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Finals Week 1 – Sydney v GWS: The only thing you’ll learn from this is that footy makes me cry!

 

Walking away from the disaster at the SCG on Saturday evening, one of the many thoughts criss-crossing my mind was Surely I don’t have to write about this?

My saner self replied Yes, you do.

Having expressed my feelings after every game this year, what would people think of me if I skipped this one? A bad loser? Maybe.

With three to four hours to fill before attempting sleep, I watched the Eagles/Pies game in Perth. Complete disinterest. Tried the tennis during the breaks. Complete disinterest. Thought about watching the 2012 grand final. What the hell would be the point?

At some point, I burst into tears.

But for the fact that my brother, Tony, and his partner, Liz, were staying the night with us (having left Violet Town, in northern Victoria, at 5.30 that morning to drive to Sydney for the game), my flow of tears would not have been so stifled.

We didn’t talk about our game. We just watched other sport. The brother, like me, loves his sport.

Bedtime arrived and I couldn’t sleep. Marshall had no such trouble. The mind did exactly what it has been trained to do when the Swans are involved – decades of training – and sad mode took over. All through the night, the game ran its course: the errors, the lack of cohesion, the long bombs into nowhere, the lack of speed – the lack of everything, and in between, the tears came. I thought of the players and how they must be feeling, with nowhere to hide from their own tortuous thoughts and regrets.

And then there was the morning after. That’s always the worst. Reality hits, especially after an Elimination Final. That’s it. Over. Done. Finished. Spent. No more.

I fed the mob breakfast. I had no hunger. We tried to talk of anything but football. It was not a particularly happy breakfast table. A few hours later they left for the return trip to Violet Town. It was 12 noon and I had an entire day ahead of me, to make the most of. To try and be positive, and to remind myself of the always-much-needed perspective.

Not wanting to leave the security of the four walls, I decided to clean the house that didn’t need cleaning. I washed clothes that didn’t need washing. I watered plants that were already drenched from Friday night’s storm. I washed windows that could well have waited for months. And all the while, the tears came.

“Let’s go for a walk,” I suggested to Marshall. Happy Marshall, who doesn’t allow footy to affect him at all! Sitting there on the couch, reading his newspaper, with a bloody smile on his face!

Off we go. The sun is now shining and the wind has calmed down. We head towards a well-travelled path. Towards the SCG. On the way we stop off at the ice cream shop. Maybe this will help? I order my usual – raspberry and a sort of vanilla – and as soon as I see the red and the white, another tear forms. We sit in the park, licking away in the silence, before continuing through the back streets of Surry Hills to Moore Park. We arrive at Kippax Lake – the home of two Swans and their four cygnets – just outside the SCG. I take one look at them, and burst into more uncontrollable tears.

We then wander past a silent, forlorn-looking SCG. The seats are empty and the highs and lows of times past seem totally irrelevant today. There is an eeriness to the place, and I am overcome with a need to get away from there as quickly as possible. I simply have to be away from there.

As we pass the Members’ Stand, the Swans flag, sitting atop, is limp. There is no movement – not even a flutter – and it seems just so, so appropriate on this sad, sad Sunday. The day after the disaster at the SCG.

About Jan Courtin

A Bloods tragic since first game at Lake Oval in 1948. Moved interstate to Sydney to be closer to beloved Swans in 1998. My book "My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans" was launched by the Swans at their headquarters at the SCG in August 2016. www.myswansloveaffair.com

Comments

  1. Condolences Jan. Too many eggs in one basket?
    I am a pessimist and go to footy matches expecting to lose. Winning is finding a twenty in an old coat pocket. Losing is well rehearsed, and I shrug my shoulders to acknowledge an old friend.
    The Avenging Eagle is an eternal optimist. Losing is not in universe of possibility. It sends her into a funk of raging against the umpires; the VFL; team selection etc etc.
    Like you – on returning home she disappears into the bedroom. Her entire wardrobe contents are being reorganised in a way to create order out of chaos. An old favourite was cleaning the white grout on the bathroom floor on hands and knees with a scrubbing brush. Penitence or prayer?

  2. george smith says:

    Karma is a biach. That idiot ground announcer, the one who complained about the free kick differential against Collingwood at half time, which then caused the Pharisees to pull every half chance freebee for the home team in the third quarter, virtually killing the game, was at his best after the game.

    “Lets hear it for your local team, the Sydney Swans” – Nary a murmur from the crowd, some boos from the winners.

    May the black bird of unhappiness sing “Sweet Caroline” outside your window every night, all night, you pompous, cheating knave!

  3. Joe De Petro says:

    Don’t feel bad about being passionate, Jan. Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all was clearly not a footy fan.

    Nothing hurts like a finals’ loss. I can empathise with your pain. Better luck next year.

  4. Julie Cattlin says:

    I did watch the first two quarters of your game on TV, Jan, but it was too sad. So I went home and just felt for you and all the Swans fans. I felt more for the fans than the players! The players come and go, but the fans stay forever!!
    With our families’ teams losing on the weekend – Geelong and the Swans – it was really lovely to go and watch an elimination final of the women’s football between Geelong and the NT at the Port Melbourne ground. I was only there to watch our niece, Anna, play for Geelong. I did bring back some memories of those times when I went to follow South Melbourne as a kid – those lovely old-fashioned stands and small crowds. And how lovely to watch people running on the ground at half time and at the end of the game. The good news is that Geelong won. I’ll go next week to watch Anna play again for Geelong against Collingwood. Go Anna!!
    Sorry about the game, Jan. I do hope the tears have now stopped – for another year, anyway!
    Julie xxx

  5. Tony Courtin says:

    Jan,what a fiasco. They save their worst game for an elimination final!? Had a fun ride through the season,ending on Saturday night as a calamitous head-on with the Giants. Our season is done,but hope lives eternal. Till next year,go bloods.

  6. Thanks one and all. I had a strong hunch all week that we wouldn’t be winning this game. However, I’m not clever enough to control my mind in advance, to prepare for a loss! Especially one this devastating.
    And I’m certainly not clever enough, yet, to be able to draw a balance in my emotional reactions to all- things-Swans.

    The sadness and empty feelings at the moment also have something to do with the end of the season – no more footy for six months, especially having invested so much emotionally into the past six months: travelling every fortnight, and experiencing the highs and lows along the way.

    I remember after the 2005 grand final. On a massive high for about a week, then came crashing down! Even though we’d won, I went through a few weeks of feeling really low. No more footy!! It sure is an addiction!

    Onwards to 2019! Go Bloods!

  7. Hi Jan,

    Thanks so much, have read and re-read your article – it chimes exactly with my feelings. I actually woke up feeling worse today – for some of us this is obviously going to take some getting over. I have a very good friend who’s a mad Cats fan and we’re sharing similar sentiments right now. Any loss stings but he and I both agree that, despite Geelong’s poor game, Sydney’s capitulation was the more crushing. I saw those flags today as I rolled past the SCG on my way to the Uni. Limp heralds on a breached fortress, befitting the sombre mood as you eloquently describe. But that scene also stirs the burn. Next year…next year.

    Cheer Cheer,

  8. Marie Teague says:

    Hi Jan, it is pretty dismal, with Swans and Cats being beaten badly and out of the finals. But I’m lucky in that I have family playing and that softens the disappointment of the men’s AFL. Geelong Women’s VFL had an amazing win over NT Thunder yesterday – as Julie has already said. Thunder defeated Geelong by 60 odd points earlier in the year in Darwin, so that made this win even greater. Now for next Sunday against Collingwood for a spot in the grand final! Playing at Port Melbourne and sitting in the old stand, people on the ground, surrounding and supporting their team, kicking the footy and having fun, was amazing. As Julie said, it was a bit like the old days of South Melbourne – wonderful memories. Next year Jan. Love Marie. PS: Jan, Your article on Anna in the Women’s Footy Almanac was really good and I had a great night at the book launch. X

  9. Hope for the side – a never-ending story

    By Greg Baum
    7 September 2018 — 4:10pm

    Standing behind me on the terraces of the old Southern Stand at the MCG at the 1975 grand final was an old man wearing an overcoat, a trilby hat and dark glasses, with his legs astride a kitbag.

    Throughout the match, his face remained blank, betraying no allegiance as North Melbourne, turbo-charged by an early and short-lived form of free agency, powered away from Hawthorn to win their first ever premiership.

    But at the final siren, his face split into a grin as he reached down into his kitbag, produced what my mind’s eye still says was a jeroboam of champagne, popped the cork and took a long swig, declaring before he did: “I’ve been waiting all my life for this moment – and it’s been worth every minute.”

    He had never lost hope.

    Hope is the lifeblood of footy. It sustains fans for years. It is endlessly renewable, energy that does not need a guarantee. It is regularly destroyed, and just as regularly recreated. It’s wonderfully silly. It doesn’t get your far. Even if realised, it won’t improve your quality of life. It’s a sense, like sunlight on snow.

    You can lose it quickly, and get it back just as fast. You ride it, and you cling to it. It wells up, and sometimes overflows, and becomes too much to bear, and then settles again.

    There’s always next year for sporting fans.

    To feel footy hope is to buy a lottery ticket. You know the odds against you, but once it is in your pocket, it feels like the winner. It is like Russian roulette in reverse: in only one chamber is there deliverance, but you just know it will be yours. Footy hope seems especially important right now, as a tranquiliser and antidote to despond of the last fortnight in national affairs.

    Hope was in the air on the trains and trams on the way to the ‘G on Thursday night, and still there in the long and patient queues on the way home, even among Hawthorn fans. There’s always next week, next year, too. Hope is available immediately, but on consignment, too. Best of all, it comes in bulk.

    It’s there in our discourse. About what else apart, apart from family, do footy followers talk of “we” and “ours”? School, maybe, for some. Work, for very few. But when dwelling on the footy, we do it reflexively – “we smashed them, the umps are killing us” – though most of us have no connection, role or stake in this entity, except our hope. It is that investment that makes it all work.

    Will Hoskin-Elliott remarked on it this week in a Michael Gleeson interview. At the Giants, he said, you played for “the boys”, because there was not much else. At Collingwood, you played for the club, the fans, the history, a gigantic “we”, a century’s accretion of hope.

    I’ve watched suburban and country footy teams lose matches by hundreds of points at a time, but not so many years later play in grand finals. Hope does that. Every day, somehow, it will be different, and then one day, it is. I’ve watched enough footy to know that there is hope springing eternal at Carlton, and St Kilda.

    Do you believe that John Millman did not allow himself to think for at least a moment about how good it would be to beat Roger Federer at the US Open this week? That’s hope. This day, this one day, hope triumphed.

    Hope rarely is fully realised, but never is completely crushed. In the finals, it comes anew. It is already a good season; it might yet be great. All the pettifogging, all the white noise, melts away. On Thursday night, no one wanted to talk to Steve Hocking about game style.

    True, Richmond look to be in a mind and mood to cause all ye to abandon hope. But the Tigers last year and the Bulldogs before them had done more than anyone before them to create hope. They had fortified hope, not hope against hope, but hope compounding hope, hope for hope.

    It was all around on Thursday night, and although by late Friday, it will already have been dashed for one team this season, it is the abiding force of the finals. Because of it, somewhere in this city, a footy fan is stowing away a bottle of champagne in a special place in anticipation of the moment, if not this season, next, or soon, when hope comes true.

  10. Hi Peter, Marie and Jude. Thanks. There’s not much more I can add to the Comment of mine above.
    However, as Greg Baum so well put, hope reigns supreme! (And not just for one’s footy team.)

    Maybe I should go out and buy a bottle of champagne. Store it away, and wait for another repeat of 2005 and 2012. At least we have those!

    Cheer cheer

  11. Trucker Slim says:

    Oh Jan, you have captured the real and existential pain felt so many times by every one of us! I love that you order an ice-cream coloured red and white! And the flag imagery says so much. Meanwhile 20kms or so to your west I trust the win has stirred a bunch of kids to check out this game called Aussie Rules, with all its incredible highs and very hard landing lows. Cheers

  12. Thanks Rick! As happy as I am that our great game is spreading into League territory, any sentiments along those lines at the moment come under the heading of LOGIC and REASON. Not applicable just at the moment!

  13. Jan, just read your post and it so straight from the heart.

    Your writing is amazing.

    Commiserations and better luck next year.

    Thanks

  14. Thanks Sylvia. Yes, I suppose I do let the heart rule, especially when it comes to the Swans!

  15. Sleep well, Jan.
    Terrific dedication again.
    The images of ice cream, the swans and those flags.. Well played.

  16. Feeling all your emotions Jan. Just nowhere near what we expected and we will shake our heads for a very long time, remembering that night for all the wrong reasons, but we have a lot to look forward to moving forward. Take care. Go Bloods!

  17. I missed your article and looked for it this morning. Found it and just finished reading…

    So now I’ve upset myself all over again! I go under a rock for a few weeks after the season is over.. the void that is left in my life is substantial. So given I had very positive thoughts about our game, you can imagine how I’m feeling now. Haven’t answered the phone, don’t want to talk to anyone. So empty.

    Absolutely shattered and my heart is breaking for our boys. And me.

    Thanks for the season Jan – I’ve loved knowing that I’m not alone in this ritual!

    And yes of course we’ll be back next year! Just seems forever away.. Cheer cheer

  18. Peter Warrington says:

    Jan

    17 teams and their fans will feel the pain. Don’t suffer alone.

    If nothing else you have given me a reason to post one of my fave underrated early Church songs

    Enjoy the spring, it’s balmy out, beach beckons…

    Pete

  19. Thanks ER, Debby, Sharryne and Peter. And thanks for the song, Peter. I’ve informed the brother of it.

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