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Round 13 – Sydney v Richmond: Ten whole years

Reading my book on the train heading home Friday arvo, a passage leapt out at me: ‘Memories are microscopic, tiny particles that swarm together and apart. Little people, Edison called them. He had a theory about where they came from and that theory was outer space.’

 

This week in footy was set up on memories. Missives from the long ago stars about the moments that mattered in ‘05. I’d watched them all week. Micky and Bolts. Willo and Davis. I hadn’t remembered that Jolly kicked the first goal. I hadn’t remembered that it was Leo who kicked it to Cox before snatching it back again. The particles of that 2005 Grand Final have dispersed, but a constellation of feeling remains.

 

Ten years ago, my family had pole stars in conversation that Saturday. Our son turned one the day before the flag and we celebrated his milestone with a harbourside grand final breakfast in Sydney. Our friends (many of them arts workers and not quite as convinced as we are about the thinness of the membrane between art and sport) came obediently dressed in red and white. A long swathe of the Glebe foreshore turned festive for the morning, stained by the red and white of streamers, balloons and premiership dreams. We dealt, in equal measure, with the pre-game nerves and the Swans logoed birthday cake my sister had piped the night before.

 

Back at home for the match, the babe obediently slept the first half, woke at the break and we tumbled to Bondi, where fellow O’Reillys had projected the match on their kitchen wall. The house was full, the action enormous. The afternoon flowed in waves of excitement and terror. As the final quarter neared the 30 minute mark, my investment in the result had me on hands and knees tailing the one year old across the floor, between the empty Champagne bottles and the elaborate electrics, to the nearby hallway. We sat and plodded a lone plastic giraffe up and down the floorboards as I waited for the moment when it would or wouldn’t be safe to return; the one year old was definitely playing his role.

 

The vocal swell of the group drew us back just in time for Cox’s mark in the pocket and a small moment in history, a goosebump arc made by the number 21 who dared to fly front and side and pluck the ball as he went. The larger emotional picture, the shape of the whole day, will always be etched in memory—the fulsome one year old cemented on this earth and the relief and joy of the footy pinnacle.

 

*

 

Footy teams have high expectations put upon them. We O’Reillys carried the premiership into the stands on Friday night. We sprinkled its stardust memories between us as we arranged ourselves up in Row T, as we watched the utes of smiling faces and named them between ourselves like old chums in school photos. And as the new boys replaced the old, we charged them too with the trials of the week—a conference, a cold, the end of a long school term. We expected relief from the long dark night of solstice and the black hole of the bye. We had a Friday night thirst for thrill. But the one year old is now almost 11 and guides his own footsteps these days; he chose his grandparents’ central heating and couch. So we’d brought a different guest. O’Reilly Max reckons Gwen in Row S suffered whiplash when she heard the words Tigers supporter.

 

The party had an anxious start. Would everyone show up? Would there be crashers? Was anyone minding the gate? There was plenty of early niggle, we were feeling it up in the stands too. And the start played out backwards and forwards but not much release at either end. The Tiger in Row T purred quietly that early shots by Franklin and Kennedy had the left post best-on-ground.

 

But the Swans seemed to pick the right music in the second, slating good rhythm for the night with precision kicking and high intensity pressure. It takes effort to get a party going. They looked clean and fast, hitting targets, making good geometry—Hanners outside, Macca inboard, Lloyd outside again— cutting in and out, joining the dots ‘til the ball was deep forward and on the scoreboard. A redhead showed up and ignited the place with sticky fingers and special pace. In the midst of ongoing biff and trouble, the Swans were showing that a flock of birds can keep track of a few lone cats.

 

And then somebody turned the power off.

 

Tippett was reported for clumsy dancing. Cotchin managed a ridiculous prone goal while Smith missed the gift from the Gods. Vickery and Ellis kicked long and straight. The Tiger shouted a round of drinks rather than a full blown hurrah; cats are sensitive to fear and angst around them—if only to know where to pounce! The whistles were everywhere. Minions was released last week and I couldn’t help wondering if at least one of them had escaped.

 

Teddy took the knees of Ellis and Ellis took more points. A settler from Mitchell and Parker’s long kick-and-roll kept us sane, but the Swans were missing a fulcrum in the middle and the defence needed an extra bouncer. The Tigers pushed again to bring the scores to even. Drinks were spilling in Row T, the kids were switching spots, the clappers were getting slapped way too hard and O’Reilly Lisa was ruing positionally promiscuous Reid. People were getting blamed for things they didn’t do. Players were having all sorts of disappointment put upon them.

 

If this was indeed supposed to be a premiership party, the fourth quarter was wanna go home. The redhead had one last dance, but it wasn’t to be. Macca had one last dance, but it wasn’t to be. The big screen cut to the ‘05 team, suited men with their bottled beers. They didn’t look worried. Smiles and waves—not their responsibility anymore. Shaw with his one hander, Goodesy with his old school tempo, Jetta with the legs to go all night, Harry with his single point­—scores were level on 77 and a sniff was in the air. But the slide came off the penalty from Jones: a goal from Jack, the soccer from Ivan and a cake iced by Miles.

 

*

 

I agreed to drive the Tiger home, an act of supreme tolerance and grace. I confessed to him in the traffic that I truly hate losing to his team. But I indulged him a moment of first time since 2004 and he helped me with a light-hearted string of what happened? It wasn’t until he was out of the car and I was working my way through the inner west, not until I parked outside the house at almost midnight, until I noticed the two pointer stars and Southern Cross glowing brightly over the house, that I felt the full pull of regret. You can go down for the count off a Friday night loss.

 

Players are taught to spot the mechanics of loss; supporters have to find the philosophy. While the premiership heroes were just getting started on their weekend of retrieval, I was happy to lodge Friday night up into that memory net of outer space and leave it quietly there.

 

Bring on Thursday! Party at our place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Comments

  1. Lovely piece.

    First the Dogs, now the TIges? If the fortress crumbling?

    Need your fans to get into the game sometime before the last 10 minutes. And I thought the 2005 honours contributed to the general ennui of resting on your laurels that I first spotted in mid-2014.

    For what it’s worth, I think the Tiges have now won the last 4 times in the Sydney region. Maybe we should get a final up here in week 1?

  2. Wonderful images Mathilde. “We tumbled to Bondi” reminds me of Dickens’ description of children being “tumbled up” in Great Expectations. Superb.

    The Swans seem to be missing “it” in season 2015. There is a brittleness. Can’t put my finger on it, but its not dislike the Cats of 2010.

    The O’Reillys sound like a robust clan.

  3. Brilliant writing and images, Mathilde.
    Sans Buddy? The man-child that dare not speak its name?

  4. Always enjoy seeing your posts Mathilde. Another great read.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    “You can go down for the count off a Friday night loss”. Very true words Mathilde.
    I still think the Swans can go all the way in 2015.

  6. E.regnans says

    G’day Mathilde,
    Thanks very much for forming and for sharing this creation and within it some of your philosophy.
    From which book did that illuminating passage leap..?

    Well may your wound be healed.
    tick, tock.

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