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Round 17 – West Coast v Sydney: Gwen, Chuck the Truck and other gurus


No one’s going anywhere! So said Gwen at the beginning of the final quarter against Hawthorn as Roughhead goaled and half of row 17 sank into their turquoise seats and announced they wanted to go home.


Gwen is the spiritual leader of the O’Reilly mob. Gwen has a quiet, concentrated command over Rows S, T and U … at least. She steers with the steadfastness and equilibrium of long-time loyalty. She is the breakwater for the sets of emotional waves that come and go around her and we fall under her spell for her knowledge, her calm and not least her footy biscuits.


I get the feeling there’s a not-quite-held-in snigger behind the doors of other clubs’ supporters about the Swans’ current form predicament—a kind of Schadenfreude for COLA and Kurt and Buddy and Bondi. The slump has come quickly and with force. A solid start, then a few days off camping or with the WAGS and BAM! – a mid-season winter cold snap. Swans supporters haven’t had to face the genuine likelihood of repetitive thrashings for quite some time. So as things have started to skew, I’ve started shopping around for a coping strategy.


My default is heavy analysis. Find out everything you can, do the research, get every skerrick of information, arrange and re-arrange it, look for the missing links, collate collate, search out a diagnosis and even if there’s no clear prognosis, know what you’re dealing with. Delta Goodrem calls it overthinking it as if it’s a hairstyle you may be able to change tomorrow. But the current level of analysis, the articles, the breakdowns, the opinions, the press conferences—I have no stomach for them. I’m trying to change my tune.


On Sunday evening, the Cygnet read his book as the Eagles got out to a 35 point lead. The man got angry, wedged diagonally in the corner of the couch, yelling obscenities at the current crop, at Shaw for his disposal, at Reid for his kicks, at turnovers and trouble. His strategy seems to be better out than in. It’s very aural but mostly short-lived. As the second term got underway, I decided to try Gwen’s approach—the breakwater approach. Just hold ground against the bad current. I kept reminding myself when the score leapt away and the doubt crept in and I wondered if this was the beginning of another long low pressure system: Nobody’s going anywhere.




I’ve been minding a Land Cruiser for the past month. Almost 600 000km and still on its first engine. Diesel. Bright red, but fading now. The Cygnet named him Chuck. Chuck the Truck.


Chuck belongs to a man I’ve known since 19. One of Australia’s senior Iyengar yoga teachers. I studied intensely with him for ten years and taught under him for three. He is man of such stalled judgements, a man whose capacity to pay attention supersedes most I know, a man who hones rather than finishes, a man who believes and lives the notion that understanding and clarity are experiential processes rather than destinations. No wonder he loves this truck. It is the vehicular embodiment of its owner.


This thing’s not going anywhere, I muttered to the Cygnet as I ground my way up the hill to Woolworths one weeknight a month ago, baffled that even when leaving a newly green light in second, that huge thing would set off across the intersection anyway, waiting for me to play my role. All fine, I reported to its owner, Couldn’t find first or second, but we made it.


Two weeks and a few small attempts later, I realised on a street named Crystal that you can’t change gear in Chuck until it’s just right. Maybe it’s a diesel thing. You can’t just glide down a gear in anticipation. The machine has to have lost the right amount of speed before it will allow it. And likewise, shifting up. It just has to be pinpoint perfect. There has to be a genuine need in the revolutions to warrant you making a move. There’s nothing to tell you exactly when that is, just sound and feeling and the experience of doing it, over and over again.


As I watched the Swans on Sunday, I felt bafflement. The effort and application were there, but the timing and tuning was not. They were not hitting their speed at the right time, they were not moving the ball at the exact moment there was a need and a target was perfectly set up. They were not predictable to each other. They seemed to be riding the clutch and hoping to get across the line.


I drove Chuck across town and back last week. I realised that the more smoothly and consistently I was driving, the more successful gear change sequences I managed, the more joy I felt, the more I wanted to keep going. And in the fragility of that balance, I also realised how rare it is that long stretches of harmony play out. If I think of a footballing life—a player’s, a supporter’s—those occasions of pure integration, those moments when team interdependence is achieved and maintained can be short-lived. They are also incredibly joyous.


Chuck’s owner came home today and we were reluctant to hand the truck back. I have a feeling he might have come in handy through the rest of winter. As I head towards Saturday’s clash with the Crows, I’m cycling through can’t bear it to can’t stand it to can’t do anything about it. First gear, second gear, third. There are long kilometres in support. It’s all fine. Nobody’s going anywhere.


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. Fabulous Mathilde. Just sit in third gear for a while and see what happens. You never want things to be going really well because disaster is lurking in the shadows. When things are grim, however, good times must be close by.

  2. M de H,

    Are you establishing cause and effect in the relationship between yoga and Toyota engines? If so, does that mean, gi thatven we have a 230,000 Km Corolla, I can expect enlightenment at any moment?

    I love the direction of this.

    Former Mini-Moke owner, and Monaro-lover

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Great stuff Matilde. Over recent weeks the Swans have been compared to high art, choirs and now trucks. I like the Chuck the Truck analogy best. Still looking to find the right gears, some might be shredded and in need of maintenance. We might be lurching forward for awhile yet. I reckon the Swans are a good and faithful truck though and we can make the journey.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Superb as always,Mathilde watching this game while with,JTH I thought the swans weren’t as far off as the score indicated they certainly had there chances in the first quarter where,Reids kicking was diabolical should be a close game this week

  5. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Thanks for the advice Dips.
    JTH – Is the Corolla manual? In which case … enlightenment, yes.
    Wish the Swans would get manual again Kieran. But yes, solidarity. Nobody’s going anywhere.
    Malcolm, hmm. Should be an emotion charged encounter Sat night.

  6. E.regnans says

    Love it MdeH.
    Substance with style.
    Crunch go the gears and the years.
    Starts simple, gets complicated.
    My first car a 3-on-the-tree Kingswood station wagon. No ignition key required. Reliable. Dependable.
    We now drive a Citroën automatic. Style. Pizzazz. Design genius. But the starter motor blew recently.
    Substance over style every time.
    Substance WITH style beats all comers.

  7. Nice piece M…I like (I think) the line he never finishes anything ..or something like that.
    Actually this substance v style thing is very pertinent. It used to be form is temporary/class is permanent..but I do think its a lot these days…who’s had a good tune recently and a wash and a I think it must be hard to get up there week after week.
    Speaking of which…John…a monaro-lover is a relationship with the car or a gratitude for what can be achieved in the back seat? In any case..I think I can say with absolute certainty..that a Carolla of any description is not a vehicle to enlightenment. The 600,000 Landcruiser Diesel ..may yet prove to be….but its going to be through a (slow) process of accretion….a very slow process of accretion…

  8. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Folks … the above Peter is THE aforementioned Iyengar Yoga teacher, owner of Chuck.
    Looks like you’re out of luck JTH.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    I’m with Gwen. Never walk out. Been tempted to on the odd occasion. But always stuck it out.
    Great stuff again Mathilde.

  10. Peter Fuller says

    After enduring last Friday night, I assert my claim as a champion non walker out.
    Gorgeous perceptive writing as always, Mathilde.
    Keiran the question for the Swans is whether those shredded gears demand a new gearbox.

  11. Phil Hill says

    What sort of cars should each clubs supporter’s drive?

    A question that I have not ever thought about. Hawthorn supports: a Merk I suppose. Good looking, superbly engineered and worth far more than they sell fore (given that the Hawthorn players could get more cash if they went to other clubs).

    My club Brisbane????

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