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Round 16 – Essendon v Sydney: Memory and perspective


Essendon v Sydney

1:45pm, Saturday July 6




Some years ago I had the good fortune of getting to know a Wiradjuri/Yuin/Gadigal artist who was doing a year-long residency at the cultural institution where I worked. We would chat sometimes on Mondays about the week that had been and the week ahead, the challenges of a creative life, the development of our kids. And she shared with me once that, whenever she was feeling stressed or concerned about something, she would sit herself down and at that very moment in time, in that very place, she would begin a slow process of pulling out. Her seat would become a room, the room a house. The house would dissolve into a street and the street into a suburb and the suburb into a chunk of country. Out she would zoom, from close up to widest angle, still in touch with her single sitting self, until she was in the galaxy somewhere looking down at the universal enormity of the context in which her problem existed.


My memory of this story coincided with both this NAIDOC week and the publication on the Sydney Swans website of an article detailing the moment in the club’s history when it made the fateful decision to look at creative options for survival, when administrators and players pulled away from the single focus of Lakeside Oval and broadened their glance to the north and Sydney.


It was with this perspective that I rolled back into the beanbag on Saturday afternoon to watch the team take on the Bombers. I wasn’t sure they would win but I definitely wasn’t sure they couldn’t. The callers identified them as the youngest team in the round with a forward line spearheaded by a 19-year-old first yearer. The ‘G looked glorious, halved in winter sunlight, filled to the heights with cheering.


Aliir was standing in the centre uniformed for his new role, one sock up one sock down and off to a flying start, tapping or not, but often bustling it forward. There was good early movement through the hands of Parks, Heeney and Jones. Not a goal in sight for the first ten minutes but enough in the ping pong to keep the heart tuned to their cause. Rowbottom finally flicked the footy to Blakey for the first goal of the game. It came as something of a spill with Stringer and McDonald-Tipungwuti following straight through the sluice.


There was a fair bit of cake making on both sides without the finishing touches: swooping for the pick-ups but neglecting the final scoop; taking advantage that wasn’t truly there; striding out on open roads that finished in dead ends. Handballs bounced just short of their targets. But Parker scored a lovely captain’s goal and Jones had a six point finish and Zaharakis got his party going, stopping our music every time he headed near goal. Rampe was creative and determined and wry in response to the pantomime post boos.


Aliir was storming in the third and Reid was scoring. Papley pinched just enough space inside the post for a goal. Zaharakis was still in the mood to play but Rose and Reid had brought their own music now too. With the blocking of opposition possession and the slicker use of our own, I started to sense a win. And with that sense came hope and will and…concern. It is a different kind of investment, the one that wants a return, the one that wants the moments to stack correctly towards reward. So, when Hayward missed Parker in the goal square just before the siren, it felt like the fateful glimpse of lost opportunity. The family vacated, unable to bear the frustration of an unwelcome denouement.


There in the beanbag, the afternoon sun dipping below the neighbour’s giant avocado tree, the washing stricken damp on the line, the score balanced only three points in our favour, I started the pull back. Our house and yard, the block, the suburb, the basin of our town, the familiar wriggle of the east coast, the hemisphere we belong in, the code we follow…those South Melbourne administrators, coaches, players and supporters trying to work the right move forward, a team under Ricky Quade and Barry Round flying north eleven times in the first year to play home games in an unfamiliar state. History taps on the calendar and reminds you that there’s a whole other world behind the things you love, eras that belong to the memories of others just as this one belongs to you, just as a country has unique memories to those who were here before.


Pulled well back during the last quarter of this match, which slowly showed itself gone, I was able to take in the wide view, filled as it was with the first links of the memory chain of young men’s careers. McCartin and his lovely progression through leap to arms. He will garner strength and demand. Rowbottom and his present fury at the contest. He will grow stability and wits. Hayward and his skill. He will accrete belief in it. Just as Florent’s puppy has already become clever hunting hound and Papley’s chutzpah has become consistent thrill and Dawson’s scan and link has flourished. Blakey will size his tank for years of domination but let’s hope he never tightens that languid kick which hones the space between posts. Rampe and Parker and Kennedy will hold the line between generations.


Essendon finally iced their cake, with intercepts and chances, to take two Sydneys in two weeks.


And now, on Monday we reflect on the week that has been and the week ahead, the challenge to stay creative but competitive, the exigent development of the kids. And by Saturday, a new opposition will have come north decked in navy blue, carrying their own perspective in tow. And we’ll be there at the SCG to meet them. In Row U, of the O’Reilly, Paddington end, east side of the city the Swans call home.



ESSENDON     2.3       4.5       7.5       11.10 (76)
SYDNEY           1.2       3.6       7.8       9.12 (66)


Essendon: Zaharakis 3, McKernan 2, Stringer 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Fantasia, Parish, Langford
Sydney: Reid 2, Parker 2, Blakey, Jones, Papley, Rose, McCartin


Essendon: Shiel, Zaharakis, Parish, Saad, Hurley, McGrath
Sydney: Heeney, Kennedy, Rampe, Hewett, Aliir, Mills


Crowd: 60,199


This piece originally appeared on the Sydney Swans’ website.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Good to have you in print once again at the Almanac Mathilde. I’ve always enjoyed reading your articulate and thoughtful writing. Although I’m a Bomber fan I was filled with many anxious moments throughout the game as I watched on at the MCG. It’s been a while since we have beaten your Swans so I was very relieved to get the 4 points. Undoubtably there is a bright future again for your young team. Was most impressed by Allir’s game, he was very mobile, quick thinking and the Swans may have found themselves a new ruckman there. Cheers, Col.

  2. Mark Duffett says

    Nice to get a glimpse of that increasingly rarely spotted animal, a correct use of the word “hones” in the context of accuracy.

  3. Enjoyed reading your words Mathilde.
    You are excellent at remaining both creative and competitive in the way you write about the game.
    Cheer, cheer.

  4. The visionary thoroughbred trainer/breeder CS Hayes used to say “the future belongs to those who plan for it”. Your Swans future is assured. Keep enjoying the ride. And sharing it experientially and philosophically. Thanks.

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