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Round 23 – Sydney v Richmond: Twilight football with the ‘true believers’

Living by Westernport Bay, a good hour’s drive from Melbourne, I don’t get up to ‘town’ all that often. Today I have, and 90 minutes out from game time at the SCG, I find myself taking a nostalgic walk around the iconic Lakeside Oval – former home of the South Melbourne Football Club. The ground is almost unrecognisable from it’s halcyon days and my reference point is the last remaining remnant of the ground; the red brick ‘Cricket Club’ grandstand, albeit refurbished. But as I walk the perimeter of the current soccer ground come athletics oval, in minds eye I can make out the location of the former landmarks; the bowling club rinks on the lakeside wing, the rickety old umpires room and ‘media centre’ in the forward pocket, the main scoreboard on the Kerferd Rd. side of the ground.

 

It’s 36 years since the last round of the 1980 season. South Melbourne took on premiership contenders Richmond, at this very location. A little known Swan, Mark Fraser, tagged Tiger star Kevin Bartlett out of the game. Fraser played 20 games for the Swans and his bio in Jim Main & Russell Holmesby’s ‘Encycolpedia of League Footballers’ is simply ‘Ex-Turvey Park utility who twice tagged the great Kevin Bartlett with marked success’. That game in 1980 was one of those, and he led South to an unlikely 54 point victory. Richmond went on to win the premiership, thrashing Collingwood by 81 points with KB kicking 7 in a Norm Smith Medal performance. He kicked 84 in the regular season as a rover – he needed to be tagged. In a 12 team competition, South finished 1980 in 6th position; one place out of a finals berth – the forerunner to today’s 9th place. Out of this, I try to look for omens for today’s game against the Tigers, but the only ones I can find would mean a Swans loss.

 

My destination is ‘The Rising Sun’ hotel, self-proclaimed ‘Home of the Swans’ and ‘Closest hotel to the original home of the once South Melbourne Swans’. It is THE meeting place for the Melbourne based, Swans faithful on match days; the ‘true believers’. Hidden in a corner pocket of South Melbourne, it is within hearing distance of the City Rd. traffic. The hotel is adorned with red and white flags, streamers and a host of memorabilia. The early attendees arrive decked out in red and white, as are the bar staff. The lunchtime, non-footballing clientele are soon engulfed and leave, presumably to a  quieter drinking spot. A caricature above the bar of a young Max Papley catches my eye, as does a photograph of a high flying Graham Teasdale taking a mark over Tiger Neil Balme at the spiritual home. These are the omens I’ve been looking for!

 

As a 4th generation Swan, family has always been uppermost in my support of the club. It is a common theme with my fellow Swan Almanackers. Jan, with a family history seeped in red and white, Mathilde with her cygnet and the congregation of strangers at the SCG who are friends every second weekend. Keiran Crocker and his father, who passed on a footballing legacy just like my father with me. Likewise Joe Moore and young Ollie with his 100% winning rate at Swans games. ‘The Rising Sun’ jumps on the family theme and welcomes  ‘Grandfathers, fathers, sons and daughters – celebrate the yesterday’. 5 minutes out from game time and the hotel is a sea of red and white, wide screen televisions at every viewing point, packed with Swannies wanting to celebrate the today.

 

The hum of general chatter subsides as the volume is turned up and the Foxtel coverage begins. The game starts sensationally as Aliir Aliir handballs, Polly Farmer like, to a running Gary Rohan. Cult hero to cult hero. The hotel crowd erupts as one bounce, then two, then goal! I can’t hear the City Rd. traffic. The Swans are really on. The back line reminds me of a boa constrictor, squeezing the life out of it’s prey. The midfielders gain possession at will, prompting commentor Jason Dunstall to question why the Richmond coaching team don’t, ‘at least move the witches hats to different spots on the ground’. The forwards are being fed as if it is Christmas Day and Buddy is, well, just being Buddy. A young girl resplendent in Swans scarf and jumper sits with a male friend who is the one person seemingly disinterested in the football. A first date perhaps? She goes to the bathroom and is horrified to return to find Richmond have kicked a goal. How did that happen she asks me, bypassing her male friend. A free kick. ‘Typical’ she responds with disgust.

 

I know no-one in the upper floor room but for the duration of the game I have a room full of friends. We pass comment to each other on every passage of play, reflect on who will have to make way in the finals for ‘young Mills’, high five another of Buddy’s long raking left-footers from outside 50 and stand as one as the half time siren sounds, clapping and cheering the players from the ground as loudly as if we were there. The players can’t hear us of course, but it is part of the experience of supporting the boys. We are 81 points in front. Half time and we are in the presence of Swan royalty. Jeff ‘Torch’ Magee, who wore the red and white in 7 games during 1967-68 is our host during the main break. A radio veteran with the ‘Coodabeen Champions’, he gives a quick apology for regular host Ernie Scott who ‘is in Sydney for the game’. ‘Lucky bastard’ groans my unknown mate next to me. Torch gives a quick summation of the game, draws the raffle and in no time, the 3rd quarter begins.

 

More of the same in the second half as the goal procession continues. The players are clearly loving it and the crowd is as enthusiastic as ever. We have our favourites amongst the players of course, and Benny McGlynn is clearly one of those. He stakes his claim for a finals berth with a bag of five. I remember his stoic tears on GF day 2012 and would love to see him with his own premiership medallion. The young girl goes to the bathroom again and returns to find Richmond has kicked a second. Determined to play her part in the Swans success, she pushes her beer across to her friend. ‘I’m not going to the bathroom again until the game is finished’ she declares. I doubt John Longmire holds her responsible for the only two defensive leaks (if you pardon the pun) by the Swans thus far.

 

The game peters out to a predictable finish. The tiger has been tamed. Buddy is spelled, Cotchin and Riewoldt channel their frustration into kicking a few goals and the game is cosigned to the record books as the Swans second biggest ever winning margin over the Richmond. The biggest was in 2006….when we were runners up. The Foxtel commentators laud the fact that the win means Sydney will finish on top of the ladder for only the 3rd time in their history, the other two occasions being 1996 and 2014….when we were runners up. I’m back to ignoring omens again.

 

The true believers have one more function to perform. To sing the song. It coincides with the AFL ladder being displayed on the screen and there are our Swannies, on top in all their glory. ‘It means 2 home finals – nothing more, nothing less’ is the sage advice of my ‘lucky bastard ‘ friend. Nevertheless, it’s a position 17 other clubs would gladly be in and the song is sung with gusto. With my usual nostaligic nod to my South Melbourne heritage and two generations of Trevertons long gone, I sing that ‘South will go in and win over all’ rather than ‘Swans will go in…’. Driving home, I pass the spiritual home. In that 1980 game, Richmond kicked 7 goals, as they did to-day. As did Buddy for that matter. As did KB in the 1980 GF. Mark Fraser, I imagine, would be very proud.

 

3 votes – the midfield (this is where it starts)

2 votes – the backline (you have to restrict)

1 votes – the forwards (you have to score)

SYDvRIC

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About

Ross Treverton is a third generation Swans supporter who grew up on family stories about Pratt, Nash and Matthews. He was then fortunate to see Skilton, Bedford, Kelly et al. 3 daughters with no interest in sport means his AFL watching is confined to the television and regular duties at the MCG and Etihad as a police officer.

Comments

  1. craig dodson says:

    Enjoyed the read ross. Out of interest my father actually coached mark fraser as a junior back in wagga. My father recalls him as a really top bloke. He returned to the riverina after his time at the swans..nice to have KBs scalp on the cv i guess..as another melb based swan i agree you can’t beat the rising sun..fingers crossed for the next few weeks

  2. jan courtin says:

    Great article Ross!

    Go the Mighty Bloodstained Angels!

  3. Ross Treverton says:

    Sorry Craig. I knew I’d left someone out of the ‘Swans Almanacers’! I enjoy your contributions very much. I have a love/hate relationship with finals football!

    And thanks Jan. You must be looking forward to Wednesday very much. I can’t wait to read the book and your review of the event.

  4. Max Papley says:

    Very enjoyable read, Ross. Thank you.

  5. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Ross, I feel a little, after reading this, that I would have been a lucky bastard to have been at The Riding Sun on Saturday rather than facing the setting sun in the O’Reilly. (Although it was grand there too!) Lovely piece, full of intimate atmosphere. I will sing ‘Souths go in …’ on the 10th at Homebush. Hopefully. For you and all the Melbourne faithful.

  6. rosstreverton@me.com says:

    Thanks Max. It was a very good caricature l must say. An exciting time coming for the Papley clan!

    I will be listening intently on the 10th Mathilde. Let’s hope we are all singing the song at the final siren!

    Cheer, cheer…

  7. Keiran Croker says:

    Thanks for the mention Ross. I was one of those lucky bastards who travelled north for the game. Very enjoyable, not only for the performance and result, as I also caught up with Jan, Mathilde and Tom B at half time. I’ve been trying to finish a piece on my road trip to Sydney. Hopefully I’ll do that tonight.

    I remember that Tigers game in 1980 very well. It was my first year working as a professional engineer in the old State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. I went to the footy that day with some work colleagues. At work I was a reserved polite & professional character. That day they saw another side of me. Word went around the office on Monday that Keiran is a different person at the footy.

  8. Very nice work Ross.
    Great place for footy, The Riser. We’ll be there this Saturday.

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