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Round 14 – Sydney v Essendon: Party scenes

What is the best party you have ever attended? I’m sure I can’t remember it.


I do recall though, that in 1986, I attended my schoolmate Vernon’s 7th birthday bash – memorable for two reasons. The first was the realisation that the fairy bread trend had in fact infiltrated this household and was in plentiful supply. The second was the fact that I would not attend another of Vernon’s shindigs when he tormented guests with a sharp object after he decided his collection of gifts was not to his liking. Vernon proved that parties could be unpredictable.


Thirty-five thousand revelers took up the invite to attend a Friday night of frivolity at the Sydney Cricket Ground that the Great Gatsby would be proud of; supercharged with action, intrigue, and uncertainty. The qualities that make parties such a nightmare for people—and also so pleasurable—make them incredibly relevant to the football world. There’s a chaos agent quality to them: You just don’t know who’s going to be there, or why. You could run into an old enemy, an old friend, an old friend who’s become an enemy. The stakes are all there, and that’s why they’re so fascinating.


Many entered believing that our home team would continue what has been a stunning revival after arriving fashionably late to this season. What many didn’t expect was that the gate-crashers flaunting their bomber jackets could spoil our celebration of all things Swan.


Tapping your knuckle on an unfamiliar doorframe often provokes profound anxiety and dread. These visitors must’ve experienced such emotion when stepping foot on hostile ground. It’s like being the tag-along lurking in the darkest corner of the room while the friend you came long with tests his shimmying ability on what is usually quite an underwhelming dance floor. We’ve all been there. On this occasion however, I do not sympathise.


In true party spirit, lets skip to the juicy bits. The way in which we played for the first three and a half quarters, led me to believe that our boys actually had no comprehension that we were longing for something convincing, beautiful, and also dramatic, situations where significant things happened on a scale that was both grand and intimate. Instead we saw play punctuated with missed opportunities and inaccuracy, so we’ll escape here, to the final five minutes of the match.


The leading role in this particular party scene belongs to our regular hero in – Josh Kennedy. Looking as though he could masterfully reside in an exclusive Monaco cocktail soiree – dinner suit clad and dry Martini in hand, his footballing style belies his debonair appearance. His thirst for confrontation suggests he should feel more comfortable at a bachelor and spinsters ball, swillin’ Bundy Rum and puttin’ up them dukes.


Kennedy often appears as though he’s unwillingly being drawn into the centre of attention as matches approach their climax. His talent and leadership simply demand that he is. While playing hockey in Helsinki in my younger days, I encountered a similar situation. Remember how little Vernon showed us that parties were unpredictable?


Our host team invited us to their ‘clubhouse’ for a post-official function get together. Obligingly, we frequented. Upon arrival, we discovered that the ‘clubhouse’ was in fact a Finnish family home that had been temporarily vacated by one of the players’ parents. Anyway, the fridge was full and hospitable they were. A bizarre twist occurred when the word ‘sauna’ was spoken. Two visitors were seconded to the outdoor steam box and rather unwillingly, I was one. Disrobing was compulsory and I soon realised that so was rolling in the snow outside while still disrobed. The Fins do things a little differently to us.


As young Ollie Florent, watching from the edges, strikes an exhilaratingly opportunistic goal, bringing our Bloods to within two goals with only minutes remaining, the locals sense that this bash is finally kicking into gear. Still, there’s not long left so celebrations are largely muted. However, with the clock ticking and as one of Kennedy’s impervious bursts leads to a Nic Newman goal, tension and anticipation rises.


Can we make it? This would be miraculous. A win would be momentous. This could be wild. Not quite as wild as the fiesta in Hemmingway’s The Sun Always Rises, where six days of drinking, dancing and expat debauchery ends the way many parties do: ruined reputations, a drunk girl crying her mascara, and an old-fashioned punch-up between two scowling suitors. But, wild nonetheless.


Days of preparation are now leading to a final burst of activity. Longmire can no longer watch and neither can I. My television has been switched off for approximately three minutes now, as my nerves jangled once too often. Have I missed the party? But seriously, victory is merely a mirage at this stage. Over a long period of time, our team have set ruthless standards for themselves and do all that is required to protect each other and their identity. Not this time though, I think to myself as I ponder heading to the reassuring comforts of bed and sleep.


When Buddy marks and turns on to that exquisite left boot, the thousands rise as one. When he registers a behind, the thousands fall as though stumbling out of a questionable public house together, songs and gossip ringing in their ears, headache forming, while the respectable citizens of the city are heading to their reputable jobs.


The final twenty-four seconds of this match are a thing of rare beauty. Beautiful and crazy. Crazier than a Cuban house-party with ‘Teach Yourself Spanish’ set up in the toilets, drinking rum from coconuts and playing Daddy Yankee’s ‘Gasolina’ on repeat. More beautiful than Rome’s Trevi Fountain at sunset. More beautiful than Buddy’s left boot.


Gary Rohan you bloody beauty.


The kinds of surprising developments that occurred here are exactly what we’ve wanted to come forward in our Sydney Swans. Something tells me that there may just be even more poignant celebrations to come for us later in the year. If that does eventuate, just remember that parties aren’t to be avoided — they could even be said to be paramount.


Sydney 11.20.86
Essendon 12.13.85

About Joe Moore

Learned the art of the drop-punt from Derek Kickett as Jamie Lawson watched on. And thus, a Swan for life. @joedmoore1979


  1. Peter Warrington says

    Joe, I’m a cynical half-glasser. I thought the way the Bombers smashed them for 30 mins and piled 7 on laid waste to any argument that the Swans are the form team of the comp. They are beating the teams around them, and only just.

    still, not many teams would have had the gas or the belief for that last little effort, as Richmondia gripped the Bombers, so I don’t begrudge the exhilaration. It just reminds me of the Tiges after Lloyd’s heroics last year, and that euphoria lasted about a week. THEY’VE GONE BANANAS!

  2. Joe Moore says

    Thanks Peter. Certainly improvement left, but who knows?
    Lets enjoy the wins when they come along!

  3. again, half-glass. everytime Richmond win it just takes me closer to the next loss.

    it’s the hope that kills you…

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