In this series, we uncover the moment when passionate Swans members fell in love with the red and white.
Bloods great Bob Skilton shook his hand as a 10-year-old and uttered five words that would resonate with him forever: “Thanks for supporting us, mate.”
While Sydney Swans Life Member and ambassador Peter ‘Grubby’ Stubbs has followed the Club since being born into a family of South Melbourne die-hards, the long-time radio host has truly lived and breathed the red and white since his brush with fame in 1963.
South Melbourne won just two games the following year – both against wooden-spooner Fitzroy – and ran second-last in the 12-team VFL competition.
But to Stubbs it mattered little.
A man who would one day be named Swans Team of the Century captain had done something Stubbs would cherish for life.
“Bobby had just won the second of his three Brownlow Medals and he shook my hand and said, ‘Thanks for supporting us, mate’,” Stubbs said.
“You don’t forget that stuff. This is one of the greatest footballers ever looking you in the eye and shaking your hand. You think, ‘How good’s this!’
“When you’re a little kid being raised in a family like I was you just don’t forget it. It never, ever gets out of your system. It was huge. I still remember it. It wasn’t yesterday – it was 1963 – but you still remember those things from 55 years ago. That was a big impression on a kid of 10.”
Stubbs was born in 1953, first saw South Melbourne play in the flesh as a three-year-old in a loss to Hawthorn in 1956 and waited 16 years to see the Swans play in a final.
The 3AW radio host waited until 1996 to witness his first Swans grand final appearance, a 43-point loss to North Melbourne, and would remain true to the red and white despite the 1982 relocation to Sydney.
The Swans tragic, inducted as a Life Member alongside Nick Malceski and Ted Richards in 2013, says the dark times never weakened his passion.
“Our family has always barracked for the Swans and wouldn’t dare look at another team,” Stubbs said.
The Victorian speaks with words of weight when prodded on the Swans’ move to Sydney.
“When your brother moves interstate you don’t choose another brother.”
Sydney travelled interstate for one of Stubbs’ most memorable moments of season 2018, butting heads with Geelong at the Cattery in Round 6.
A bruised heel saw star Sydney forward Lance Franklin spend the first of three games in a row on the sideline, while the Swans had lost in a gruelling affair to the Crows the week prior.
And things looked grim as the Cats took a 22-point lead into the final change.
But a Swans outfit inspired by captain Josh Kennedy would show its might, charging to seven fourth-term goals to the Cats’ one to clinch a 17-point win for the ages.
“We went down there without Buddy and once again were written off,” Stubbs said.
“And it was just a sensational win. They just kept at them so hard and came from behind in the last quarter. On a beautiful sunny day I was sitting in the Geelong stands. That was a lovely moment.”
But Stubbs says Sydney’s clash with Collingwood at the SCG in Round 20 tops the lot.
Former Swan Alex Johnson made a long-awaited return from five knee reconstructions to play his first AFL match since the 2012 Grand Final.
And Sydney youngster Harry Cunningham notched his 100th senior game, while the Swans donned a Commemorative Guernsey to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of their 1918 premiership victory over the Magpies.
Tom McCartin would produce a miraculous effort in the dying stages to clinch a two-point win for Sydney, a perfect script for one of the most special nights in recent Swans history.
Stubbs said it made for an unforgettable game.
“I thought we all shared in something very special that night and all the boys got around ‘AJ’," Stubbs said.
“It was quite an emotional moment. He got through, we had beaten Collingwood, we had just had a couple of bad losses to Gold Coast and Essendon. But we bounced back.
“It was a bit of a nasty kick off the ground by McCartin but we’ll take it.
“That was a great moment in the season.”
Stubbs can recall a trove of grand Swans moments – his 1963 encounter with Skilton is just one of many to forever be treasured – and the true believer is certain plenty lie ahead.