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From the Outer: Creating that moment

Craig Dodson  April 16, 2018 10:46 AM

Florent's sealer - Rd 4, 2018 Sydney's Oliver Florent runs past Bulldog Tim English to kick a great running goal
Luke Parker takes a strong mark in front of Marcus Bontempelli on Saturday afternoon.

Luke Parker takes a strong mark in front of Marcus Bontempelli on Saturday afternoon.

We all have that one ‘moment’ that hooks us to becoming lifelong Swans fans. That ‘moment’ that makes the hair on the back of our necks stand up. That ‘moment’ that catapults us out of our seat. That ‘moment’ where we feel part of a tribe. That ‘moment’ that seals our fate. I think my young scallywags Jack (aged 6) and Harry (aged 3) may have just had their ‘moment’.

Swans cling to a one-point lead as we tick into the last minute. Florent gathers on the AFL logo and sets off like he stole something. English, the seven-foot Bulldogs ruckman, gives chase. Run son. Run! A match race as the Punters hold their breath. Lungs bursting, Florent zigs and zags out of his lane, English refuses to relent. We can’t watch. We can’t not watch. English lunges. With his last morsel of energy Florent drops the Sherrin onto his boot. The Sherrin spins, spins and spins. The Swans fortunes hang in the air. Time stands still…GOAL!!!! The ‘moment’.

My ‘moment’ was at the SCG in Round 16, 1987. As an impressionable nine year-old the Dodson family made the trek from Wagga Wagga in the VH Commodore Wagon - a time long ago when cars were actually made in Australia. My brother Brett was playing in the mini-league. I don’t remember much of his two handballs (yet, I still hang it on him) but I’ve never forgot the moment Steve Wright kicked eight and we belted the Eagles 201 to 71. The noise. The electricity. The smell of KB Lager. Every second bloke wearing a pair of Stubbies that were two sizes too small. The Doug Walters Stand! That song that belted out after every goal:

“Show’em you’re Sydney, Show’em you’re the Swans, Show’em you’re the winners, you’re the mighty Swans. You Show’em Sydney!

After singing that song after every one of our 30 goals, it remains burned in my memory. Anyone who went to see the Swans in the `80s will remember it.

As the Scallywags, Mrs D, uncle Brett and I made the short trek from Seddon to Etihad I had no inkling that today would be a ‘moment’ day. Truth be known I was just hoping the Scallywags would make it to three quarter time.

As I enter the precinct I set off for the Swans member services tent to collect my 2018 cap. I have not been in a line this big since waiting to get into the Tunnel nightclub back in 1997. Unlike that night it’s safe to say I won’t be coming home (alone) reeking of cigarette smoke, slurring my speech, take six minutes to get the key in the door and have no idea where my wallet is.   

I love my Swans cap. You see, I have a receding hairline (yes, bald). I need my Swans cap. A bald man clings to his cap like someone lost at sea clings to a life raft. It keeps the sun off my head, makes people from a distance think I’m possibly in my early 30s and lets me show what tribe I belong to. If Mrs D hadn’t told me red and white clashed with a black tux I may well have got married in my Swans cap.

Each year my cap is weathered with the perspiration of a season’s victories and defeats. Every cap tells a story. What adventures will I have with my freshly minted 2018 model?

We take up our seats on level 1, row J, near the 50 arc at the Swans end. I love sitting close to the action. If I can’t smell the Deep Heat then I’m not happy. Jack is given four warnings for kicking the seat in front of us before a ball is bounced.

It is a sight to see the Dodson tribe decked out in red and white. Living 1km from Whitten Oval, it is a constant battle to win the Scallywags over. 93% of houses in the Western Suburbs are still displaying some sort of 2016 Grand Final paraphernalia on their weatherboards. I lost the boys to the Dogs last year. A long summer of bribery and threats has got them back on board for 2018. This is a HIGH STAKES game.

It is hard yards being the sole Swan in Footscray. Perhaps I could start a crowdfunding campaign to get a nice three bedder in Coogee? Apparently, the median house price is $3.1 Million. If each of our 60,000 members kicked in $51.66 I can get there! Please send all donations care of the Sydney Swans Office.

Gee, Aliir Aliir has hit the weights since I last saw him. I wonder if he still has the spring and athleticism? Good to see him back. We need some dare of half-back I think.

We are chasing Bulldog tail for most of the first half. The Bulldogs kick two out of their backside from row F of the stands and the lead gets out to 20. I am concerned. Young English in the ruck is handy and Johannisen always seems to be in space when he gets the pill. Parker is sure of hand and foot and Papley can sniff a goal from anywhere.

I’m not sure poor old Dean Towers is even six foot, yet he is asked to play as a second ruckman. It reminds me of a time (pre Mrs D) when I tried to chat up Livinia Nixon at the Royal Melbourne Show – all courage and effort, yet hopelessly underqualified for the task at hand.

Heeney goals to make it 10 points at the main break.

As the Dodson tribe munch on fish and chips the Swans hit their stride. We pile on six straight. Buddy finally breaks free of Wood, Heeney is crashing packs and Towers takes a screamer. The momentum is irresistible.

The Scallywags are immersed in the action. No demands for Mrs D’s phone or sugary treats. They are cheering as loudly as their diminutive frames will allow. Harry is fist pumping at a year 10 level and Jack is out of his seat.

It seems momentum in footy doesn’t last long these days. The Bulldogs bite back. Their run and spread makes us look slow. There is noting in this as we hit the last 10 minutes.

Macca is brilliant in rallying the troops and Jones provides some much needed zip out of defence (us baldies stick together). The game hangs in the balance. Jack asks me why I’m bitting on my nails? I try valiantly to not drop any four-letter words as the Doggies win a few ‘interesting’ free kicks.

Young Dunkley (son of a gun) makes a fatal error by playing on in the goal square, then Dahlhaus goals to get them to a point back shortly after. We are in trouble….

The ball flies out of the pack into Florent’s hands and the rest they say is history. The ‘moment’. Uncle Brett is hoisting Jack into the air. Mrs D and Harry are embracing. I’m just watching. Taking it all in. I wish you could bottle this stuff.

We talk footy all the way home and even in the morning the Scallywags are still talking about that Florent ‘moment’. Well played young man, you may just have created a memory that lasts a lifetime, not only for yourself, but for my two little growing men.

Originally from Wagga Wagga, Craig Dodson loves the Swans, is tempted to pull on the boots – mainly cricket boots, but occasionally footy – from time to time, and has his energy taxed by two pre-school boys. You can read more of his work at footyalmanac.com.au.