Seasoned

 

M de H various Swans suff

 

The fridge magnet provided by the membership department at the start of each year suggests the footy season is a list, a row by row arrangement of weekends shaded in home and away. But come October, it is clear to the seasoned footy supporter that they have experienced much more, that the line spacing of the year’s fixture now contains all the flesh of a season. Supporters know themselves carried, picked up, taken along and deposited at the doorstep of Spring with a knapsack of thoughts, feelings and happenstance to last them the long summer ahead. Sandwiched between footy finals and the Melbourne Cup, October is the time of reckoning.

The classic approach to season appraisal is the balance or abandon of the equation between expectation and result. A summation of the Swans’ 2015 season might go: Up, up, up, down, up, down. It might go: Parks, Hanners, Hanners, Kennedy, Kennedy, Parks, Hanners, Kennedy, Kennedy. It might go: Wins, but … forward line, but … engine room, but … distractions, but … injuries, but … Bloods, but … semi final, but …

But the equation is not this supporter’s area; that’s for the football department. ‘Cause October is also the trade period and the approach of the drafts and the re-making of lists. And when it comes down to it, one’s team is one’s team, the pieces on the board each week, the ones that come, the ones that go and the ones that hang around. When Adam Goodes retired at the Swans Club Champion dinner in October, he remarked that the things he would miss most are the relationships. And I echo him on that. The legacy of season 2015 for me feels personnel.

Its up was the coming of Heeney. Delightful for Swans supporters to see another deceptively medium-height chlorine bleached blonde in the number 5 shirt up forward. Academy grown, he’s footy smart and skilled, a kid who looks comfy kicking a sealer on debut. He’s brave, almost foolishly brave. Let’s hope they play him Rohan’s showreel and surgery schedule and steer him to a style that will promote a better balance between dare and longevity.

There were cameos. Robinson and Towers and Nankervis. More of Jack, the B side. And Rose had a great one-hit wonder.

The revelation was … it could possibly be love with Tippett. At season’s start, he had no hope with me, slow with movement too cubular for AFL. We used to make the dinosaur sound in the O’Reilly every time he took off for a lead: doom, dum, doom. But Tippett has proven himself this year to be the groom of the arranged marriage, for whom admiration grows slowly, who transforms from empty mystery to someone who is predictably appealing. His consistency, his capacity to step up and shoulder a load, his ruckwork, his dig-in as the key to a very frayed forward line — all of it impressive. We’re holding hands, me and Tippo.

There is room in the 30s down at the SCG, with 32, 37 and 38 all vacating their lockers. Not to mention the number 2.

I remember when the club drafted Rhyce Shaw. What? That dickhead? was the prevailing sentiment. The Sydney mob had an image of Shaw as Didak’s Robin, belting round Melbourne hamstrung and half drunk in the Piemobile. He arrived, seemingly broken by the black and white, looking for a fresh start, a regular spot and a girlfriend. And how he turned. Into cult clubman, beloved bow-legged servant of the run and bounce, that too deep voice delivering monosyllabic direction from down back, larrikin mentor of men. He came, he played; he leaves with respect, premiership, wife and child.

Pyke was a project. The epitome of the modern day experiment, hired by a non conventional recruiting department off a DVD. He slotted neatly into the Swans machine with his red and white flag and his earnest work ethic and built a portfolio of skills good enough to lift him to the number one ruck position and a one hundred game legacy. He’s off to deal with other portfolios now. The image of Pyke that I will guard is of the tall chisel-faced freshman of those early years taking a shocked mark, that nodder-toy head of his searching for help and a swarm of worried on-ballers appearing from nowhere, usually McVeigh at closest range ready for the dish off handball.

Jetta we will miss. The class clown who burned bright with talent and pace. He teased us with his 19 behinds and dazzled us with his catch-me down the wings. He wants home and we do not begrudge him that.

And then there’s Adam Goodes.

All year I could feel his career sloping. Age and speed … and the hounding. You could see it in his face year long. Despite the ugly stuff, the broad genuine grin of someone who knows they’ve released themselves — a determination to enjoy, the wink to a teammate, the cracking smile that a decade of game face has held at bay. The slope tipped more and more acutely until he could just fall off, just a small adjustment without fanfare. And that’s what he did. The biggest things happen in small moments. In the weeks that followed I would look at my phone and find it 37% charged; my tweet would have 37 characters remaining; my inbox 37 messages unread. Some things are preserved by the Gods, and Goodesy has always been my synaesthetic angel.

We go door to door, Goodesy and I; I came to footy when he came to the Swans. I grew into the game as he grew into his place in the team. I used to say that the encyclopaedia entry for man in the book we sent to Mars would simply be an image of Goodesy. Proportion, strength, beauty. I watched his transition under Roos, the revolve through ruck and backline, wing, square and forward. I stockpiled my memory book of verbs: storming, prancing, dissecting, demanding. Creating.

So many quieter, subtler things on which to bestow accolade too. His efforts to create slow, calm dialogue over issues that make such heat in this country. The generosity and vulnerability of exposing (via SBS’ Who do You Think You Are?) his search for his Adnyamathanha/Narungga roots, connections he craved, thought broken but found tappable again. Probing the secrecy that makes so many black Australians feel sadness and shame and so many white Australians feel fear. Standing in that place where unknowning is the guide.

I have an indelible image of Adam Goodes in the Flinders Ranges with elder and relation Terry Coulthard, who is painting his face in the ochres of country: white for his spiritual contact with the area, yellow for the sun and new beginnings, red for the blood of the land, giving and guaranteeing him connection with people and place. Goodes stands eyes closed, face serene. Anyone who has longed to understand themselves, to find ground in the mystery of existing, anyone who understands even the inclination can surely admire Goodes’ attempts to find and make marks. And his are not simply personal, they are inextricably political, a weight he carries with application and grace.

Along with A.Goodes went other big names: Judd, Fletcher, Malthouse. And bigger endings still. Incrementally grave departures. The deaths of Maddie Riewoldt, Phil Walsh and Cooper Ratten sank deep reflective anchors into the fray of weekly play. Bigger endings don’t necessarily diminish the smaller ones, or the regular ongoing or the up and coming. They make all of it sharper. We saw the something with which the Saints overcame the Tigers. We saw the something that took Adelaide into finals. We saw the something that took the out-of-form Goodesless Swans over the top of the Crows. We saw, in Brett Ratten’s premiership face, the something that is the contortion of the greatest feeling with the worst. Footy gives us hooks on which to hang our daily hats; it provides approaches to a familiarity with endings too.

The door keeps revolving. October is almost over and junior cricket’s four rounds in. Rampe’s signed on for four more, Hanners an extra with five and Teddy’s going to extract one more from his angry grinding joints. There’s new stock for the ruck. There are sons of fathers to watch. There’s still a measure of uncertainty around Buddy and perhaps that’s just what he needs. Captain Kirk is returning with his yoga, his kids, his Blood and his love. And there’s an Irishman back in the fold.

About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.

Comments

  1. E.regnans says:

    Love it, MdH.
    The rhythm.
    The ride.
    The life.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Hey Mathilde

    Heard you on the radio the other night. Now I can read these pieces with your voice in my head – even better.

    How’s the cricket going?

  3. Now there’s a lot more things to football that really meets the eye, eh Mathilde?

  4. A beautiful read to wrap up the 2015 season. I too am holding hands with Tippett. There’s no showbiz flair or magic but I’m old enough to see the attraction in the dependable, solid, hard working nice guy.

  5. Thoroughly enjoyable. Those of us who bleed red and white anxiously await the new recruits, has SOD (son of dunks) decided? How does the backline rise from the ashes, do we have a phoenix within the newbies? Trade period has become a mathematical equation, do we have the right numbers to cover the losses of our great servants. Adieu Pikey, Goodesy, Shawy you served us well and Jets you tantalised and teased, good luck to you.

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    Old Mate,

    I’d forgotten about the 19 straight points. Was it a crazy banjo goal to break the drought?

    Really like your keen-eyed observations about your departed.

    The dinosaur made me laugh and 37 made me reflect.

    I’ll need to re-read after teaching this geometry class because I made the mistake of catching what Abbott said in the Thatcher Lecture.

  7. Lovely stuff, Mathilde.
    I get the feeling that there is a whole bunch of people around this country who, in Goodes, do not realise what they have lost – but now he is gone.

  8. Loved the tone as always MDH. And the Goodes reflection captures the man. Football’s loss will be the community’s gain. There is much more to life, and I figure AG is not the type to rest on his (considerable) laurels. Creativity and running hard at stubborn defences is his forte.
    As for our respective sides – Sinclair for Jetta. The never will be for the never quite was? But maybe they both have a point to prove. Who knows, but I suspect both are bit players in the end. Every cast needs a chorus.

  9. Lovely job Mathilde – thank you for a most satisfying summing of the parts.

    And now it looks as if another departure is happening – Dr Nathan Gibbs is leaving. All seasons are changing, but this one more than usually.

    But you’re right about the encouraging arrivals.

  10. Chris Bracher says:

    i had Kurt, Tip, Tippo, Tip-rat labelled as a “Clydesdale”…….trundle, trundle, trundle with a turning circle akin to a Mack truck. I like Dinosaur more, as I now do Kurt. Calls of “trade him” have ceased. Ruckman número uno for 2016 Mathilde.
    Alas, the metaphorical void in front of locker number 41 remains our Achilles heel.

  11. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    Knackers, thank you for kind comments.

    DaveP – I see SOD has not decided. Love your acronym.
    PB – I suspect you may be right. Although I am hoping Sinclair will be less Chris Bracher metaphorical and more substantial. Maybe home will inspire the showman Jetta.
    Don – interesting re Gibbs. Harley refusing to agree on terms. Those defenders!
    Chris – the turning circle image is perfect!
    And the cricket Swish is … cricket. Under 12s style. Slow, steady, enduring, occasionally dazzling, occasionally boggling. Largely very enjoyable.

  12. Ross Treverton says:

    Ah yes, the cycle of footballing life. I thought I’d never survive Bobby Skilton retiring in ’71, Peter Bedford crossing to Carlton in ’77, or Barry Round, Mark Bayes, Paul Kelly, Brett Kirk etc, etc and etc. But we do, and every season brings on a new Hanners or Rohan or Heeney. Can’t wait to see Callum Mills in 2016! Another nice piece Mathilde.

Leave a Comment

*