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Round 2 – Sydney v Adelaide: One is a ballet, the other sea foam!

Summer was peaceful sans sport. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t pay attention to anything. Only a twilight session at the Gabba, Australia v Sri Lanka. But that was more about the perfect Brisbane summer evening, the holiday feel and a rare night together as a family, perched above the pool deck, our feet up on the railings.


I’ve been almost reluctant about footy season. And I realised last Thursday night, as I watched the camera dolly past the faces of the Collingwood and Richmond faithful, yelling and pumping their partisanship with a vein-busting fervour, that this was part of my resistance. It was, rightly or wrongly, a reaction inextricably tied in my gut to the current cultural and political moment … of Christchurch and Anning and the NSW election and … Us and them. In or out. One or the other. While I respect the joy and energy and fun of fandom, my hedging around Friday night was partly an internal struggle to engage with the marketable ‘us and them’ of the contemporary footy landscape.


Friday night was a perfect autumn night, a combo deal of balmy and breeze. The light stacks called from Moore Park Rd. Half of the O’Reillys wouldn’t be there, tethered to post-season cricket awards or interstate events. I wandered up to Row U, waving to Gwen and Connie, nodding to the familiars. Quick catch ups before the bounce. Over the impossible din.


As I sat alone for that first quarter, it was a chance to absorb completely in the game. Just physical ebb and flow, reminding myself of the bodies of our players, bulkier or leaner than last year, fixed in slightly different spots or in slightly different partnerships, making the play with fitful control. Hayward looked bigger. Lloyd looked smaller. Aliir looked more certain. It didn’t seem to matter much that we were many points down on approach to the break.


Sometime around then, O’Reilly Lisa arrived, with UK cousins Caroline and Josh in tow. Newcomers, who knew nothing of our ways; their first game. And in a flash, the stadium became something else. The game became as simple as how you can shift it and how you can’t, how you can score and what if you don’t, who’s on a team and how can you reach them. It became a description of movement and handling, of parameters for craft and play. It was joyous.


Ten minutes before half time, Lance Franklin made the moment of the match for me, demanding the ball from a tackle and finishing with an impossible kick. Lance reminds us that the unlikely path is often the most constructive way. Everyone wanted in for those moments. Blakey kicked it pin pointedly to Hayward who tidied it up for six. Blakey’s running style is captivating. Truly like wheels. Compared to Reid’s dressage style up and down. There’s an economy to the kid, physically and temperamentally. Gwen’s already calling for the badge for her top pocket!


I leaned in to Caroline at the half time break. ‘It’s a chaotic game, isn’t it?’


‘It is,’ she laughed. ‘It’s like … one is a ballet squad and one is sea foam.’


I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better description of the game.


‘It’s a laugh,’ she added. ‘Cause it’s not just aggressive.’


‘And can I ask which is which?’ I added after a moment.


She laughed again. ‘Well they might swap, I guess.’


I took it as her very English way of saying that we were the sea foam.


There were tidal surges and some retro Lance moments. And the invisible efficacy of Captain Kennedy. But ultimately, we were the sea foam. Unstable. Unenduring.


I left with ten minutes to go. First time ever. I made my way up the single lane demolition squeeze of Stade de Gladys. Like most of Sydney, this lane would be hell in 15 minu­tes. I left early, not because they wouldn’t win and it was all over but because I didn’t want to throng with the crowd tonight, listen to the decisions and diagnoses, be unconsciously part of that righteous fight for certainty that pressure brings. I wanted to collect my Cygnet from the neighbouring suburb and go home. Maybe this is my thread for 2019 footy. Honing what that Cygnet coined my ‘Statriotism’, without feeling that complexity will be obscured.


Listening to Horse’s press conference on Saturday morning, I wondered where the positive acknowledgement of complexity is for this team and its young players. This idea that keeping it simple – your role, the game, the basics of the game, the fundamentals of the game, the execution – breaks effectiveness (and therefore belonging) down into ‘easy’ chunks and tasks. But it’s not bloody easy. That meeting and alignment of intent and energy and skill and plan and doubt. The complexity is often the glory, like good wine or music or thought or community. Some leaders clearly don’t trust they can afford to let it in. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Collingwood is doing so well since Buckley found his relationship with it.


Later that day, I purchased the consolation Côtes du Rhone for Saturday night, and got chatting to the guy behind the counter. I mentioned something about footy.


‘Which game did you go to?’ he asked.




‘Me too,’ he replied.


‘Are you a supporter?’ I asked.


‘Yes. I’m from Adelaide,’ he said with a cheeky smile.


We chatted a while about the game and then, as I was on the brink of leaving, almost in unison we said, ‘Well, who knows from here?’


SYDNEY          1.2      6.6     7.10       8.14 (62)
ADELAIDE      4.5     6.10    9.15     12.16 (88)


Sydney: Franklin 3, Hayward 2, Ronke, Blakey, Reid
Adelaide: Knight 2, Mackay 2, Jenkins 2, Walker, Seedsman, B.Crouch, Atkins, Lynch, Betts


Sydney: Kennedy, Lloyd, Rampe, Hewett, Franklin, Parker
Adelaide: Sloane, B.Crouch, Atkins, Keath, Milera, Gibbs


Sydney: Nil
Adelaide: Jacobs (knee)


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Meredith, Findlay, Fleer


Official crowd: 32,575 at the SCG



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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. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Matilde,
    I love to read your pieces. The ballet squad and sea foam is interesting imagery. Sometimes the one team can be both. Certainly my Saints were both in the first game. And for me, the whole of AFLW is ballet squad…no sea foam no matter what team. I wonder if I will feel the same next year when the Saints have a team.

    As fans with no control over circumstances, we rock this way and that. As always, your pieces move me.

  2. Love it Mathilde. The world is so uncertain. A man kills people in NZ then more men kill people in Africa. We hear a lot about one but not the other. Why?

    The Swans are uncertain. Buddy is older. But they have spirit. How far will that take them? Who knows? It’s excitung.

  3. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Thanks Yvette. Your words are lovely. I haven’t written anything for pleasure in such a long time. Training wheels back on.

    Dips, you are so right. The unequal value of human lives is staggeringly frustrating. I had the same thought that week. And yes, uncertainty is the best kind of interesting.

  4. Hi MdeH,

    Thanks. You always give us some original lines and descriptors

    Brownlow votes this week:

    3. Reid’s gait – sent me straight to Vienna
    2. statriotism – a perfect new word (the boy has his parents’ genes)
    1. Buckley’s acknowledgement of complexity (and those who carry that understanding – Sidebottom and Pendlebury, among them.)


  5. John Butler says

    Bravo Mathilde.

    I wonder if they will eventually rename it Stade de Gladys? Almost nothing surprises nowadays.

    I’m looking forward to watching the Swans in the flesh on Saturday.


  6. I always look forward to your first piece of the season Mathilde. Our 1 and 2 form isn’t helping, but I’m taking a while to settle into the footy this year too. Currently being 33 degrees and blowing dust across Adelaide is anti-footy weather too.


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