Round 8 – Hawthorn v Sydney: After 239 Days We’ve Shown That We Can Beat Those Predatory Hawks At The MCG.

All I really want to do at the moment is revel in our win and sing Cheer Cheer the Red and the White over and over. But because footy is so much more than a game, there is always a story to be told. So, here is another story involving me and my beloved Swans, most of which was written before tonight’s game and before any euphoria set in.


My favourite subjects at school were Art, Writing, Music and Sport – if sport can be called a subject. The only prizes I ever won at school were for drawing, writing (called Composition in my day) and “excelling in sport”. My music exams were held externally and I always received a high pass mark for piano.


When sitting the art exams, all I really wanted to draw and paint was a swan – I’d spent many hours trying to perfect the beautiful puffed up, proud white bird with a red V – but alas, the nuns wanted a bowl of fruit or a landscape of gum trees. One year I put my swan in the landscape. That did the trick – I won a prize.


The perfected swans adorned the front cover of all of my school exercise books during my early school years. When bored with Algebra or Latin, I’d draw more swans. This image of my “Feast Book”, when I was eight or nine, shows my attempt at perfecting the swan. Don’t ask me what a “Feast Book” was – presumably something to do with saints and angels – certainly not Swans.



Exercise book FINAL



No idea why I misspelt my surname! Probably concentrating too much on perfecting the swan.


The prizes I won for Art and Composition and the marks achieved in Piano were appreciated by Mum and Dad but I often wondered if their excitement would have been more pronounced if they’d been for Science or Mathematics. Perhaps not. After all, Dad was a writer and Mum was a musician, so maybe deep down they were pleased and happy that some of their creative genes were being put to good use by their first born.


I loved playing sport at school. I was captain of the tennis team and a leader in the basketball team. We also played softball and rounders in those days and I also loved to run. There were no official athletics competitions at school, so I would run and jump wherever I could: over fences in our street and as high as I could over tall plants in the neighbours’ gardens. I could jump so high that I fantasised about being in the Olympics one day. There certainly wasn’t any footy at our all-girls posh Catholic private school (which I hated), so we Courtin kids used to kick the ball in the street next to our house, me imagining I was Ronny Clegg or Freddy Goldsmith or Bobby Skilton. My sisters and my baby brother were the competition.


Before leaving Sydney for Melbourne a few days ago I was rummaging through old letters and memorabilia from years back, stored away in the shed. The first letter I picked up, written to Mum who was taking a well-earned holiday in Queensland in 1953, when I was nine years of age, happened to mention Hawthorn and it triggered off this piece about the Swans and Hawks today.


Hawthorn Game Letter to Mum


What a lot has changed since then. The recent history belies the repeated failures of 60 years ago. The Hawks finished on the bottom of the ladder that year (1953) and we were only a few rungs above. Of the 155 times we’ve played each other, they have a 19 game advantage, obviously gained during these more recent successful years, but back then we were both pretty dismal.


A lot has changed with the writer of the letter too. No more “God bless you” wishes but “It made me sad” still applies to this day. Ridiculous really – I even cry when we win, but at least it’s not sad crying!


So, the relevance to this Hawthorn game is not just that we’re playing the team that smashed us on that last day in September not that long ago, but also that it is tied up in memories. Memories from the 50’s and 60’s stored away in the shed. Memories of the drawings, paintings and poems I did as a kid and teenager (which often featured the Swans) and memories of the game itself, and how it was in those wonderful bygone days.


These recollections lead me to wonder whether art, writing, music and sport have a lot in common. The creative flair flourishes in all these pursuits, and imagination, talent, perseverance, intuition, determination, skill, and a certain amount of grunt are common to all, and indeed necessary. But, perhaps it is the emotional reaction that these activities evoke that finds common ground: a piece of music, a work of art, the written word or a magnificent physical sporting feat can all trigger similar sentiments.


“Yikes, it’s cold here in Melbourne” says Marshall, as we arrive at the G. He has seven layers of protection, including two coats, but is still shivering.


We’re back up in the gods, anxious as always, especially against this lot, and waiting for the run through the banner. I am hoping that this game will hopefully go some way to prove that the last game we played against them, 239 days ago, was simply a great big enormous aberration!


The husband says “Don’t you dare ask me again.”


“Ask you what?”


“What you always ask me when we’re here.”


“Oh, OK I won’t ask you where we sat for our previous five grand finals, if that’s what you’re asking”


His permanent ever-so-slight smile widens as he gives me a little nudge, and says “I knew you would.”


Out they run, to the roar of the red and white family singing the song. The banner We Bleed Red and White We are the Bloods seems apt for this game – let’s give our all, no matter what blood gets spilt! I love it. There are plenty of us tonight, Melburnians and Sydneysiders, as one, waving flags and cheering.


I tell Marshall that since the game against Melbourne two weeks ago I’ve had a strong gut feeling that we’ll beat them tonight. He tells me that I always have gut feelings and “you know what you’re like when they are wrong”. “I know” I tell him “but this is one of those strong gut feelings, not just any old one”. I had the same feeling before the Port game too.


What a start! Especially, tonight, against this happy team at Hawthorn. Lukey Parker is carrying on from his form of last week; Joey Kennedy is doing what Joey does every week; Dan Hannerbery is unstoppable; Goodsey is having a beauty; Buddy is kicking into the man on the mark, much to the delight of his former fans; Sammy Reid is living up to expectations; Benny McGlynn is being ferocious against his old mates; the backline is standing-up and we’re actually kicking more goals than behinds! The pressure is palpable and the Hawks are feeling it. Yes, Swannies, this is just what is needed. We lead by 27 points at the first change, having forced Hawthorn to a goalless quarter.


“Can we keep it up?” the husband asks. “Probably not” I reply. “There’s no way Hawthorn won’t come back”. Benny McGlynn increases our lead to 32 points before Bruest kicks their first goal at the nine minute mark. Schoenmakers and Segler add 12 points to their score and we’re only 13 points up. It seems to be all Hawthorn from the 15 minute mark of the quarter, and when Schoenmakers adds another, to make it four in a row, we’re realising this will be a close one. Sammy Reid relieves the pressure by goaling before the siren and we’re back to a lead of 13 points at half time.


“He shouldn’t miss shots like that” I moan a few times, as Sammy’s kick goes wide of the goal post. “We just have to take every single opportunity, especially against this mob”. It’s a real slog for the next 15 minutes, before Gunston kicks truly, and when Schoenmakers goals the scores are level. After a play-on call Sammy Reid goals from the goal square and within a few minutes Joey makes a rare error when his kick to Benny overshoots and Hawthorn goals again. Rioli gets another and they’re ahead for the first time, with a four point advantage at three quarter time.


Marshall is being pessimistic and I’m thinking about my strong gut feeling that I’ve had for two weeks. “We’ll be right” I tell him. We’re making lots of mistakes in our forward line, and even Lukey Parker overkicks the ball when attempting to move it on. The intercept gives Rioli another goal and they’re now 15 points up with half the quarter gone. Marshall looks gloomy and is shaking with the cold and the tension. I’m shaking inside but still hopeful. The Bloods are bleeding tonight remember, so we’ll be fine!


Jarrad McVeigh plays 10 minutes of captain courageous cool calm and collected footy by roaming up forward: firstly a 55 metre goal on the run, then a strong grab in the goal square and a goal to put us one point behind, and finally a kick to Lukey Parker, on the run, who goals and puts us 5 points up. Our mighty Bloods then withstand several Hawthorn thrusts resulting in a missed opportunity to Bruest (surely he can’t miss!!) and a thank-the-footy-gods handball that doesn’t stay in Rioli’s hands. We clear the ball from the backline, out onto the wing and I then dare to tap on the shoulder of an ear-plugged Hawthorn woman sitting in front of me and ask her how long is left. She says “You’ve got it”. But “How long to go?” I plead. The siren sounds, and she says “You deserved to win”. I just looked at her with mouth wide open, unable to utter anything.


We get back to my sister’s house, but I can’t sleep so write this up and watch some of the recorded game. Finally, go to bed a happy Jan this time, and mentally prepare for the trip back home.


Driving back to Sydney we see a familiar chook sitting atop a hill. We’ve seen this chook many times on our Melbourne to Sydney trips. Year after year is sits there, grabbing our attention. It grows slightly larger each time but we marvel nonetheless. It looks just like a large happy chook, but it is simply a magnificent tree that has grown to look like a chook. Landscapes turn into artworks, or the other way round, depending on the observant eye.


The CD goes into the slot and we play Bach. Even though I love Bach, I really want to hear Cheer Cheer the Red and the White, but I don’t have it. Bach seems appropriate after such a night of nervous tension and exhilaration. The husband says “there is just no one as brilliant as Bach”, so we put in another CD.


For hours on end we alternate between Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan and Elvis. If the mood is willing, Shostakovich gets a turn, but I simply want Cheer Cheer.


The landscape changes constantly: the trees, the mountains, the hills, the sky, the clouds – all of it, and in turn more artworks are created: stunning Fred Williams and Sid Nolan images, abstracted just enough to still be landscapes. A magnificent art installation appears in Gunning, along the route. The 15 striking wind turbines are doing what they do best – all 15 of them and only a few shy of a footy team – dancing, waving, almost weaving their way into a canvas.


In a break from Brahms, my mind turns to next week’s game against Carlton, and words and sentences are already forming. What connections do I have with Carlton, or will my article be based on yet more memories from my life as a Swan or simply as Jan Courtin? There is however no such distinction.


My highlights for the game:


Dan Hannerbery (as usual)


Joey Kennedy


Sam Reid


Jarrad McVeigh – especially his last quarter


Ben McGlynn


Adam Goodes


Buddy – just for being in red and white


Beating that happy team from Hawthorn!!


For more great stories about Sydney’s win over Hawthorn click here 

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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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