Perth had been a recurring ‘black spot’ on the Sydney Swans travel schedule. After a win on their first visit in 1987 they’d lost on their next 10 visits by an average of 39 points and were 0-4 at the WACA, which shared AFL games in the WA capital with Subiaco Oval at the time.
Not until Round 15, 1998 did Sydney break the hoodoo – and it took the addition of an expansion team that was struggling to make an early mark.
The Swans sat 7th on the ladder at 8-6 but were on a 1-4 run, which included only the club’s second 100-point loss at the SCG, as they headed back to a wet and slippery WACA to meet a Fremantle side that was 12th at 7-7 in the club’s fourth season in the competition.
A hostile reception awaited the Sydneysiders as pressure was building on inaugural Dockers coach Gerard Neesham, a nine-game Sydney player in 1982.
It was also a big day for two of the Swans’ favourite adopted sons, with Tony Lockett playing his 250th game and Stuart Maxfield his 150th, and when the Dockers led at quarter-time the alarm bells were ringing for coach Rodney Eade.
But what might have been a big body blow for the Swans’ campaign turned into the start of a five-game winning streak which saw them into the finals. They added 6.1 to 2.5 in the middle two quarters and won 13.4 (82) to 10.9 (69).
Such was the magnitude of the breakthrough win that it headlines this week’s flashback series on the Swans’ 40-year history in Sydney: “Remember When … Round 15.”
Lockett booted 6.3 from nine kicks to pick up one Brownlow Medal vote as best afield Daryn Cresswell and Paul Kelly dominated the midfield, and Matthew Nicks (two votes) provided plenty of dash from half back.
With the hoodoo broken, the Swans would go on to win four in a row in Perth and go 16-18 from that point on at the WACA, Subiaco and the new Perth Stadium.
Historically, Round 15 has been a good one for the Swans during their time based in Sydney. They won seven of their first eight and are 25-15 overall.
Other highlights include:
1984 – A ‘Bob’ of all trades
Can you name the man who played in three SANFL premierships with North Adelaide, coached two SANFL premierships with Norwood, coached SA to their first State of Origin win over Victoria, coached one AFL club, was inaugural chairman of another, served on the AFL Commission and finished up in the AFL Hall of Fame?
Not even if we tell you he coached Sydney in eight games in 1984, taking the reins in Round 15 against Fitzroy at Junction Oval after Ricky Quade stepped down at Round 13 and Tony Franklin was caretaker coach in Round 14?
Yes, it was Bob Hammond, who was inaugural chairman of the Adelaide Crows barely two years after his Swans coaching stint.
One of football’s genuine nice guys, Hammond, who died in May 2020 aged 78, took over a Sydney side that was ninth on a 12-team ladder with a 6-8 record.
In his first game they played 10th-placed Fitzroy at Junction Oval, and after scores were level at three-quarter time, they won 14.12 (96) to 9.14 (68). Warwick Capper kicked five goals in his 10th game and the votes went to Steven Taubert (21 possessions, 27 hit outs), Mark Browning (25 possessions) and Craig Holden (21 possessions).
Hammond enjoyed a 3-5 record as caretaker coach and was asked to stay on in 1985, but his flourishing business interests took precedence and he returned to Adelaide, opening the way for John Northey to take over as Sydney coach.
1992 – A hyphenated hero
Among 1442 Swans players all-time only four have had a hyphenated surname. David Rhys-Jones was the first, Lewis Roberts-Thomson the first to win a premiership, and Trent Dennis-Lane the most recent. And the fourth is the most prolific goal-kicker among the ‘hyphens’: Simon Minton-Connell.
Not only does Minton-Connell head the list of AFL goals for players with a hyphenated name at 305, but the four-club full forward holds the record for most goals in a game by a ‘hyphen’ at nine, posted for Sydney against Fitzroy in 1994.
Minton-Connell had another standout moment for the Swans in Round 15, 1992, when he kicked eight goals against Adelaide at Football Park in a 67-point loss.
Playing just his 26th game overall and his seventh in red and white, the 23-year-old Tasmanian, a cousin of the great Peter Hudson, kicked eight of his side’s 13 goals in a 13.4 (92) to 22.17 (149) loss. It was an unblemished 8-0.
1997 – The SCG fortress
From Round 9, 1996 until Round 17, 1997 the Swans won 15 games in a row at the SCG – the second-longest home winning streak in club history behind only the astonishing 24-win streak at Lake Oval from 1934-36.
But it nearly came to end at 11 when, in Round 15, 1997 they looked gone for all money against Essendon, trailing by 20 points with 13 minutes to play. So convinced was Bruce McAvaney in commentary he said: “It’s the Bombers’ day … they can’t be beaten from here.”
But McAvaney hadn’t counted on an astonishing surge from Mark Bayes, who, in his 230th game, steered the Swans to one of the great victories after he had had one solitary possession to that point.
Swung to centre-half forward by coach Rodney Eade, Bayes took a screamer and converted from outside 50m to make it 14 points. Then, 40 seconds later, it was back to eight points when Paul Kelly marked overhead at centre-half forward and converted from the goalsquare after a 50m penalty.
Inside the last eight minutes Bayes pulled down another big mark and, although he was within range, played on quickly and picked out the leading Tony Lockett in the pocket. The big fella kicked truly and it was three points.
With 3min 38sec on the clock Troy Cook marked a half-distance Essendon clearing kick and had a set shot from 50m. Not a long kick, Cook landed it in the goalsquare. It fell off hands to the back of the pack where Bayes soccered it through to put the Swans in front.
Suddenly there was time for either side, and when Essendon’s Michael Prior had a running shot from 30m it looked like the Bombers would steady. But he sliced it right. Sydney by a point.
Matthew Nicks made a brilliant save on the goal line, not only saving a goal but avoiding a rushed behind. And then, when Essendon went forward again, Bayes, having pushed back into defence, pulled down another superb overhead mark. They hung on 11.13 (79) to 11.12 (78).
Bayes finished with two goals and seven possessions in an impact burst of the highest order. Dale Lewis, who had kick-started the rally with the first goal of the final quarter, had a game-high 30 possessions to take three Brownlow Medal votes, while Paul Roos, equally influential with 24 possessions in his 328th game, earned two votes. Lockett, in his 230th, kicked three goals.
The Swans won their next three games at home by 37 points, 97 points and 116 points before the streak ended in a nine-point Round 19 loss to St Kilda, who would later play in the grand final.
2020 – First visit to Cairns
Over 126 years and 2504 games the Swans have played at 36 different AFL venues.
From their first game at Lake Oval through Corio Oval, Brunswick St, MCG Princes Park, Junction Oval, Victoria Park and East Melbourne in the first year of the then VFL in 1897, and Punt Road (1908), Windy Hill (1922), Western Oval and Arden Street (1925) and Glenferrie Oval (1926).
Then came Kardinia Park (1941), war-time venues at Yarraville Oval and Toorak Park (1942), a one-off game in Albury (1952) and then Coburg Oval and Moorabbin (1965), Waverley (1970) and the SCG (1980).
In the early years of the expanding national competition they added Subiaco and Carrara (1987), Football Park (1991), the Gabba (1993) and the WACA (1994).
After the turn of the century came Docklands (2000), Stadium Australia (2002), Manuka Oval in Canberra (2004), York Park in Launceston (2012), Bellerive Oval in Hobart and Wellington (2013), Sydney Showgrounds and Adelaide Oval (2014) and the new Perth Stadium (2018).
It took the scheduling vagaries of the 2020 Covid season for the Swans to add destination #38 to the list when, in a six-game Round 15 in which five games were played in Queensland, they were sent to Cazaly’s Stadium in Cairns.
The Swans, 16th on the ladder at 4-9, faced a Melbourne side sitting 8th at 7-6. With Sam Reid playing his 150th game, they looked the better side throughout. Kicking into a strong wind in the opening term, they posted the first two goals and would have been content to trail by just three points at quarter-time. They held the Demons to four goals thereafter and won 10.7 (67) to 6.10 (46).
It was a killer blow to Melbourne, who ultimately missed the finals by half a game, but only a temporary respite for Sydney, who lost their last three games in the shortened 17-game season.
Luke Parker’s 24 possessions and two goals in the shortened game earned him three Brownlow Medal votes, while Ryan Clarke, with 22 possessions and one goal, earned one vote.
But the player who might remember the game most fondly was seventh-gamer Justin McInerney. Late in the second quarter he received a clever pass from Tom Papley to kick his first goal, and four minutes later he added a second to give his side a winning 28-point lead at halftime.
And the 12 AFL venues where the Swans have never played? Among grounds on the modern list of approved venues are Marrara Stadium in Darwin, Traeger Park in Alice Springs, Mars Stadium in Ballarat, Riverway Stadium in Townsville, the one-time GWS headquarters at Blacktown and Shanghai Stadium in Cairns, which dropped off the calendar during Covid.
Older venues never visited by the Swans were Brisbane Exhibition Grounds, Bruce Stadium in Cairns, North Hobart Oval, the old Olympic Park in Melbourne and one-off regional grounds at Euroa and Yallorn.