Round 22 – Geelong v Collingwood: D Swan

“When Levin thought what he was and what he was living for, he could find no answer to the questions and was reduced to despair; but when he left off questioning himself about it, it seemed as though he knew both what he was and what he was living for, acting and living resolutely and without hesitation.” 
– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Doing it.
Getting it.
Exile on Main Street.
Without hesitation.
Look at him. Again. And again.

I don’t remember first being aware of Swanny. Like email and smartphones, Swanny stealthily became a fixture in my life without me really noticing. He arrived at Collingwood sometime during my footyless years. A time of railing against a corporate world, disassociating from the herd. Who was I? Like Levin before Kitty, I wandered the labyrinth enshrouded in fog.
One moment I was perched in a stationary twin cab diesel ute, picking up the scratchy ABC broadcast of Grand Final day 2003, having come out on the Oodnadatta side of the Simpson Desert (Magpie beanie on, hearing D Parkin declare in the first quarter: “Collingwood have not turned up today”).
The next I’d lived in Darwin, become a husband, returned to the People’s Republic of Brunswick, become a father, a school teacher, lost track of footy generally, found it again. And before too long, I was a devotee of D Swan.

There he is. And again. And again. Jeeeez.
How does he do it?
He gets out first.
Gets our first.

It’s the fag end of 2015 for the also-rans. Season just starting for the aspirants. And galling as it is, starting as aspirants (along with 17 others) and looking good at half way, the Woods have fallen away. Through it all though, it’s been another year to bottle from our Swanny.
Like the take off of a fully-laden Boeing 747, there remains something magical about Swanny.
It’s as if the Laws of Physics don’t apply as they should.

Look at him there in the centre square and look at him fending off another opponent (Judd? Selwood? Hodge? Ablett?) and running now to the drop of the ball and now picking it up with torso twisting and with his stripes bending and now quickfire handballing to a mate who’s marginally in the clear (MCG bells are ringing, must be Pendlebury) and look at Swanny running hard now but also running smart and look how now he’s the one in the right spot the right spot for team and for self and it’s now and it’s again and it’s as ever has been. He’s choosing to be right there and he’s working hard to be right there and all while the pedestrian rest of us remain unaware even of the presence of a “there” let alone precisely where (or when!) that “there” would be. Look at him now taking the hottest of hot balls back again and sidestepping and wrongfooting and manoeuvring himself miraculously clear. Still running; perpetually running.

Here he is. – GO SWANNY!
Look at him.

Buds are on the phone to Granny. She’s knitting them each a woollen bear. Black and white vertical stripes.
– What number do you want on the back, girls?
– Err… Dad, what number is Swanny?

Swanny is rollicking.
Amid the physical world of the centre square for a decade he rides and shines and is buffeted and is righted and is up and is down and is in the thickest of the thick of it. Eyes open.
Swanny is hope.
He’s that kid on the beach; playing with the ball, with the dog. One eye on the moment, one on the fanciful. Ever hopeful. What-if?
Swanny is cunning.
Like Fagin’s urchins; ahead of the play, picking your pocket, running down the street. So fast it happens, so regularly it happens, it cannot be thought. Must be instinct.
Swanny is glue.
He’s the winking, joking, laughing bloke at work who holds the show together. The family clown. Maybe it’s perspective. He knows.
Swanny takes the piss.
That “where’s Wally?” tattoo behind the ear a triumph.
Swanny is himself.
A sense of self can be elusive. Not altogether straightforward. But here’s our a Swanny. Square peg in a round hole. ‘So what?’
Swanny is us.
He’s someone for the punters to relate to. Railing against the system. Wishing only to play. He’s not stepped out of Dickensian London, but of the flatlands of Thatcher-fied Melbourne Town. Wrong side of the tracks. From a world of humour and humans, muddling along. One of us.
Swanny is winning.
Our old mate. A premiership winner. A Brownlow medallist. External labels stuck on yer man. They must be true. Right?
Swanny is football.
Look at him on a Grand Final stage. Look at him in the wet. Look at him take them on, read the ball off the boot, read the play. Again.

It’s 2010. Swanny is unstoppable. Week after magnificent week. A top shelf ball-handler, finder of the ball and of space and of time. Even the Cats can’t quieten him. Even the Saints can’t quell him. This year of run and tackle and run and run will end with a premiership, media awards galore and the Jim Stynes medal for B.O.G. in international rules. Player’s Association MVP,  Collingwood best and fairest, All-Australian. And then in 2011, the Brownlow, no less.

– You still doing that SuperCoach bullshite?
– Yes mate. It’s the finals.
– You got Swanny?
– Mate, everyone’s got Swanny.

It’s 2015 and I’m on the tram to work.
I work with JK; a mad Hawk. She’ll be at work already. Today, as on many days, I send a text message:
“Hodgey, coffee at 8:26?”
Her reply:
“Swanny, see you there.”

Look at him there resting in the forward line. He’s one-on-one with a ball coming in too high. And you know he’ll get it. Even though his opponent is faster, taller, less knackered. Swanny will get it. Watch the subtle hip. Watch the explosion that gets him half a yard. Will he be caught? Ahh, now watch the artful feign, the hypnotic pick up and hint of a dummy, running full pace. Watch him hemmed in on the boundary. What will he do? Ahh, he’s gone the other way. Of course he has. And don’t tell me he’s kicked it… He’s kicked it!

– If anything strange is going to happen, it will happen to Swanny.
N Buckley after Swanny is swarmed by police officers in Adelaide the night before his 250th game.

It’s 2015, Round 22. A Geelong home game at the MCG (“so why the white shorts?”). It’s the second quarter. The ‘Woods have this. Already. It’s been a tackle-chase-tackle kind of night. Too late to save a season, but pleasing to see (why else would we be here?). This result will prevent Geelong making finals for the first time in many years. And as conspicuous Crows jumpers in the crowd attest, this result ensures that Adelaide (remarkable Adelaide) will play finals after everything.
We’re drinking heavy beer from glass receptacles at the MCG and we’re not even in the members’. Further evidence that the luxuries of yesterday become the commonplace of today. But just as happens in the members’, we’re marooned watching footy on the TV, in a bar, while at the footy. It’s a strange world.
When Swanny goes down with a knee.
Gasps all round. Heads flick to screens.
– Oh NO! Who was that? Was that Swanny?!
The voice comes from a huge man bedecked in blue and white hoops. Enormous.
TV footage confirms it’s D Swan, and it’s a painful knee.
– Oh JEEEEEEZ. Says this Geelong Hulk. – Oh NO! I love that guy!
I’m nodding assent, sharing love, fear, hope with this opposition Goliath. He clocks my Collingwood scarf and says very quietly to no one: – Never thought I’d say that about a Collingwood player.

D Menzel returned to footy this night after four (four!) reconstruction efforts made on his knees.
And he dazzled in a way both brilliant and sad. Brilliant to see his effort rewarded, his skills on display. Sad to think of what might have been.  (Of course there is no ‘might have been’, there only ‘is.’)
In this light, we should acknowledge our luck to have seen Swanny in full flight for all of these years. He’s gone down with a knee tonight (how bad?). But yes, we’ve been lucky. Lucky to have lived with awareness through this decade. Through 2010 (in particular). For there will soon come a day (of course) when Swanny decides to stop all this carry-on. Stop the running and the tackling and the kicking. Stop the football; the pure football. So for now let us enjoy the ride.


GEELONG1.1 3.3 6.6 9.8 (62)
COLLINGWOOD 7.1 11.5 13.6 17.8 (110)
Geelong: D Menzel 4, T Hawkins 2, D Lang, S Johnson, S Motlop.
Collingwood: A Fasolo 3, D Moore 2, J Elliott 2, J White 2, S Sidebottom 2, B Grundy, B Maynard, D Swan, L Greenwood, T Adams, T Varcoe.
Umpires: Scott Jeffery, Jacob Mollison, Mathew Nicholls.
Official Crowd: 40,582 at MCG.


PJ Flynn’s Round 21 story of Steve Johnson: “The Performer”
All Footy Almanac stories of Round 22 – Geelong v Collingwood
Footy Almanac stories of Round 22
Footy Almanac home
Let it loose – The Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street)

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Wonderful ER. Swanny is a footballer’s footballer. He’s where the ball is. Love those players.

  2. That wasn’t you at the bar in (tremendous) disguise was it Dips?

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific tribute to a true champion of Collingwood and the game, ER.
    I remember thinking that Swanny would be another Jason Wild around 04-05. A game against Geelong in 06 where we thumped the Cats by 102 pts changed my mind. Swanny came of age that night with 30 odd touches and 4 goals. I have no doubt that Tolstoy would have written about Swanny if he could see him play and be. Swanny is footy’s cognitive dissident.

  4. Great words ER, entirely Apt for Swanny. He may well go close to pipping Pendles for the Copeland this year. Funnily enough, I reckon his years 2009-10 and 2012 were better than his Brownlow year of 2011. A hammy and a silly club imposed sanction surely cost him the medal in 2012 – he was averaging 35 touches a game.

  5. In considering which songs on Exile best represent Swanny I’ve decided that they all do. Great metaphor David.

    He’s a gem. Hope he goes around next year.

    Thanks for this.

  6. Peter Flynn says

    I’ve always liked Swan.

    Remember him turning Enright into Enleft in the MCG goalsquare one night.

    No mean feat.

    Thanks Swamp Gum.

  7. ER – I was in the bar. The next morning I wished I wasn’t.

  8. Swan crept up on me too.
    In the 2007 preliminary against the Cats I’m sure he didn’t have a tattoo.
    Next time I saw him, he seemed half paint.
    He seemed a great player.
    Now he’s all paint. And he’s still a great player.
    One I enjoy watching.

  9. Frank Cheeseman says

    Love your stuff Tall Man, exquisite.

  10. Thanks all.
    Inspired by PJ Flynn’s S Johnson and JT Harms’ P Chapman of last week.
    Long live Swanny and everything he represents in footy.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great stuff OBP Swan is a natural footballer with a elite footy brain who has made himself in to a athlete doesn’t look 1 but is which is so much better and more successful than the other way round,how many athletes have clubs recruited and tried to turn them in to footballers in general no where near as successful ironically playing in the same game is Blicavs with Stynes the best examples of athletes who became footballers.

  12. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Swanny is a lucky man to have these subtle vignettes penned with him in mind!

    I love that you too wonder where ‘there’ is. 15 years in, I know it’s a whole area of the game that I still need to see and understand; it feels like the next stage. And I’m wondering when I’ll get a glimmer. Perhaps I need to watch Swanny more closely. I have in fact often glanced at him on the box when commentators have called ‘Swan’s got it.’ Asking myself ‘But which Swan?’ and then realising it’s that other Swan, the Collingwood one. He’s got it.

    I also love these portraits that are cropping up. JTH’s Selwood. P.Flynn’s Johnno. E.Regnan’s Swanny. May end up looking more closely at some red and white individuals this weekend.

    The subtle hip. Fwoah. That’s just beautiful.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    D.Swan.The great man. Summed up wonderfully by E.regnans.
    My two boys are well schooled in the thought that ‘Swanny’ was ‘robbed’ of the 2010 Brownlow by the “evil Chris Judd”. May have gone a bit far on that one…
    Bit of life left yet in the old number 36. Go Swanny.

  14. Thanks OBP, MdeH & L Reynolds.
    Looking forward to more, Luke.

    And Mickey – As I understand your relationship with Exile on Main Street, that’s high praise indeed.

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