Round 20 – Sydney v Collingwood: With bruised bodies and broken bones, the Swans eke out the four points.

It wasn’t pretty – errors were aplenty – but when it mattered we got it right and kicked important goals.

 

I tend to remember games against Collingwood – not so much the scores or the results, but the emotion-charged feelings surrounding the Collingwood and Them mentality. And these memories are long-held.

 

I must admit I didn’t remember the actual score or the date, but I remembered we didn’t win and it was at the Lake Oval, and it was definitely Collingwood. I always thought I was five years old, but I was actually four years, eight months.

 

This was the result: South Melbourne 10.12.76; Collingwood 13.16.94 and it was played on 17 July 1948 – in the 52nd season of our great game.

 

Melburnians now call it Lakeside Oval but it is still Lake Oval to me – it always was Lake Oval, and will remain so as far as I am concerned.

 

I would have been taken to my first game by my Dad and Aunt. Mum was too busy having babies at the time and supplementing the family’s income teaching her music students on Saturdays, so she never came to the footy. Mum gave birth to me – her first child – when she was 32, and seven more followed in nine years, so there was little time to enjoy herself with outside pursuits.

 

To tell you the truth I wouldn’t have wanted her at the game that day, 67 years ago. She barracked for guess who, Collingwood! I don’t think she really barracked as such, but she said she liked them. Bloody hell! Fancy having a mother who liked that mob!

 

Our family was always South: our great uncle captained our 1918 premiership team; my grandmother was South; Mum’s sister (my Aunt Nin) was South, and Dad, coming from England, was indoctrinated by my Aunt into the South family. So, I have no idea where this Collingwood rubbish came from.

 

I don’t know why I was taken to the footy that day. Maybe I’d shown interest in sport at a very young age, maybe I’d listened to Dad and Aunt Nin talking about footy each week after a game, or maybe it was easier for Mum – having one less kid to look after on Saturdays – for me to go with Dad. I’ll never know.

 

I also don’t know who knitted the Swans jumper, scarf and cap for me to wear to my first game. There was no such thing as “merchandise” in those days. This is the only photo of that time on that day – taken in the driveway of our Murrumbeena house – and as colour photography was still a way off in 1948, the black and white will just have to be viewed as red and white.

 

 

Young Jan Courtin - all set for her first visit to the footy.

Young Jan Courtin – all set for her first visit to the footy.

I am forever grateful that, for whatever reason, I was inducted into the Bloods family at a young age. Dad and Aunt Nin had membership tickets and we sat in the beautiful old South grandstand every week.

 

My first impressions of the game and Collingwood – and indeed South – are pretty much non existent, but people are what we remember. An old woman called Liz sat near us. She was always dressed in red and white and she had long straggly black hair and a really loud angry voice. She hated Collingwood and used to cuss and swear at the opposition every week, much to the annoyance of my Dad and Aunt. She probably wasn’t that old, but to a five year old she was pretty ancient, and I always felt a little afraid of her.

 

Those early footy memories have certainly faded but Collingwood stories are never forgotten. Every year when we played them at South, another old woman – even angrier than Liz – and clad in black and white, always sat in our member grandstand, and went out of her way to annoy us all. Why she would have wanted to be amongst the red and white was a mystery. I can only assume she loved provoking us. I did not like her one bit and when she hit me on the head with some sort of stick on one occasion, I apparently swore back at her. I was about seven and really had no idea what the words bloody bugger meant.

 

Several years later, when sometimes the seven of us kids went to the footy – I was probably about 16 at the time – we decided to make a banner to hang over the fence. We sat up most of the Friday night cutting out and sewing BOBBY SKILTON, in red plastic letters, onto a piece of canvas. It looked pretty amazing and we hung it over the fence behind the goals where, by this time, we used to sit.

 

No other banner had ever been hung on the fence for all to see, and we were very proud to have made it and be able to show our team how much we loved our champion rover.

 

In fact we were the very first cheer squad, anywhere, I’m pretty sure. We used to chant whatever the 50s equivalent was to today’s Sydneeeey, Sydneeey and try to get others around us to join in. It was a losing battle, as we rarely won, and South fans had little to look forward to in those days. Our enthusiasm though never waned.

 

On that particular day we were playing Collingwood at the South ground and we hadn’t beaten them forever. They were always at the top and we were also-rans. But on this magical day in 1960 we won by two points.

 

It had rained for days and the ground was in its usual state, full of sloppy mud and slime. I always jumped the fence at the end of every game, whether we won or lost, and on this day the exhilaration of winning had all seven of us jumping over and running to celebrate with the team.

 

My way of celebrating back then was to get the players autographs and to get as close to them as possible and hug them. On this memorable day I remember fighting off other fans to get to Skilts, hugging him, mud and all, and then trying to find my sisters and baby brother amongst the throng. In the euphoria however, I’d forgotten about the banner on the fence. I looked around towards the goal posts, and it had gone!

 

I don’t like to use the word “hatred” in any circumstances, as its connotations imply wars on race, religion and domination of others, but when it comes to the enemy on the footy field – and their supporters – tradition has “hate” as its trademark term. “Dislike” or “aversion” certainly don’t carry the same weight, so “hate” will have to stay. I think the Collingwood “hatred” started that day. We were all devastated at losing our banner. Those horrible Collingwood people, how could they?

 

Only years later – maybe 30 years later – did it ever occur to me that it might have been a South supporter – who loved Bobby Skilton as much as I did – who took our banner. Surely, then, we would have seen it again at another game, but no. So it must have been the mob other teams love to “hate”.

 

After another Collingwood game when I was perhaps 12, with Bobby Skilton’s mud and sweat all over my hands again, I absolutely refused to wash them for about three days. My mother was beside herself, as I stubbornly disobeyed her demands. I don’t recall how I washed the rest of the body mind you, or went to school in that state, but Bobby Skilton’s mud was treasured and I was keeping it for as long as I could. Embarrassing really isn’t it?

 

So, with those Collingwood memories springing to life again, we prepare ourselves for another encounter tonight. No mud these days, no jumping fences, no banners, no Collingwood swearing-old-women hitting heads with sticks (well at least not at the SCG), no Swans also-ran status these days, no Lake Oval, no Bobby Skilton, no South, no Aunt Nin, no Dad, and no Mum – just me and my red and white – and black and white – memories.

 

Walking to the SCG we pass Swannie Lake to see how the cygnet is going. Others are there, feeding the family and chatting about the baby, and all three swannies look happy and content. I have thoughts of Goodesy and the Collingwood cheer squad, and must admit that I’m not too hopeful that they are capable of doing – or want to do – what most of the Geelong crowd did last week. I hope I’ll be proved wrong.

 

I’ve no idea what the fireworks are about. We rarely have them before a game, so have to assume it is something to do with either getting the players up for the occasion or simply to entertain the masses. At least they are red and white, and for the majority of the first quarter they seem to have an effect. We start really well and the pressure is far better than last week. Brandon Jack is a revelation with strong tackles, pace and accuracy and Tommy Mitchell is inspirational and involved in most midfield clearances. Although Isaac Heeney misses two crucial shots at goal, he looks set for a good game. Collingwood however take control for the last three minutes of the quarter and kick two goals, leaving little difference on the scoreboard.

 

The second quarter is messy: far too many handballs and too many missed goals and opportunities from both teams. Parkes suffers his first catastrophe for the night when Brown collects him with a dirty whack to the head, and when Swans players remonstrate, I hope in some way it might inspire the team to start playing to their capacity. It wasn’t quite to be, and after a promising start, this quarter was far from impressive.

 

Collingwood dominate for most of the third quarter but thankfully their goal kicking is to our liking. Isaac misses his third set shot on goal but Gazza shows us why we’ve missed him this past month when he marks and kicks two magnificent goals from 55 meters. Their master-in-ink no. 36 is involved in most of the play and when he goals before the siren they are six points up.

 

At the beginning of every quarter I expect us to come out firing, like I know we can, but it just doesn’t happen tonight. The thought that a loss will certainly end any hopes of a turn-around in form and success in the finals lingers for a while, but I soon clear my mind of any negativity when Tommy goals on the run to level the scores at the beginning of the last quarter.

 

With Isaac lying on the ground in obvious pain, after flying for a mark, the trainers and doctors are rushed over to our champion Lukey Parker, lying prone in even more pain. A terrible sight, to see any player injured so badly, and from a team perspective, especially one so integral and important. The loss of our Luke seems to inspire the team, and with Laidler already subbed out, Heeney limping, and Gazza still in pain from an earlier clash, we start playing some good footy. It’s pretty much goal for goal and when Pykey cleverly traps the oncoming ball in the forward line and handballs over his head to Brandon Jack, who then goals, the Sydneeey chant goes up for the first time and the crowd now senses something special.

 

No Collingwood player touches the ball from the bounce, and a couple of handballs and kicks later it ends in the hands of Jetts – with no one near him – for another goal. Two goals up. Hanners goes down clutching his pains, whilst Crisp goals for them from one metre out. With 27 minutes on the clock we have no idea how long the quarter will go, due to the injury to Parkes. The heart is racing.

 

With only a goal the difference, Tippo taps out from the centre bounce to Tommy, and Macca kicks long to the forward line where Pykey marks strongly. I’m nervous about Mike’s ability to kick truly but he allays my fears and we’re two goals up. When the brother-in-ink Elliott misses from close in at the 35 minute mark, I know we’ve won. We can now leave the ground happy that we’ve fought back, under extreme duress, and we’ve got the all important four points.

 

My highlights from the game:

 

The chanting of “Goodesy Goodesy” over and over whilst he kicked his two goals. I definitely heard some booing from the cheer squad area after his first mark and shot on goal, so the chant certainly helped wipe that out.

 

Tommy Mitchell, Brandon Jack, Gary Rohan and the midfield.

 

Four points, and the hope that we can get back on track and play our best footy from now on.

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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

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