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In the blood: The passion of an Olympic sailing coach

Zachary Gates  April 19, 2018 11:55 AM

Japanese Olympic sailing team coach Arthur Brett is a massive Sydney Swans fan.

Japanese Olympic sailing team coach Arthur Brett is a massive Sydney Swans fan.

Japanese Olympic sailing team coach Arthur Brett lives life out of a suitcase.

But the laser radial mentor doesn’t let endless world-wide travel get in the way of his beloved support for the Sydney Swans.

The 56-year-old is currently in France as his team prepares for the third round of the 2018 World Cup Series in Hyeres.

He spends many weeks of the year in Japan and has a training base in Fremantle, while he soaked up the Swans’ 2005 premiership success in Brazil and the 2012 grand final triumph at the MCG.

But Brett tunes in to “nearly every Swans game” and when on the road listens on the internet.

“Whether I’m watching or listening my stomach’s in a knot,” Brett said.

“With sailing I’m pretty well in control of my own emotions but as a supporter it’s completely different. I’ve got great faith in the coaching group and players, but I ride every bump, I ride every missed scoring opportunity and I celebrate every goal. I’m not too vocal but inwardly am a mix of emotions.

“I see the culture at the club and to see what’s changed with Paul Roos and John Longmire being one of his assistants and Ross Lyon – what they’ve done with the club is incredible. I’ve followed all the players and coaches that have been involved with the club all the way through.

“I admire what Buddy does every week, but what I really like is the toil of the midfield – the get down and dirty stuff that Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker, Dan Hannebery, the toughness that Zak Jones brings."

Brett was born in the country Victorian town of Heyfield, situated about 200 kilometres east of Melbourne, and has supported the club since day dot.

His mother would say he could never marry someone who didn’t barrack for the Swans and he married Sydney Olympic gold medallist and true-blue Sydney fan Belinda Stowell.

Stowell and Jenny Armstrong took out the women’s 470 sailing event at the 2000 Olympic Games. 

As a South Melbourne fan in his childhood, Brett would sail on Albert Park Lake during winter and at three-quarter time race to Lake Oval in his wetsuit to catch the final quarter.

His richest early memories are of club greats Bob Skilton and Peter Bedford running around in the early 1970s and said the club’s struggles only strengthened his allegiance.

“I loved supporting the team even though they didn’t win too many games,” Brett said.

“At school I was one of only a couple of South Melbourne supporters, but I enjoyed barracking for a team that not many others did. Every loss was hardening me and it was like me earning my stripes as a supporter and I knew one day the side would be successful and that I would enjoy every moment.”

South Melbourne originated in 1874 and a number of administrations fought hard throughout the 1960s and ‘70s to keep the Swans alive.

But diminishing attendance and memberships nearly resulted in bankruptcy and in 1982 the club relocated to Sydney for survival.

Brett has ridden the highs and lows since the 1960s and says his favourite Swans memory is of the 2005 grand final victory over the West Coast Eagles.

“The World Championships were in Brazil and they coincided with the grand final so I wasn’t able to go,” Brett said.

“The grand final started at about two o’clock in the morning our time and I was listening on the internet and I was having trouble with the reception and ended up in the hotel foyer listening to the game.

“Then Leo Barry took this mark that will be remembered forever in Swans supporters’ minds but the internet cut out. I was walking around the foyer just in my boxer shorts with no one around and just could not believe how unlucky I was. But then the news came through that the Swans had won and I started running around like a pork chop and thank god not too many people saw it.”