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Round 21 – St Kilda v Sydney: Oh, to be twenty one again

Football connects families. It is a conversation starter, a shared interest, a gap filler and a creator of memories. A family’s football allegiances can either be split or shared. The Dodson family, thankfully, all worship at the temple of the red and white. Dad, Mum and my brother Brett have jumped in the Falcon Station Wagon and made the trip from Wagga to join me for tonight’s game. The tyranny of distance means we don’t get to the football together all that often these days.


I have been lying low this week, after a recent bout of surgery and have been in doubt to make the match. I haven’t felt this nauseous since I received that audit letter from the ATO. I have had idle time on my hands. Mid-week I found myself flicking through the Herald Sun, with forensic detail, to help pass the time. I found myself at the Deaths and Tributes page. A large Swans logo caught my attention. A beautiful tribute was written for Jack Harris, who passed away at 90 years of age. It stated that Jack had been a passionate Swans Member for 74 years! To put things in perspective, Bob Skilton would have only been three years of age when Jack joined up. Tributes followed from family members, referencing Jack’s love of the Swans. I wonder if Jack’s family followed his lead into the red and white? I wonder what memories football created for his family?


In a few short years football has created many memories with my growing clan. I have convinced my wife Sophie to follow the Swans. I won’t soon forget the look of disgust on her face when I caused the need for some panel-beating on our remote control, following bloody Cyril and his late heroics earlier in the year. On a positive note I remember our first game together and smugly smiling to myself that I had found the one and that Red and White never looked so good, as she draped my Swans scarf across her shoulders.


I will never forget the day I ducked out of the office, brought Jack’s first Swans jumper and then proudly displayed it to twenty disinterested colleagues, one by one, before rushing home that night to see if it fitted him. Then there was the day Harry refused to spend his first night in his ‘big boy bed’ without his Buddy Franklin plush toy. Football has in some way been connected to so many precious times in the Dodson house.


I am sitting in the back-seat of the family station wagon for the first time in about 15 years as we make the short trip from Seddon to Etihad Stadium. In about 10 minutes flat we have gone from the couch to entering the underground carpark. As we navigate our way to the seats we pass a frail looking Molly Meldrum. I guess it has been a long time since I was asking Mum and Dad if I could stay up an extra half hour to watch the end of ‘Hey Hey its Saturday.’ Every passing Saints fan was stopping to say g’day, Molly acknowledging them all with a smile.


It’s great to be sitting under a warm roof on a crisp Melbourne winters evening, however, I can’t help but feel something is missing at Etihad Stadium. I feel like this every-time I come here. Great facilities, location and viewing, yet, to me, the Stadium does not have a soul. When I walk into the MCG, I can feel the history and heroics. I know I am somewhere special. Perhaps it is because they don’t play the big finals here that I can’t associate the ground with the high watermarks of the game. What is the Stadium’s ‘Jesaulenko, you beauty’ moment?


Prior to the game the lights are turned off and a video presentation is shown to mark and set the scene for the AFL’s inaugural Pride game. The colours of the Rainbow mark the fifty metre arc and adorn the clothing of many spectators here to show their support.


Half an hour before the first bounce and Dad thinks he has left the car lights on. In a panic he sets off like Burke and Wills in search of the Falcon. I hope his expedition turns out better. 25 minutes pass and there is no sign of the intrepid explorer. We should have packed a ration kit for him. I am just about to attach missing person posters to the goalposts when Dad arrives, with two minutes to spare before the first bounce. The lights were not left on.


It is a tight start to the game with goals shared and neither team gaining the ascendency. The Saints look dangerous when the ball is on the outside and they can use their run. Sitting a few rows back from the fence gives a great insight into the intensity of the game. You can see the desperation in the players’ eyes and hear the crunch as bodies crash in with reckless intent. Tension is building amongst the Dodson family as the first half does little to separate the teams. There is too much to loose tonight.


I am not sure what was in the Gatorade at half-time, however, the Swans come out like men possessed. Heeney hits the scoreboard first, followed by Papley, Parker and the big man from Tassie, Nankervis, all in quick fashion. The game has been busted wide-open in 8 minutes. Buddy is front and centre in the carnage. He seems almost insulted at the prospect of not trying to take on the first tackler when he gets the pill.


Aliir Aliir plays without fear. There are no scars, or baggage of previous failures on the big stage. He flies into the air with the spring and energy that only youth can provide. Oh, to be 21 again. In two telling contests Aliir finds himself one-on-one with Riewoldt and on both occasions he flies for the ball, grabs it in his sticky hands and then calmly hits a target down the ground. The kid has footy smarts, composure and a long career ahead.


Callum Mills hurls himself back into packs with little care for his own safety. He combines this raw courage with an astute ability to read the flight, poise under pressure and a sure foot. I think this kid might be tossing the coin for the Swans one day down the track.


It continues raining goals through the last quarter with Buddy leading the way and the boys not taking their foot off the accelerator. The Saints challenge was met and then dismantled in a brutal second half as we run out 70 point victors.


The Dodsons head for the Falcon and I am home in no-time to check that my young scallywags are tucked up safely in bed, Harry clutching his Buddy Franklin plush toy with a steal tight grip. It has been a night to celebrate for Swans families all over. I am sure Jack Harris was looking down from above with a big smile on his face. Bring on September.

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. G’day Craig I watched the match on TV, and found it one of the best games i’ve viewed this season.

    A tight first half, both sides going hell for leather, lead changes,lots of pressure on.

    Sydney in the second half were superb, looking very strong come the business end of the year. No matter what St Kilda tried, the class of Sydney stood out.

    It must be one of the best games Lance Franklin has played for Sydney. He seemed to be everywhere, collecting the ball at will, capping it off with 6 majors.

    It would be good if Sydney could win the flag. It won’t retrieve the $$$ i lost on them in 2014 but it would be deserved.


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