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Round 8 – Sydney v Essendon: What the hell am I doing?

I almost didn’t make it to this game.

The alarm was set for 5am, Friday morning, for an 8am flight to Sydney. It wasn’t needed. I was awake at 1am, couldn’t sleep, and in the shower at 4am.

Left the house at 5.30 and, in the rain, walked to the St Kilda Skybus stop, arriving at the airport at 7.15. A text arrived from Tigerair: Apologies for the delayed flight, leaving at 9.30am.

Waiting at the airport, I wondered: What the hell am I doing? With two almost sleepless nights behind me, and feeling like shit with my ongoing auto immune issues, why on earth am I subjecting myself to all this travelling – every weekend, flying or driving to the footy? I kept asking myself the question, and couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. So, I have to hazard a guess.

Perhaps it’s just that I can’t bear to miss a game. I hate watching live on television, and feel I need to be there, even if only to support my team and add the numbers to the crowd. Can’t think of any other reasons. So, it would be pretty obvious to state that I do love my Bloods.

We arrive in Sydney late for the first medical appointment. At least Marshall is given the all–clear from his lung cancer/lobectomy problems of two years’ ago. Then onto the train, over the Harbour Bridge, to Lindfield, where the cardiologist insists I bust my guts and lungs on the treadmill for ten minutes, eventually giving me the thumbs–up as far as my heart is concerned. Back across town to Surry Hills to my GP, for my monthly blood tests, then across to Randwick for half an hour in the wretched dentist’s chair while he drills and fills, trying to assure me I won’t need to see him again for at least 6 months.

All the while, I’m in pain from the auto immune illness, that has followed me around like a bad smell – a very bad smell – since November last year.

What the hell am I doing?

At 6pm we check into the hotel in Mascot. The king size bed is just so inviting. All I want to do is lie down, take more cortisone, and be free of pain.

6.45: decision time. Do I let the heart rule or let my body decide? How can I possibly come all the way to Sydney and watch the game on television? I’m just 5 kilometres away from the SCG. Stupid, thought, Janet! (I use my full name when berating myself).

Jump on the train to Central and arrive at the ground just as the ball is bounced.

Essendon start off well, while Will Hayward and Tom McCartin miss relatively easy shots. When Robbie Fox lands our first goal, and Jordan Dawson slots another, just minutes before the end of the quarter, there is nothing in it. We lead by three points. Could well have been 10, but the umps decide that Tom McCartin’s goal was after the siren. No one else believed them!

At quarter time I go downstairs to the coffee vendor’s wagon below the O’Reilly Stand. I ask for a large cup – the largest they have – of boiling water. I take it back upstairs to the toilets and refill my hot water bottle, which has been well manoeuvred up the sleeve of my Swans coat, resting against the swollen and very painful elbow joint and surrounding muscles. Someone asks me as I walk back to my seat, holding the arm, “Have you broken your arm?” For a nanosecond I think “If only!”

A couple of strong painkillers later, and I’m enjoying Nick Blakey’s game. He kicks his second goal, which is followed by a holding the ball decision against Dane Rampe – a very contentious one – resulting in a goal to Essendon. Ollie Florent marks strongly and goals, and with about five minutes remaining, Tommy Papley and Isaac Heeney combine to put us 10 points ahead at half time.

I trace my steps back to the coffee vendor. “Why do you want boiling water in your water bottle? he asks, somewhat bewildered. “It’s a hot water bottle”, I reply. “What’s that? comes back at me.

Oh dear, am I that old, that the young have never heard of a hot water bottle?!

And again, I’m thinking, What the hell am I doing?

This time, I have an answer. I’m watching a good, close game of footy, and my team is playing well – better than they have this year, and we’re a real chance of being able to sing Cheer Cheer in an hour or so.

When Sammy Reid does what he does best – marks strongly overhead in a pack – and goals, and then one of my favourite players, Colin O’Riordan, receives a 100 metre penalty and kicks his first– ever goal, there’s plenty to cheer about. Every teammate surrounds him, sharing his delight. Goal–of–the–game from Jordan Dawson, on the run, 50 metres out, gives us a nine–point lead at the break. He has certainly come on in leaps and bounds this year and is becoming a real asset to the ever–evolving team of youngsters. (Well, they’re all youngsters to me!)

The coffee vendor guy knows exactly why I’m visiting him again at three quarter time. He obliges with the boiling water, and I thank him profusely and explain why I needed it.

Will Hayward, usually reliable in front of goal, misses twice, Essendon goals and there’s a three–point difference. Tom McCartin takes a strong mark, goals, and when another of my favourites, Will Hayward, grabs the ball from the outstretched hands of Zac Clarke, just outside the goal square, we’re 11 points in front. Surely, we can hang on!

Parish goals for them, and it’s all a bit of a blur from there. I can’t even see, from the other side of the ground, who makes the game–saving tackle, but it was truly amazing! Later discover it was that future star, Nick Blakey. What a game he has had! His kick is errant though, and ends up in the hands of Essendon. Wouldn’t have a clue who it is at this stage, and, like every one of the 26,502 supporters in the crowd, I just wait for his 60–metre kick. It doesn’t go the distance, and Cheer Cheer starts its joyous ring around the ground.

I’m not in a fit state to physically belt it out, but the mind is powerful, and does the job for me.

We arrived back in Melbourne on Saturday evening. I’m buggered. I’m going to spend Sunday lying on the couch, watching footy. I might even stay there for the rest of the week, until it’s time for you know what. We’ll be heading off to Hobart on Saturday morning for our next game. I wonder if I’ll be asking the same question, What the hell am I doing?

Sometimes we just have to push ourselves: do what we love doing, no matter what, and be grateful that the little rewards give some consolation. And one of those rewards is being there to see my beloved team win a game of footy. Especially this one, where for the first time this year, we managed to string together four consistent quarters. What more can we ask for?

Go the Mighty Bloods!


SYDNEY      2.6   6.8   9.9   11.11 (77)
ESSENDON  2.3   7.3   8.6   10.12 (72)

Sydney: Dawson 2, Fox, Blakey, Florent, Papley, Heeney, Reid, O’Riordan, McCartin, Hayward
Essendon: Fantasia 4, Parish 2, Bellchambers, Merrett, Stringer, McKenna

Sydney: Parker, Hewett, Kennedy, Sinclair, Rampe, Blakey
Essendon: Hurley, Heppell, Merrett, McGrath, Hooker

Sydney: Nil
Essendon: Michael Hurley (ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Meredith, Gianfagna, Mollison

Official crowd: 26,502 at the SCG


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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.


  1. Sharryne Daley says

    Oh Jan, no matter what you write, it will never truly give us an exact description of the passion that burns within you for our Mighty Bloods.
    Since reading your book, having met you, become friends and knowing about your challenges, I am constantly in awe of your passion and the journey you have done with our beloved Bloods.
    I have learnt, you don’t have to have played for the Swans to be one of my Bloods Heros. You are one of mine.
    Forever grateful I crossed your path and have the the opportunity to read another one of your articles straight from your heart.
    Much love to you Jan x

  2. Hi Jan. Really enjoyed reading this article and love your passion for those Mighty Bloods. Would love to read your book.

    Way back in ’55 my Dad introduced me to night baseball on Wednesday nights at the Norwood Oval here in SA. Immediately I fell in love with the Goodwood Indians and a certain southpaw pitcher, Peter Box became my boyhood sporting idol.

    To cut a long story short, after having several fishing articles published, In 2007 I challenged myself to write a book about how Night Baseball came about in ’52 and flourished over here. Finally meeting Peter Box, whose help was invaluable in my research, was a dream come true for me.

    At last my efforts became reality and the book , “Batter up, the Genesis of Night Baseball in SA” is in its 3rd printing..A side benefit has been meeting many of the greats in SA baseball.

    That being said, I am also a passionate Norwood Redlegs and Crows fan that can enjoy good play no matter which club.

    Keep following the Swans Jan and good luck to you. .

  3. Sharryne, you are just way too kind with your lovely words. Thank you very much and GO BLOODS. Jan xx

    And thanks, Fisho. Your research and book must have been a very interesting experience. You can take a look at my website, about my book:

  4. Lynn Baker says

    Thank you Jan for yet another passionate description of our Bloods game . Was such a great win on Friday – our young boys, and indeed our older leaders , played with the Bloods spirit that we respect and love .
    Jan we first met via email when I purchased a number of your wonderful book . Maybe you remember we share so many experiences in our lives .
    . Going to our first game at the Lake Oval in the 50’s when we were five . I think like me our aunt introduced us to footy and never missing a game with her . .My threatened punishment from my Mum would be I would be banned from footy if I misbehaved or didn’t do my homework – It worked as I didn’t miss a game !
    We worked and lived in the UK in the late 60’s /70’s at the same time and I think we were on the Greek Islands also at the same time..
    I look forward to your next posting Jan .

    I am so sorry to read you are unwell and in alot of pain . I wish for you a full recovery .

    Warm regards ,

    Lynn Baker .

    “ Cheer Cheer ! “

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Love the full name berating Janet!!!

    I too hate watching my team on TV.

    Enjoy Hobart!

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Great news about Marshall. All the best to you both.

  7. Many thanks Lynn. Amazing how our lives almost ran parallel! And both Bloods people! Love it. Cheer cheer

    And thanks again, Luke, very kind of you

  8. Keiran Croker says

    Hey Jan,
    I just got to your write up of last week’s game. Well done. I admire your persistence and grit … and love of the Swans!!
    I trust you had a smoother trip down to Hobart. And it was just as exciting.
    I’m heading to Sydney for the Pies game, so might see you there.

  9. Hi Keiran
    If you manage to get into the O’Reilly Stand to visit Tom next weekend, as you know we’re not that many rows behind him. Look forward to seeing you then. If not, at the Geelong match. Cheer cheer

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