The Swans offer hope

By Keiran Croker

“There’s always next year”.  That’s what my Dad used to say.  And growing up a South Melbourne supporter in the 60’s, the hope of the next footy season was what you held onto.  That and perhaps a glimpse of seeing Bobby Skilton play.  In those days as kids we were only ever taken to games at the G, never the Lakeside Oval, so it was the Swans v the Tigers or Demons, and it seemed that every time we went Skilts was out injured.  On top of that it was rare that the lowly Swans made it on to the TV replays.

Anyway times have changed and the Swans have offered plenty of hope and joy over the last decade or so.  Here we are again at the start of a new season.  Last year however we missed the finals for the first time in 6 years under Paul Roos.  Are we on the slide or will be bounce back?  As with most of the other clubs, the off season has provided the expectation of gun recruits, rookies and regenerated players.  Something strange has been happening with the Sydney Swans though.  Under seven years of Roosy, we have always been very low key, with little build up of hope, always the under dogs.  This year however every time I logged on to our website there seemed to be another positive article about a new recruit or players breaking their pb’s for the 3k trial.  Lots of hope and expectation!  And God forbid we won a NAB Cup match.

So it was with much expectation that I settled in in front of the TV for our first game on Saturday night against last year’s runners up at the Sydney Olympic Stadium.  Would Seabs, Mummy, Joey Kennedy, Benny McGlynn and Braddy provide that regeneration we needed with the loss of so many champs and stalwarts.  And will the Jetstar burn up the turf in his first game.

The first quarter started with plenty of promise and we dominated for 15 minutes or so.  O’Keeffe, McVeigh and Grundy out of defense are prominent and move the ball well.  Kennelly gets some touches in his return.  However we only get 2.3 for our efforts with nice goals to O’Keeffe and Goodesy.  Jetta gets a run mid quarter and his first touch is a classy one handed mark out on the wing. Then in the blink of an eye, a couple of dodgy free kicks, a few turnovers from poor defensive kicks from the returning Irishman and the Saints have 5 straight.  Are we in for the same stuff we served up last year, plenty of effort but lacking in general skill and finishing power?  And bloody useless umpires!

The second quarter settles into the usual arm wrestle we have with the Saints, except both teams are scoring relatively freely.  The Saints can’t miss and go to 9 goals straight, while a couple of pieces of soccer brilliance from Goodesy keep us in touch.  After hacking through a goal from mid air off the back of the pack from a throw in, Goodes throws a boot at a ball trickling out of bounce in the right pocket, a la Harmesy (Wayne not John), which lands in Bradshaw’s lap for his first of hopefully many goals for the Swans.  We go in at half time in touch with a real chance of knocking off the team that won 19 in a row last season.

The second half goes the same with the Saints maintaining a narrow lead.  Reiwoldt provides a touch of class for the Saints and is probably the difference between the sides, although his direct opponent Grundy provides plenty of rebound for us.  Each team seems to get their goals on the break.  A length of the ground break through Jetta, Kennedy and Bradshaw delivers the ball to Jesse White for his first goal and brings us within a few points. The boy we hope will fill Big Barry’s shoes has had a quiet game.  Then again in a blink the Saints get the last three to be 20 points up at the last break.  Particularly damaging is a miss to Mummy from 40 metres out directly in front and then a rebound for Gramm to get a soft free kick and goal just before the siren.  Those umpires!

As always the Swans hang in and fight back in the last quarter.  Goals to Moore, Jack and McVeigh again get us to within a few points.  Then a few indiscretions from Marty Mattner and more soft free kicks break the run and give the Saints some breathing space.  Tadgh puts his body on the line to take a great mark and announce his return to the AFL, however inexplicably the umps fail to give us a 50 metre penalty for the late spoil, as Kennelly is helped off with a bloody nose.  Missed chances from Goodes, O’Keeffe and Jack cost us any real chance of bridging the gap though.

“We were n’t disgraced”.  That’s the other thing my dad used to say, usually after we had managed to get within 7 goals of a powerhouse like Hawthorn with Hudson (Peter not Paul) or Collingwood with McKenna.  Expectations are higher these days and indeed we showed plenty in going down by 8 points to one of the premiership favourites.  The tall forward structure of White, Bradshaw and Goodes will be better for the run together.  It seems like there is some hope that this chimerical team we have pulled together will form a functioning and highly competitive organism.  But will those bloody umpires give it a go!

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