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Round 4 – Adelaide v Sydney: Omens

Mathilde mountaun view



A short time before you reach Charlotte Pass on the Kosciuszko Road, you cross a bridge over one Betts Creek. It’s short, Betts Creek, some 3.55 kilometres, more of a stream than a creek. But it feeds into Spencer’s Creek which comes directly from the mountain tops and together, I’m told, they make pools which are grand for trout fishing. ‘Eddie Betts Creek,’ I cried rather nonchalantly as we headed up the road last Tuesday.


From Charlotte Pass, the Cob, Cygnet and I stepped out onto the roof of Australia. In our house, significant birthdays get marked by forays into large open spaces, usually beside geological structures of a scale and age superior to our own. Just to keep perspective. This was the Cob’s turn. A gruelling 22km circuit across the main range, past pristine glacial lakes, 920 metres of ascent in total, 5 hours of walking that landed us on the top of Kosciuszko, hamstrings burning but hearts wide open. The 11 year old Cygnet led the way at every bend on Summit Rd as we coned our way to the cairn we knew was waiting. ‘Almost there,’ the odd traveller piped until we were in sight of the stones. ‘Half way there,’ giggled an old fella.


It’s not enough to say that the views are expansive. But what can you truly say of what you see up there? Folds of blue tinted mountains, steaming with atmosphere and cumulus. Valleys that carried seas. Ruggedness as far as Victoria, granite sprinkled across its hills like hundreds and thousands. And … ravens? But they didn’t have the long whinge at the end of their call. Crows? A murder of Crows mysteriously circling the top of the mountain? We hadn’t seen a bird since we’d crossed the Snowy River and headed for the sub-Alpine. I remarked to the Cob, ‘Crows?’ We decided that they likely come to pick off visitor’s offerings, of the muesli bar, chip or sandwich kind.


We took the obligatory photo at the cairn, the Cygnet announced himself as the official highest person in the land and we took off down the other side of the mountain, onto the lonely fire trail of Summit Road, three hours more walking, levelling down from the feldmark and its windswept cushion plants, through the herbfield and heathlands, over emerald backed grasshoppers and under Scarlet robins, until we were exiting to a guard of snowgums, the last of the sun squeezing past Carruther’s Peak to see us out to the road. As we crossed Betts Creek the other way, the thought dawned aloud: ‘Perhaps the oracle at the top of the mountain was a prophecy; the Crows will, by year’s end, sit atop the mountain.’


That night from the Epsom Salt bath in our Jindabyne room, the Cob called out. He was reading Deidre Slattery’s Australian Alps. ‘It says here that Crows are indeed found in the park.’


We spent another three nights in the Snowies, caving in the north, breakfasting with the lyrebirds and the silent mountain gums, walking the river paths, blissfully out of range, unaware of human fates and follies. Until Friday at noon when the Cob took the wheel armed with a packet of Fruit Pastilles. Distributed early in the trip, they came out red, yellow and dark blue. But the significance never came to a total until early afternoon over a chocolate milkshake at Tumut’s Heritage Coffee Lounge, when the Cygnet urgently declared we had to do our tips. And it wasn’t until we had scrolled down to match 6 on the fixture that we realised our Swans were the Crows’ opponents.




Saturday night’s adventure in Adelaide was an extreme affair; it began at speed and never ebbed. We hadn’t realised it was the milestone game for Thompson. There were mutterings of ‘would have’ with regard to tipping—we were still in omen mode. But play settled in to give and take and the Swans were edging a lead.


With seven minutes to go in the first, Lance gave away a 50m penalty for overstepping and the kick ended up in the forward arc, Tex and Reg, Ramps and Eddie, the pack of them flying at it, Rampe’s hand resting oh so gently on the number 18 who was handed the ball and an easy goal. The Crows were in front for the first time. Early days. Nobody said much from the couch.


Whatever we offered, the Crows picked off. Whatever they brought, we countered. Both teams seemed hell bent on the moment and the movement, rather than any possible ascent. Parker was magnificent through the middle, Jack appeared to be tackling two of everyone after his early hit, Rampe showed the fist in his artillery and Mills was marking instead. Everything. Smith took Betts in the third, hassling him up against the boundary to restrict him to a behind. But where a creek has flow, it will kind a place to go. Betts may not have had Spencer but he had Douglas streaming down the middle who put the Crows ahead again. Happy hunting. There may have been mutterings on the couch.


But there was joy in the Premiership quarter, seven goals to six and a one point lead with Parker’s kick on the siren. The fourth was tension, tension, Swans defenders three apiece in the goal square, Hanners on target and then … Heeney. The kid is frighteningly good. I still have a mother’s look-away every time he flies. He plays with ambition beyond his stature and I don’t want him to break. But commentary noticed he’s a cat and lands uncannily on his feet. He goaled to bring us within three points. It tightened to two. And then … a handball came from the wing to the middle onto the boot of Douglas again, over the back of Smith and Betts, where it bounced best for Eddie (with a little help from the push) and he put it through the big sticks. The Crows were circling. They wanted whatever we had.


But the blond cat was onto it. Omens can work both ways. They can be fait accompli or just a mountain to climb. Here it was, all the symbolism come to this moment in time when we Swans would eschew the oracle and assert our human control. Commentary had us needing 2 goals in 93 seconds and Heeney provided one. And with 75 seconds, no 30 now, Tex took a second, more intentional, kick towards goal, towards one man, one part of the ecosystem who was streaming gently forward, carrying the ball, kicking it truly then. The Cygnet assures me I was lamenting out loud from the couch, ‘Betts Creek, Betts Creek, bloody Betts Creek …’


Endurance can all amount to a moment of bewildering mysticism. It must be odd wandering from the field after a game so thoroughly played, without the sense of reward, without the picture at the top of the mountain, fist raised. We are driven, as humans, to those kinds of conclusions. But perhaps we are, in reality, more like the creeks than the rocks, wandering—sometimes empty, sometimes full, sometimes at speed, sometimes stasis.


Next stop Eagles. No Eagles sighted in Sydney this week.




About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.


  1. Ben Footner says

    Crows atop the mountain. As an Adelaide fan I like this omen. A lot.

    I was at the game and it was a classic, one I will remember for a long time. Like a boxing match that went the full stretch and was decided on points in the end. Punch and counter punch, tackle and counter tackle, goal and counter goal. Wonderful stuff (and for some of us, a wonderful result!).

    Heeney looks a real find. Plays like a key position player despite his stature. He was a delight to watch on Saturday night, even for an opposition fan like myself.

  2. Ben Footner says

    I should add that the Crows are often referred to as “the Fruit Tingles”, by opposition fans – which adds weight to that omen!

  3. Mathilde – but you had your own omens too. On the highest Tippett of Kosciuszko you would have been wearing Parkers I’m sure?

  4. Citrus Bob says

    That’s goodes Dip!


  5. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Touché Dips!
    You’ve got me thinking about the rest of the team now …

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic Mathilde always enjoy your articles ( played,Dips)

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff again Mathilde. Watched this game in it’s entirety, both the Swans and Betts Creeks Boys look like the real deal this season. Wonderful game. Fantastic writing!

  8. Wonderful trip, MdH.
    There can surely be no better breakfast than that with a (heroically named) Superb Lyrebird.

    One of the great sights.

    We were walking through the Cathedral Ranges east of Melbourne a while back, and heard what sounded like the calls of many different bird species firing off in rapid succession. It had to be a lyrebird.
    Slowly, quietly, we crept through the open eucalypt and acacia and there he was. Delicately stepping on his mound, tail raised, mimicking anything and everything.

    The Superb Lyrebird.

    Maybe the Swans can mimic something of the conquistador Crows this week in the name of improvement?
    Hopefully the Magpies can, too.

  9. Peter Flynn says

    Nailed the landscape and the rhythms of a frenetic contest Old Mate.

    Heeney was the talk of North London, particularly the classical mark he grabbed.

  10. Anne Myers says

    I’m not really into footy. I come to it by osmosis. But I do love your writing. It just sparkles on the page. My eyes do glaze over the footy bits (sorry) but your voice is smart and stylish and honest.

  11. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    The kindest of words. Meaningful and appreciated. Thanks Anne.

  12. Melinda & Gerry says

    I couldn’t have said it better myself Anne – and your response no less eloquent than I would expect Mathilde.

    It was a pleasure to meet you three at said Caves.

    I look forward to reading more of your written word.

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