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Round 21 – Melbourne v Sydney: Game of cards

Melbourne v Sydney

3:20PM, Saturday August 12




Life is like a game of cards, sometimes you get dealt a good hand, other times a bad hand. I’ve given my kids the greatest of hands by hitching their little wagon to the most honest, hard-working and determined football club in the business. I don’t have the words to explain the cruel cards Alex Johnson has been dealt.



Early in the first quarter at the MCG we see Johnson go down. From afar it looks a fairly innocuous incident, however, it is impossible not to think the worst. As he limps towards the bench, I feel crook in the guts. What must be going through the young man’s mind? This is the definition of a footballing tragedy. The first quarter drifts by as the gravity of Johnson’s situation sinks in.



Nick Smith is also down with a hammy. Where to from here? Will the boys lie down and let September dreams disappear? As Mrs D will attest, I don’t know much, but what I do know is that the Sydney Swans Football Club is at its best when its back is against the wall.



I may have given Jack (aged six) and Harry (aged four) the genetic ‘gifts’ of a receding hairline and an inability to run 100m under 24 seconds, but gee they owe me big time for not giving them a choice in what football team to follow. I don’t care if they get tattoos, ride motorbikes or even heaven forbid become lawyers, but if they want to live under my roof (3% owned by me and 97% the National Australia Bank) then they MUST follow the Swans.



We catch alight in the second quarter. Hayward starts by snapping one out of his backside, quickly followed by goals to Heeney and Hannebery. Six goals in the blink of an eye and we have blown the game wide open. We are running hard to create space and our relentless pressure around the ball is making Melbourne wilt.



Jack is riding every kick, like only a six year old can. Harry, is doing everything, bar putting a knee into the back of the head of the lass in the row ahead, to ensure at 103cm he is able to create the best position to view the action.



The boys rise as one every time Aliir gets near the Sherrin. I didn’t think I would see the day Buddy got superseded in the little Dictator’s eyes, yet, they are crazy for the man who floats in the air and marks everything in sight.



We go to half-time 14 points up. The break brings some relief from ‘old mate’ behind me. There is nothing I HATE more than being seated near someone who makes it their mission to do a running commentary of calling the nickname of the player with the ball every time their team has it. You know they type! ‘Good mark Jordy… kick it to Gawny… great hands Jimmy’. Each loving reference making it sound like they are lifelong buddies who went to kindergarten together, before he filled up the yard glass at their 21st. Hard.



When I was 18, I thought Brut aftershave and double denim was the key to winning a lass over. At 18 Tommy McCartin is on the MCG taking pack marks and kicking clutch goals to keep his team in the hunt for September (two weeks in a row). Our recruiters have found another diamond in the rough.



We go to the final quarter 28 points up. We are taking the Demons to school, in how to play a brand of honest and hard-working finals type footy. Geez, that reminds me that I’m pretty sure we have no clean clothes for Jack tomorrow. I wonder if the principal would accept him turning up in his footy shorts, if I wrote an eloquent note explaining my total lack of planning?



The game tightens in the last quarter. With two men down, our run is grinding to a holt. In a masterstroke Heeney is moved to be the loose man in defence. He looks like he should be selling Quicksilver Boardies at a shop in Torquay, but he plays like a footballers’ footballer. Hard at it, great hands and the rare knack of being in the right spot at the right time.



The Demons are surging with Brayshaw and Oliver the prime movers. The Sherrin is bombed high into our 50. Heeney rises into the clouds, with a leap that would have made the great pole vaulter Sergey Bubka proud, and hangs on. What a grip! There is simply nothing that can stop a crowd in its tracks like a hanger from the top shelf. We may have just seen mark of the year? It takes a rare type of athlete, to have the audacity and courage to go for that mark, given the location of play and state of the game. Who said defenders should always punch?



The game ebbs and flows. We are holding tight. My attention is diverted when Harry and Jack (in unison) turn around to ‘old mate’ annoying Dees commentator behind me and tell him to stop saying ‘ball’, when the Swans have it. Geez I think Harry may have had one too many cordials this quarter. I straighten the boys up and tell them to keep their eyes front.



As I ponder how long to go, Heeney floats back again and takes another mark deep in the backline. The siren sounds. The sweetest of sounds, when you are hanging on for dear life.



The Dodson tribe are in a flurry of high fives, hugs and off-key singing. The jubilation of victory. Geez the boys are lucky I didn’t grow up following Carlton!



Just when the boys think their day couldn’t get any better I pull a mini Sherrin out of the bag and tell them that when the players get off the ground we can go for a kick on the MCG. Christmas morning is pretty big at Dodson HQ, yet I’m not sure I’ve seen smiles that wide before. We run, kick and dodge footyies under the glorious floodlighting of the greatest stadium in the world. Life is good. We are a happy little bunch of Vegemites today.



A courageous, backs-to-the-wall win by the Swannies. I should really expect no less. This is our footballing DNA. September is well and truly back on the radar. I’m a lucky man, with a great little family who have been dealt nothing but Aces in joining the Swans family. Today we celebrate, yet, it is muted, as our best thoughts go to the resilient, talented and luckless Alex Johnson, as he comes to grips with the cruellest set of footballing cards a man can get.




MELBOURNE               2.6   3.12     7 .14   10.18 (78)
SYDNEY                         1.1   7.2    13.6   13.9 (87)                  

Melbourne: vandenBerg 3, T.McDonald 2, Petracca, Hogan, Pedersen, Garlett, Jones
Sydney: Papley 3, Heeney 2, Franklin 2, Cunningham, Hayward, Hannebery, Dawson, Kennedy, McCartin

Melbourne: Brayshaw, Tyson, Harmes, Oliver, Salem
Sydney: Lloyd, Heeney, Newman, Aliir, Franklin, Kennedy, Hewett


About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. Chris Bracher says

    Hi Craig

    Great writing and congrats on the elevation to “From the Outer” on the Swans website.

    In October 2016, with leaden heart you wrote as follows:

    “Mrs D brought Harry a Bulldogs t-shirt on the weekend and the look on the little Dictators face was pure joy. He had a wider grin than the time I introduced him to doughnuts. Three days of consecutive wear (day and night) followed until a trip to the Whirlpool was unavoidable.
    Have I lost my little cygnet or will he come back to the fold in time? His Buddy plush toy still commands a position under the Doona at night. Given his contract I think Buddy is ‘obliged’ to still be playing by the time Harry hits High School. There is hope. Perhaps under the cover of darkness I can paint the streets of Footscray a different colour? Maybe I could sell up Dodson HQ and move to a more neutral area? Maybe I could pump in subliminal messaging tapes into the Scallywags bedroom at night? I welcome suggestions”.

    The wonderful answer to the question “Have I lost my little cygnet?” appears to be NO – thankfully. I can remember previously advising you in robust terms born of a broken red and white heart that you had a paternal obligation to right the wrong.
    From personal experience I can attest that this also inherently involves a conversion…or at least an acquiescence….of the mother of the “cygnet”. So 22 months on, I say to you CONGRATULATIONS FOR MANNING UP! Any domestic turmoil that accrued along the way will pale in time once she recognises the lifetime of joy that you have bestowed upon the junior Dodson’s. Next challenge: move out of Footscray and into South Melbourne!

  2. craig dodson says

    Spot on Chris, the negotiations took longer than hoped and truth be known it was the influence of his big brother that sealed the deal! As for the move to South Melbourne i may need to sell a kidney to finance that one!

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Great piece Craig. For 40 or so years I thought I’d been dealt a bad hand. Not so the last 20. It’s been a pleasure to follow our Bloods, once a poor rabble in South and early days in Sydney. I was doubting us just a few weeks ago, though I should have known we would dig deep, as we did on Sunday.
    It’s hard to say anything meaningful about AJ that’s not already been said. I hope he can go again in a footy sense, though he’d be a huge asset to the Club in any role.

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