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Round 3 – Sydney v GWS: From the Texas Mountain Trail

The Texas Mountain Trail runs between El Paso and Marfa, West Texas. The drive is through arid semi desert quite similar to the MacDonnell Ranges west of Alice Springs. It is the first time I have driven in the USA. My travelling companion is RRR FM’s presenter of Saturday morning’s Off the Record, Brian Wise. We are on the road to Austin first for the Old Settlers Festival, then on to the New Orleans JazzFest.


Last time I was in these parts was in 2013 when I caught the train from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The train line runs close to the Texas Mountain Trail and the Rio Grande in places, though the mountains of the Trans Pecos Ranges seem more impressive this time from the vantage of the road, rather than rail. I love travelling by train, though it can be easy to become engrossed in a book or magazine rather than take in the grandeur of your surrounds. By comparison driving requires much greater attention on the road and by necessity its surrounds. This is spectacular country.


We arrive in Marfa by late afternoon on Saturday. In time for a drink then a meal at one of its lovely restaurants. Marfa is a quite amazing place. In its heyday around the time of WW11 it held 10,000 people. Though the departure of the military bases, then a savage drought that forced ranch foreclosures resulted in the population plummeting to 2,000 and a steady decline of the town. The mid 1950’s did see the area host the filming of the epic movie, Giant starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.


The fortunes of the town changed when New York artist Donald Judd bought property in the early 1970’s. Keen to seek solitude and spaces to create and house his artistic installations he quickly expanded his holdings and became involved in the cultural ebb of the place. Although he died in the early 1990’s Judd’s Foundation continues to support the growth of the town. Today Marfa is a bizarre mix of old ghost town and swank New York style with a growing number of hotels, restaurants, bars and art galleries. It also houses Marfa Public Radio which broadcasts to a huge area of West Texas, which is one of the reasons that brings Brian back to the area.


Brian is a Hawks fan and like me is keen to follow the ebbs and flows of Round 3 of the AFL despite the 16 hour time lag. We check the AFL and ABC websites online for commentary and score updates. Due to the time difference the Swans game is scheduled to start at 1:30am Saturday morning Marfa time. I decide to go to bed, after a day on the road, and check scores intermittently when I wake. The first check is mid first quarter, then I find it hard to nod off. The next two hours involves some dosing with many checks of scores and stats.


It seems like a close hard-fought game with the Swans holding a slight advantage over the Giants in the first half. Parker is again getting plenty of possessions, and so is Buddy. I assume Buddy is opposed to the Giant’s Phil Davis who is also getting plenty of it. It must be some battle. Our younger guys like Hewett, Robinson, Mills and Heeney do not seem to be getting it like in the first two rounds.


By late third quarter we have a few goals break on the Giants. Buddy has a couple of goals, as has Hannas and also plenty of the ball. We kick clear early in the last stanza, though the Giants hang in and exchange goals. Nevertheless, we hold on for a comfortable four goal win. Buddy has got four and Tippo two repaying some of the massive investment we have made in them.


Another win safely secured I drop off to sleep. A check of the full stats and highlights in the morning puts some flesh on the bones of my understanding of the contest. A screamer from Parks, some courageous marks from young Millsy and outrageous goals from Buddy. These now seem like standard fare for our games.


A phone call to one of my brothers fills in more details. He reckons it was a dour game, though I think it looked OK from my perspective.


We depart Marfa on Sunday morning for a six hour drive to San Antonio. The landscape changes though is still spectacular. The motor ways cut through sandstone escarpments somewhat reminiscent of some Aussie coastal drives, even though we are inland, with low green scrub.


On arrival in San Antonio we catch up with some fellow Aussie travellers and are advised that the footy is on one of the sports channels. Some more investigation is required before round four so that we can schedule in the Swans and Hawks games in to Austin time.


I am disappointed that I have not been at home to witness the farewell lap of honour for Adam Goodes and Mike Pyke. If I was I am sure I would have travelled up to Sydney for the game. However, I hear that Goodesy will be travelling in these parts, catching up with our Patty Mills of San Antonio Spurs for the NBA play-offs. I’ll keep an eye out, you never know who you might bump in to.


Onwards to our next battle against the Crows and more adventures on the road to Austin. Remember the Alamo!

About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. jan courtin says

    Your brother was correct Kieran, it was a dour affair! Yes, it had its highlights, as you’ve pointed out, and in the end our experienced players stood up. But, too close for comfort for my liking!

    Driving by car in the States is a must. I’ve done it a couple of times, and compared to the trains in America – which have taken me north to south and across – driving allows a much better involvement with the landscape and the small towns en route.


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