Round 22 – St Kilda vs Sydney: Deeply etched memories of Saints and Swans

This story is the backdrop to me returning to Melbourne from London in 1970 to see the Swans take on St Kilda in the first semi final – our first final since my first game in 1948.

I left Melbourne at the beginning of 1969 to explore the world. My father died tragically in August of that year, outside his beloved Swans footy club. He was 56 years of age. Overseas communication in those days was limited to booking phone calls in advance through Telecom companies, or writing letters, so having any real understanding of how Mum was coping was near impossible. She tried putting on a brave face, and always concealed her true emotions – as perhaps was the norm in those days – and I, being the eldest child and feeling responsible, felt I had to help in some way.

Mum had never been overseas. I had a well paid job in London at the time, and I’d saved enough money to pay for her to come over on a ship and have a holiday, nearly twelve months after Dad’s death. I thought she would like and benefit from the relaxation of being on a ship, but being on her own for the first time in many years, it probably, in retrospect, wasn’t the best idea.

I had pre-booked accommodation and travel arrangements to visit about ten countries in Europe – places I thought she would love, especially the homes of her beloved Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. She arrived in London in June 1970 and we drove to all of the planned destinations, me often wondering why there was so much silence on our trip: why it wasn’t as I had planned and hoped for, why she appeared so miserable. She couldn’t open-up and talk, especially about the family and Dad, and she was obviously deeply depressed. I should have been more aware of that at the time, but I thought the holiday would help.

We were in Germany towards the end of August that year, nearing the end of the European sector of the trip. I’d phoned Australia House in London each Monday of the previous weeks to find out the results of the footy in Melbourne. South had had a string of unexpected wins and the game against Geelong would seal our fate, thus ensuring a finals appearance. The phone call to London that Monday morning confirmed we would be playing finals. My first thoughts were of getting back to London and onto a plane, home to Melbourne and the Swans.

Another sister who had been travelling in Europe independently was due back in London the day I was to fly out. However, she hadn’t arrived. I wanted to cancel the flight but Mum was adamant that I leave, knowing only too well of my Bloods passion. As my sister would be arriving soon, she said she would be just fine. I, however, had my doubts.

That flight home was not a happy one. I might have looked relaxed and thrilled to be home for the game in this photo, but there was indeed a mixture of worry, guilt and lack of responsibility in leaving Mum in London. She has seen me off at the airport, both of us with telling tears in our eyes: a mother’s love of her child, and a child’s love of a mother, in retrospect she never really knew.

jan 1200 miles

 

Mum came back home to Melbourne in December of that year, having stayed on in London for six weeks with my sister, and I returned to London in the new year, having seen South lose to St Kilda that first Saturday in September 1970.

Making it as a page 3 girl in the Melbourne Herald that day in September 1970 proved to be advantageous: Richard Colless, the Swans CEO, was impressed and got us tickets to the 1996 finals, including the Grand Final. Also, including it in “My 62 year Love Affair with the Swans” entry to the Swans competition “I Love my Sydney Swans” in 2011, seemed to convince the judges Shane Mumford, Josh Kennedy, Ben McGlynn and Kieran Jack to award me the prize. (see https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/jan-coutin-passionate-swan/ ).

Arriving at Etihad today for the Saints match I am certainly reminded that games against them bring out deeply etched memories – of family and sport. Memories not just of Dad, being at the South ground when he died; me leaving Mum in London to return home to see us play St Kilda in 1970; and Mum, leaving this life, aged 71, whilst visiting us in Brisbane, but of my involvement, sporting and otherwise, in those times.

Today’s game will be our second for this round of matches. Being in Melbourne you do what Melburnians do – go to the footy. The North/Bulldogs game was only on Fox, and as my sister (in whose house we are staying) doesn’t have that all-important necessity, we decided to go to the game. I much prefer being there anyway, and despite spending 120 minutes with barely a raised heartbeat, we were happy that the Doggies won.

The heartbeat remained fairly stable at our game today as well – especially in the early part of the first quarter when we seemed uninspired and sloppy. Even Joey, on four occasions, passed the ball to the opposition, and I wondered what was in store for the day. We improved towards the end of the term, kicking four goals to their one.

At the beginning of the second quarter I commented to Marshall that I’d be happy if they kicked one goal per quarter, and we kicked a further four each term. I was almost spot-on: total of four goals to them and we went one further, averaging five each quarter.

Our 20 goals involved 10 goalkickers. Every time the ball went to Buddy, three of their players were on him, freeing-up other Swans to kick the big ones. Tippo, again this week, was a tower of strength up forward and in the ruck, but his kicking for goal (3.4) was a little lackadaisical at times. Isaac marked strongly and kicked four, and was ably supported up forward by Goodesy (three), Sammy, Pykey and Tommy (two apiece) and singles to Buddy, Macca, Jetts and Harry.

Hanners was hardly sighted in the first quarter but came back strongly, involving himself in many of our clearances and forward thrusts, and I liked Brandon Jack’s game, especially his pin-point kick to Isaac in the second quarter in the goal square.

I also liked Pykey and his improved kicking. It was obvious during the game that his team mates no longer feel the need to be close by after he marks – to receive the pass-off – and it’s a credit to the big man that he has persevered and improved. His tussle with his American opponent is surely an historical event in this Aussie game.

What I did not like, throughout the game, was the booing of Adam. For me, it was to be expected. There will always be ignorant morons and there will always be racists. Perhaps they are one and the same? I do not look forward to the reception our hero will almost definitely receive if and when we return to Perth in a few weeks: I am fearful of it. The behaviour of the bigots, everywhere, is an absolute disgusting disgrace.

The footy continued however. Our midfield worked their wonders again and Joey, Tommy, Macca and Kizza were amongst the best afield. Reg repelled many of St Kilda’s forward entries and was the best of the backmen, whilst Zac Jones showed what he can become – so like his brother Nathan, but with hair. Rampe had the better of Josh Bruce, who didn’t live up to his high flying goalkicking feats of the past few months, and Shawry played his part, as always.

Our game improved after half time and St Kilda’s deteriorated. Although they kicked inaccurately, that was not a real reflection on the final result; we also sprayed them, especially in the third quarter, but our overall supremacy held sway and the win kept us in the vital fourth position.

It was fitting that Schneids kicked their first goal and had their last kick and possession. He was chaired off the ground – with both Swans and Saints players either side – to the cheering of the red and the white, and the red, white and black faithful. In this, his final game, he will be remembered fondly by both teams; he was certainly one of my very favourite Bloods players.

Then followed Teddy, on the shoulders of Reg and Sammy, after his 250th, heading off to the rooms to the Cheer Cheer the Red and the White ringing in his happy ears.

My highlights for the game:

We won, and by a good margin

We’re still fourth and a good bet for the double chance

Interesting difference in people:
North family of five sitting in front of us on Saturday – must have spent $200 on pies, hot dogs, chips, cakes, lollies, coke (god knows how they could eat all day); and the Mum, Dad and four year old cute little redhead boy in front of us at our game. He wasn’t that interested in the footy so sat there, with his bright green headphones attached to his head, playing kids’ games on his own computer (how times have changed). At half time his Mum gave him his own lunchbox containing wheat bikkies, a dip of some sort, celery and carrot sticks, and cheese. I couldn’t stop myself from saying “It’s so good to see a child eating real food”.

Go the Bloods!

 

 

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About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

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