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Round 10 – Sydney v North Melbourne: One with the Lot

I really do love a road trip. Especially one involving footy. This latest one was uneventful really but a stop off in the nine hour journey back from Melbourne to Sydney last Monday triggered the memory of an interesting and quite absurd conversation. One of those conversations where you really had to be there to believe it.

Nearly six hours out from Melbourne we stopped off in Jugiong, a small picturesque town just off the Hume. SWANZ parked outside the cafe and as we alighted a loud and distinct Go the Swannies welcomed us. They were locals.

“Love your number plate”, the woman said. Her partner added his agreement.

After 10 minutes of footy talk, mostly about the win against Hawthorn, I decided it wasn’t quite appropriate to tell them the history and the meaning of SWANZ. They didn’t appear to be the types who would appreciate a conversation between a gay German tourist in Sydney for Mardi Gras and a woman who had “loved them since she was five”. If you’re interested, see towards the end of this link:

Our conversation continued for a while and somehow it took on a food flavour. She often had trouble ordering what she really wanted, and he complained that he could never get the meat cooked correctly. Light hearted chatter really, but as we said our goodbyes and climbed back into SWANZ for the remainder of the journey home, the quite absurd conversation (from years back) came to life. So absurd that it was easily recalled some 36 years later!

It was another road trip, this one relying on muscle power and determination rather than petrol. It was a stinking hot December in 1979 as we cycled along the coast road from Brisbane to Melbourne. After starting off that morning at 5am, our energy was starting to sap in the midday heat as we climbed the never-ending hills between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. We needed sustenance, and quickly.

The small roadside cafe (hardly a cafe by today’s standards) advertised a blackboard of delights – 1979 style. Marshall ordered a hamburger with the lot. I asked for a hamburger with the lot, but no tomato and no meat.

“What do you mean, no meat?”

“I would like everything that you put in a hamburger, but no tomato and no meat.”

“I can’t do that” she exclaimed, looking a tad confused.

“Why not?”

“Well, it won’t be a hamburger, will it?”

“OK, sorry, I’ll re-order then. Can I please have a hamburger bun with egg, cheese, beetroot and lettuce?”

“No I can’t make that. I will be in trouble, real trouble”.

Waiting for an unforthcoming more detailed explanation I replied “What do you mean you’ll be in trouble?”

“Well, I will have meat over and the number of buns won’t be the same as the number of meats”.

“Sorry, can you please explain exactly….”

“Well, the buns won’t match the hamburgers, the count will be different”.

I didn’t want to confuse her anymore than she obviously was, poor thing, so made a big effort not to laugh.

“What if I pay you for a hamburger with the lot, you cook the hamburger, and then maybe you’d like to have the meat yourself for lunch.”

“I can’t do that, it would be cheating”.

“It wouldn’t be cheating if I’ve paid for it, and have given you the meat as a present, would it?”

Marshall is getting very hungry, and nudging me to hurry things up.

“Well, I’ll make one hamburger with the lot for him, you can pay me for that, and I’ll have a think what to do”.

I whisper to Marshall “Can you eat both pieces of the meat?”

“Don’t think so”, the slightly-built, not-very-large-appetite-husband replies.

We wait while she cooks his hamburger. We pay for it, and look forward to her difficult decision.

“Well, I could cook you…”

I interrupt. “Just cook it please and I’ll throw the meat in the bin”.

“You can’t do that, it’s wasting the meat”.

“Don’t you worry about that, we’re hungry and want to eat and get on our way, so please just cook it and I’ll sort out what to do with the meat”. She looks relieved.

“Well, I can’t do a hamburger with the lot now, cos I’ve just used all the beetroot on his hamburger”.

I mutter swear words into my hand covering my mouth and I’m at boiling point.

I am also speechless, so Marshall says “Just do it without the beetroot.”

“And don’t put the meat in the bun, keep it separate”, I manage to blurt out, as the animal protein is chucked onto the greasy looking grill.

“Well, where do you want me to put it then?”

“On a piece of paper, and just give it to me”.

Walking out, I throw the meat in the rubbish bin (it is a waste and no dogs around to feed) and glare at her poor-thing-face. My hamburger with no meat, and without the delicious purple stuff, is revolting: the bun is soggy, the egg overcooked, the lettuce limp, and the cheese tastes exactly how it is manufactured – of plastic. I eat it because I’m hungry and need sustenance for the kilometres ahead.

(You may well ask why I didn’t just order a sandwich. They had run out of sliced bread the day before!)

As I cycle off into the unknown I calm down. I force myself to forget the poor thing, and indeed the taste of the food, and make an effort to concentrate on what I try and do when I haven’t got what I wanted – especially when it comes to food and drink: be grateful that I’ve been able to afford a revolting tasting burger without the meat and beetroot whilst being healthy and fit enough to cycle up and down hundreds of mountain-like hills in the stinking heat of the day on my way to Melbourne to watch the cricket. I give thanks and continue pedalling.

For me, a so-called burger without beetroot is a bit like a footy team without its best player; it is a requirement, without which 100% satisfaction is never guaranteed. Some would say a burger without the meat is a team without all of its players, but that could be another story.

Fast forward 36 years: four days after our conversation in Jugiong we’re here at the SCG watching the young boys in the reserves, before the main game tonight. It’s good to see Sam Reid back on the field and look forward to him joining the big boys soon. If the performance of the twos this year (7-0) has any meaningful bearing on the future of the senior team, our future looks bright. Rhyce Shaw is doing a wonderful job as their coach and when you consider that the seniors this year have blooded six first year players (Harry Marsh tonight) – more than any other team – our stocks look pretty healthy.

In this, the first of the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round matches, Buddy and Daniel Wells exchange gifts at the toss of the coin. The gift is an Aboriginal fishing spear known as Garrara. and is an important tool to the traditional Aboriginal people of the Sydney area. To the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo playing in the background, the siren sounds and the anticipation and pressure are already tangible.

The 1st quarter is intense: lots of quick (sometimes misdirected) handballs, fierce tackling, and a more than usual number of stoppages – most of which lead to us scoring. Our midfielders are showing their intent, Tippo is standing up to Goldstein, and our backs are repelling almost everything that comes their way. We are completely outplaying North and for once, despite the wind, are kicking accurately – 6.1 for the quarter.

With a solid lead of 23 points going into the 2nd quarter, North fights back. Thomas kicks his second for the game (both from frees when lowering his knees a la the experts Selwood and Pendlebury, to evoke a high tackle) before the dominant Hanners restores our superiority and lead. Macca kicks his second goal from the 50 metre line, and deep into the quarter, with us still leading by 27 points, North then kicks the next three, to give us only a nine point buffer at half time.

Interestingly, five of North’s six goals up until now have been from our turn-overs and questionable free kicks. Only the six-pointer to Goldstein just before the half time siren could be classed as “a good play” goal.

In the all-important 3rd quarter the Swans continue to apply fierce pressure and Harry and Benny kick two majors from close in. Tommy Mitchell is amassing high numbers and proving that he has well and truly arrived as a first class midfielder. Down the field a dirty act behind the play from Firrito on our Benny gets the crowd up and about. The quarter is rounded out with tackle after tackle, clearance after clearance, boo after boo whenever Firrito goes near the ball, a glorious pick-up on the run by Dane Rampe, desperation in everything he does from Hanners, and a Buddy monster tackle on Goldstein resulting in a goal from a guy whose hair I’d love to have – Gazza. We lead by 26 points.

A woman sitting in front of me – a first timer at the footy – turns around and gives me a look – that sort of look – when I yell my disapproval at Gazza for passing the ball off to Buddy, who misses the goal. Kick it yourself Gazza, for heaven’s sake! This final quarter is tense. North gets a goal and I have to stop myself from imagining the worst – them kicking four more to our none. “Get that rubbish out of your head Janet” I tell my brain. (My mother always called me Janet when she wanted to sound strict). I don’t have to worry, Callum Mills is showing his class beyond his nine-game experience, Joey Kennedy, Tommy Mitchell, Dan Hannebery and Zac Jones all inspire in this final stanza and when Buddy marks and goals 50 metres out for this third, the woman in front giving me “that” look, cheers and joins in the Sydneeeey chant. North reduces our 32 point lead by six points just before the siren and we’ve proved again that the Bloods are indeed a damn good footy team.

Walking home, with my red and white flag blowing gently in the cool breeze, the hamburger analogy leads me to wonder whether one with the lot would taste even better with Kangaroo meat.

My highlights from the game:

Our much-maligned backline, especially without Teddy, easily beating their heralded forwards. I didn’t even notice Petrie and Waite, although you couldn’t miss Ben Brown, with that wonderful head of hair that I’d also love to have!

Our midfielders – where would we be without them, week after week?

Kurt Tippett and Jake Lloyd

The involvement of Go Foundation, co-founded by Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, in this Indigenous Round match. The Foundation exists to provide Indigenous children with scholarships to quality schools. A very worthy cause.

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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. Kangaroo burgers- why not?
    I’m sure the North Melbourners will be scoffing down Swan Saveloys as we speak!!

    Go the bloods!

  2. jan courtin says

    Can’t imagine having either Jude, but each to their own! Thanks

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Too good, Jan.
    Outclassed, outmuscled, outplayed. That bloody little ground is Sydney’s greatest asset. And Kennedy.

  4. jan courtin says

    Thanks Andrew
    I personally think that every team has its home ground as one of its greatest assets. Despite sizes of grounds, adapting to other less familiar grounds is what counts and determines the quality of a team.

    You’re going pretty well!!

  5. Jan: your article made me laugh! Let’s hope Swannies keep winning, and you keep writing!

  6. Keiran Croker says

    Great story Jan. Some people have trouble with the concept of flexible, friendly service!
    Great win too. I was there and wandered by the Lake to check on Millsy, Paps and Georgie!

  7. Ross Treverton says

    I’ve been hibernating since the Tigers loss Jan. There is something about those Tigers that makes my blood(s) boil. l think it dates back to their arrogance in taking John Pitura from us in 1975-although that player exchange worked out better for us than them! Have enjoyed the last 2 wins though. I think we will look back one day and reflect on one of the great midfield combinations in red and white history! How fortunate we are! Cheer cheer those magnificent Swans!

  8. jan courtin says

    Many thanks Marcel, Keiran and Ross

    It actually got a laugh out of me too Marcel, just remembering the incident!

    How the cygnets have grown Keiran. We visited them yesterday as well, in the daylight, and they looked as happy as our cygnets are playing – very well.

    I wonder if you were able to get to the Hawthorn game Ross? Hopefully you did, and enjoyed it as much as I did. And yes our midfield is superb. A little worried about Tommy Mitchell and his contract extension. The “leaving the decision until the end of the year” scenario doesn’t usually bode well. I’m sure Carlton and others will be making huge bids for him! Let’s just hope.

  9. Tony Courtin says

    Amusing food story,Jan. The price you had to pay for being different! Many of our species have difficulty adapting to change. I remember your bicycle trip from Brisbane to Melbourne very well. I picked-up you, Marsh and bicycles in Kilmore and you were chauffeur-driven to mum’s house in Kew for the final leg of your marathon,which you both thoroughly enjoyed after many days of arduous cycling. Ross,my sombre mood for 4 days after the Richmond debacle was in an inferior league to your 2 weeks of hibernation!! How long was your recovery after the 2006 decider? Enjoy the journey north this week, Jan,and here’s hoping we can all have a relaxing time witnessing our team win comfortably.

  10. jan courtin says

    Thanks Tony. Not that it’s important, but you collecting us and the bikes from Kilmore was actually a different road trip – Echuca to Melbourne, a few years later. A much less arduous cycle, and no hills, from memory.

    There is rain forecast for the Gold Coast on Saturday night, so, without being too over-the-top optimistic about a percentage booster, the weather might play a part. At least our seats are under cover and I certainly hope we don’t take anything for granted.

    Cheer Cheer

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