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Round 18 – Sydney v Carlton: Ready the paddles…

Do you have high blood pressure? Is there is a family history of heart disease? Are you without health insurance?

 

If that’s a yes to any of the above I recommended never, ever, going to a Swans game in 2016.

 

Maybe the club should forget the clappers and the t-shirts and start investing in some pocket defibrillators as part of the game day experience. That way most of us are likely to make it through four quarters without going into prolonged cardiac arrest. The machines presence would at least provide a level of comfort that rescue is close by.

 

There was no such reassurance on Saturday afternoon. By three quarter time the prospect of losing was sweeping around the ground. The Enemy were outplaying us on almost every facet; decision making, skills, pressure and, that all important one, heart. It had been our best quarter of the game and yet when the siren blew our lead was only nine points.

 

The signs were there before the game had even started. Stepping off the bus at Broadway the wind took my members cap into traffic and I was forced to play Frogger to retrieve it. Back to safety I wondered whether we would kick straight in the blustery conditions. There was also the relative ‘youth’ of the team to consider. Heeney was back in, Xavier Richards replacing his brother and the debutante Foote. Still surely forth versus fourteenth this late in the season counted for something?

 

Our punters club had money on the Swans to score first, a bankable $100 we thought. Well that was blown in about ten seconds when a poorly directed handball out of defence went straight to The Enemy. Richards was awarded a fifty and evened the score and that tit for tat, tightly contested ball, set the tone for the game, neither side able to draw away. No sooner would we get the ball smoothly out of danger with some looping handpasses then we’d kick it straight to The Enemy. Our speed has been concerning all season; a disquieting trend of players getting caught attempting to break the lines. It was hard going for goals; Kennedy strong arming his way through, Buddy forced to weave around The Enemy to get a clear shot.

 

OK, I figured, that’s the first quarter fencing over with. We’ll shut down the space, increase the pressure, force the errors and kick away.

 

None of that materialised. Whilst Allir showed considerable cool down back we were playing on at a million miles an hour and as a result players were out of position, unprepared for the next link up. Perhaps wary of the wind factor our kicks were getting pulled resulting in easy interceptions. Rohan and Heeney had gone missing. It was a depressing quarter with Buddy providing our only major and a disturbing amount of shots at goal The Enemy got. Grundy hared back to rescue a ball kicked into an open paddock; another one of those ‘oh no they’re going in here again’ moments. Other than that we were clearly outworked and the skills and decision making on display looked pretty ordinary.

 

Horse must have given the lads a bake at half time as they got on top of the situation from the first bounce. A text from a friend said Buddy might get another four or five goals and is if on cue he soccered one in. We locked the ball in the forward fifty for sustained periods, Jack and Parker roving opportunistically around the pack. Buddy eerily alone out the back, strolled into the goal square and booted the ball up to the sky. When Richards bolted the length of the field it seemed we had finally turned a corner.

 

But The Enemy rallied. Having chased Richards hard they ran him down on the fifty. It was a defining moment and between a free kick for a ‘Meryl Streep’esque performance’ and some defensive lapses they were right back in it. The Enemy cheer squad behind me gained in volume; the proverbial icing on the cake.

 

The last quarter was a blur. All weak tackles and those ‘what are you doing’ moments that made me wonder whether certain team members had defected. Parker’s mark and goal was the only high point. The tide turned against us. Even what looked to be a legit bump was pinged. There was nothing to do but pray for the siren and hope I wasn’t about to witness another last second collapse.

 

Clearly we’d learnt something as Heeney and Mills chipped it around to ice the clock. Heart pounding like a German techno track I shambled out of the SCG in pure relief.

 

I just hope my health insurer doesn’t start asking if I follow the Swans.

About Tom Bally

Born in 1834 Tom Bally was instrumental in establishing the rules of the modern game. It's a little known fact and the rare times he talks about it all he'll say is "that bloody Wills chap got me full of grape one night and the next thing I know he's peacocking around Richmond Paddock like he dreamt up the whole thing on his lonesome. Still I got the last laugh didn't I eh? Introducing the Umpire and all that."

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