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Round 17 – West Coast Eagles v Sydney Swans: Hand-me-up

 

I grew up in Sydney playing League at primary school, taken by my father to watch the mighty Rabbitohs. And they were mighty in those days – Clive Churchill, Jack Rayner, Ian Moir were indelibly impressed on my mind. At high school I played Union but watched few matches until TV meant I could watch the Wallabies perform and images of the 1984 Grand Slam tour remain etched in my memory, especially the wizardry of Mark Ella and David Campese.
There was little or no contact with Australian Football, with a couple of standout exceptions. On the occasional Saturday one of our neighbours, who otherwise eschewed TV, would wander over and ask if anyone was watching ours at the moment. “No Axel, go right up” I would tell him, and he would settle down to watch the Navy Blues go round.

 

The other contact was at Erskineville Oval where my wife Anne and I helped to run the local Little Athletics. We had booked the Friday afternoon with the local council and were a bit peeved to find a bunch of tallish blokes kicking an oddly-shaped football around. The booking mix-up was sorted and we didn’t see them there again. Not till years later did I realize I’d had my first live contact with the Sydney Swans who had just moved up from South Melbourne.
In January 1990 Anne and I moved to Melbourne with our younger son Simon and spent most of our first year grumbling at the lack of League and Union coverage; Rules (as we called it) seemed to be the only game in town. Somewhere in this time we discovered that Simon had developed into a Rules fan and, for reasons he still cannot explain, although I suspect it was because the colours of Parramatta where he grew up were blue and gold, had latched onto the West Coast Eagles.

 

Simon is one of those enthusiasts who likes to share the joy. We began to watch the Coasters and despite being a complete novice to the game I decided that Chris Lewis was one of the most gifted footballers I’d ever seen. Simon approached our Rules education with forethought. The next step was taking Anne to the MCG to watch North play Essendon. In a word, she was gobsmacked: the size of the place, the noise, the action – it was a watershed moment.
My turn came a few weeks later. The Eagles were playing Essendon at Windy Hill and I went with Simon who wore his Eagles scarf and we stood in the outer surrounded by old blokes in dirty-old-man gabardine coats yelling “Carna Bombers!” I had no idea at the time that it was the game where Kevin Sheedy had tied the windsock down to confound the visitors and then blamed the Martians. I later discovered it was a coincidence, that the man who was supposed to let the new windsock loose had forgotten and then couldn’t get through the crowd.

 

I think that was the turning point. We stepped up the TV viewing and went to occasional games. I recall watching the Brownlow in 1995 and thinking “Paul Kelly could get this”. We decided that if we were going to live in Melbourne we should be whole-hearted about it and that meant having a footy team (and the vocabulary was changing too). The obvious choice was the Swans:we started going to their games more often and in 2004 we finally took the plunge, became members and settled in for the ride. Great timing!

 

So here we are now in 2015, at a table in The Riser: Anne and I (Swans) daughter Susan (Swan), a couple of friends from the MSO (Swans) and Simon in his blue and gold with his partner..

 

Let’s just say the game was not memorable, or not for us anyway, although Simon quietly enjoyed it in a room full of Swans. The bright spots gave promise: Isaac Heeney, the hard work of our Josh Kennedy, the continued effort and progress of Toby Nankervis – Nanny to some, as in if you can’t have your Mummy then Nanny will do – the grace and skill of Lewis Jetta, the desperation of Dane Rampe. But mostly we were outplayed by a very good Eagles side and our inadequate effort was due to other factors than the injuries we had suffered. We can only hope that Horse and the boys can get their mojo back by next weekend.

 

I was not unhappy; I assumed for days before that we wouldn’t win this one, despite Simon’s concern that history would weigh against his Eagles. But when it comes to football, history is bunk, form is everything, and form won the day.

 

Simon’s had a few hand-me-downs over the years, but there has been nothing to touch the football hand-me-up I’m still enjoying now.

 

Comments

  1. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Lovely story Don and beautifully told.
    I had been a Swans member only 4 years when my Cygnet was born. But the intensity of my loyalty did not match its shortness. My partner and I took our young Cygnet to the 2006 Grand Final when he was only 2! He stood on the breakfast table the next morning as we went over the post-mortems in the paper. ‘Who are the yellow and blue ones,’ he asked. ‘They’re the Eagles,’ I replied. ‘But we don’t go for them,’ I added nonchalantly. ‘I do,’ came the swift reply. He was an Eagle until 6 when he started playing for our local team who happened to be the Newtown Swans, and got the red and white jersey on his back.
    We loved his young independence but gee it was nice when he came across. They bring good things, kids.
    Thanks again for your story.

  2. jan courtin says:

    Nice tale Don. Pleased you chose the red and white.
    Cheer cheer

  3. Don Meadows says:

    Thanks Mathilde and Jan. My only regret is that I didn’t get onto it sooner!

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