Round 6 Melbourne v Sydney Swans: Heading South In My SWANZ Wagon

I am very fond of my SWANZ number plate. Someone else had taken the real spelling when I applied at the RTA office, so this seemed the best option. It’s been attached to my wagon (well a longish car really) for about 14 years now. Originally it was in Richmond colours (heaven forbid) – all NSW had to offer at the time – but was very quickly replaced with red and white when colours were introduced. Well worth the $440 a year.


It has been proudly displayed throughout this vast land. Across the Nullarbor in 2010 for the only Test Match we won against the Poms; to Queensland for many Brisbane and Suns’ games and more Test matches; to Adelaide, of course for footy and cricket; and so many times to Melbourne, I’ve lost count.


Love driving up and down the Hume and getting the odd toot and thumbs-up sign from like-minded Swannies, especially when the number plate is accompanied by red and white flags and other regalia. This photo, taken before last year’s GF, on our oft visited pilgrimages to the Lake Oval, proudly shows our SWANZ wagon. So happy to see that some of the original wording at the hole-in-the-wall ticket booths has been preserved, from the old South footy days.


Jan Courtin's right arm and the SWANZ Wagon at the spiritual home of the Bloods, the old Lakeside Oval (pic: Jan Courtin)

Jan Courtin’s (?) right arm and the SWANZ Wagon at the spiritual home of the Bloods, the old Lakeside Oval (pic: Jan Courtin)


It’s now time to get going for our trip down the Hume. It’s Tuesday, the wagon is packed and we’re on our way. No toots this time, but we do get a big smile and a wave from two green-vested road workers, in a slow-down 40 metre zone just out of Goulburn.


We stop in Albury the night. Now that three days have passed since our loss to the Dogs and I’m back into liking Bob Murphy again, we pop into the local RSL to watch him on AFL 360.


The next morning we drive to Violet Town where my brother Tony lives. He is the youngest sibling and has 6 older sisters. He is a passionate Swans man who has made absolutely sure that his sons wear red and white and that they too will continue to pass on the Courtin connection to the mighty Bloods. Our three hours are spent mostly talking footy. Marshall and Liz (Tony’s other half) listen attentively and don’t really get a chance to join in, which is nothing unusual. And, anyway, they’re only Swans by association – although Marshall does get the odd bout of tachycardia when games are close, so perhaps he qualifies!


A couple of hours further south we reach an area where Melbourne radio is loud and clear, and tune into SEN, hoping to hear lots of chat about footy. Instead, it’s about soccer. After an hour of mostly round ball talk and crass adverts about cars, electric tools and male hair loss – seemingly all aimed at the male population – I can’t stand any more and turn it off. Tune back in 15 minutes later, still hoping for footy, and this is what we get: “Question for the day: What would make you turn off a footy broadcast?” (words to that effect). The first caller says “when the wife comes out in her lingerie”. There were 10 more callers – all male. I was amazed there were no women. Perhaps, with such a blokey oriented programme and with answers like the first caller’s, it’s no wonder!


We stop off to buy The Age: how good it feels to go straight to the back pages – all 8 of them devoted to footy, instead of NRL – and to realise that we’re back in a real footy town. A town where just about everyone will know what Swans means, instead of the blank looks from most Sydneysiders; and a town where the spiritual home of the Swans was conceived. It is indeed a good feeling to be back.


We spend a few days doing what we do when in Melbourne: catch up with family, go to Brunetti’s for coffee and Middle Park for brekkie, Readings for books, South Melbourne Market, Lake Oval, Messina for ice cream, Vic Market because it’s Vic Market, Arts Project in Northcote, NGV and Ian Potter Gallery at Fed Square, Prahran Market (we like markets), St Kilda beach, watch free to air games on tele (my sister doesn’t have Fox – I’m missing Fox!), and when Saturday evening arrives we’re more than ready for the game.


We get to use our Melbourne memberships for the first time this year. We walk up the ramps to the top level, thinking the wind would not be as ferocious, but we’re soon walking back down to Level 1. It’s not a good view of the ground in the areas for visiting members so we leave the stadium and walk around to Gate 1. Back up to level 3 and sit behind the goals with other Swannies. There is no wind.


I look around and remind myself of how lucky I am to be back at this wonderful home of footy. I remember the grand finals I went to as a kid, when all you needed was to line up and sometimes camp out overnight at the G to get a ticket. Who couldn’t forget that run and goal by Ray Gabelich in the 1964 GF and that 1 point kicked by Barry Breen just before the siren in the 1966 decider. I can also vividly recall Warnie’s hat trick and Boonie’s spectacular catch in the 1994 Boxing Day Test, and the more recent annihilation of the Poms in 2013, not to mention our grand finals. It is indeed a national treasure.


Settling into our seats, and with our red cushions decorated with little white hearts comfortably positioned, I ask Marshall if he remembers where we sat for the past 5 grand finals. “Haven’t a clue”. “What! How can you not remember such important things?” He shrugs, and I feel compelled to remind him of our seats and the views we had in each of the games. Especially the views of Leo Barry and Nick Malceski in those dying moments. He shrugs again, and probably thinks to himself “Why does she keep asking me that same bloody question every time we come here?”


The forecast of rain has held off and when the boys run out I’m surprised to see Goodsey in the green vest again, although it’s certainly better than not seeing him at all, if playing in the NEAFL. I expect the Swans to come out firing and even though we have a 20 point buffer at quarter time, it’s a scrappy affair. Tippo’s 3 goals for the quarter, Pykey’s clever pass and subsequent goal on an angle and Macca’s cool calm and collected run and carry off half back have all contributed to our lead.


The Members are loud booers. At one stage in the second quarter they booed at anything. Every time we touched the ball they booed. They even booed when one of their own threw the ball. I’m not used to so much booing. Maybe it’s because, being an interstate team and having 95% of the crowd on the same side, boos from the other mob are few and far between – or we just don’t hear them. So, they continued to boo for most of the quarter whilst Benny goaled from 15 metres out, Jetts goaled and Buddy passed to Tippo who passed to Joey – and oh, what a goal – best play of the day so far! Our blond beauty Heens hobbles off injured, and Goodsey comes on and we’re 40 points up at half time.


Marshall reads The Saturday Paper during the break (as is his custom) and I go for a wander trying to find a hot drink. Back down the Level 1, where the queues are ridiculous, so I end up buying a cold drink instead.


I had said to Marshall before the game “If we get 4 goals a quarter and they maybe get 1 goal a quarter, then we’ll have a good win”. Up until half time, my wishes are going according to plan.


At about the 18 minute mark of the third we’re on track – about 60 points up, but then they start to play footy and we start to relax, maybe. Joey’s goal earlier in the quarter was magnificent: with pure strength and determination he broke the tackle of two demons, burst through and kicked truly 45 metres out. A joy to watch. Also, goals to Hanners and Parks (know his nickname now) helped in our ascendency. The members, a little quieter this quarter, find something to cheer about when Jack Watts takes a mark in the forward pocket. Is it his first touch, as the cheering is somewhat ironic? With about two minutes to go before the siren, the demons’ favourite son Jessie Hogan goals, and another follows a minute later. It’s not a nice feeling when the opposition kicks multiple goals at the very end of a quarter – why do teams allow that to happen, I keep asking myself?


With a 46 point lead going into the final quarter I hope we can get back to at least a 60 point advantage. It doesn’t happen. Instead, Melbourne gets a lot of the ball and plays reasonably well, kicking 3 goals. We kick 1.7 This week, again, our points outnumber our goals. We need to improve on that. Goodsey’s mark and goal, just before the siren, gives us the winning margin of 38 points.


It was a strange game. It didn’t really feel like a footy game at the G somehow. With only 27 odd thousand people, scattered around the 100,000 capacity, the sense of excitement and tension was missing. There was no real atmosphere. You could even hear the players yelling to each other, which I liked, but something was definitely missing. Maybe it’s because we sat in the gods, so far from the action, or maybe it was because I was feeling a bit fluey in cold and windy Melbourne and not in a receptive mood – even to wave my flag after each goal. I did wave it at the end. But, hey, who’s complaining!!


My highlights for the game:

We won

Tippo’s 4 goals

Tommy Mitchell’s possessions

Joey’s game and goals

Macca’s game all over the ground

The demons: Tom McDonald’s game on Buddy

Other highlight from the weekend: Whoopee, the Hawks lost!!


With a good win behind us and lots of family farewells the following day, we pack the wagon and head north back along the Hume. We get a toot and a wave from a Swannie and we toot back. With a long drive ahead, all sorts of stories about our many trips around Australia in our SWANZ wagon come flooding back. The most memorable perhaps, back in Sydney about five years ago.


We owned an Art Gallery in Paddington and lived above it in a terrace we had bought. Our car was always parked in the street. Mardi Gras had been held the previous evening and there were lots of happy all-night revellers still around this Sunday morning. Walking back from a morning coffee, before opening the Gallery, we noticed a young good looking guy standing, staring at our car. Bit odd, we thought, so we walked up to the car thinking he would then walk away. “I’m very interested in your name plate” he said, in a strong German accent, pointing down to SWANZ. “Oh”, I started, in a slightly unprepared way “I’m passionate about them, loved them since I was five years old, can’t get enough of them really, and…”. He’s looking at me rather strangely, and I was about to say “It’s a foo………” then, interrupting, he says “I think maybe we’re talking about something different, I don’t know about your passion and I don’t understand. Do you know what SWANZ means in German?”. “No” I reply. He hesitates for a moment and then calmly tells us “Well, it means penis!”


Here he was, the morning after Mardi Gras, perhaps wondering whether he was onto a good thing, and grandma and grandpa turn up, with grandma telling him about her passion for them, loving them since 5 years of age and not getting enough of them!


I told this story to a very sprightly and tuned-in 94 year old woman I used to visit weekly to take out for a coffee and a chat. She knew all about my Swans obsessions and one day she said, as she got into the car “Oh Jan, I love going out in your penis wagon!”


Approaching Sydney, Marshall says “You know what, maybe all those toots and thumbs-up haven’t always been for the Swans!”

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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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