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Round 5 – Sydney v West Coast: Oh Jetts, that’s proof that you still love us!

The sun that usually shimmers through our bedroom louvres, reminding us that a new day awaits, chose to remain behind the ominous black clouds this morning. I knew then that the Bureau of Meteorology was spot on: all week the forecast was 90% showers for Sydney and a maximum of 21 degrees. 21 is cool for Sydney in April, but the humidity usually compensates, so we left our warm Swans’ coats at home and packed umbrellas instead.

Walking to the SCG, with the swirling winds doing their best – twice – to blow my cap from its preferred position, I wonder how the weather will affect the game. Surely our pressure around a wet and sticky ball will prevail? Surely Jetts won’t be able to glide down the Members’ wing terrorizing the opposition? And surely this will not be a repeat of last night’s free-flowing, fast-moving epic at the MCG between The Hawks and Crows. But I do know, for sure, that more birds will be flying and rummaging today between the Swans and the Eagles.

Before entering the ground we visit our two Swannies and their six-week old cygnets at Kippax Lake. Swans Almanacker Keiran Croker named them Millsy, Paps and Georgie. I have no idea who is who, but I still greet them enthusiastically, all the while hoping that today’s weather will suit our three new Swans’ cygnets. If we win I’ll go back to say Hi to the family at the lake; if not, I’ll just trundle off home, no doubt miserable.

Misery rears its ugly head before the match even starts. We are being reminded of wars. We’re asked to stand and remove our hats for the Anzac Observance. All 35,000 or so hats come off (surely in this day and age this no-hats ritual has no real meaning) and we stand – many trying to look especially solemn – and listen to words being spoken and the Last Post being played. The minute’s silence is meaningful, as we remember those who have died, and I am reminded of the futility and horror of wars that kill many thousands – mostly young, innocent people.

I am also reminded of the thousands upon thousands of Indigenous people who were massacred by the European invaders in the colonial Australian frontier war, which was unofficial, undeclared and unrecorded. When do we get a chance to pay our tributes to them? And, does White Australia care enough to even want to pay tribute?

With formalities done, and the game underway, their man Jetts is soon in the play. As he marks cleanly, a handful of “not sure what to do” Swans people decide to give a bit of a boo – a feeble attempt mind you – and I feel sure that Sydney people couldn’t and wouldn’t stoop to the level of the West Coast supporters last year in Perth, in their abominable treatment of Adam Goodes. There is no further booing of our former star, until later in the game.

The first quarter is tight and the ball is mostly in their forward line. Our backs are working overtime, and when Jeremy Laidler goes off with concussion, we’re a man down. Their Josh Kennedy has already kicked their first goal and Buddy ours, and then Callum Sinclair, in his quest to prove his worth to both teams since he left the Eagles, marks in the goal square and there’s not much in it. Our new cygnet Tommy Papley is in-and-under, and having an influence, but they lead by six points at the end of the quarter when Shuey goals from a bad error by our Benny. It’s not quite as I had expected.

As “Sweet Caroline” blares around the ground, only the siren to open the second quarter alerts the crowd and tells them today is about footy, not some sentimental song to jump up and down to. In no time, Naitanui is given a goal by the ump, after cleverly staging a free: no-one touched him as he fell over in a marking contest, 15 metres out from goal! Raincoats then appear for the first time, and the lights are on. With Laidler dressed in red and white civvies and sitting on the bench, our backline is still under enormous pressure. Harry then limps off and Teddy is holding his head. And, I’m not getting much pleasure at all from this game.

Then it all changes. Tommy Papley works his small-man, wet-weather magic: he tackles a much larger bloke, follows up with another tackle on someone else, runs backwards towards the loose ball, gathers it cleanly, gets tackled, squeezes out of it, handballs to Buddy, shepherds Buddy’s opponent thereby allowing the big man to kick 65 metres into the arms of a running, desperate, diving Heeney in the goal square – all in the driving rain! That’s more like it Bloods! Then, with everything seeming a little brighter, Swans-wise, the ball is hand-balled out of congestion in our forward 50, backwards to a waiting Teddy.

Wow! Teddy! What a goal! A 60 metre whopping, thumping, dead-set beauty, all off three steps, from our full-back Teddy Richards! I swear I could hear it from high up in the O’Reilly Stand: that sweet solid sound of perfect contact – a bit like the pure, resounding strike off the tee! We all rise as one, and Teddy’s smile on the big screens tells it all! He has turned the game. Minutes later, he marks in his more familiar domain, drives the ball down to our forwards, it squelches its way through players’ hands and rolls into the goal square. And there he is again, not Teddy, but the grandson of Max, kicking if off the ground for a goal – and doing the Papley name proud.

With a nine point lead going into the third quarter, Buddy increases it to 15. Then, perhaps to everyone’s amazement, the Eagles kick the next three goals, all within five minutes. They are now ahead by two points. The rain has stopped and the Swans’ smaller men, notably Hanners, Benny, Macca, Papley, Mills, Hewitt, Heeney and Parker, all start getting involved: Benny kicks a goal and then two consecutive ones to Macca show just why he is there to lead the team. We’re 23 points up – which is nothing these days – with about 35 minutes to play, and I’m nervous as the last quarter gets under way.

Benny kicks beautifully to Georgie Hewitt for our first goal, and Teddy and Reg are repelling everything that gets through to the Eagles’ forwards; Hanners is, again, putting his life on the line; Joey is amassing his usual number of possessions; Teddy is at it again, taking a screamer this time, and Jetts is getting the customary boo as he kicks for goal. He misses a sitter from 10 metres out, and I can’t help yelling: OH JETTS, THAT’S PROOF THAT YOU STILL LOVE US! Then our man Papley kicks another from the goal square, perhaps wishing it would rain every week. Lloydy rounds of with another six-pointer to end a heavy-duty wearying battle.

And, we’d prevented the Eagles from scoring a goal for almost two quarters. Their last goal of the match was ten minutes into the third quarter.

Our hard fought win was capped off by Teddy being awarded a trophy for his best on ground performance, and I thought of his parents. They would have been thrilled. They travel from Melbourne each week when our games are played away from Victoria, to watch their two sons play. One goes to see Ted, the other to see Xavier – wherever he plays in the NEAFL. Isn’t that lovely?

We walk past the lake and greet our Swannies and cygnets, and tell them that we’re a happy Swans family today and that their namesakes made telling contributions throughout the game. They glide to the edge of the water, necks upright and proud, and give us a little squeak, as we say our farewells and head off home. Our umbrellas weren’t needed and even if they were, what’s a bit of rain on a Saturday arvo at the footy, when your team beats one of last year’s grand finalists by 39 points? I’d put up with thunder and hail, as long as we win!

My highlights from the game:

Teddy’s goal

Teddy’s mark

Teddy’s game

Buddy’s 2.5

Cygnets: Paps, Millsy and Georgie

Joey, Hanners and Reg

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.


  1. Tony Courtin says

    Great win by the Swans,Jan. Unable to watch live as driving home from Melbourne.Thoroughly enjoyed the replay,and was relaxed throughout! Despite knowing the outcome,I still hurled abuse at the tv regards some deplorable umpiring decisions,to either team.Already many “experts” who’d written-off the Swans are now suggesting we’ll be top 4. How quickly people change. Go bloods.

  2. Yes, Teddy was superb, Jan. As was our midfield. I like Keiran’s naming of the cygnets and I like the conversation you had with them!

    And, I would one of the first white Australians, standing (with my hat on) saluting the fallen indigenous Australians.


  3. Keiran Croker says

    Glad to hear that Millsy, Paps & Georgie are doing well on the field and in the lake!

    I saw the 2nd half on my iPad here in New Orleans. Great win. You can never write us off.

  4. jan courtin says

    Tony: Pleased you actually go to see the game, even in replay. And yes, the “experts” seem to change their views week to week – they’ve got to have something to talk/write about.

    Marcel: And I’d be standing there too!

    Keiran: Thanks for the naming! Was in New Orleans about ten years ago – great place. Enjoy! Hopefully you’ll be back before September!

    Thanks to all

  5. hey there Jan what a lovely picturesque story….. baby swans flapping in the water big people swans flapping under the water Jan and Marshall in red and white chatting to baby swans screaming out loud for the big people swans. such descriptions of the play in your story it moves along at a rythmic pace! and honour to our aboriginal peoples and strong words against war…. so much stuff in your story. i loved reading your story. i really liked how it moved along and again how you interweave numerous topics and people and little real swans! loved it.
    thanks for your stories Jan i look forward to them each week.

  6. jan courtin says

    They are very kind words Polly. Many thanks

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