Swans, Hawks and Corrugated Tin

Swans, Hawks and Corrugated Tin.


Roland’s home is, basically, a pile of corrugated tin and mice, in a paddock, in nowhere. But the wood-fire’s a corker, the telly works, and he’s a great mate.

We had the idiot box and music on, his girlfriend, free from her kids for the night, rotten, laughing, falling all over the place, knocking over Roland’s bong.

Roland went to bang on the AFL. We’d won a flag together a year ago, but have drifted away since he retired. The fact I don’t do billies is a factor, which is shit.

The music was loud. He went to turn it off for the footy.

“Nah, let’s just watch it,” I said.

“For real?” he said.

“Yeah, fuck the yammering.”

Roland was stoked. He smiled like the cat that drank all the milk, cranked the music louder, kicked over to the fridge for a few more drinks, kicked his dog off the couch and kicked back with me.

We watched finals football.

And it was sweet.


Two proud clubs who play hard, going head-to-head. All stops out.

There was one passage in the third, in the Swans forward line, where, after the first, the ball mostly seemed to be. A solid minute or two of tackles, smoothers and intense pressure. No marks, no goals or spectacular runs. Just footy at its absolute finest. The best I’ve seen all year.

Try counting, fighting, or tackling non-stop for 120 seconds. It’s the longest time.

I briefly wondered what the commentators were saying, then was glad I didn’t know, even though I did.

“It’s really hot in there…”

“Both clubs are going for it…”

Something like that.

Sorry, but I hate them. Telling you what to think. Taking ownership of the game. Making it obvious. They watch too much of it, are too close to the fire. You can hear their gears, their quirks and tricks. The way many of them go guttural on queue.

The way they get all pious about any real venom or grunt.

And worst of all, the special comments men. Sometimes mugs, sometimes footy geniuses, in the heat of battle, when we’re watching marvels, talking the game and players down to show how smart they are.

And worst of the worst, giving those patronising schoolteacher tones when they should be whispering “Bloody Nora…”

Calm, beyond the hype and with nothing to prove, David Parkin and Leigh Matthews are gold, the only two of them I rate.

Listening to the commentary always sounds like I’m watching the game with my parents. The dower, vaudeville kind who talk down to you, like you find on Pommie tv.

Every second contest “The boy did well then…”

“Oh, the boy should have done better…”

“The boy…”


Just give me the fucking pig skin!


Just give me the game. Which has evolved, I reckon, never been so far from us mugs hacking it out in the paddocks and on crab grass ovals.

Watching Adam Goodes wage battle against all of Hawthorn only to come out evens, seeing the relentless courage of Lewis, taking in greats, like the underrated O’Keefe and the well-rated Hodge, playing each other close, is all brilliant.

But seeing what happens in packs, on telly, is even better. The best.

AFL footballer’s hands, vision, speed, the way they, even when being tackled, can steer a ball towards a teammate using a knuckle, the momentum of their fall, a pinned shoulder, a fingertip, are superb..


It now seems to come in volumes, speeds and heights. Players do this little steeling brace, in packs and out, legs apart, as the ball is coming to them, a sort of bounce. Their hands and shoulders are already moving in the direction of their target as they are snapping it from the air. Their bodies often contort into a forward punch, or lean back with a loop. A handball is not just an arms thing anymore.

That punch it the bomb.

The ball ricochets around a skirmish, finally kicking out into modern footy, into wide running, fast breaks, Dane Swans and long and short leads. Great stuff, but, for me, without the same intensity and chaos, the same impact and challenges of those packs.

And that’s why Hawthorne won.

To me, two teams went head-to-head, but only one had the firepower.

The Swans played like dusty old backroom fighters. Creating stoppage after stoppage, even in their forward 50, because they didn’t have a Buddy, or that No. 20 bloke. They were honest. Glorious pugs. They worked as if work’s all there is. And Hawthorn beat them on the counter punch. Running it out and into an uncrowded half on the break.

When the game was over, Roland and I talked about it a bit.

“That’s what I love about finals footy,” he said. “There’s so much more pressure. Players are always slapping it on the boot!”

“Like us,” I said, laughing at how two blokes can watch the same game, and have totally different takes, and maybe both be right.

“Especially the Swans,” I said.

“That’s one of the reasons they lost,” I said.

“Those 25 metre slappers almost always went to a Hawthorne player. Where as the Hawks would risk that extra handball to get in a better kick,” I said.

“Nah, you’re underestimating that ‘press’ shit,” he said. “It gives the Hawks the numbers to get that extra handball out.”

Our heads were starting to hurt, so we got another drink. A car-load of boozers from the pub blew in, we cranked the music that little bit more.

Some might say Buddy was the difference. He kicked four, and ran hard, taking the heat off other Hawk forwards. Provided a structure they could build around. Others might say finals footy is usually won in the first. That Hawthorne broke to a five goal lead early and won by about the same amount.

I have no idea if Roland or I were right, or part right, or not, but it beat the hell out of having our opinions fed to us, then switching off.

In the end, we kept it simple, both agreeing that Gibson is my favourite player. If only he’d turn a few of those two fisted punches into marks, like Brian Lake!


Head-to-head. What a game. A real finals match.


Jesus, don’t take this great game for granted! Turn off the volume now and then. Listen to it with some cranking music on. On Fridays, Triple J is great. Otherwise, feed the pub juke box. Whatever blows your hair back.

Just watch for the love of it. Take it in.

Almost every player who makes that level is a freak!


Soon, the night kicked on. Near midnight, when Roland did a Phantom into his room with his girlfriend, as if abandoning a sinking ship, I headed into a sky almost full with a moon that had a dent in its head.

One of Roland’s cousins, a woman who is a girl, full of lies and trouble, hopped in the ute, and we made, for some strange reason, for the coast.

As we left I looked back at the small, falling tin shed of a home, lights out, in the dark, the blurry shadows of cows here and there, like it was just another piece of fantastic paddock junk.






  1. I remember that part of the game. Asked myself what I would do in that situation. Came to the conclusion I would be hunched over, gasping for air after about 7 seconds. Jeez I used to hate those continuous tackle drills at training…

  2. Gus, I reckon you are a champion for even remembering it. Was gold, wasn’t it?

    Most seniors and Juniors I have coached have hated me and my tackling drills, and thanked me for them years after the fact.

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