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Round 17 – West Coast v Sydney: Where to from here?

An old rivalry is about to be reborn. The Swans and Eagles rivalry has dulled over the last few years, as the Eagles have gone through a rebuilding stage, while the Swans have managed to remain at the pointy end of the ladder. The Eagles have taken flight again in 2015 and today will battle with the Swans for crucial positioning within the top four. Will the rivalry be as fierce and memorable as the mid-2000s? Time will tell.


The Swans and Eagles rivalry of a decade ago didn’t have the hatred that the Bombers and Hawks shared in the 1980s, rather it was a unique combination of two astute and tactical coaches, evenly matched teams, and an unrelenting competitive spirit from both sets of players.  Starting with the 2005 Qualifying Final, there was a string of six games decided by under a goal. It was tiring, yet exhilarating to watch.


Goodes running to Judd in the centre square, two magicians battling over an inflated piece of leather. Kirk hanging onto Cousins for dear life. Ball and Cox, arm in arm battling for supremacy. Great duels on every line. With the sides so even, it was often individual moments of brilliance that made the difference in games.


The Eagles were like a Parking Inspector – always lurking and ready to dish out the ultimate disappointment.


I don’t make a habit of hugging 70-year-old female strangers, however, in the Great Southern Stand, following the heroics of leaping Leo Barry in the 2005 Grand Final, it made perfect sense. 2006 was tough but the Kirk-lead comeback in the second half was inspirational.


The consensus from the general football public was that we deserved a flag each. Bugger that! I like to hold a grudge. The list is long. I lost an under 10 grand-final to the Wagga Tigers and 27 years later I still throw cans out the window when I drive past Robertson Oval. Ms Gillies said my colouring in skills needed work back in primary school; how dare she! Those bloody Eagles stole the 2006 grand-final in my book!


One of my best mates is an Eagles man. This adds some fuel to the fire. Doorse is in Wagga and I am in Melbourne. We have known each other since High School. Usually one-tenth of a second after a win there is a phone call or a text, quite often just a few bars of the theme song. The reply is usually two words. You just wear it, however, I have been known to turn the phone off during the last quarter when the ship has been going down. This is considered poor form in the banter stakes. I fire the opening salvo early in the week with a pre-game text suggesting that I could kick five myself against the ‘no-name’ Eagles backline. A tad arrogant considering my career peaked as a 12-year-old.


It is a balmy 9 degrees in Melbourne and a delightful sleet is falling from the skies. The sun tries to poke its head out, however retreats quicker than that shark Mick Fanning gave a right hook to the other day. It is 20 degrees in Perth and I see a number of spectators in shorts, probably having the audacity to whinge that the sun is in their eyes. Climate envy is another reason to dislike the Eagles. A tad jealous perhaps?


I settle into the couch as the umpire holds the ball high, while Sophie wrangles the young scallywags Jack and Harry. At three and a half years old Jack is starting to take an interest in the football. Buddy apparently is his new best friend. He clutches his Buddy Lego man and looks to the TV waiting for a sighting.  I have to break the news to the three foot dictator that Buddy is out with a crook back. Jack is disappointed. Adam Simpson is ecstatic.


For the first time in years I am unsure what the Swannies will serve up today. Last week was a nightmare. My worst fears are confirmed early as the Eagles pile on three early goals, while we look slow and unsteady. Once again we fail to convert our chances. Sam Reid manages to hit the post twice in the space of 45 seconds from easy set shots. Goal kicking is played between the ears. I hope Sam can find a way to get on top of this. Five goals to zip at quarter-time.


Harry has learnt to crawl in the last week and my job is to block all the exit points to the household stairs. Pillows, beanbags, toys and even a pile of underpants are used to build a fortress to keep the little strongman safe. The Swans have far less success blocking the Eagles exit points as they pile on the goals in the second.


Nic Nat is putting on a masterclass in the middle. His athleticism is breathtaking at times, however, it is the soft hands that impress me the most. The Eagles have a gun ruckman, polished midfield and a full forward with sticky hands and a straight kick (despite the Fred Flintstone run up). This combination will take them deep into September.


The intoxicating smell of Sophie’s lasagne brings some relief at half-time. I married Sophie for a lot of reasons; her lasagne is the cream on the cake. It looks like this may be the high point of the evening.


Jack pleads with me to switch over to Peppa Pig at the start of the third-quarter, I politely decline and he nearly trips over his bottom lip in protest.


I like this Nankervis bloke. Good Tassie stock. Big, strong and honest. I dare say he has chopped a fair bit of wood in his time. He kicks long and Goodsey uses his body well to mark and convert.


There is no spark today. We are like a marathon runner who has hit the wall with a few kilometres to go. Is it just a mid-season funk or are years of tough contested footy starting to catch up with a good chunk of our players? It is hard to watch.  The Eagles are polished and clinical, each player doing their role with a minimum of fuss.


We launch too many long bombs to a vacant forward line, and simple skill errors creating turnovers are killing us today.


Heeney has that something special about him. He snaps a beauty from 45 on the run and his hands are consistently clean. I get the feeling this kid is here to stay. Young Brandon Jack gets on the scoreboard. I hope he can get a good crack at it in the coming weeks. Not sure about the moustache though.


We pile on a few early in the last quarter and recapture some of the run that has been sorely missing earlier in the game. The Eagles steady the ship and kick the last three to run out comfortable 52 point winners. They have dominated the game today. This will not be a game to add to the great history of the Swans and Eagles rivalry. Perhaps we will meet again is September.


The TV is turned off, the boys fed and watered, before books and bed. The usual weeknight drill.


Make no mistake, we have faced off against two genuine contenders in the last two weeks and been soundly beaten. Where to from here? We need to find a way again. My fingers are crossed.


West Coast         5.0   8.5   12.10  15.13 (103)

Sydney   0.5    1.6     5.7       7.9 (51)

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.

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