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Round 15 – Sydney v Western Bulldogs: still looking for a cat to kick!

The last time I saw a game at the SCG was in the year 2000. Back then we watched our movies on VHS, a middy cost $2 and umpires wore white lab coats and silly hats. In round 9 of that year I sat in the glorious Sunday afternoon sunlight, in the Doug Walters Stand, as the Swans defeated Port Adelaide by 26 points. Adam Goodes, in his 29th game, roamed the wings like a feisty young colt, kicking 4 goals. I was 22, footloose and fancy fee. The Doug Walters Stand and my hairline have long since been demolished.

 

I left Sydney later that year to move to Melbourne and my live footy appetite is now satisfied by trips to the MCG and Etihad Stadium. I’ve been meaning to get back to see a game at the SCG for years. Something has always got in the way. Time, finances, kids, life, etc etc. You know how it is. A few months back I just bit the bullet and booked the flight.

 

I’m full of anticipation as I bid Sophie and the scallywags farewell at Tullamarine Airport on Saturday morning, headed for the bright lights of the harbour city. Upon boarding the Captain notices my Swans cap and wishes me luck for the day. I rediscover the genius of Flight of the Conchords on the in-flight TV and we are at Mascot in no time.

 

After a quick train trip into the city I’m at Central Station. The sun is shining so I decide to leg it to the SCG. I can’t remember what I had on my toast yesterday, so about four seconds into the journey I come to the conclusion that I don’t know the way. I optimistically look for light towers to guide my way, with no success. I try to work out google maps and am quickly taken back to year nine Geography class, where I often drifted off mid lesson. After two minutes of turning my phone in 22 different directions to try and find North I give up and just start walking.

 

As I charge up Eddy Avenue I see a man in head-to-toe Read and White. A mirage? Sensing a lost soul he drops his cigarette into the gutter and extends a firm handshake. Turns out my new mate Luke has only missed one game at the SCG since 1986. That’s over 300 games. I think he may have been sent from above to make sure I made it to the SCG in one piece today. We split a cab and talk about Plugger and Paul Kelly. To miss one game of footy in 30 years is an astonishing achievement. That is a level of commitment that is above and beyond. I wonder what drives Luke to such lengths?

 

We arrive at Moore Park and I bid Luke farewell and head to catch up with my old Uni buddies Jeffro and Trowelli, who will be joining me for the match. Pre-match we meet at PJ Gallagher’s Irish Pub for a few ales, tall stories and a meal that exceeds more than our weekly calorie allowance. It’s been 18 months since I saw the boys, yet it seems like only a week.

 

Voting is a topic of discussion and frustration. The consensus is that one hour spent lining up to vote is time that you will never get back. It turns out numbering boxes 4-6 on the senate ballot paper was a tougher task that deciding who to support when Collingwood play Carlton.

 

We charge through the turnstiles and head for the Brewongle Stand. I rely on my Sydney guides to lead the way. I should have put my faith in the seven-year-old girl with pigtails who was in front of us. Five minutes later we find the right gate. It’s great to see the SCG in all its majesty again, although it appears the chairs have shrunk since I was last here.

 

It feels weird, yet comforting to be in a sea of Red and White. The SCG seems compact, intimate even, when I compare it to the colossus that is the MCG. A tight game early as both teams feel each other out. McVeigh shows his class and experience to kick around the corner and get us on the board. The Dogs look dangerous when they find space.

 

It is more of the same in the second quarter. We try and keep the game in tight, whereas the Dogs try and use the dash of Johannisen at every opportunity. Stringer Looks dangerous with every touch. Buddy decides to impose himself on the game and kicks back to back majors. There is a sense of anticipation and a holding of the breath across the ground whenever he is within 15 metres of the Sherrin. Only a handful of players every generation command this attention.

 

Half-time and I chat with Jeffro and Trowelli about days long gone and the highs and lows of parenthood. Mums have their mother’s groups and coffee and cake to debrief. Blokes share their stories over beers and the footy. Both approaches serve a valuable purpose.

 

The Swans balloon is well and truly burst during the third quarter as the Doggies pile on five unanswered goals. The game is getting away from us and we miss several easy shots on goal. Frustration is building in the Brewongle. Don’t the boys know I have spent $412.38 on this trip?

 

Parker is almost willing the Swans back into the game, throwing his body into packs with little care for his own safety. For his sake I hope the Liberals don’t demolish Medicare. Buddy lights up again and we remain within touch at the final change.

 

Will Minson goals early in the last and we are in deep trouble. I look for distraction and gaze at the green tin roofs that sit atop the Members and Ladies Stands. Such simplicity, not unlike a rustic backyard shed, yet an artwork at the same time. A nod to tradition and history. The SCG walks the tightrope of balancing the old and the new with aplomb.

 

We don’t lay down and it is the usual suspects that haul us back into the game. Jack, Kennedy, and Hannebery navigate the heavy traffic and young Mills plays well above his age and experience. Suddenly we grab the lead and this is turning out to be the best trip ever. Money well spent my friends. The ball goes from one end to the other as the clock ticks down. We control the ball, yet can’t land a knockout.

 

I’ve spent the whole match marvelling at and also cursing the skill of Bontempelli, he has the Sherrin in the final seconds, decides not to have a shot and squares up to Johannisen. Despite 10 weeks on the sideline he calmly goes back and slots the goal. We have been done at the line for the second time this year. This is a loss that hurts more than most. Top spot is gone and we are back in Punt Road like traffic, jostling for a top four spot. A trip to Kardinia Park next week, followed by the Hawks at home. We needed these four points.

 

I’m flat as I bid Jeffro and Trowelli farewell. I hope it isn’t 18 months until our paths cross again, yet concede this may be the case. The Red and White faithful stream out towards Fox Studios, heads down, marching single file, with little chat to break the silence. My first trip back to the SCG in 16 years ends in bitter defeat. I commit to making the trip back sooner rather than later. I can’t stew on this loss until 2032!

About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    The Swans have a tough couple of weeks ahead and are no doubt adjusting to the loss of Tippett. I thought the Swans would hang on . Never mind, they are in the eight and can re group.

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