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Round 14 – Sydney v Essendon: Plugger revisited, but this was a miracle!


Same team. Same result.

One point after the siren.

Plugger then. Gazza now.

Euphoria for Sydney. Despair for Essendon.

There was one big difference 21 years on.

The prelim in 1996 was not a miracle. It was believable.

2017 at the SCG on Friday night 23rd June was a “Jesus rising from the dead” occasion.

You simply had to be there to believe it!

And for the 34,575 who were, it will never be forgotten.


A different version could well have been written. The heading would shout: “Six goals to Buddy in Swans thrashing!” or “Accurate Swans too good for Bombers!” or even “Bombers overrun listless last-quarter Swans!”

The reality was, up until the 26 or so minute mark on the SCG clock, the Swans were dead in the water: cooked, gone, spent, buried. Just plain dead.

Essendon, all over us for the previous 30 minutes, had kicked the last seven goals of the game and their supporters were rejoicing. Everything they did in those minutes turned to magic. And, how fast were they?

“No worries mate, we’ve got it!” was the reply of one in front of us when his friend asked “How long to go?” after Hurley put the apparent sealer on it to put them 19 points up. I just looked at them with disdain and swore under my breath.

We had no idea at the ground how much time was left. Probably four or so minutes?

At that 26 minute mark, needing more than three goals, the red and white masses were quiet. No increased heart-rate, no sweating, no anticipation. Just an empty feeling knowing this would be the end of our season.

I roll up my flag and just sit there in doom and gloom, waiting for the inevitable, and wonder whether we should drive all the way down to Melbourne again for next week’s game.

Fans start leaving (they deserve not to have witnessed a miracle!) and the Bombers are already celebrating.

Ollie Florent dribbles through a goal from 10 metres. The cheer squad waves the streamers and we clap. Big deal, I think to myself. Still 13 points down.

I pack the thermos away and sit there in more doom and gloom, waiting for the siren.

Buddy tackles Hurley. Parker marks. Passes onto Buddy. Buddy goals (at last!) but we’re only awarded a point. Boos. Loud Boos. Finished, gone, dusted. 12 points behind. No time left.

Nic Newman goals from 5 metres out. Sort of big deal. Still no chance though. Surely the siren will go with 30 minutes on the clock.

Daniher takes a beauty: a game-saving type of mark 40 metres from our goal. More Swans fans leave as Essendon’s go wild with excitement. More swearing under breath.

I start packing the cushions.

Buddy marks. Chance to level scores. Draw better than nothing. Bloody point! 5 points down. BUT what a point that was, Buddy! Had it been a goal there’d have been no time for what followed.

32 minutes on the clock. Someone kicks out after the behind, someone smothers on the boundary line. Ball thrown in, someone kicks towards our goal and someone marks on the line. Who’s got it? Siren goes, Swans players celebrate, goal needed, goal kicked, thunderous roar. Swans win.

What? What’s happened? I don’t believe it! It can’t have happened! It’s not possible! It can’t be possible! I can’t believe it! I simply can’t believe it! My god, we’ve won! It was all so quick, too quick to take anything in. Only then did reality hit.

I couldn’t even sing the song. Everyone is saying “I don’t believe it”. “What happened?” “I can’t believe it!” “I just can’t believe it!”

I couldn’t wait to get home to see what actually happened. Walking over the “waste of 32 million” Tibby Cotter Bridge in Moore Park, the smiles on Swans’ faces are things that dreams are made of. With everyone repeating “I just can’t believe it”, the conversation is all about the miracle and what had actually happened. No-one seemed to know who had done what and how we’d kicked the last 20 points of the game.

We became so engrossed in conversation with other supporters that we took the wrong turn off the bridge, and ended up three blocks away from our usual route: a route taken hundreds and hundreds of times that it’s become routine.

But on this night, nothing at all was routine: the expectations that the Bloods would win and win reasonably well; that Buddy would get back into goal-kicking form and kick a bag against the team he usually excels against; that, surely, we wouldn’t repeat our often errant kicking for goal at the SCG and end up with more goals than behinds; and that the run of 2017 upsets couldn’t possibly extend to this Friday night’s game, even though we’ve won the past seven against Essendon.

We arrive home at 11.15, make a Camomile, and watch the last quarter. How different it is seeing it on tele, knowing how much time was left at critical times in those dying moments. Nothing though, absolutely nothing, can beat being there at the game, and NOT knowing when the siren will sound. It just adds to the exhilaration or despair of it all.

And to see John Longmire’s face on the screen when the miracle happened! I loved it! It mirrored the shock and amazement of all Swannies.

It seems almost irrelevant now to talk or write about the first three quarters of this game; to analyse or put into perspective the number of shots on goal missed, resulting in our 11.20 scoreline; and the turnovers, giving the opposition goals; but, without the input of Isaac Heeney, Joey Kennedy (especially in those dying minutes), Luke Parker, Jake Lloyd, Callum Mills and Heath Grundy in our backline, Buddy’s wonderful sixth behind for the game, and of course Gazza’s mark, history would show a different result.

Nothing now can change this result.

It was indeed a bloody miracle!

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. Somehow, you did it. Maybe my premiership favourites will be a bit more accurate.

  2. Keiran Croker says

    Watching at my brothers place, as I was 21 years ago when Plugger sent us into a Grand Final, I mumbled that we were stuffed when we went 19 points down. What followed was the most amazing finish I think I’ve ever seen. Even knowing the remaining time available did not change the feeling of “what the hell just happened?” Yes, a miracle.
    Hope Buddy and Reidy can find the target next week!

  3. Thanks Aidan.
    It’ll take your unusual powers of assessment and deduction to even hazard a guess at this year’s winner!!

    And, yes Keiran,
    What I forgot to say (and was even going to use as a heading) in my article was similar to your words “the most amazing finish I think I’ve ever seen”. I honestly can’t remember in all these decades of going to footy games, a finish like that! For any team!

    Watching that last quarter again and again yesterday, it is still mind boggling. The celebration of the boys brings out the biggest smile on my face – almost tears of joy!

    Cheer cheer and thanks

  4. Julie Cattlin says

    And to think, Jan, you packed up before the end! You just didn’t have enough faith in your Swans!
    And here come those tears again – nearly!! (reply to Aidan).

    Julie xxx

  5. No-one, Julie, not even the one who rose from the dead, would have had the faith with only minutes to go!!

    cheer cheer

  6. I watched the game at the Rising Sun in South Melbourne with a sister and a friend in tow. There were enough Essendon supporters there to make an audible difference – especially in the final quarter. Even though the beer was flowing, the swannies fans were mute in the last quarter – until the final minutes. such an unusual experience – a pub full of people drinking and not a sound…..

    The sister had decided that going home was a more comfortable option than staying and watching the swans get completely blown away by the high flying (jet) bombers. I stayed with the friend, who although was barracking for the swannies, is a cats supporter.

    Hmmm – it was Friday night and the fatigue had set in after a big week with work. Do I also leave? Sleep was beckoning. But I decided to tough it out and stay with the friend who was appreciating ‘such a great game’.

    Needless to say my decision was wise. The place went a bit crazy with that final mark in the goal square. Mute drunk people sort of fell off their chairs and instantly lost their muteness. amazing really. Strangers hugged each other and some danced around the pub finally able to release their pent up emotions not only from the close game, but from whatever else might have been stressing them in their lives!

    I called the sister who had left early and she said: ” ……………….”!

  7. Would have been interesting seeing mute drunk people sort of falling off their chairs and instantly losing their muteness, Jude, and only after a win like that would that sort of behaviour, and strangers hugging, be not just acceptable, but expected!

    Go the Riser!

    Go the Bloods!

  8. I am a Port man, but I watch Swans games in particular to see what Buddy can do next. He is just an extraordinary athlete and I sit there waiting for him to kick an 80 yard goal or run some poor defender off his feet just for fun. And I have seen many come from behind wins in AFL and SANFL by Port, but that was just beyond incredible. To think Buddy kicked zero goals too !!!! Still shaking my head.

  9. Yes, Bucko, Buddy is an amazing athlete. We’re lucky to have him.

    Winning Friday night’s game without him kicking goals was in one way a good thing – we can do it without his 6-pointers, but his influence was still excellent during the game – especially that final tackle and his last few minutes’ marks.

    And, as I mentioned, had his last point for the match been a goal, it would have levelled the scores but there wouldn’t have been time for our miraculous win had the ball gone back for the centre bounce, so that point was just what we needed at the time!

    Thanks. I think everyone is still shaking heads!

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