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Round 8 – Hawthorn v Sydney: The Unpredictability of footy and life!

Bloody old age!

Fancy missing this game! I never miss games! And I certainly never miss them against Hawthorn!

Bugger getting old!

Our flights for this one were booked in February. With seven Melbourne games this year – pretty much fortnightly – we decided to alternate driving and flying. So far, so good.

Then, on Monday of last week, two days before we were due to fly out, the cardiologist told Marshall he wouldn’t be going to Melbourne. He wouldn’t be flying anywhere until further tests the following week. Bugger, bugger, bugger!

He had developed chest pain while walking home from the SCG last Saturday night after the game against North (I’m not surprised after that game!) and rather than fronting up to Emergency, we opted to see the specialist on Monday. Specialists – those knowledgeable, trusty souls – usually err on the side of caution, so, instead of freezing our butts off at the G tonight, here we are, sitting on the couch, 900 km away in Sydney.

One other thing we did learn, when visiting the cardiologist again during the week, was that Marshall’s heart was still going strongly and that by the end of the day, it will have celebrated its three billion, six hundred and thirty seven million, one hundred and fifty second thousandth heart beat (at 42,048,000 beats per year). We were also told that once his arteries have been fixed, we can add several more billion onto that total. Now, Marshall truly believes he will live to 100!

Let’s just get through tonight’s affair with those Hawks, first.

I don’t particularly like this couch business. I’m not used to watching our games in the comfort of the home. And I’m certainly no fan of listening to the often inane comments from the so-called experts. Give me the raw emotion of being at the game, being close to the action, close to the players, close to the fans, and being a part of the theatre that a live match offers. And give me Melbourne’s weather, no matter how dire, if it means simply being there.

Minutes before the game starts, I receive a call from the family in Melbourne. They’ve taken heed of the weather warnings down south, and opted out from going; instead, they’re at the Riser in South Melbourne, enjoying the comforts of the Bloods’ local watering hole. I admonish them. How could they possibly not go? They’ll regret it, I tell them. We’re going to win tonight!


Three hours later and I’m back on the phone to the family at the Riser.

“Oh God, we did it Jan, we did it. We beat those mongrel Hawks!” (I can’t repeat here was actually said!)

“I told you, I told you we’d win! Don’t you regret not being there?”

“No, as long as we won, who cares!”

“Oh, hell, I’d care. I wish I was there. Bloody Marshall, it’s all his fault!”

The brother laughs, and passes the comment on to the partner, the sister and the son.

The noise is raucous, the song is singing, and the Riser folk are happy. All I want is to be at the G, celebrating with the Bloods’ fans, being close to the players as they walk off the ground, and singing Cheer Cheer over and over. Instead, I’m on the wretched couch, drinking camomile tea and wondering if only…… I’m also apologising to the hubby for my Bloody Marshall rant, which of course I don’t really mean!

This game, against our recent nemesis, and a team, I must admit, that now heads the list of my most “despised” teams, did not necessarily go according to plan. Who could have planned for a 20-year old rookie, in just his third game, to have carried out such a remarkable performance. Ronke is his name – Ronks his nickname. Seven goals, ten tackles in any game is a best on ground performance, but to do it in his first game at the G, against a team such as Hawthorn, is a feat he will never forget. The coach/coaches won’t forget, the opposition won’t forget, and the fans won’t forget.

And then we have our other super kid, Will Hayward. Each week he bobs up with a bunch of goals – three, in each of the past three games. He leads and marks beautifully, and his footy nous is up there with his more experienced team mates.

This game had it all. With only 11 points separating the teams at the start of the last quarter, it had been neck and neck all night. Only two consecutive goals had been kicked by either team until those pulsating final 30 minutes. Both defences were under extreme pressure all night, and at various stages in the second quarter all 36 players were involved in highly contested and congested periods of play. There were costly turn-overs from both sides, resulting in Hawthorn’s first seven goals coming from our mistakes. But it was the fourth quarter that told the final story: the Swans five goals to their one.

Reminiscent of our game against Geelong a few weeks ago – again, an away game – we just willed our way into the contests in that vital quarter. Stars all night, Macca, Parkes, Heens, Harry, Jonesy and Lloydy (in his 100th) infected their team mates with enthusiasm and determination. We believed we could do it, and with the clock showing just three minutes left, Parkes put us in front, by three points.

Then, to cap off a truly remarkable night, the man himself – the Ronke man – in the goal sqaure, received a long bomb from Gazza (after a game-saving mark). His seventh. Eight points up. We win!

Who would have predicted that two young guns, Ben Ronke and Will Hayward, 20 and 19 respectively, would have contributed 10 of our 12 goals? Who would have predicted that in just their handful of senior games experience, they could have been so dominant, especially in the absence of our star forwards? And who could have predicted that we would be winning all four of our away games at this stage of the season? We now need to work on our home games.

As the unpredictability of footy has shown us over time, the tenuous hold we cling to, in life, is one (particularly in “older age”) we must treasure from day to day.

Meanwhile, I will cling to the knowledge that flights have been booked and accommodation paid, for our next away game, in Brisbane, in a fortnight’s time. And if Marshall reckons he’ll be living to 100, then there’s no way we won’t be on that plane to watch my beloved team.

“Happy days”, as Ben Ronke said after the game. We can only hope!


HAWTHORN  4.3   5.4   9.6  10.11 (71)
SYDNEY        4.1   6.4   7.7   12.7 (79)

Hawthorn: Gunston 5, Breust 3, Roughead, Morrison
Sydney: Ronke 7, Hayward 3, Parker 2 

Hawthorn: Gunston, Sicily, Breust, Burgoyne, Roughead, Shiels
Sydney: Ronke, Parker, Heeney, Jones, Cunningham, Lloyd 

Hawthorn: Nil
Sydney: Nil 

Reports: Luke Parker (Sydney) for rough conduct on Jarman Impey in the fourth quarter

Umpires: Foot, Dalgleish, Rosebury

Official crowd: 32,784 at the MCG


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. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    A very atmospheric write-up Jan. I agree with you that Gary’s mark was match saving! I love how the kids know no fear. Their belief has the purity of innocence and inexperience. We have a very interesting and productive mix of old and new right now!

    Do you think you have contributed to Marshall’s current health challenges by inculcating him into a ‘live’ Swans viewing life? Even on the couch it can be treacherous. My father-in-law, who grew up a Bombers supporter through his grandparents living near Windy Hill, angled his love of football towards the Swans when I came along. He has had his own challenges of the heart and now has a pace maker. During most (basically ALL) Swans games, he finds that he has to switch off and go for a walk around the block, record the game and watch it later on when the result is already set. Recently in hospital for another ailment, he was watching a very tight arvo match when he heard the nurse approaching and switched it off. She took his BP to find it sky high (his regular BP is very low!). He was too embarrassed to offer the obvious explanation. She performed a fair few other tests, looking for infection etc. Four hours later she returned to repeat the obs and found his BP absolutely normal. She informed him that she would have to write up the ‘event’ and inform his cardiologist. Only then did he confess that he had been watching the footy! ‘Oh that’s ok then!’ she said. ‘I’ll delete all the notes.’

    Perhaps clubs should allow a small bursary for supporters who are facing health challenges as a result of long term loyalty. All the best to hubby.

  2. Julie Cattlin says

    It really is a miracle, I reckon, that anyone who supports a football team passionately is still alive! How does the heart manage? Perhaps, though, it does the heart good, as is obviously the case with Marshall!! Just a little bit of a stent, and he’ll be here till 100!! As I plan to get to 100 also, I’ll be here to see the day when Marshall attends yet another Swans game with you, Jan!!

    How awful for you, Jan, not to be there. All I can say is that at least you won and you weren’t there. Surely it would have been worse losing AND not being there,


  3. Hi Jan,

    I watched the last half of the great game. Both teams attacked so good.

    You have got talented great kids. I can’t believe the 20-yo Ronke kicked seven goals and laid ten tackled.

    Like you, I was happy to hear Cheer cheer the red and white sang at the ‘G.

    Wish Marshall the good recovery and my Saints having good young players like Ronke.



  4. Peter Warrington says

    as a reigning premiership fan of overwhelmed generosity i am only giving bouquets this year.

    it says something.

    that a kid, in his first game, can do that.

    but at other clubs, no names, people keep waiting, telling their players they aren’t ready.

    seize the moment, Ronke On, like David Essex.

    great win. go (Newtown) Swans.

    swanwards to victory…

  5. Mathilde: Thanks. Great yarn about your father-in-law and his blood pressure! Not sure whether I can take any blame for Marshall’s current hiccup. He loves his team, but doesn’t really let the pressure affect him too much. He’s like that with most things. Complete opposite to me! Watching our games on television is far worse, for me, than being there. Not sure what it is, but perhaps having the human interaction with others at the game lessens the emotional response experienced when on the couch – in isolation. Fortunately, since finishing our gallery, we’ve been able to go to all games (except some in Perth), so I’ve been spared the utter torment of watching close games on tele. Like your father-in-law, my dear aunt, who took me to my first game all those years ago, got to a stage when she just couldn’t watch any longer, and would tune in later to find out the result. My brother, too, now in his sixties, finds it unbearable, and will go for a walk, and watch the game later if we’ve won. Something to do with age, I’d say, as they weren’t like that when younger. All a bit ridiculous really, when you think about it in relation to our lives in general! Cheer cheer

    Julie: So pleased to know that you’ll also be living until your’e 100. Only trouble is I doubt I’ll be there to celebrate it with you! Good luck.

    Yoshi: Thanks, your time will come! Just have to be patient with your young boys.

    Peter: I gratefully accept your bouquet! Thank you.

  6. Tony Courtin says

    Yes Jan,the South Melbourne pub/Swans venue was great,never as good as at the game,but so much easier to get drinks,food and ‘relief’. Jude thought Sam and I were a tad exuberant as we navigated the emotional roller coaster,,but,as you well know,”it’s more than a game”. Go bloods.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Well said Jan, the couch is a horrible place to be when your team is playing. I throughly enjoyed this game as a neutral though from the comfort of my couch!
    Ronke was wonderful, always enjoy a big breakout game like that from a young player. Even if he doesn’t end up having a long career he’ll always have that magic night in a big game at the MCG.

  8. Yes, Tony, for some reason it does appear to be “more than a game”!

    Thanks, Luke. Glad someone agrees with me about the couch experience when your own team is playing.

  9. Keiran Croker says

    It certainly was a special experience to be there for the Ronke 7. So my commiserations to you Jan. I agree that watching on tv is terrible. I wrote about that in one of my pieces last year. It’s bad for the health. I was at the G wedged between two ex work colleagues, both Hawks. So that provided perspective. Even though these two blokes are great friends of mine, I find that many Hawks fan have an entitled attitude, ultimately reflected in the graceless comments of their coach post match. It was a sweet win!
    I’ll be in Brisbane for our game in two weeks. So will text you and see if we are sitting close. Go Bloods!
    Cheer, cheer.

  10. Hopefully we’ll still make it to Brissie. Slight set back with M having to stay in hospital all this week, but hopefully will out and “fixed up” by Saturday (in time for the Freo game!!)??

    Will contact you when up north
    Cheer cheer

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