Sydney Musings

I was beginning to think I’d lost almost all enthusiasm for Australian Football.  Barely skimming the news, catching a few minutes of a game here and there, a near-unbridgeable four points off the leader in the tipping comp.

It doesn’t help being a Swans fan.  Early this season, they cost me a mobile phone; hurled across the loungeroom in frustration when they shot themselves in the foot while I was in the middle of writing a text message about how stupid they could be; and a teev remote, for much the same reasons.

I’ve learnt my lesson. I stormed out of the loungeroom during the Adelaide and Fremantle games, rather than watch the Swans continue their sequence of insensibility and endanger small items of digital electronics.

Jeff has two boys who love their footy.  I watched them play in the Under Elevens on Saturday.  Cooper, the tallest kid on his team, moves with a fluency ahead of his years and plays in the ruck and forward line.  He took a strong pack mark in the goal square, textbook stuff.  Gus is supposed to play Under Nines but has too much attitude for kids his own age.  He had a quiet game, spent most of it on the bench.

I enjoyed the match.  It was good to watch a game with positional play, plenty of kicking, minimal handball and a complete lack of forward press, flooding, zoning and clusters.  It was simple, straightforward football.  After winning 16.16 to 7.6, the coach told them to straighten up their kicking, because they wouldn’t be able to get away with that many behinds at the gala carnival in a few weeks.

We rejoined them at their place that evening to watch the Essendon v Sydney match.  The U/11s coach’s message should have been on the Swan’s white board at the last break.  They controlled most of the last term but kicked 2.9 and lost by a point.  Adam Goodes was best on ground but blew two shoulda-been goals and gave away a free kick with a punch from a ruck contest in the goal square.  Itself a consequence of a silly mistake.

Well, football was the winner.  It truly was a tremendous match, one of the best this season (so all the journos wrote) and quite an apt summation of both the team and the capain.  It also came as a great relief, after all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, to pundits across the land who bemoan the decline of the contest.  Not that too many were really noticing before Geelong flogged Melbourne.

Suddenly, it’s a crisis.  A crisis, I tell you, a full blown crisis!  Hmm, we’ve got Gold Coast, a team of teenagers, Port Adelaide, with old lumps of concrete for dumbbells, and Melbourne, clearly in the grip of internal strife of its own making.  So you can talk it down and cease your fretting.

For the most part.   In 1995 I began to wonder how the AFL could sustain several teams in one city and whether there were enough players to keep all teams sufficiently stocked with competitive talent.  Throw in the skyrocketing costs of maintaining a competitive football department, competition for the corporate dollar, split it between 18 teams and draw your own conclusions.

As an aside, how can a team whose license is owned by the SANFL have a terrible stadium deal at a ground owned by the SANFL?  Was it really worth spending half a billion dollars to ruin the best international cricket ground?

My conclusions are that some teams will always struggle.  All clubs have identities – St Kilda, for instance, the perennially unsuccessful.  These identities permeate all aspects of the club, which doesn’t make any logical sense but seems to be the case nonetheless.  Some clubs have vast supporter bases and always have.  Others have miniscule supporter bases and always will.  And even then, most of the members may not show up, as happened to Footscray a few weeks ago.

The less well-equipped and less successful clubs will have a harder time retaining players.  Would Scully consider shifting if he played for Collingwood?

Taking a slightly longer view, I could see Gold Coast developing a local following among the familes of Vic expats who fled the 1980s rustbelt economy.  GWS?  Ha, I grew up out there and I wish Mad Sheeds all the best but it’ll take decades before that club will stand on its own two feet.

Sydney play Richmond this week.  I’d expect them to win, but I’ve expected them to win at least three times this year, so I won’t stake the farm on it.  The NFL practice games start this week.  It’ll be an interesting year; due to the players payments negotiations, no-one’s had a pre-season and my Detroit Lions have already lost half their starting offensive line.  Looks like another tough year for Stafford.



About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.


  1. Richard Naco says

    I am a South Australian expat now living in exile in Sydney, having arrived here via Canberra, Brisbane & then Canberra again in order to marry a Sydney local. That was well over fourteen years ago & we’re going stronger than ever, but should the unimaginable ever occur I would be relocated in Melbourne (or possibly, Geelong itself) within 6 weeks. Love does that to you, I guess.

    I was a mad dead keen Glenelg supporter growing up, and in 1973 I only missed one minor round game (the Bays only loss, to North Adelaide away). The last SANFL finals series played at Adelaide Oval was in that season, and I literally went to every game, whether Glenelg were playing or not. The following year, Football Park (now AAMI Stadium) was inflicted upon the SA footy public, and utterly alienated by it I gradually drifted away from footy (although it has to be said that my doing Year 12 & scoring a Saturday arvo job didn’t exactly help).

    I can personally verify that footy & cricket (a sport which I also once fanatically followed but which I now detest) can happily coexist at “the best international cricket ground”. I have been to both there, and co-tenancy does nothing deleterious in the least to the quality of the actual paddock. I like the design of the new stands, and as glorious a country ground as Adelaide Oval once was, it – like all of us – eventually needs to grow up. My only issue with the redevelopment is that it has come forty years too late. Even the VFL did not waste its time with Waverly for anywhere near half as long.

    Weather, family committments & clashes with the timing of Geelong’s games notwithstanding, I have actually gone off to as many Swans’ games as possible this year. Like a hell of a lot of attendees, I wear my own club’s colours regardless of the draw (except when Carlton played) & just plain go to enjoy the footy. Sure, the Swans have never played a particularly attractive brand of footy, but the ambience – particularly at the SCG – is wonderful. And being able to include having a feed at the Fox Studios entertainment quarter next door before or after the game is a huge bonus. Having nothing invested emotionally in the game nor having anything riding on the result would make it significantly easier for me to enjoy the actual process than any ardent Swanee there, but it’s still a very good day out.

    And I will more than likely be at Olympic Park to watch the Saints game on Sunday week (Geelong has the bye, & son’s birthday party is on Friday night) & back to the SCG to see Brisbane on the last Saturday of the season (Geelong shares a virtual bye with Collingwood on the Friday night).

    As for those clubs in crises: the cold hard reality is that sports are a business, and that there are too many franchises in the limited marketplace that is Melbourne. If those being swamped have to rely on hand outs from the consumer watchdog, their right to maintain their shopfront in that particular marketplace is questionable. The Cats almost went under at the turn of the century, and they received – appropriately – no AFL bail out. They had dug their own grave, but they had the guts & gumption to crawl out of it and start to fill it in again. As should Port, Melbourne & Norths – all in trouble through no fault of Collingwood, Essendon or Hawthorn (the three Melbourne clubs not receiving a grant from the AFL to ‘equalise’).

    Last question: how the hell did Carlton ever qualify for the extra AFL dosh? If ever a club has an accounts area run along ethics & protocols developed by the Dodgy Bros, it has to be the Blues, and their woes over recent years have all been self inflicted wounds (no sympathy). If their corporate godfather could provide them with a ‘creative’ Judd bail out option, surely the same unique accounting principles should have been applied to propping up the actual club.

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Noooooo! Please tell me that Ndamakong Suh is playing?

  3. Richard
    That’s one hell of a note! I love cricket and I love rural cricket grounds, especially those with 19th century pavilions. Adelaide Oval was the last international cricket ground with that look, I’ll miss it.
    Just seems like a hell of an idiocy to throw money at. Yesterday I drove past a sign hollering “Velodrome”!! Yep, that’s really gotten a workout in the last eleven years. Thank the gods for FIFA corruption, otherwise we’d be paying for 100x50m grounds all over the country that would never be used again.
    Suh’s on the D line, fit and firing, and the Lions beat the Bengals 34 to 3 in the first practice match last night.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    That’s positive news. Thanks Earl. Both N.Suh* and M.Stafford are something that the Lions can build a decent outfit around. They’ve sucked for long enough!

    * read that Suh’s dad is 5’8″, but his dad is 7’2″! They’re Cameroonians. His mum is Jamaican. Amazing gene-pool going on there. Saw a short doco on ESPN about Suh and his testing at a physics lab. Off the chart for human strength.

  5. Skip of Skipton says

    Earl, there was something regarding his reach also. When combined with that strength it makes him a recruiters wet dream etc. The QB the Rams took at 1 would want to be handy!

  6. Skip, I just wish the Lions had an O-line. FIrst draft pick for that was 7th round, and the poor li’l tacker might find himself starting in the next few weeks.
    It’s easier than being a Swans fan, tho.

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