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From the Outer: Footy, the ultimate roller-coaster ride

Craig Dodson  June 19, 2017 11:25 AM

Two glorious minutes Gary Rohan kicks the sealer which delivers the Sydney Swans their fourth win in five weeks and keeps their finals hopes alive.
Tom Papley and WIll Hayward descend on Gary Rohan after the win was sealed in the dying stages on Saturday.

Tom Papley and WIll Hayward descend on Gary Rohan after the win was sealed in the dying stages on Saturday.

The quarter-time siren sounds: Richmond 5.3.33, Us 0.4.4. Season 2017 has all but gone up in smoke. In the Ponsford Stand the red and white faithful are looking at their shoes and swearing like Wharfies. I head to the gents and spend three minutes washing my hands – trying to find a way to believe we can get out of this mess.

I am a glass half empty type of thinker. I don’t try to be. It is just who I am. I start braking 367 metres before the traffic lights just in case.

Why am I here today? A glorious Melbourne winter’s day. I could be perfecting my short game or even enjoying a few lazy beer garden ales. At the moment I’d rather be mowing the lawns – my lack of passion for this task means that Mrs D usually ends up doing it after several months of my avoidance.

I am here today because I believe in the Swans. That and the fact that about 97% of my wardrobe is made up of Swans gear, so it would be a financial disaster to change teams at this point.

Sitting next to me is Brad – a mate of over 30 years. It is fair to say Brad doesn’t have much time for the Swannies. We may be trading jumper punches soon if he gets on the chirp.

The bleeding is stemmed in the second quarter. Finally some positive signs as Buddy gets our first. Lloyd continues his impressive season and we have found one in young Newman. There is a pulse. I remind myself of how proud this group is as they head to the sheds for half time.

A steady build in the premiership quarter. We are chipping away. Methodical. Contest after contest. We are testing the Tiger resolve. The young brigade are starting to impose themselves on the game. Heeney and Mills show why they will be 200-plus game players. I am starting to believe. Could season 2017 still be alive? 

Momentum is a funny thing. You could do a PhD and still not be able to explain it. You can’t stop it. It is glorious. If you could bottle it you would make a fortune. All the momentum is in red and white in the early stages of the final quarter. Blokes that looked like they had concrete in their boots early in the game are leaving their opponents clutching for air. That familiar sense of dread is engulfing Tiger fans in the stands.

Kennedy has been quiet to date. You can’t keep a good man down for long. Hannebery does what he does best. Jones provides the injection of pace and Hayward shows clean hands under pressure.

I don’t watch reality TV. Actually that is a lie. Mrs D chained me to the couch to watch Married at First Sight earlier this year. I figured given I make her watch 48 hours of sport content each week I could give up the Monday 7.30pm timeslot for an eight-week period (non-footy season of course). Sport is the ultimate reality programming.  One hour ago we were on the canvas, now we are an unstoppable force.

Sport is glorious in its unpredictability. Nothing can get the heart racing like the thrill of a stirring comeback. My palms are sweaty and my heart is racing. This is why we go to the football. This is why we believe in our tribe. You don’t get this type of feeling punching out spreadsheets during the week. The game hangs on every contest. Each bounce of the ball brings hope to the 58,721 in the stands.

I’m fist pumping and carrying on like Laurie Lawrence. The mild-mannered lass sitting behind me is churning out footy clichés at a staggering rate: it is pretty pointless to ‘man-up’ when we are having a set shot from 30 metres! Football gets us all.

Buddy versus Rance – what a contest. You have to give it to Rance. He is monumental in the final quarter. In two telling contests he brings the ball to ground and launches a rebound. Riewoldt goals and everything hangs in the balance.

AFL 2017 Round 13 - Richmond v Sydney
Gary Rohan celebrates with fans at the MCG after kicking the match-winner.

Enter Kieren Jack. We all have favourite players. The little big man is number one at Dodson HQ. When I was a kid growing up in Wagga Wagga I had his Dad’s Balmain Tigers Poster on my wall. When he joined the Swans I hoped he would make it. As the years have passed he has moved from being a blue collar tagger to a Captain of the Club no less. Endeavour, spirit and as hard as nails.  A few years back I took my young scallywags to the Melbourne Family Day and Kieren obliged for a photo with the Dodson tribe. The photo sits proudly on the mantelpiece.

A few weeks back scribes were quick to write Kieren off. Too slow. Too old. No tricks to play half forward they said. Well for all of the doubters I have one word. Banana! What a bloody goal! I’m smiling from ear to ear. Brad even accommodates me for a high five (behind his clenched teeth).

We have got this. I’ve called it with five minutes to go. Euphoria is sweeping through the bottom deck of the Ponsford stand. Momentum in spades. We have worked too hard to let it slip from here.

Bodies crash in and the clock ticks ever so slowly. The boundary fence flashes a countdown clock saying 1.10 to go. I wonder if the players sneak a peak? Gary Rohan.. Gary Rohan… Gary Rohan…. The sealer is spinning through the big sticks. I’m exhausted. I’m euphoric. I don’t know what I am.

I am walking on air across the footbridge to Flinders Street. The Tiger Army are despondent. No words, just a crestfallen shuffle. Those in Red and White are discussing one for the ages.

This is why I go to the football. The ultimate rollercoaster. Gone for all money. September but a dream. In the space of one hour 22 blokes refused to give in and wilt in the face of adversary. They chose to dig in and believe they could win. A win that makes you proud to say you’re a Swans supporter. I won’t soon forget this day.

Where to from here? I now believe we can do anything in season 2017. Bring on the Bombers!