Swan Dive

“Put the whole team on Ablett!”

The throaty plea in the third did not emanate from Paul Roos in his Zen garden calm of the managers bench but from some bloke behind me.  He’d been screaming at the top of his lungs all game raising questions on a wide range of topics.  From The Enemy’s recreational drug of choice to the umpire’s ability to rule on anything more taxing than tennis, nothing seemed to evade his baleful eye.  Then this golden nugget of coaching strategy was uttered that made eminent sense to me.  Gang up on the freak, take him out.  Cop the three week suspension but put the fear into their players.  Anything to stop what was amounting to a wholesale slaughter.

I’d been nervous but hopeful going out to Homebush.  It’s never been either mine or the Swans favourite venue but the talk all week had been about redemption.  We’re here to play tough, contested football and blast away the memory of last week’s capitulation at the MCG.  I also had what I figured to be a secret talisman.  My mate reckoned he’d never seen the Swans loose.  Turns out that was a lie along with his tales of fighting giant squid in the South China seas.

The game started well enough for us.  Early pressure saw Richards take a great mark and a boundary saving catch from Goodes eventually saw the ball in White’s hands.  He missed the shot but the signs were there, we were taking the game to them.  The Enemy responded and drew first blood.  That seemed to rattle us, The Enemy enjoying too much of the field, then we began to get the measure of them.  A superb passage of play resulted in another attempt by Jack which he converted.  Then two more goals to The Enemy; Ablett was slicing through our defence.  Goodes responded with a goal.  Thank God I thought he’s back on form.  Everyone seemed to having a crack, Kennedy in particular with a memorable long range boot through the sticks.  When the siren went we were only 6 points down.

Looking back that first quarter was about it really.  The Enemy either kicked it up a gear or we lost intensity.  Pike missed a sitting duck of a mark, the ball bouncing off his chest.  Mad fumbling around in the forward 50 only resulted in a behind.  Ablett hobbled off a couple of times, much to the delight of the backseat manager behind me.  His minor absence didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference to The Enemy though.  With the Swans 25 points down at half time it wasn’t looking great.

There are several phrases in big capital letters repeated throughout my hastily scribbled notes.  TOO MUCH SPACE is one.  LIKE A GREASY EEL is another.  Despite practically playing man on man The Enemy seemed to find a loose player at every critical moment.  Slipping out of tackles and coming up with the ball with numbers in support.  The Swans meanwhile were severely lacking.  Jetta took off up town to find no-one there.  Poor decisions resulted in frustrating turnovers.  Keystone Cops defence blunders.  Goal chances squandered; Goodes most definitely not back on form spraying an easy shot.  Kirk ran into the post, the post coming off worse.  Eight goals to The Enemy in the third left us tailing by 65 points going into the break.

I gave up any attempt at serious note taking and simply willed the boys on.  We clawed a few back but ultimately our kicking killed us.  The Enemy on the other hand could not miss.  Straight out in front, dribbling turf-cutters or curling in from some impossible angle deep in the pocket, they kept slotting them home.  It was a relief when the final siren blew.  There seemed to be more Enemy supporters at ANZ stadium than Swans fans.  I trudged back to the pub settling in for a long session of Bourbon and conjecture.  The general sentiment was that this is why The Enemy were at number two on the table and we weren’t.

Paul Roos feels we don’t have enough the depth of overall talent or enough aggression up front.  Have we reached crisis point?  Is our only option now to draft the biggest, meanest players we can and pay them top dollar to stomp on The Enemy at random?  Beat them so bloody they’ll wake up screaming at the memory fifty years from now.

Ugly thoughts on a Sunday morning but I’m in a vengeful mood today.  Let’s hope the boys are too on Saturday against the Hawks.  We’re hanging on with our finger tips and it would be a shame to let go now.


Tom Bally


  1. Tom – I hate Bourbon, but don’t mind a spot of conjecture.

  2. Richard Naco says

    I was there as well, doing my little bit in fulfilling your expectations of [cough] The Enemy [/cough] outnumbering the home supporters. (OK, I personally thought that we, The Legions of The True Faith, accounted for 25% of the crowd, but that percentage grew quite markedly as the Swannie supporters slinked off home from about time on in the third stanza.)

    I enjoyed the quality of the Cat’s play immensely, my inevitable pleasure being quite significantly enhanced by my (new to footy) wife’s commentary. The first quater, she concluded, was the Cats taking it easy and allowing the Swans to get three goals. Second quarter saw a bit of a tussle, before the Cats again exploded & kicked 4 goals in about six minutes – my personal commentator noting that the hoops seemed capable of just throwing a switch & burning off the 8th placed team whnever they felt like it.

    Third quarter was simply sublime footy: 6 goals in 11 minutes of end to end poetry, which Herself noted was the most beautiful display of pure ball artistry that she’d ever seen. Fourth quarter was comparatively ugly: I was asked if the majestic conquerors in the navy & white were saving themselves, and did they have a big game the next week.

    “Nah”, I replied, “they’re just going to be dining out on pies”. (Although truth be told: if the two teams play as they both did this week, Saturday promises to be a fantastic celebration of all that is so good about our magnificent game, regardless of whose song is sung at the end.)

    Walking to the car after the 4th game we’ve attended as a family, my commentator turned to me and stated, “We’ve never seen a game where the Cats lose, have we? Do they ever lose?”

    Not when they play like that, lover, not when they’re like that!

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