To visit the Sydney Swans website click the logo below.

Round 21 – GWS v Sydney: Bridging conversations


On Friday morning, I tipped the Swans over the Giants. But I was worried about this one. Minus Parks. Minus Mitchell. Minus Rohan. Still Lanceless. The Giants had a place in the eight to play for, grudges they were harbouring, the chance to make it a real rivalry. Then there was the false summer of late August. Dehydration. An oldie hanging up the boots. A 19 year old newbie on late season debut. Fran Kelly and Geraldine Doogue were on ABC radio Friday morning, talking the weekend’s topics—Malaysian politics and the ethics of credit ratings—until Fran said simply, Now c’mon Geraldine, you can’t say you’re not thinking about the footy this weekend. The battle of the bridge. C’mon Swans! Geraldine was worried about Buddy.


Friday night, the tips locked in and my ten year old Cygnet and I sat down to the Hawks v Port.

Mum? he asked. With our game, which bridge is it we’re battling for? The harbour bridge is ours, right?

Ours as in the Swans’? I checked.

Ours, he confirmed.

Actually I think it’s the Anzac Bridge they’re talking about. It was one of those parenting moments when you do enough to sound convincing but not so much that you risk to be corrected.

So the Anzac Bridge is theirs and the Harbour Bridge is ours?

Um … I think it’s actually not so much a case of who gets which bridge, not so much a bridge apiece and we bags the coat hanger … I think we’re actually battling for the Anzac Bridge?

Why would we do that? he asked. He knows Friday night on that span, watching the sun set. The entire sunset.

Well … I think they figure it like the gateway to the west, you know, the eastern end, the western end … My conviction had no more legs. We’re Swans devotees; we live in the inner west. The Cygnet was already deep in his book.


Sometimes the game is the nub of the weekend, sometimes it’s background music. With my man in Denmark, the Cygnet at his grandparents’ place and a six hour afternoon class to attend, I would have to bide my time on the Sydney derby. And before I could even march in the door at grandma and grandpa’s long after the final siren had sounded and ask urgently, but casually, the did we W words, a message came in from the Geelong pre-match drinks: Banjo and 4 points for the Swans Old Mate.


I sat down to watch the match at almost nine o’clock on Saturday night. It can be odd watching a game when you know the result. But it’s also a lot more tranquil. You can watch and listen in a completely different way, not the adrenalin of win or lose, but the experience of retrospection. The internal take-away is not so much the and then and then and then of the real-time but a more reflective pottering through topics for discussion.


The Swans looked like they were busy again, like they knew how to take and share space, how to cut it down and how to open it up, how to create better polygons to play in. Granted they were given more time to draw those lines. But there was work again, real grinding work. Kennedy and McVeigh, the un-sungs with Lloyd and Rampe. And it wouldn’t shock to see Hannebery tackling lamp posts on the streets of Bondi—anything that’s moving, or isn’t.

There were signs of the will to be dominant again. Turf and real estate does that to people in Sydney.


As play grated and frustrated in the second, and the commentators struggled with Shaw and Shaw and the Heath that is really a Grundy, there was time to reflect on the players I call by their first names and those I call by their last. It’s Rhys, not Shaw. It’s Joey or Teddy or Tommy. It’s Lance to me. But it’s Rampe and Parks and Tippo. It’s Hanners and Lloydy and Pyke. It’s definitely Goodesy. And it’ll have to be Kieran or Brandon now. I felt it at Henson Park in late summer, that the number 33 might break in and stay this year.


Perhaps the most satisfying topic for conversation was the new variety forward line, with a functional, loveable Tippett, with the glee at first site Heeney, with the sticky mitts of Reid—golly the arc of his leap and stretch is poetic when it’s on! GI Joey got his hands on it for two goals and even the spinally challenged Harry (someone find that boy’s neck among those traps!) had a couple. And then … there was Rose. James Rose. His first goal in league football—the one-handed pluck, kick and maypole celebration on the post. There’s a moment in a frown when the brow begins to burrow. My mum used to warn against ageing into those lines. Smell a Rose, darling she’d say. James was the joy and youth of a big big smile. But I suspect he’ll be known as just Rosy.

We banked the points. We stay in the precious Top 4. And as the line is struck through the Giants’ finals hopes, Swans supporters will no doubt be encouraged to continue asserting the right to mock the younger brother for his path that’s been lined with silk. But I still wasn’t sure about the bridge.


A few minutes before the end of the first quarter at Etihad on Friday night, Melbourne friend Paul had messaged me: It’s almost like they are having a conversation. A healthy conversation. A few minutes after I finished the replay at almost midnight on Saturday, a message came in from my man in Copenhagen who was lamenting the lack of conversation over lone dinner: Good win today. How were Rose’s 3 goals? Maybe that’s what a derby, a real rivalry can be—a different type of bridge—an ongoing cross-town conversation. After all, if you’re going to live in the same house, you’re going to have to talk. Or maybe the rivalry is best described by the throw-away line that, when they call Sydney it’s us.











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. “Banjo and 4 points for the Swans Old Mate.” I wonder who that could have been?!

  2. kath presdee says

    It’s the Anzac Bridge they’re talking about – it’s the bridge connecting the west to the city.

    That said, at the ground there was a survey and one question was “How do you want the match described” and the options were “Battle of the Bridge”, “Sydney Derby” and “Other”.

    Considering that the match is for the White Ribbon Cup (as in the anti-domestic violence campaign), I’d be happy for that to be the name of the Derby; rather than trying to argue which bridge.

  3. Peter Flynn says

    There is some serious hype about Rose.

    Didn’t Wanganeen (last quarter specialist) see some of his evasive skills in a junior/minor match and thought that only he could do what’d just seen?

  4. Nicely done Mathilde.

    The Battle of the Bridge was one of Sheedy’s crackpot ideas. I would prefer the derby; even East versus West would be an improvement, but I’ll be happy to settle for the White Ribbon.

    James Rose wears No. 1; I think of him as Number 1 – with a bullet. Apparently Buddy is calling him Denis – as in Menace.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Not sure about the “Battle for the bridge”, prefer to see rivalries forged not forced. Heard talk that this may be the last Swans v Giants game that the Swans would go in favourite for a fair while. Clearly not the case yet.
    Great stuff again Mathilde.

  6. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    P.Flynn – You know my second footy crush was Gavin Wanganeen. Second only to M. O’Loughlin. Loved that tale about his charming hubris! Here’s hoping.

    Yes, Luke, rivalries forged not forced. Let the kids name them …

  7. Beautifully put MdeH.
    To maintain perspective is an admirable trait.

    I think that applies always.

    You’ve again given pause for thought.

Leave a Comment