the two teams next Saturday afternoon, I’ll be there to cheer them on!

Walking around the ground between the two games, a woman approached me asking “Are you the person who’s just written a book?” I was so shocked. How on earth would she have known me? Apart from the Sydney gallery scene, I’m known for nothing! Then she said she knew John Harms, so I’m assuming it was through the Almanac. Her comment brought to mind the many emails I’ve received since the launch at the Sydney Swans this week; so many of them from South Melbourne old timers, or from children of older South people.

Some of the stories have been uplifting indeed. I love hearing of people’s lives, even snippets of their journeys. Here are a couple of them.

“A fellow ‘lover’ I arrived in South Melbourne in 1948. I was 8. Now I live in Seattle and watch the Swans every game on my big hd tv.”

“…… it is a present for my father, Colin, who turns 80 on Sep 12. He has also had a lifelong love affair with the Swans (except in the Edelsten years). He was born in 1936 (3 years after the 1933 premiership) in Albert Road opposite the Lake Oval. He grew up in St Vincents Place, got married and moved 2 blocks to Dundas Place, had kids and 40 years ago moved back to a house in Albert Road, 3 doors from where he was born, opposite the Lake Oval. In 80 years, he has always lived within 600m of the old South ground. The move to Sydney in 1982 hit him hard, but he has learned to adjust, as we all have. 2005 was a great year for him as it was the first premiership he had got to experience – as it was for most of us. At 2am, as we were walking home from celebrations at the Rising Sun Hotel, he turned to me and said “Son, I can die happy now”. 11 years on, he has seen another one, and who knows what will happen this year.”

“Born and bred in South Melbourne and at the sprightly age of 66 I am so looking forward to reading your book. Part of the book (I am writing), in the 60’s, revolves around time spent in Port and South and the fun (and mischief) we got up to at Lakeside Oval, home of the mighty Bloods. I am keen to note similarities of our times spent there and the possible cross over of names and events from those wonderful years.”

“When they first came to Sydney I jumped ship and have followed them ever since. Your photo as a young girl with red ribbons and scarf reminded me of a photo I took of my 3 year old daughter at the time wearing a South jumper, red trackies and a big smile , my daughter now 33 is still as crazy as me and still supports our wonderful club…”

“That’s wonderful Jan. I can’t wait to read it. One of the copies is for my Dad’s birthday. He will be 87 and, like you, started following South Melbourne as a young boy. He passed on the Swans love to me and then to my son.”

“I am also a South Melbourne / Sydney Swans born in 1965 been going to watch them play at Lakeside Oval since I was 8. My mum and family were Swans tragics born and bred in Port Melbourne (like me). My mum was born 1934, so a year after their premiership before the fabulous 2005 flag. So the Red and White in my family goes back to my grandparents and great grand parents to when South Melbourne started. From a Born Red & White and forever Red & White.”


”I loved your speech at the launch of your book. It took me back to a happy place in my childhood. Growing up in Port Melb, it was expected that you barrack for the Swans. My family and extended family all followed the Swans except for my mother who supported Collingwood. Shameful!!! I have wonderful memories of the Lake Oval, standing on the tin cans to get a better view of my heroes. My uncle was a time keeper and we always hurried him along to blow the whistle during those close games. I grew up with the likes of Bob Skilton, Peter Bedford and Gary Brice. They were well known in Port. My dad attended an elderly citizens club with Bob’s father in law. I remember him well. I can also remember going to see Gary for advice on careers in my later school years as I was interested in P.E. Jan, I share and empathise with your passion. It is in the blood no doubt.”

“I am also a Swanaholic, but far more recent. I will be reading your book ahead of my very first Grand Final!”

An optimistic comment! I hope it rings true!

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. Jan I love your passion for the swans and congrats on the book having helped the odd person re writing a book I do realise the enormous amount of time and effort involved.What struck me tho about this article and it in sa on Saturday to Central Districts is the biggest disgrace in footy today and that is that there is not a national reserves competition it is grossly unfair and just so wrong that.Aspley,Sydney Uni etc have to play against full time professional footballers.The Afl have spent a fortune on these new franchise clubs and now women’s footy ( I am not having a go at women’s footy what so ever) but what should have happened first is a national reserves comp and far more money spent on grass roots footy.
    Afl footy administration and decision making bitterly disappointing to say the least

  2. kath presdee says

    Rulebook – you know my thoughts on the National Reserves as well!

    With a fairly fit list, playing the maximum number of listed players allowed (15) – GWS toweled up Sydney Uni. While there were some listed players who were yet to make their seniors’ debut (Finlayson, Lloyd) a team containing A Kennedy, A Corr, M Buntine, J Steele, D Simpson, T Downie, W Hoskin-Elliott, J Stewart and R Palmer (to say the least) should win and win well. Fair enough when it’s our first and second year players, but not 5th year and older players.

    It also says a lot that the team that has taken it up to Sydney Swans the most this year has been the Giants. Very few, if any other, teams have been competitive against the Swans, let alone win against them. Two teams where the Seniors are relatively healthy and playing good football means that the reserves also have something to prove.

  3. jan courtin says

    Thanks Rulebook. I agree entirely – money should be spent from grass roots up, but I suppose we could about this ad infinitum!

    We will certainly know this time next week, Kath, how it pans out, in both games! Fortunately the reserves game is on the Sunday.

  4. Earl O'Neill says

    Congratulations on the book, Jan.
    Driving from Surry Hills out west, best option is to track the railway line to Strathfield then hit the motorway.
    Have you thought about a Sydney Swans best 22 of Grand Final teams? Lockett, O’Loughlin, Hall, Davis, Franklin, helluva forward line.

  5. jan courtin says

    Thanks for the advice, Earl. I’ll be driving there on Sunday for the NEAFL Grannie, so will take the route you suggest, although I think Sunday on Parramatta Road wouldn’t be as bad as a Saturday.

    Haven’t thought about a Swans best 22 of GF teams, but will have a go.

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