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Reflections: Sydney’s first game at Docklands

Michael O'Loughlin celebrates one of his five goals against St Kilda.

Eighteen years ago, on Sunday 12 March 2000, the Sydney Swans played their first game at Docklands Stadium.

It was a day emerging Sydney great Michael O’Loughlin would never forget.

At 23, playing his 102nd game, O’Loughlin, produced a performance of Olympic quality as the Swans opened a season that began earlier than normal to accommodate the 2000 Sydney Olympics in September.

It was the second game overall at the AFL’s new enclosed venue, after Essendon and Port Adelaide had christened it three days earlier.

The Swans, coached by Rodney Eade, beat St Kilda by 24 points, kicking 8.3 to 2.3 in the third quarter to blow the game open after they had trailed by a goal at halftime.

In one of the best individual performances of his brilliant 303-game career, O’Loughlin had 31 possessions and kicked five goals in Sydney’s 21.8 (134) to 15.10 (100) victory.

It was the only time ‘Magic’ would top 30 possessions in a game, while his five-goal haul was a career-high at the time and a mark he would better only three times, each by one goal, in the 201 games that would follow.

The O’Loughlin masterclass earned him his first three-vote ranking in the Brownlow Medal after his only previous recognition from the umpires had been one vote in 1996 in his 27th game.

It was also a memorable day for footballer turned media celebrity Ryan Fitzgerald. He kicked five goals on AFL debut.

Also, Leo Barry played his 50th game for the Swans, and Brett Allison, Jason Ball and Andrew Schauble played their first game in red and white after off-season transfers from North Melbourne, West Coast and Collingwood respectively.

The Round 1 clash of 2000 was the first of what is now 47 Swans games at a venue, which for two seasons was known as Colonial Stadium before a change in sponsorship saw it become Telstra Dome in 2003, then Etihad Stadium in 2009.

The revolutionary venue, with a retractable roof 38m above the playing surface, an official AFL capacity of 53,359 and 500 car parking spots underground, has been a happy hunting ground for the Swans.

The club boasts 27 wins and two draws there for an overall 59.6% win rate which is third only to Geelong’s 67.9% and Hawthorn’s 60.7%.

Sydney’s aggregate percentage at Docklands of 113.7 is second behind Geelong’s 115.9.

Significantly, the Swans boast easily the best win ratio at Docklands of the non-Victorian clubs. Next best is Adelaide (49.1%), GWS (41.2%), West Coast (40.8%), Port Adelaide (38.8%), Brisbane (38.1%), Fremantle (34.6%) and Gold Coast (18.8%).

The Swans have played seven of the AFL’s eight Victorian-based clubs at Docklands – all except Geelong. They have beaten each club there except Hawthorn, have never lost there against Melbourne, and have had draws against North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. Collingwood have been the biggest stumbling block, giving up only one win to the Swans in five games.

Overall, the Swans are 6-1 in seven games against Carlton, 1-4 against Collingwood, 5-2 against Essendon, 0-1 against Hawthorn, 2-0 against Melbourne, 4-1-2 against North, 1-1 against Richmond, 5-6 against St Kilda and 3-1-1 against the Bulldogs.

Since June 2012 the Swans have won 11 of their last 12 at Docklands with a Round 2 loss to the Dogs in 2017 ending a 10-game winning streak.

Not surprisingly Adam Goodes, the Swans games record-holder, has played most games for Sydney at Docklands with 39. That he then leads the club in Docklands disposals at 668 and Docklands goals at 55 is a matter of course.

Remarkably, too, Goodes played in Sydney’s first 33 games at Docklands, from Round 1 2000 to the 2011 elimination final, when they beat St Kilda by 25 points.

Others with more than 20 appearances for Sydney at Docklands have been Jude Bolton (34), Ryan O’Keefe (31), Jarrad McVeigh (30), Brett Kirk (26), Ted Richards (26), Kieren Jack (25), O’Loughlin (24), Heath Grundy (24), Jared Crouch (23), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (22), Dan Hannebery (21), Leo Barry (20), Tadhg Kennelly (20), Ben Mathews (20) and Nick Smith (20).

Docklands has also hosted a string of significant Swans milestones, headed by Paul Williams’ 300th AFL game, the 250th AFL game for Wayne Schwass, Ryan O’Keefe and Ted Richards, and Martin Mattner’s 200th.

Richards made it almost a regular habit to play milestone games at Docklands – he made his Swans debut there, and played his 100th, 150th and 250th AFL games there.

Among 119 players to have represented the Swans at Docklands, 18 have played there only once in red and white – Brett Allison, Tony Armstrong, Shane Biggs, Daniel Bradshaw, Leigh Brockman, Tom Derickx, Simon Feast, Peter Filandia, Ryan Fitzgerald, Heath James, Lewis Johnston, Jed Lamb, Tony Lockett, James Meilkeljohn, Brett Meredith, Mitch Morton, Toby Nankervis, Craig O’Brien, Matthew O’Dwyer, Brent Plitz, Henry Playfair, Mark Powell, Xavier Richards, Tim Schmidt, Matthew Spangher and Tommy Walsh, plus 2018 listed players Oliver Florent and Robbie Fox.

Plitz, recruited from Albury in the 2001 Rookie Draft, played his only AFL game at Docklands. 

The Swans at Docklands: By the Numbers

Most Games: Adam Goodes (39), Jude Bolton (34), Ryan O’Keefe (31), Jarrad McVeigh (30), Brett Kirk (26), Ted Richards (26), Kieren Jack (25), O’Loughlin (24), Heath Grundy (24), Jared Crouch (23), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (22), Dan Hannebery (21), Leo Barry (20), Tadhg Kennelly (20), Ben Mathews (20), Nick Smith (20).

Most Goals: Adam Goodes (55), Barry Hall (52), Michael O’Loughlin (44), Lance Franklin (35), Ryan O’Keefe (32), Sam Reid (23), Kurt Tippett (23), Jude Bolton (20), Jarrad McVeigh (20), Ben McGlynn (20).

Most Disposals: Adam Goodes (668), Jude Bolton (607), Ryan O’Keefe (604), Jarrad McVeigh (564), Dan Hannebery (512), Kieren Jack (502), Josh Kennedy (499), Brett Kirk (466), Heath Grundy (420), Michael O’Loughlin (346), Luke Parker (346), Ted Richards (341), Tadhg Kennedy (332), Nick Smith (300).

Most Goals in a Game: Barry Hall (7 - 3 times), Lance Franklin (6 - twice), Sam Reid (6), Kurt Tippett (6), Michael O’Loughlin (5 - twice), Hall (5 - twice). Franklin (6), Ryan Fitzgerald (5).

Most Possessions in a Game: Josh Kennedy (39), Dan Hanneberry (39), Kennedy (37), Hannebery (37), Luke Parker (36), Kennedy (35 - twice), Jake Lloyd (35 - twice), Nic Newman (35).

Brownlow Medal Votes: Josh Kennedy (15), Luke Parker (15), Adam Goodes (14), Dan Hannebery (12), Ryan O’Keefe (12), Lance Franklin (10), Jude Bolton (9), Barry Hall (8), Michael O’Loughlin (7), Brett Kirk (6), Tadhg Kennelly (6), Kieren Jack (6).

Games Coached: Paul Roos (19), John Longmire (18), Rodney Eade (10).

Milestones – AFL Games
300 – Paul Williams
250 – Wayne Schwass, Ryan O’Keefe, Ted Richards
200 – Martin Mattner
150 – Nick Davis Tadhg Kennelly, Ted Richards
100 – Andrew Schauble, Matthew Nicks, Daniel McPherson, Ryan O’Keefe, Ted Richards, Kieren Jack, Dane Rampe, Sam Reid
50 – Leo Barry, Heath Grundy, Luke Parker
Debut – Ryan Fitzgerald, Brent Piltz, Mark Powell, Nick Malceski, Kieren Jack, Craig Bird, Jesse White, Matthew O’Dwyer, Dan Hannebery, Lewis Johnston, Nic Newman, Will Hayward, Robbie Fox.

Statistics valid to the end of 2017.