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Round 3 – North v Sydney: A different type of excitement


Surely, I’m not the only footy follower to feel disengaged about this year’s competition? And all those shock results! I just can’t get that excited.


The Courtin clan decided to take a trip on Saturday. The five girls in the family drove to Violet Town to watch the footy with the only brother. We’d planned it way back, once we knew there would be no attendances at games. It would also be a family reunion. The Geelong–supporting sister and her husband drove from Ocean Grove, a three–hour trip. Our sojourn from Melbourne took just under two hours.


We arrived half an hour before the match. Liz and Tony had prepared a delicious spread and everyone tucked in. Except me. I can never eat just before or during a game – get too nervous, and despite my footy disengagement, food was definitely the last thing on my mind.


I’d had one my ‘gut feels’ all week about this match. We would win. No doubts. Despite no Buddy, no Sam Reid, and no Sam Naismith, I felt sure that our young brigade of small forwards would do the trick. I also felt sure that we would have learnt from our mistakes last week in the first quarter against Essendon, and that our pressure would sustain us this week for the full four quarters.


“Tony, the game’s starting,” I yelled, as he remained at the table in the dining room, adjoining the loungeroom. “Why aren’t you watching?”


“I’ve got it recording, so if we win, I’ll watch it later.”


What the….!


Two quick goals to North isn’t very encouraging, but Hayden McLean shows his promise with a great grab to kick his first AFL goal, and Tommy Papley adds another just before the siren. North by 2 points.


McLean is involved again, handpassing to Will Hayward who goals from 35 metres, and Jordan Dawson, from 55 metres, adds another. We’re looking better. Paps snaps a beauty, but after much deliberation, is only given a point. It was a goal! Luke Parker and Nick Blakey combine for our fifth in succession, before North finally kicks straight after 7 behinds, and we’re ahead by 6 points at half time.


Marshall joins the rest of the family at the dining table, while I sit there, alone on the couch, thinking about the footy this year and my disengagement.


For the last few months, I’ve convinced myself that football is really just a game. For seven decades, football was definitely, without doubt, ‘more than just a game’. A cliché, yes, but a real belief.


Football and the Swans have been an integral part of my life, firstly in Melbourne for 20 years, then overseas for 10, in Brisbane for 22, Sydney for 20, and now back in Melbourne this past year. Red and white is in my blood. Another cliché, yes! But I’ve lived and breathed my Swans for 70 odd years.


In 2020 life changed. Not only has the pandemic forced us all to face different realities, but racism reared its ugly head once again. This insidious form of discrimination is ever–present the world over, but this year, with the murder of George Floyd, we were exposed to far more media coverage, forcing us to face the cold, hard truths. The exposure also highlighted the plight of our own indigenous peoples, a plight too easily and too conveniently forgotten in this country, and we were confronted with challenging our own beliefs and attitudes.


The Black Lives Matter movement swept the world, protests followed, and then another black man was murdered in cold blood by a white policeman in America. More to take on board.


This year has certainly been different. There have been more important things to think and care about, and footy, well – it really is just a game.


Marshall is back on the couch and with Tony still nowhere in sight to watch our third quarter heroics, the Swannies seem to be on their way to victory. Heeney goals from 50 metres, Paps adds another from 45 metres; both of these champs are involved again, but three consecutive behinds blot our copybook a little, before that man Papley shows why we should never let him leave the Bloods. He produces a miraculous handball over his head – while being tackled by three North guys – to James Rowbottom, who snaps a beauty from 20 metres.


“Tony, Tony, where are you, come and see this,” I yell, to no avail!


Paps – having a wonderful game – gathers a running ball, handballs 20 metres to Lewis Taylor and from the goal square, we add another. Luke Parker, from 50 metres, kicks truly, before North adds a major before the siren. Swans by 27 points.


Tony walks past the screen and says “Wow!”. Asking him, again, to watch, he says he gets too nervous and will see the replay – if we win!


The last quarter, especially as North pile on a couple of goals and with us leading by just 17 points with only five minutes on the clock, sees me breathing heavily and starting to sweat. I’m supposed to be disengaged, I think to myself. Snap out of this Jan, it’s only a game! Apparently, I’m yelling and swearing at the tele, enough to bring the family into the room to see the remaining minutes (except Tony). Another goal to North and my heart is racing to the all–familiar 70–year red and white Swans love affair habit, and all I can think about is the red and the white. As Goldstein marks on the 50 metre line, the siren goes, and the tele cuts off. I discover later that he missed and we’ve hung on to an 11 point victory.


We all celebrate and then wander outside to Tony and a wonderful log fire that he’s been preparing. I tell him he’ll be able to watch the replay without any stress, and he just smiles.


We sit by the fire for a couple of hours, talking coronavirus, racism, other injustices, the environment, politics, addictions, sexual abuse of children, and a myriad of human–frailty behaviours. Football does not come into the conversation.


Arriving back in Melbourne at 9.30pm what I really want to do is watch the replay of our gutsy win. Instead, I go to bed and seriously contemplate whether my footy disengagement has shifted.


Go Bloods!





Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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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

    Ah Jan, it’s only a game, but we love it. And sure there are more weighty and life challenging events absorbing us in recent times, but that just makes it so more important to embrace the things we love … sport, music and the environment and particularly our Swans!

    I have no particular expectations of this season, other than embracing the joy and beauty of a Heeney high flying mark or a Papley snapped goal …. or perhaps a Buddy long range goal. You’ve got to love it!

    Go Bloods. Cheer, cheer!!!

  2. Linda Dickie says

    I just love your footy almanac writings Jan.
    I have only been a Swans supporter since 2012 – but your words take me on your life -long journey with our beautiful Swans.
    You are right – it’s only a game , but when a win from your team can put a smile on your face and make your day it’s obviously a bloody good mental health booster.!!!!
    Like you, I will love the Swans till I depart the planet.
    Cheer, cheer the red & the white ??????

  3. hey sis Jan! engaging story. life. footy. family. open fire. stars and open sky. fun. thankyou for your great story. xx polly

  4. Tony Courtin says

    Jan,I thoroughly enjoyed the replay of our great victory over North. My duties as a host essentially precluded me watching the majority of the game,but was always there in spirit. Go bloods. You disengaged from footy- never!!

  5. June Ferguson says

    Hi Jan, as a Swans supporter, like you, for over 70 years,and the sorrow and joy they have given me, the S.M. Footy ground, sitting in the old wooden stand, crying after another loss and Upsetting my
    daughters,, 2 of which and their family attend all the Games here in Melbourne and fly up to Sydney
    to join my Nephew and Great Nephew to watch our beloved Swannies! The other 2 daughters follow
    The Blues, because their gorgeous Dad was a dedicated Carlton fan, and we decided to spilt them up,
    we gave them the choice, and I think I got the loudest and most passionate two, takes after their Mum!
    I am miserable after the G.F. Knowing that there will no footy for months and how will I manage not seeing
    my boys play! Then this year, no footy, after so excited when they started and now, like you Jan, I think
    I can be not so interested , but I can’t so here I am so passionate again waiting for a season, that will be
    so different, but then the whole world has been so strange the last 3 months, in fact the whole year, what with
    terrible bushfires, floods and now this COVID-19, and the racism that haunts this country too, I am still
    broken hearted about the way Goodsey was treated! Whatever happens though, I will always be a loyal
    Bloods supporter and I pray that I will see another Premiership before I pass on! I still rank Bobby Skilton
    as my fave and best player, though Kelly’ is not far behind! I so loved watching Lockett and was in Syd.when He kicked that special goal, what joy that was!! I often wished I lived in Sydney , during the footy season,
    as the swans do not get much press covering or attention in Victoria, people forget that we were a Vic.
    based team and had to give it up to move to Sydney to keep the team united, so happy we did now!! Keep up the great writingJan and go Bloods – forever!!! ???

  6. Thanks one and all!
    Keiran: Yes, I do love it! That will never change.
    Linda: Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I totally agree – a smile that makes your day is obviously a bloody good mental health booster! Especially when it involves our beloved Swans!
    Polly: Yes, I tried to cover the full day, family and all.
    Tony: I was very impressed with your host duties!
    June: Lovely to know your South history – in line with mine – and that Skilts is your favourite – in line with me – and yes, let’s hope we both live long enough to see another premiership!
    Cheer cheer

    In retrospect, I realise that the no-travelling to games this year, has certainly exacerbated the feeling of disconnectedness. For the past 10 years I’ve attended all games ( except Perth) and the planning ahead, booking air fares and accommodation, or driving down to Hume from Sydney to Melbourne, or up to Brissie, has all been a part of the anticipation and excitement. Hopefully we’ll be back to ‘normal’ sooner than later!

  7. Rulebook says

    Jan love your passion ! ( I admit my interest in footy and the afl in general will increase when,Dylan Stephens debuts) there is a interest in Will Hayward having been our,sapsasa schoolboy side I helped coach

  8. Debby Ross says

    Hey Jan – my sentiments exactly regarding this footy year.. too many compromises to satisfy me.. but having said that – when We won out in the ballot to be amongst the 222 members going to the scg – my feelings changed! It truly was an experience to be remembered – carrying the passions of 40,000 Swannies in our hands (and mouths) was simply awesome. I havent t spoken for days.. reckon the 220 of us made more noise than the whole of the Churchill stand on match day! It was fabulous…. so with my “go bloods” banner held high, ,
    Im pretty sure I can re-ignite my interest in this season after all! GO BLOODS!

  9. Marie Teague says

    My sentiments about the footy also Jan. The passion and interest have diminished. I must admit, I started losing interest in the men’s game when our daughter, Anna, started playing with Geelong. I really enjoy watching the women. I actually watched the Geelong game Saturday might, while people were outside gathered around the fire. It helps to switch off from all the sad things happening at the moment. I got a little excited near the end, but wasn’t really upset with Geelong losing by 2 points. It just didn’t really matter that much.
    I do think your footy disengagement has shifted just a little Jan! I hope mine does also.

  10. Many thanks Rulebook, Debby and Marie.
    You’ve sure coached some pretty good players, Rulebook. Will is a beauty and we look forward to seeing Dylan debut.
    Debby: I saw that you’d made the cut the previous week. Fantastic. As I mentioned above, the not being at games has definitely had an impact of the feelings of disconnectedness. Would lvoe to be able to drive up to Sydney soon to our treasured seat in the O’Reilly!
    Marie: I’ve heard several others talk of their interest more in the Women’s game now. Yvette Wroby, a St Kilda person and a regular Almanac contributor, thinks similarly. I’ll let her know you’re another one!

  11. Your Bloods have got a hold over our Roos, Jan.
    We just cannot seem to play our best footy against the Swans.

  12. Thanks for your comment, Smokie. I sense disappointment in your voice. Can understand it, considering how well your guys had been playing. Some teams appear to have the wood on others!

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