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Round 1 – Sydney v Port Adelaide: Sydney’s injury woes


‘Was it a painting major she did?’ A colleague at the Museum of Contemporary Art is asking me about another of our co-workers.
‘Installation, I think.’ It’s almost home time. I grab my bag.
‘Wait, what?’ Another colleague is catching up. ‘Does everyone have to have a major?’
‘Well when you do a BFA—’
‘A broken f*@?ing arm??’
‘—a Bachelor of Fine Arts …’
I’ve just seen the text messages lined up on my home screen. ‘A broken arm! On a chain? Tripped on a chain?? Six weeks!!!’


Right there, while the conversation dims to mute behind me, a deluge lets loose: the loss on Saturday; the already disorganised defence; the midfield that was missing something; the now impending shuffle of men; Jarrad’s calf and Rohan’s back and Isaac’s glands and Dan’s collarbone; the Premiers this coming Friday night; pride; shame; blame. What about that foam sling I pulled out of the garbage bin in the Cob’s study last night, the one he used for a thumb injury sustained while rumbling? I kid you not, I put it round my neck just last night and slung my right arm into it, wondering if I could get away with helplessness at work on Monday.


In the interstice between work and train, a first round loss becomes a snowball season. One man down becomes a bowling strike of bodies. The feeling creeps in me of a chain of events—no! Not a chain!—a ripple effect, breaking something smooth into something very ominous. That one small crack in Dane Rampe’s arm is suddenly magnified into the giant crevasse that lies under the thick skin of the new-season footy lover.

Are we really so brittle?




On season’s eve I had chatted with a gallery visitor who was on a seven day camp with kids.
‘Where are you from?’ I asked.
‘Melbourne,’ came the reply.
‘When are you heading home?’
‘Ah good. Just in time for footy season.’
Her eyes brightened. Here in Sydney and someone understood? Her story unrolled. She was a Bombers supporter, buoyed and ready again after all that she had weathered. She had raised her family in Ivanhoe, where a daughter had come home from school one day and announced she would support Collingwood like 99% of her friends. Mother told daughter she could go and live in the garage. It wasn’t until her 21st birthday speech that daughter revealed she had indeed supported Collingwood for two years but had never told her mother.


Richmond are my new Collingwood. I potter through Thursday footy. But Friday grips. The contest is detailed and vivifying. There’s a passage half way through the second when a handball departs the flick of Caleb Daniel and flies through Picken to He’s-Back-Bob who spins the perfect harried kick into a 2 on 2 in the 50 where Johannisen scoops and negotiates the six points. I’m audibly enchanted. The Cygnet’s on the living room floor scoring his music assessment. But you couldn’t score play like that.


I talk to Mum on Saturday morning.
‘Your father asked me what team you would be supporting this year.’
‘I asked him how he could be so ridiculous. And he says, “She derzn’t want to change zis year?” He just has no idea.’
This from my mother who has never allied herself to any sporting team in her life. I’m proud of her. And not so bewildered by the Frenchman. Maybe he’s simply in the rhythm of the French Presidential run up and the increasingly absurd lucky dip of choices from week to week as each candidate becomes less and less suitable to lead the Republic.


I hang up and realise that it’s back. This incredible and unique narrative structure that is the footy season, that underpins and supports life in every genre. If it had a shape it might look like laces, that hold things together, keep things tight.


That’s how I climb into the thronging O’Reilly on Saturday arvo, past the siren by five minutes or so—nobody crosses Sydney in time anymore. The O’Reilly boys are shoulder to shoulder and the ‘family’ is ordered across the rows as we know them. A nod here, a wave.
‘Back for more?’ the gatekeeper to Row U asks as I shuffle and thank and hello and sit. Zak Jones launches the ball from the back. Something just settles. I’ve got a rhythm section again. And I don’t realise how much it holds me, how much I love it until I feel it securely underneath me again.


There’s a fork of a forward line in place. Lance kicks one. Straight. Reid kicks 2 across the body. Reid’s kicking like Lance. Lance’s kicking like Tony. O’Reilly James calls it—‘The Lockett factor.’ And we’re cruising for a quarter or two up in Row U, more engrossed in the embrace of a full home ground, the pale grey twilight and our renewed togetherness. Piqued by the unfamiliars 13 and 6.
‘Who’s got C Bolton’s jersey?’ I demand.
‘Foote,’ says O’Reilly Max.
‘Be better if he had 12,’ quips the Cob. ‘Six foot’s not enough for a footballer.’
‘Where did we get this Reid?’ giggles Max as Sam kicks a stylish third.


But things slip. The clearances turn one-sided. The mids can’t retrieve it or work it. Under plenty of pressure the defence looks atypically unsystematic. And at the other end, the pill’s a pea inside 50 that the fork just can’t trap. I feel almost grateful that the Cob and I have to leave at the third quarter break to retrieve our Cygnet across town. We listen to the dénouement as we navigate and languish in Sydney’s strangled passages.




The Cob’s heading off on a Tuesday morning run.
‘Watch for chains,’ I call. I’m sure these things ricochet.


I’m at my desk knowing I must revoke the sadness of empathy, must shun early despair. Must rebuild in a day. Cause I can’t follow the next 22 rounds in a state of premature defeat. Gotta get the metronome out and let it work up the beat again. Let it drive a re-investment in the open wound of optimism, in depth and magic and the tune of ‘opportunity’. After all, Rampe got his start off Johnson’s injury misfortune.


I’m investing in Aliir now, overcoming the ‘tow’ problem the Swans site noted (and corrected) yesterday. He will need to tow in defence on Friday. Because, yes, everyone needs a major in a BFA.

About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.


  1. Mathilde – victory is a poisoned chalice. Victory in the big dance I am referring to. Once our teams are premiers they start to rust from the inside. Its inevitable. It takes a while but it eventually becomes apparent.

    But worse than this, it starts to rust US from the inside. We get to the stage where the season is just a big, long, annoying distraction before the finals in September. We begin to ignore the journey and simply hanker for the final month. Its like toppling over a cliff and wishing the thud would come quickly. Or opening a superb bottle of red and guzzling it rather than sipping in all its joy.

    So the Swans are rusting and the paint might be peeling slightly on the façade, but they are by no means gone. There is plenty holding them together. Its just that the ride to September might be more unpredictable. Enjoy the 2017 bottle of red, it could be the most rewarding yet.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Lovely Dips and Mathilde,
    warm sentiments to help with Saints tragic with first round blues too. Related to much of your story Mathilde, especially working hard to ‘revoke the sadness of empathy’. Was barracking for the Brisbane Lions in the AFLW too, so it was a day of double whammies!

  3. Dan Hansen says

    Chin up Mathilde, the Swans are notorious slow starters. In their 2005 Premiership year they started the season 2-4. In 2014 they lost the opening round to a lowly GWS and still made the GF.

    It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  4. Tom Bally says

    Nice one Mathilde. “Richmond are my new Collingwood.” Gold.

    I’m always struck how we think its just another season but then round one comes we’re barracking one way or another.

    The way we’re copping the injuries makes me think its time to resurrect ‘Final Pulse.’…

  5. “Character building”. Footy as morality play for fans and players alike. Kipling’s meeting triumph and disaster alike. Love it.
    Though I’m a bit worried about your slipping into the “denouement” fad. You’ve been listening to Harms too long. BFA? Bloody Footy Almanac………………

  6. John Butler says

    Good to see you in form Mathilde, even if the Swans aren’t. Just yet.

  7. Superb as always Mathilde

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful Mathilde. The first round loss. Always a disappointment given the build up. No matter the opponent.
    Wishing your team and mine better luck in Round 2. Before we meet in Round 3.

  9. Keiran Croker says

    BFA … have they found his dog yet?

    Looks like Fox, Newman and Hayward are in. Misfortune provides opportunity!

    I’m looking forward to our first of 8 visits to Victoria. Etihad is over the road from work … pity I don’t work on Fridays. Though I can come in for post work/pre game drinks I guess.

  10. Anne Myers says

    Beautiful writing Mathilde.
    You’ve started the season well with this piece. It hums.
    I’m there with you and looking forward to where you’ll take me.

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