Round 22 – North Melbourne v Sydney: The Festival of The Bloods

Recent years have been kind to Hobart. Tourism is booming and the old town is brimming with a newfound self-confidence. A major contributor to this rise in popularity has been the city’s ever-increasing love of a festival. These days, barely a month passes by without a major event capturing the imagination of Tasmanians and travellers alike.


The Taste of Tasmania – a weeklong waterfront celebration of local food and wine, dominates the summer landscape and is sure to stretch the belt buckles. The Falls Festival in picturesque Marion Bay brings out the bohemian in us all, as music and art take centre stage among spectacular campgrounds surrounded by native forest and sea views. MONA’s MOFO festival brings merriment en masse on Mona’s very own island: in the museum, on the lawns and around some never-before-seen spaces and places.


Our crisp winter air is filled with all the brilliance of MONA’S Dark MOFO. This is now the jewel in our local crown, as a provocative program of art, music and revelry that would surely be shunned by risk-averse festivals on the mainland, grabs hold of any mid-year blues and shakes the life out of them. It truly is Hobart’s maelstrom of art.


This winter, a festival of a very different kind has arrived in town. Welcome to the Festival of The Bloods.


It’s been three long years since our red and white artisans have journeyed to the far south – three years too many. The Sydney Swans enjoy a strong following down here, and the feeling among us has been that of fervour and frenzy. With the match to be played at the football ground closest in proximity to my house, the setting is ideal. And as any good festival should, the Festival of The Bloods caters for the kiddies – our ten-week old cygnet will be cheer, cheering for the very first time.


The celebration of all things Swans begins in earnest among the sandstone of Salamanca Place as a gathering of the Footy Almanac’s finest enjoy a lunch on Friday afternoon, fit for kings. The joviality then makes its way down Sandy Bay Road to the Bloods’ pre-match function where Mike Pyke entertains the faithful. The reds and the whites flow as the red and the white join in a rare moment of unification – a perfect preparation.


Game day brings with it a touch of fuzziness and haze as this gentle reminder of the previous night’s frivolity sets in. We wrap our cygnet in as much red and white as we can find and we head up the road. Ollie looks excited, but not half as much as his doting Dad. En route, my favourite combination of a strong flat white and chicken salad roll are purchased from the local store. They know my order there.


The festival’s final stop is Bellerive Oval. The ground is nestled on the eastern shores of the Derwent River opposite Hobart’s CBD and must now qualify as ’boutique.’ Many things in Hobart now do. There’s a strong Swans contingent in the stands and the anticipation builds. To my delight, our Swannies begin the battle with all the synergy and alliance that we’ve come to expect. L. Parker is leading the charge as his opening quarter performance exudes excellence. His opening onslaught brings with it a recklessness last seen from the entrants in our winter solstice nude swim. Keep your gear on Parksy, but don’t hold back.


We identify our ‘there’s always one’ opposition supporter within our vicinity very early on. As he bellows his questionable advice from atop the stand, murmurings abound that ‘old mate’ might be best served to shut his ample gob. The party rolls on however, and K. Tippett is making an impressive return from injury. He’s clearly not ‘old mate’s’ sweetheart, but I’m enjoying his work. By the time G. Rohan benefits from an opposition blunder and Papley the Plumber plugs one from the boundary, we’re out to a four-goal lead. ‘Old mate’ seems rather quiet.


The Enemy begins to play their part in the festivities as they claw the margin back, much to ‘old mate’s’ delight. As the match wears on, it’s difficult to decipher whether he’s barracking or auditioning for his very own slot in our mid-year Festival of Voices, designed to make our island sing. I suspect his ticket sales may be a little low. Halftime arrives, our lead has been halved but spirits remain high.


The festival life is familiar to D. Hannebery, and he is an absolute standout today. His game provides an eclectic mix of movement, meticulousness and a maniacal attack on the football. His contrasting styles are like having muesli for breakfast and scoffing twenty-two oysters for lunch. On the back of our number four, we extend the lead once more. We’re almost five-goals up as Heeney outsmarts and finishes with class. Surely, we’ve made our mark.


Once again, a fight back occurs, setting up a final scene that must be a promoter’s dream. The fluky breeze swirls and unsettles straight from the shores of Bellerive Beach, but C. Mills and Aliir Aliir are composed under an infusion of pressure, repelling blue and white forays and transforming them into red and white assurance. It’s not yet September, but this match is proving to be a delicious entrée. One again, its our man Hannebery who strikes the telling blow and goals from a challenging set shot. Game over.


The Festival of the Bloods has made an undeniable imprint on this town. For the first time, I sing with my son to toast a victory in the stands and the moment is positively joyous. Ollie played a blinder on the little man’s debut. In the rooms, relief and satisfaction are encapsulated in Aliir’s constant grin. Symbols of suffering include Millsy’s black eye and Tippett’s scrapes and scars. We’d expect nothing less.


Hobart’s burgeoning reputation for the adventurous and experiential marries beautifully with the ethos of this young and precocious flock of Swans. As we sit at the pinnacle of the competition, it’s time to dare, Bloods fans. It’s time to dream.


Joe Moore is a devoted Swan who belongs to a large like-minded flock. He lives in Hobart with his wife Kate and their young cygnet, Ollie. He once kicked with Mr. Derek Kickett.


About Joe Moore

Learned the art of the drop-punt from Derek Kickett as Jamie Lawson watched on. And thus, a Swan for life. @joedmoore1979


  1. jan courtin says:

    We had “there’s always one” of them too Joe. Don’t know what Stand you were in, but in the row in front of us in the Boon Stand, one obnoxious man did not stop swearing at and about Buddy whenever he got hold of the ball. Just as well the latter didn’t have too many possessions!

    Yes, Hobart is a lovely place.

    Cheer cheer

  2. Joe Moore says:

    Sounds like you were not far from us, Jan. Glad you enjoyed Hobart!

  3. Keiran Croker says:

    Excellent write up Joe. It was terrific to catch up at the Swans function and after the game at the Bellereive Yacht Club. I do love Hobart!!

  4. Joe Moore says:

    Thanks Keiran. It was great catching up again. Had a great weekend!

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