Round 5 – Sydney v Western Bulldogs: Beware Swannies, those feisty Bulldogs are yapping

After last week’s unbelievable performance by the Doggies against the Crows, our guys will have to be at their very best – their very best for 120 minutes. None of this last-half drama.


The last time we lost to the Dogs was back in 2010.  We’d driven down to Melbourne for that nerve-racking semi final at the G. Level at half time, we kicked 0.5 in the third quarter but were not far off at three quarter time.  I clearly remember that last kick of the match – Kirky’s goal. Swans supporters were ecstatic – we’d won!  Then, all that I can recall from that moment is one white flag being waved at both ends of the field – and we’d lost!  Horrible feeling.  Since then we’ve won the last five we’ve played against them. And this one is at home. So, I’m optimistic.


Once the game starts there will be no time for niceties towards the opposition, so I’ll be nice now.  I don’t have a second team, as such, but I’ve never minded Footscray.  How can you “hate” a team like them  – those emotions are reserved for the teams that, as a rite of passage, most Victorians (certainly of my generation) have towards the traditional big four: Collingwood, Richmond, Carlton and Essendon, and latterly, for me, Hawthorn – unless of course you’re one of them. Going way back to 1954, when they won their only GF, with Charlie Sutton their hero, I had a soft spot for the Bullies. Teddy Whitten followed, and how can you not love Brad Johnson’s smile. My favourite though is last week’s hero Bob Murphy. Great player, leader, and wordsmith. I love his writing and his intelligence.  Charismatic is the word.

Jan Courtin Jim Caldwell pic

Our family has another connection with the area around Footscray. Aunties, uncles and cousins, in all forms, lived in the vicinity.  My great-uncle was Jim Caldwell – inducted into the Swans Hall of Fame this year – who captained our 1918 Premiership team. Before moving to South in 1909 (was injured for that GF), he played for Williamstown, and returned there in 1921 to win another Premiership as captain coach. He went back to South in 1929 as their coach, but sadly died that year, aged 41.


He was one of 13 children, my grandmother his sister. It seemed that, after his death, and as most of his siblings lived in and around Williamstown, they followed that team. I don’t know how many of them or their offspring were South people, but I am forever grateful that my grandmother had two children and one, at least, became a dedicated South supporter: my aunt Nin. She got my English father hooked on the game and they took me to my first match at the Lake Oval in 1948. She remained loyal throughout but unfortunately missed the bulk of our successful years and died the week before Plugger’s goals record at the SCG in June 1999 – the only match I’ve missed in Sydney since moving here in 1998. (I often say to my husband “Darling, whatever you do, please don’t die between April and September”!)


Back in the days when the Williamstown relatives were still alive and I was small, they would take me to the Seagulls’ games on Sundays. Footscray seemed to be their VFL team. They tried very hard to convince this 6 year old that either blue and yellow or red white and blue were much prettier colours than red and white.  “No, No, No” I would yell at them.  Pretty!


I might have seemed a sweet little blond thing, but I knew I didn’t want pretty! And, anyway, I knew then that South would be my team forever and forever.


I also grew quite fond of another breed of Bulldogs whilst living in Brisbane. We moved there from London in the late 70’s and desperate to find a local aussie rules footy team to fill the void, I phoned QAFL to ask which team was red and white.  None.  So we chose the next best – Wests, who were maroon and white and had a V, like South.  They were also known as the Bulldogs.  Loved going to their matches, sitting on the grass, or in the car when it was wet, and trying to get as enthusiastic as possible about a team that wasn’t red and white.


Today however, sitting in the O’Reilly Stand and waiting for the first bounce – and with the niceties out of the way – it is different.  The Bullies are definitely the enemy and even though I like to think of myself as a pacifist, war on the footy field is completely acceptable.


It’s been raining on and off all week – again – in Sydney, and today is no different.  Thoughts of “they play under the roof a lot, so they’re not used to wet weather and it should restrict their run” and “we seem to play better in dry, and Buddy and Tippo don’t like the wet” are brought to a very quick halt when I think of the horrendous world-wide events of this past week and realise that perspective is needed. I do try.


By the end of the 1st quarter I’ve jotted down and memorised the following monologue, mostly to myself and sometimes to the husband:


“We’ve started well, Goodsey, you beauty, great goal”

“Oh, Buddy, yes, another goal”

“Go the Swannies”

“We need to get more before the rain sets in”

“Great mark Buddy, Oh, he misses, damn”

“Rhyce, what the hell are you doing”

“What was he doing kicking it straight to them, 30 metres out from their goal”

“That Bontembloodypelli, he won’t miss”  He doesn’t.

“Oh Rhyce. Not again. Shit. What’s going on. What a bloody awful pass, straight to them, you     must be joking”

“Now they’ve got another – bad play Swannies, you’ve just given them 2 goals”

“Thank Gawd” (meaning a point to them)

“Bloody hell, another goal to them, why can’t we stop Crameri and Stringer”

“What on earth is going on”

“They’re making us look confused” the husband says

“Crameri again, bugger, another goal”

Rain pelts down. Lament our errors, turn-overs, and bad shots on goal. 14 points down.


2nd Quarter:

I continue jotting and putting to memory:


“Oh no, not another one”  Boyd goals

“Come on Buddy, make sure you kick it this time” Out on the full

“Grab that bloody Crameri”

“What on earth are we doing Marshall” (the husband does have a name)

“They can mark it in these conditions, why can’t we”

“Thank Gawd”

“Thank Gawd” as Murphy misses

“At last, Yes, Tippo, great goal”

“More wretched points, Come ON Bloods”

“Not enjoying this game”

“Thank Gawd”

The husband says (hopeful tone): “The way things are going, maybe we can go on holidaysbefo re October this year”

“Great mark Buddy, Come ON guys” Goal

7 points down now. Improving late in quarter.

“Thank Gawd”

30 second later “Thank Gawd”

“He bloody well staged that, no way that’s a free”

“Oh, what’s happening with our backline – not too good today”

” Rampe what on earth to Gawd are you doing”

“Thank Gawd” after another free

“Oh Joey, why can’t you kick goals – you had more time to steady”

“Thank Gawd”

Half time. The husband says “It wasn’t our finest hour” (in his best English accent).

He reads The Saturday Paper and I sit, sort of watching the kids play, not very happy at

11 points down.


3rd Quarter:

Rain has eased a bit

“Where would we be without Hanners”

“Oh Jetts” (can’t remember what he did)

“Crap, that isn’t a bloody free against Teddy” Boyd goals

“Don’t like this one bit”

“Yes, Bud – he can’t miss can he”

“Come On Bloods, for Gawd’s sake.  Buddy seems to echo my words “COME ON”

“Yes, yes, Tippo – Come on Swannies let’s get going” 5 points down

“Thank Gawd”

“Oh, not Hanners, he’s hurt, blood all over”

“Bugger, another mistake. Jeremy Laidler, what are you doing” Goal to them

“How many bloody goals have they had from our errors near goal”

“Not good enough”

“Buddy, Buddy, no, out on the full”

“For Gawd’s sake Garry, shocking kick”

“If that Stringer can kick a goal from 50 metres why can’t we”

“Get on your men, for Gawd’s sake Bloods”

“Great tackle Pykey”

“Did you see that, Marshall, should bloody well be 50? It is

“Great goal Gazza”

“Why wasn’t it allowed, that Tippo goal”

“Yes, yes Goodsey, great goal” 5 points difference again

“I just don’t believe it – shit, Rampe how can you do such a thing, kicking straight to that Bontembloodypelli”  another goal from another error

Still 11 points down at 3/4 time


4th Quarter:

Drizzling and hoping

Jetts misses and Kieran goals

“Yes, Tippo, great mark”

“Oh no, how can he miss from there, a poster. Shit, shit”

“Been in our forward line for first 15 minutes, please Swannies, kick goals”

“How many possessions have we had this quarter, we have to do something”


“Yes, yes, Harry you beauty”

Out of seat – first time all day

“Oh Gawd, we’re in front, can’t stand it”

“20 minutes gone Marshall, it’s making me sick”

“We need more goals, can’t rely on a 4 point lead”

Time on: “They’ve only had it down their end 3 times this quarter”

“A stinking goal”


“Wish I could fast forward”

The husband screams at top of voice “COME ON SWANS”

A few more “Thank Gawds”

29 minutes gone: “Pykey, what a mark”

“How much bloody time’s left”

“Boo Boo Boo, you rotten mongrel umpire, it’s a mark”

“Oh, please fall over you bulldog, let our guys get it” He doesn’t, and we don’t

“What’s happened”

“Siren’s gone”, says the husband

“Oh, no”!!!!!


We trudge off home, in the wet, and I’m feeling very miserable.  As we walk through the park, a few more emotional outbursts come from my mouth, to no one in particular:


“We can’t afford to lose games at home, like that”

“Bloody rain in Sydney”

“So many opportunities wasted”

“Way too many errors and turn overs”

“What was wrong with our backline”

“It’s only Round 5?

“We tend to get better as the season goes on…..”

No, I haven’t said a thing about my “don’t really have a second team” team.  Others, professionals that they are, will do that. Not my job today.  I’m not a happy Jan!


Next day:

Got home after the game, not in the least hungry. Watched North and Hawthorn, hoping the latter would suffer as we did. Woke many times during the night, wondering how the players were feeling and wondering if their unhappiness was in any way like mine. I lay there, also wondering whether I’d typed in the correct number of “Thank Gawds”.  Also, I tried all night – when awake – to gets things into perspective.

This morning I decide to watch the recorded last quarter. I never replay games that we’ve lost – it took 7 years to look at the 2006 Grand Final – a mistake!  But this time, I wanted to see if Pykey’s mark was touched off a boot or was really a mark. I found out. As soon as my so-called favourite Bulldog started being interviewed at the end of the game I didn’t really want to hear his erudite musings.  I turned it off.  This weekend I’m not too keen on him at all.

In the cold hard light of day today, I realise that, despite our errors, it must have been a pretty interesting game for others to watch – all the things that I’d normally love seeing from other teams – and that all the players gave their all, and were incredibly gutsy in those wet and sodden conditions.  A great game, maybe, but not for me.

I  wonder what my great-uncle Jim – the one who planted the seed to our family’s Swans connection over 100 years ago when he played his first game in 1909 – would have thought. I think of my aunt Nin and I think of my Dad. I wonder what they would think of our Bloods of today. Despite this loss, I think that, indeed, they would just love them.


My highlights for the game:




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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.

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