Sydney v Hawthorn preview: Boiling Point

In recent weeks I’ve become shyly aware that I’ve taken my eye off the footy. Haven’t talked about it much; haven’t reflected on it publicly; haven’t offered any excuses. Just slunk off into the shade really. But internally, I’ve been musing, struggling with the idea of how to whip myself up into some kind of return form.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, en route to a morning train, it finally occurred to me why I may have been  staying away. You know the old saying about the watched pot never boiling? Well I suspect my averted footy gaze has been a similar case of subconscious protective ignoring; pay scant attention to the Swannies’ weekly wins and they should continue to simmer up to a full boil. Funny how the footy lover imagines herself to be so pivotal.

Armed with my new self knowledge, I couldn’t think of a better incentive to return than the chance to witness the end of the Pie hoodoo, my Swans versus Swanless Pies, a night out at the concrete bowl with hopeful men and a fighting chance. But my subconscious protective instinct must be strong; I was floored by illness on the eve of the game. Instead of making the trek, I lay on the couch mildly febrile, dosing on hot toddies, hoping those last four black and white goals were tired hallucinations. One of the O’Reilly boys sent me a message early the following week: ‘Hope you are recovering. We obviously need you fully fit – do you imagine you might have been the difference?’

Last Sunday afternoon, still coughing but right to play, I decided it was time to stare the pot down, time to put my head back over the ball. The 3.15 start warranted an orange afternoon tea cake, iced with plenty of powdered sugar and a French tablespoon of Grand Marnier. I vacuumed the living room floor and filled the kettle. (We’ve inherited a flat screen TV which makes me feel the players might step out onto the rug at any moment, and I’d want to have it nice for them.) The three of us gathered from all corners of the house and circled kick off with various necessary and unnecessary tasks.

During that first quarter, we were stroppy and inclement, yelling at the flat new box, the Cygnet disappearing in disgust at his team … or his parents. Intensity was down, the infallible back line looked human, the absence of Bolton was gaping. Only the Canadian looked right! The ball ping ponged into the Doggies’ half, time and time and time again. The temptation to turn away was too great: the rest of the shopping needed putting away; the compost needed churning; the Tupperware cupboard may have needed sorting. Only the kettle was boiling.

But the season, the finals – they can’t go on like this! Ten or so minutes into the second half, with tea and cake in hand, I forced myself onto the couch and as the ball spilled to ground metres from another Doggies goal, I gently coaxed the defence to pick it up, switch it out to the wing and get the turnover moving. And they did. They took it coast to coast and we goaled. I turned to the other half who was still grumbling: ‘That’s enough,’ I said. ‘Only encouragement from now on.’ And so we sat, Ma and Pa, on the couch with tea, stroking the boys from afar, willing the work, nudging them into their second efforts, navigating a course for the forward movement, holding the press in close inside 50. And it worked. The highest score in five seasons. Delightful that two lovers of the game believe in the singular power of their soulful barracking.

This week’s challenge is great. But Sydney’s hit a warm patch and I can smell finals on the breeze with the blossom. Which only adds to the temptation to turn away and wake up to the good news a month or so down the track. It comes with the territory of knowing just how good it gets, and just what a journey it is to get there. During a small meditative stopover at a pond in Sydney’s Centennial Park on Tuesday, I entertained the idea of flogging our members’ passes for this sold out Saturday, taking our small fortune and checking in some time on Sunday. And just as the thought finished, something emerged from underneath the jetty on which I was sitting; a sleek and certain reminder, a lone black Swan. Reassuring how one greedy beast has the power to keep conviction on track.

About Mathilde de Hauteclocque

Swans member since 2000, Mathilde likes to wile away her winters in the O'Reilly stand with 'the boys', flicking through the Record and waiting to see the half backs drive an explosive forward movement. She lives in Sydney and raises a thirteen year old Cygnet.


  1. What a lovely way to start the weekend – coffee and a piece by Mathilde. Thank you.

  2. John Harms says

    MdeH, All the very best to the Swans. May they play at fever pitch.

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    I loved this piece, it is exactly how I feel or at least used to feel before and during Lion’s games. As they can’t of course make the final’s as a born and bread and still one eyed Croweater I will be turning to Adelaide to provide the necessary sustenance but I too will be averting my eyes from my 63 inch Sammy (purchased specifically to view AFL games) every time that danger threatens, which given the Crows away record could be every two minutes. Might go and pull all of the weeds out of the garden, nope did that last weekend.

  4. Andrew Starkie says

    Mathilde, all footy tragics have their survival mechanisms. I practice ambivalence during slumps in form from the Kangaroos. Comments like ‘Whatever, it’s just footy’ and ‘Yeah, there’s always next season’, accompanied by a shrug and giggle, are my standard responses when confronted by gloating, non-North people.

    When at games, deep in the third term, with the result in the balance and my self-control slipping, chest tightening and rationality evaporating with every opposition goal, North miss and disputable umpire decision, I ask myself why I care so much. I look around and feel envy for those fans who appear to be enjoying themselves and not taking it as seriously as me. ‘Why can’t I be like them,’ I ask. ‘I’m an adult, educated, vaguely intelligent, employed. Why am I like this?!’

    But then North kick a goal. Or we tear victory from a tough, hard fought battle and set ourselves up for a good second half to the year. And I’m reminded why I love this so much.

  5. Wonderful, wonderful MDH.
    Like my boys I have been in a late season footy slump. Ageing parents; new job; friends to support – footy can’t always be #1.
    But now spring and finals are in the air. Like you I feel myself stirring. I am sure my screaming will get us over the line tonight against the loathesome Pies.
    By the by, pity our Josh Kennedy wasn’t up for the game against you a month back.
    The inaugural Josh Kennedy Cup will have to wait until………………….a FINAL.
    Hope Springs.

  6. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Thanks for solidarity, chaps. Last night was most definitely fever pitch. And I only hid my face in my lap once, just after O’Keefe stole the lead. When I looked up Burgoyne had marked.

  7. John Harms says

    Oustanding match. Had one eye on the second half as we prepared for Anna’s third birthday dinner. Would love to see it in one sitting.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    Listened to second half on radio – don’t have foxtel. One versus two, 5pm start, not on free to air. A joke. Don’t get me started.

    Awesome game. Maybe a GF preview. Great belief and poise shown by Hawks. Still think their defence is a bit vulnerable to big forward line. Go Roos today!

  9. Skip of Skipton says

    I’m spewing that Geelong and North look like playing each other in an elimination final. Both those teams would chomp into the top four sides no problem. They are the two best sides in the league at the moment. Hawthorn are going OK too, I must admit; but Swans, Crows, Pies and Weagles aren’t anything flash.

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