Round 14 – Sydney v Port Adelaide: Art, football, and a gutsy win, followed by a day of sadness

The first game we played in 1999 was against Port Adelaide. We lost badly. In fact we lost our first three games and were last on the ladder. This was the start of our first year in Sydney, as fully fledged Swans members again, after 22 years in the wilderness in Brisbane. Not a very good beginning, but to be so close to the Bloods and being able to go to games again was indeed wonderful.


Adam Goodes started in 1999. At first, we wondered about his name and came up with a variety of pronunciations : Goodeys, Good es, Gewds until Plugger was interviewed and we then knew. It was also the year Plugger achieved the milestone and retired. We were eighth at the end of season and played Essendon in the qualifying final, losing miserably.


Our introduction back into footy in the largest City in the land, and the beginnings of a new career in the art world, were to bring up interesting observations about Sydneysiders and their attitudes to art and football.


I’ve often wondered why we humans feel we need to categorise ourselves. Place ourselves into little boxes for protection, peer out through the small cutting we’ve created, and then when we think we feel secure enough, judge accordingly. Strange creatures we are.


Forget the important things in life – the boxes of race and colour; the boxes of class; the boxes of political persuasions; the boxes of religious beliefs; the boxes of sexual preferences and the many other boxes you care to name, but there also seems to be a box that could well be called you appreciate art therefore how can you like football.


When we decided after the 1996 grand final that we couldn’t live without the Swans any more – or I couldn’t – and moved from Brisbane to Sydney a couple of years later, we realised we didn’t feel old enough to retire and definitely wanted something to occupy our daily lives. So, we started our art gallery.


Attending a game in Sydney in 1997, and staying close to the SCG, we explored the galleries in the area and decided that Paddington was the place for us. Two adjacent shop fronts were being renovated at the time and I commented that I thought they could well be galleries.


Late the following year, whilst in Sydney again, we went back to the two shop fronts and sure enough, they were galleries. One open, and one closed – although paintings were hanging and sculptures and artefacts were in place. A notice was attached to the door saying the gallery was closed due to illness and a phone number was given.


We liked the position in Paddington, especially as there were already four other galleries at that art precinct end of the street, and close to Oxford Street. And we liked that the building was number 26 – adding up to 8. A favourite number of ours, where $’s are concerned.


The phone call revealed that the owner of the gallery was currently living in Alice Springs, still paying rent on the shop, and was very interested in someone taking over the lease. It all happened in a matter of days – we contacted the owner of the building, legalised the lease, found ourselves an apartment to rent in Coogee, and that was it.


A month later we had left Brissie and were in Sydney – close to my beloved Swans.


Only in retrospect did we realise that starting up a business, of any sort – let alone an art gallery – was a massive challenge, especially when the field of expertise was not one that was familiar. Although we loved art and had visited many galleries in many countries, this change in life was an eye-opener.


We worked our butts off, usually seven days a week (open six, including Sundays) and found artists whose work we loved. We never missed a Sydney game, employing someone whenever we played, and managed to get to all finals games we played over the 12 years we had the gallery. Everything worked out well and, compared to the slow and stagnant art market at the moment, art lovers were happy to spend on original works back then.


The art & football box: one particular revelation over that time was that so many people in Sydney, in the often stuffy holier-than-thou art world, just could not believe or understand that I could also love football. Many a client would come into my office and exclaim in a variety of ways when they saw my red and white posters hanging above and behind the desk, and the Swans flag sitting in the corner. Most were incredulous, some were surprised and Oh the joy when a small number of others would simply light up and exclaim “Wow, the Swannies – that’s fantastic, I’m a Swans supporter too.” And, over the years they became some of our best and loyal clients.


Most of the gallerists we met over the years in Sydney tended to turn up their noses when footy or the Swans were mentioned. Not that I was particularly forthcoming, but a very distinct silence or a disdainful frown usually followed. At first it really surprised me, but I then realised that being from Sydney and not having footy in their blood and across all classes – unlike in Melbourne – they didn’t understand. Footy to most Sydneysiders means Rugby League, predominantly a working class game, and we know how some people – especially from the posh corner of the Class box – view and treat those they believe are inferior or from the opposite corner of the box.


However, one particular gallery owner did understand. He was from Brisbane originally but played the Aussie game as a kid and young adult. Early on in our Sydney days we visited Ray Hughes Gallery in Surry Hills. We’d been to his gallery in Brisbane in the late 70s, and we liked several of his artists in Sydney. We wanted to add to our then smallish art collection and Ray was showing us works by Joe Furlonger (we now have six of his). An hour or so later he invited us up to his own apartment on the top floor of his pretty amazing warehouse building to show us his private collection of Joe’s work.


The surprise, the big glowing smile, and the sheer excitement when all I could see was a red and white woolly Swans cap sitting on top of a sculpture. And then a scarf and the odd poster on the walls. I knew he was a mate for life!


After our 2005 flag, he proudly showed me his decorated toilet in the gallery downstairs. What a toilet! Every centimetre of space, ceiling included, was covered with pasted newspaper articles from the 2005 win. A glorious sight!


So, despite many art aficionados believing that their superior intelligence and views on the world could not possibly allow for mundane pursuits like following a football team – and being passionate about it – there are the enlightened ones, like Ray and his son Evan, who have broken free of that box mentality. In addition to their toilet, I really like their gallery too.


So, when thinking of our upcoming game tonight against Port, the memories of our arrival in Sydney and the first game we attended here in 1999 as Swans members again, resurfaced. We just have to win this one. None of the rubbish from last week – just plain old fashioned aggressive Swans footy should do it!


The first 30 minutes is a tight affair, four goals apiece, with standout performances by Joey Kennedy, Gary Rohan and Jake Lloyd. Schultz is off target with his first attempt at goal; Teddy Richards is easily bumped out of a couple of marking contests, resulting in two goals to Port; Toby Nankervis is showing promise in his first game, and the umpires have forgotten about the holding the ball rule.


Sammy Reid is holding his own in the forward line, kicking his third during the second quarter and when Toby Nankervis marks 20 metres out and kicks his first senior-level goal the crowd erupts. Rhyce Shaw gets caught running out of the square from the kick-in and the turnover gives them another goal – their first for the quarter at the 22 minute mark. It seems to happen each week with Shawry lately, and a little worrying. We seem to have had a lot of the ball this quarter, but we’re only 11 points up at half time. Gazza’s injury early in the quarter is a real blow, tonight especially. He’s been playing so well lately and not knowing why he’s gone off and subbed out so early raises concern.


Port kick two quick goals within a couple of minutes in the third, and memories of last week’s capitulation come to the fore. Stop start stoppages and man on man aggression leave a Swans player lying prone and not moving. We can’t see who it is from the other side of the ground high-up in the O’Reilly Stand, and several phone calls to friends go to message bank and reveal nothing. The large screen at the ground goes blank and we only find out its Teddy when play resumes five minutes later. The Swans take charge and injuries to our two stars seem to motivate them. Kieran Jack snaps a beauty from the goal square, then Broadbent does a dirty and bashes into Lukey Parker whilst he’s injured. This act only motivates our boys more, and when Goodesy leads the way with a magnificent gather from the centre bounce, bursting forward with speed – reminiscent of his glory days – and kicks the ball 50 metres to see it roll its way through the posts. This inspires the Swans, and the crowd gets involved and the chant rings out. With two further goals from Parkes, 20 metres out, and Goodesy – his second for the term – and straight through the high diddle diddle from 50, a Goodesy chant brings smiles to everyone, including the great man himself. 24 points up.


The ball is in Port’s forward line for about 15 minutes and our defence, without Teddy, is holding firm. Tackling is paramount and the stoppages continue. Zak Jones fumbles a kick from Dane Rampe and Port goals. Robbie Gray gets another and it’s now just two goals ahead. Jetts hovers on his own in the forward line and when Kizza busts his gut running to mark 50 metres out, Jetts manoeuvres his way from his now opponent and runs into an open goal. Relief! Boak, rarely sighed tonight, then goals and I’m heartily sick of seeing their star No 9 pop up everywhere. With not long on the clock Harry intercepts a handball from another stoppage and goals for us. Schultz marks and goals from the boundary line 45 metres out just before the siren.


A gutsy win indeed Bloods. Nine goalkickers, and two guys off injured. Who says we can’t win without the Bud and Tippo, and for that matter Gazza and Teddy too?


My highlights from the game:
Joey Kennedy for BOG performance
Dan Hannebery – again
Jake Lloyd
Goodesy for his inspiration and three goals
Sam Reid for his three goals
Sammy Mitchell for his job on Boak
Luke Parker – again


Postcript: This article was written earlier and typed up last night – after the game.
I’ve held off posting it today, the day of Phil Walsh’s death, because footy definitely takes a back step when events like this happen. A sad sad day for his family and my thoughts go out to them – Phil’s son included.


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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.

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