Swans Go Ape

“IT WAS partly ape, with a tiny brain, long arms, a chimp-size body and ape-like heels. But it was also partly human, with long thumbs, short fingers, an advanced ankle and a brain that looked like it had begun to rewire.”

Original, non-clichéd quotes can be hard to find in Aussie Rules and this gem from the Sydney Morning Herald science section had me pondering for several days for ways to use it.  Parallels to Enemy players and fan bases seemed cheap and wasted shots.  Then like a bolt of lightning during the second quarter of Saturday night’s game a completely apt depiction springs to mind.  When Tadhg Kennelly not only gets pinged for nothing and then hit with the double whammy of a 50m penalty it’s clear the author is describing a certain umpire.  My reaction to the ruling is equally as primal.  A savage display of screeching and gesticulation not seen since the monolith materialised in the ape camp in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Finals football raises my emotional stake in the game probably at the cost of what intellect I have.  The praise and lashings meted out over the months get amplified once September rolled round and it’s clear we’re in the top eight again.  Those who think the bottom four teams are just making up the numbers are missing the point.  Finals excitement is driven by the wildcards, the outside chances, the same way the unpredictable bounce of the Sherrin gives the game its edge.

The Swans have had a number of ‘must win’ games this season but Saturday night’s clash with The Enemy really merits the tag.  The winner faces Hawthorn, the loser banished to the gimp box to await 2012.  Three weeks ago we’d seen The Enemy off reasonably convincingly.  Could we do it again?  They’re playing for pride; last year’s thwarted premiership and the off-season antics still a sore point.  We’re riding a wave of good form and fighting spirit.  All I know is it’s going to be close and with Razor Ray umpiring controversy never far away.

The Enemy start with searching probes of our defence.  They evade easy tackles to draw first blood with a behind.  Goodes responds with a showy juggle to White who grazes the big sticks for one point.  We aren’t making good use of the ball going forward and the rare times we do results only in behinds or, worse, turnovers.  Shaw is doing his customary erratic zipping around the turf, perhaps to tire The Enemy out.  Razor awards The Enemy a free in our defensive fifty but their aim is as bad as ours.  It takes sixteen minutes for a major score, unfortunately to The Enemy.  That shakes the Swans awake and they respond with two goals; Mumford off a superbly weighted kick from Goodes, then the captain himself after a win off the centre bounce.  Minutes later Jack marks on the siren but only gets a behind.  The signs are there but it’s too early to tell if we’re going to break this one open.

Sam Reid pops up early in the second to take a strong mark.  It’s a shame his feet don’t quite possess the same freakish magic as his hands though.  Rohan looks full of vim, running his opponents down with ease.  O’Keefe wins a free for a high tackle and boots it in.  The jitters subside and we press onwards.  Goodes runs in for another goal then a behind.  It’s not all smooth sailing, McGlynn overcooks a handball (and certain goal) to Goodes who desperately tries to toe poke it through with no success.  Reid takes a superb mark and scores this time, the ball just drifting back between the posts.  O’Keefe’s accuracy of late has been woeful; tonight however his mojo is back as he slots another one home.

Then there’s my primitive response to the Kennelly free; holding the ball even though his hands where nowhere near it, the umpire taking a blind guess.  Even the Channel 10 commentators feel compelled to criticise this atrocious ruling.  Minutes later they’re arguing over another questionable decision as The Enemy is charged with not making any attempt to dispose.  And just when I’m arguing that when we get pinged it practically always gives The Enemy a significant advantage the Karmic Gods cause them to stuff up on the interchange boundary line giving O’Keefe a 50m ride uptown and his third goal.  We’re 26 points up at the big break and looking good.

Ross Lyon is an old hand at this football lark though and as I suspected The Enemy simply won’t lie down.  Spangher gets us off to a good start but The Enemy are finding gaps and goals with apparent ease.  They’ve found the necessary spark to close the margin.  I revert to primal state again, gibbering and howling with every one of our handling errors or kicks to contests.  Hannebury shambles off stage left with a dislocated shoulder just before the siren.  All of a sudden The Enemy is breathing down our necks a mere 11 points behind.

What we need now is for Adam Goodes to assert himself and right on cue he makes a strong start out of the centre.  McVeigh backs himself to attempt a 53m goal; the pill falling short but we scrape a behind from it.  The tension ratchets up to breaking point as the Swans attack and the forward 50 arc turns into a mess of players throwing themselves into the pack.  McGlynn cops a high hit and scores off the free.  Now the ball flies back into our defensive area and we’re forced to amount a scrambling defence.   Cool heads prevail and we’re pressing again.  O’Keefe boots in a ripper from outside the arc.  McGlynn curls one in, his defiant celebration roar saying it all.  Mummy takes a great pack mark and seals The Enemy’s fate.  They get some consolation points but it’s all over.  82-57; McVeigh’s kissing his black armband in a touching gesture and The Enemy form a dejected huddle up one end of the oval.

It’s clear the Swans are evolving as September goes on.  I can’t really speak for my emotional state though.  Maybe it’s me who’s partly ape with a brain beginning to rewire?



  1. Tom
    good piece but sadly the evolutioning path that the Swan/Saints took on Saturday was a regressive one. The game contained everything I hate about modern footabll and very little I liked other than the Swans consistant effort to win. It was like one of those pommie inter village games where they chuck the big cheese up halfwaybetween the villages and away we go for the next 2 hours until somone drowns in bog. That someone on Saturday was football as a spectacle. When viewed as an impartial person it looked liked a chess game (with 32 squre removed from the board). It was a disgrace only amplified by umpiring decisons in the third quarter that should result in a return to the liitle league at half time next. week. All the best with the Hawks.

Leave a Comment