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Round 18 – Fremantle v Sydney: A tradition lives on



Fremantle v Sydney

6:10pm, Saturday July 20

Perth Stadium



I’m in the sunny but windy west of Victoria, in Warrnambool. We are here for a family event – the baptism of the first Croker girl in four generations. New life brings a new dimension to the family. Dinner tonight is at my nephew’s place. While Nick is a great bloke sadly we lost him to the dark side as a child courtesy of black (and white) influences from the other side of the family. As it stands our family’s long history of supporting the Swans may end in this generation with young Neve and her older brother George more likely to be Pies or Cats. If I had my way Neve would be baptised into the congregation of Blood Stained Angels.


My focus on tonight’s game between the Swans and Dockers over in the west may be diverted by the need to actually interact with my relatives and Nick’s in-laws. When I arrive chaperoning my mum the TV is on the Giants v Pies game with something of an upset playing out. Nick’s Magpies are a bit hard to fathom at the moment.


After dinner Nick’s brother James – the good nephew, the one who barracks for the Swans, manages to gain control of the TV remote control. We can settle in to following our mob, rather than the Brisbane v North game.


The Swans are going through their own family renewal and are the youngest team of the round due to the absence of many experienced players. In particular, with a lack of fit genuine ruck options we have turned to rookie Hayden McLean to make his debut. It’s a big call for an undersized rookie to take on the biggest man in the competition Aaron Sandilands.


We start well getting plenty of the ball and holding it in our forward zone. Young McLean is competitive, mobile and getting some of his own ball. Though we don’t take advantage of our dominance. The game looks somewhat like a mob fighting over a wet cake of soap on an ice rink – fumbling, slipping and sliding is the order of the night. I’m feeling guilty that I’m subjecting the neutrals in the room to this, when they could be watching a better game. It’s a goal each for the quarter and we hold a narrow lead.


The Dockers get an early goal in the second stanza, though we then start to get results from better use of the ball. I’m liking the play of young Rowbottom who knows how to get it and kick long. Robbie Fox is doing a manful job as support ruck even though he is barely six feet tall and he pulls down a hanger – a contender for mark of the week. Ryan Clarke is also getting plenty of it and doing a reasonable job of keeping Bradley Hill quiet. The highlight of the quarter is another scything run from Nick Blakey resulting in a goal to Papley. A late goal to the Dockers cuts our lead to 10 points at the main break. We really should have led by more given the amount of play we controlled. Rampe and Lloyd have again orchestrated play from down back with Aliir intercepting anything coming his way. Conversations have been polite observations about the merit of one player or another.


With half time upon us everyone decides to head back to their respective abodes – we need to be up and about in the morning to head to mass and Neve’s baptism. Back at the Lady Bay with mum I have to resort to watching the remainder of our game via the AFL app on iPad. The Lions v Roos game is on TV in the background. We continue to dominate early in the third though again fail to get results. I’m getting frustrated by our over-use of the ball in difficult conditions. My level of barracking increases, no longer confined by people around me. The Dockers who have been stronger around the packs led by acting skipper Mundy grasp control. We are fortunate that their captain and gun midfielder Nat Fyfe is not playing. Their big men – Sandilands, Darcy and Lobb are not getting any shorter as our undersized rucks start to tire. Three unanswered goals have the Dockers 7 points up at the final break.


Mum’s headed off to bed at three quarter time, so when Walters goals for the Dockers to extend their lead to 13 within a minute of the restart, my frustration finds full vent. Though we know this bunch of young Swans does not give in easily. By mid quarter we have pulled it back to a point with goals to Reid and Blakey. It seems we have time though as it whittles away we squander our dominance as Lloyd, Papley, then Parker miss gettable shots on goal. Though Parker’s point has us up by a point.


We continue to push, though the Dockers get us on the rebound to twice score points that could easily have been goals too. Into the last minute we trap the ball deep in our forward line and as it bobbles in the square it seems we have three or four of ours circling it trying to pick it up. Why no one just sinks a slipper in to it I don’t know. Even a point will level it up. The Dockers hold firm and a clearing kick gives them the game by the narrowest margin. Despite the low scoring and at times poor standard it’s been a gripping game. The intensity and effort of both teams has been commendable.


I hate losing no matter where we are on the ladder and the circumstances. Though I can see our young team is taking baby steps forward with the occasional inevitable stumble. There is plenty of growth to come and with it will come maturity and better decision making and ball use. I’ll look forward to watching this evolution, as I will of my great niece Neve.


I’m also hoping my Swans supporting nephew James might produce some more offspring to keep our tradition alive.




FREMANTLE    1.1       3.6       6.7       7.10 (52)
SYDNEY           1.4       5.4       5.6       7.9 (51)


Lobb 3, B.Hill, Conca, Matera, Walters
Sydney: Reid 3, Parker, Papley, Fox, Blakey


Hamling, Lobb, Conca, Mundy, Walters, Ryan, Darcy
Sydney: Lloyd, Parker, Reid, Blakey, Papley, Hewett


Crowd: 33,594



This piece first appeared on the Sydney Swans’ website.


About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. Know how you felt, Keiran. Hate losing too, no matter…….Onward to future victories!

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