Ugly Ducklings

by Dave Nadel

For most of my life, at least until 1995, “Swan” was the name of an iconic bird, a rather ordinary beer, a very unsuccessful VFL/AFL team and a large river in Perth. I had only ever heard of two people named Swan, coincidentally both were first named Billy. The American Billy Swan played bass for Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge in the 1970s and had a minor hit of his own called “I Can Help.” The Australian Billy Swan won VFA Premierships with both Port Melbourne and Williamstown.

Since 1995 however there have been a veritable bevy of swans (Wikipedia claims bevy is the collective noun for swans – I would have said flock but I like bevy). My favourite Swan is Dane, tattooed Collingwood premiership player and accumulator of possessions and the son of the aforementioned Australian Billy. There is also Wayne, the Australian federal treasurer with the charisma by-pass. Howard may have had to worry about Costello and Hawke about Keating, but Julia knows, and Kevin knew, that their treasurer posed no threat as a competitor or even just a performer.

If one adds an extra “n” the rise of the celebrity swan(n)s becomes clear. Greg Swann was first CEO with Collingwood and then Carlton. Pies fans used to worry that Greg would replicate his organisational success at Collingwood at Princes Park, however he seems to have been slowed by the current Carlton culture (“Whatever Sticks wants, Sticks gets”)

The most recent Swann to attract attention is Graeme Swann. He bowls off spin for England. He doesn’t look to terribly dangerous on Australian wickets but as I write he is certainly being treated with respect by the Australian batsmen. He recently removed North for one run. At least North avoided the ignominy and poor jokes of going for a duck off swann. That would make him a real turkey.


  1. I don’t care what the umpires say!
    To me Swanny took home an invisible medal on Brownlow night- he’s just so passionate! :)

  2. Steve Fahey says

    Nice work Dave

    And don’t forget the old Australian rocker Swanee aka John Swan aka Jimmy Barnes’ brother

  3. I’d forgotten Swanee, Steve. That probably also makes Barnesy a swan as well, because if I remember correctly, Jimmy took his stepfather’s name wnile his older brother John kept his Dad’s name.

  4. Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” – one of my favourite songs of the ’70’s. I have the 7″ vinyl somewhere.

  5. Good one, Dave.

    I once played on a bloke called Alan Nalder, who at the time was the captain of Richmond under-19s. He was known as Swanny because he came from Swan Hill.

  6. And this the week of the Swan.

    Dane won the Brownlow last night.

    Wayne got declared Treasuer of the year by a major international magazine (and drew an own goal from Jolly Joe Hockey when he bagged Wayne’s award and in the process insulted half Australia’s trading partners)

    Billy (the VFA footballer not the musician) saw his two teams play off for the VFL Premiership on Sunday and his son win the Brownlow on Monday

    And down here in St Leonards on the Bellarine, where I am spending the early part of the week, there are forty plus black swans swimming on the Edwards Point Lagoon (normally they stay on the other side of the Point at Swan Bay).

    Truly the week of the Swan – Hope it morphs into the week of the Magpie by Saturday

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