Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

“Conan! What is best in life?”

“Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”

Well boy, Clarkson and Hodge really took that one to heart last Saturday afternoon, dishing out the sort of relentless belting that went well beyond the scoreboard and straight into the soul of the Swans and any of us with a serious addiction to the Red and the White. It was like being stomped on in your living room by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself; totally random and unexpected.

When the phone rang at half time I was expecting it to be Longmire, pleading for me to head to Kingsford Smith Airport and get my backside onto the MCG. Because precious little I’d seen up to then had given me any hopes that the actual players were going to step up. A twenty two man squad of seething half tanked supporters might have at least put some chaotic heart into the proceedings.

I’m still trying to get to grips with just what the hell went wrong. But I will not watch the replay; in fact those rotten four hours were eradicated from the set top box immediately after the final siren. This game will haunt many of us for some time. Like Macbeth we may never be rid of the memory.

A single moment in the first quarter seemed to sum things up. When Hannebery was driven mercilessly into the turf not one Swans player had the inclination to fight back whatever the cost. The umpire had put away his whistle and from then on The Enemy sensed they had carte blanch to lay into whoever, whenever. Besieged and run ragged the Swans shambled into their defensive fifty for the rest of the game.

This isn’t taking anything away from The Enemy. They read the situation perfectly and exploited every gap and turnover with ruthless efficiency. By halftime I was expecting our half assed zoning to have been replaced by man-on-man battle. But apparently the coach of the year tried out bluffing Clarkson by sticking to the ineffectual strategy. By three quarter time I was seriously considering doing the washing up from the afternoon BBQ. However I had company and couldn’t abandon the living room. My guests’ presence also kept my verbal outbursts in check and prevented collateral damage to the apartment. The damned TV has been on the fritz lately and could use a good thrashing but Saturday was not its day of reckoning.

On field and in the coaching box all leadership had evaporated. McVeigh, sighted three times and two of those post match, should shoulder some of the blame. But Jesus why be unkind and single out one player when most of them collectively waved the white flag ten minutes in? Malceski, Goodes, Kennedy and Franklin might as well have shared a cab to the ground and left everyone else at the hotel. I’m seriously considering the possibility that this is what happened.

The siren couldn’t come quick enough but the eerie empty feeling remains. There are many unexplained things in the world; UFO’s, ghostly figures, Tony Abbott. And now we have a new one. Neurasthenia is a disused term in Australian psychology but is as good a reason as any for the Swans lack of fight or answers. Our season ended like it started, with a stunning inexplicable loss.

This leaves the Swans in a strange place for next season. No doubt this hammering will provide some fiery motivation. And while I’m not a subscriber to the ‘Buddy will ruin us’ conspiracies, there’s a sad feeling that some players may have missed their premiership opportunity for good. The Swans haven’t had much off-field love this year from the footy community but what damage the manner of this loss has inflicted on their playing respect remains to be seen. Any team with a half decent pressure game plan might well now view us as fair game. It happened throughout this season and in hindsight has been a blind spot in what has otherwise been a fantastic six months of great football.

I will be back and so will the Swans but which of us will be entirely the same?


  1. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    I second all this Tom. You’ve walked around the whys very beautifully. Maybe sitting beside them for summer will quietly allow us in again.

  2. Neurasthenia, is an intriguing term. Must say i have not encountered the term when i’ve worked in mental health. I’d be a bit less adroit in what wors i would use in my appraisal of Sydney on Saturday, but to put it succintly, i for one was not happy!


  3. Loved the mad honesty of your piece, Tom.
    Neurasthenia = Shell Shock. I only know it because I read Pat Barker’s masterful ‘Ghost Road’ trilogy about the WW1 poets. You have weathered the First and Second Battles of the Somme. Score 15 all.
    Keep writing like this and you can be the Almanac’s Siegfried Sassoon by the Third Battle.

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