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Round 20 – Sydney v Collingwood: A return after almost six years and a return to form

Sydney v Collingwood

7:25PM, Saturday August 4



It’s Saturday. I’m a little nervous. My Swans have provided me with a rollercoaster season highlighted by several outstanding last-gasp victories. But we’ve now hit the dip with two poor losses that has us out of the Top 8 for the first time since early in the year. Buddy Franklin is playing sore and we look beaten up and tired. If I know one thing though, our boys are a resilient lot and will respond.



The big story of the week is the remarkable return of 2012 Premiership player Alex Johnson after multiple knee recos and associated ops. I looked back over the 2012 season highlights dvd, and while AJ was not prominent (defenders are rarely highlighted), his contribution on Grand Final day was outstanding. My main recollection of that day from my vantage point in the Great Southern Stand was Nick Malceski’s snap hanging in the breeze and then floating in to seal the game, followed by a mad scramble at the centre bounce – AJ had the last kick of the game. Who would have thought it would be nearly six years before he would have his next kick in the AFL?



I’m watching the game at my brother’s place in Boronia in Melbourne’s north-east. We are as always banished to the front room and on best behaviour – no excessive barracking allowed. The Swans emerge wearing a commemorative centenary jumper* in honour of our 1918 Premiership team when South Melbourne were victorious over Collingwood, our opponents tonight. Back in 1918 my Grandad Jack was living and working in Port Melbourne having come down from Charlton in Central Victoria to join the AIF in World War 1. He was rejected repeatedly due to a bad heart. He remained in the area for over 40 years working in the Harbour Trust and we have been supporters of both South and Port Melbourne since.



The Magpies are well-placed in the Top 4 and are in great form despite a long list of injuries. Though I’m hopeful Buddy will cut loose tonight, if we can get it to him, as the Pies have lost a number of key defenders.



It’s a lively start and indeed Buddy is alight and lands a typically brilliant set shot from 50 metres wide on the left flank, his favourite spot. For the Pies Varcoe is also lively and trades goals with Buddy; they have three each by the first break. The Pies lead by a goal with Grundy dominant in the ruck, though George Hewitt is keeping the prolific Sidebottom in check. Aliir is marking everything that comes his way. AJ’s premiership mates McVeigh and Jack are back to provide some experience and grit for us around the packs. And to the delight of the local crowd AJ is getting the ball and looks ok, trying to combat their American giant Cox.



In to the second stanza, it’s a dour affair and the Pies are grinding us down. Grundy continues to dominate, including a brilliant snapped goal from a short throw in. We are trapped in our defensive half and chip the ball around too much, failing to get it in to Buddy, who’s gone cold. Our young brigade look cooked, lacking energy and zip. The one bright spot is Jordan Dawson. We have been waiting for this kid to get his body right to play seniors. He takes a lovely contested mark and converts for our only goal of the quarter against the Pies three and they go in three goals up. We are not looking good, though the Pies have lost Darcy Moore who was doing a fair job containing Buddy. I go for a glass of red.



Against my expectations we start to gain ascendancy in the third quarter. Sinclair rallies in the ruck especially when Grundy is off for breaks. The defence is standing up led by Aliir, Rampe and Johnson and a collective on ball effort, with Hewett brilliant, starts to relight the fire around Buddy. Franklin is involved in everything with the Pies forced to ask rookies Magden and Mihocek to mark him. Buddy kicks two and delivers pin point passes to Ronke and Kennedy for goals. He has two posters as well! A five goal to nil quarter has us in control leading by two goals.



Ronke does not return after the last break, so both teams are down a rotation. Within a minute of the restart, Buddy snaps his sixth goal. Just when it looks like we might have their measure, the Pies respond, Grundy taking control and Cox, who had been well held, marking everything up forward. However his usually reliable kicking lets him down. Stephenson and Hoskin-Elliot, who had both been well held start to pop up, the later with two goals. With five minutes to go they are within a few points, I am struggling to contain my level of urging, and we are fighting hard. The ball spills over the pack in their forward zone and Varcoe, who had been quiet since the first quarter, receives and kicks his fourth. They take the lead.



We have time. Papley kicks forward from a throw in, Buddy brings the ball to ground on the edge of the square and from a scrambling pack McCartin, who’d been quiet all night somehow gets his foot to ball as he hits the ground. It tumbles end on end as if in slow motion and beats the lunging Pies’ defender over the line … “Yesss!” I shout. We manage to control the last few minutes, despite a final foray forward by the Pies. What a win … welcome back AJ.



My votes: 3. Franklin (Syd) 2. Grundy (Coll) 1. Hewett (Syd)




There is a famous photo of the 1918 Premiership team with sashes orientated from left shoulder to right hip, except for one player with sash from right to left! I looked hard on Saturday night but could not see a player with an alternative jumper. Did anyone notice?



This piece originally appeared on the Sydney Swans’ website.



SYDNEY                      3.2    4.4    9.6    11.7 (73)
COLLINGWOOD     4.1     7.3    7.6    10.11 (71)


Sydney: Franklin 6, Dawson 2, Kennedy, Ronke, McCartin
Collingwood: Varcoe 4, Hoskin-Elliott 2, Cox, Daicos, Sidebottom, Grundy
Sydney: Franklin, Aliir, Rampe, Hewett, McVeigh, Parker
Collingwood: Grundy, Langdon, Adams, Crisp, Sier, Varcoe

Crowd: 39,238



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. Tough win, Keiran. With three exceptionally difficult games ahead, who knows? Just think: If we hadn’t collapsed that day against the Suns (The Suns!!!) we’d be sitting 3rd – one game clear of all those now on 48 points!! But IFS don’t get us anywhere. One game at a time. Go Bloods!

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