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The Moment: Phil Clark

Phil Clark shows his spirit at a Swans game.

In this series, we uncover the moment when passionate Swans members fell in love with the red and white.

ABC Radio broadcaster, Phil Clark, has been a club member for more than 20 years, his passion sparked by a wiry Wagga lad who showed tenacity when times were tough.

Phil Clark can recall the days in the early 1990s when you could arrive at the SCG 15 minutes before the bounce and plonk yourself in whatever seat you liked in the Bill O’Reilly Stand.

Clark, Tasmanian-born, had grown up barracking for Melbourne, inheriting a love of the red and blue from his father.

But when he moved to Sydney to work as a journalist in the late 1980s, he started going to the SCG to watch the Swans with a group of footy-loving friends, mostly expats from the southern states.

“We all loved footy, so around 1992 we started watching the Swans pretty much every time they played. We had little kids too, so we wanted them to grow up with the game,’’ Clark said.

“It was very easy because there was hardly anyone at the SCG and you’d just turn up and get a great seat.

“It was post the Edelsten showbiz era and it felt like the Swans were fragile, not entrenched like now. We really wanted footy to work here so thought we’d get behind the local club.’’

Clark and his friends certainly weren’t jumping on a winning bandwagon. From early in the 1992 season to the middle of the 1993 season, the Swans suffered 26 consecutive defeats.

After six straight losses to start 1993, mastercoach Ron Barassi took the helm. His simple plan for the team created some cause for hope.

“To play with spirit and be competitive via the heart,’’ Barassi promised.

And when it came to heart, that was epitomised by an emerging player named Paul Kelly, lightly framed but as tough as nails.

“With Kel, I saw that fighting spirit emerge. He wasn’t the best player, but he always put in,’’ Clark said.

After Barassi took over, another six losses followed. The Swans hadn’t won a game for 11 months.

Then in Round 13, 1993, the Swans took on Melbourne, Clark's old team, at the SCG. There were only 8250 fans at the ground and Clark and his mates were among them.

It was a day Clark - and every other Swans fan there on that day - will never forget.

The score was tied at 5.4 apiece at quarter-time; at half-time the Swans led by three points. The Swans then in the third term kicked 10 goals to Melbourne’s zero and went on to win by 40 points.

“That day was so much fun. It was like we’d won the Grand Final! We all went crazy in the stand.’’

That was the only game the Swans won that year, but the spark had been ignited.

“Over the next few years we had real spirit and Kel was inspirational. Whenever the team needed a lift, he would come bursting through the middle of the ground. He was so tenacious. He just had this desire to get the ball,’’ Clark said.

“For me Kel epitomised everything that was great about footy.

“He wasn’t a cookie-cutter footballer with the perfect shape and size and his skills weren’t the best.

“Kel showed that it’s the ticker in you that makes a footballer.’’

Good times were slowly coming. In 1995, Tony Lockett and Paul Roos joined the Swans and Kel, the Wagga boy who had played rugby league until he was 15, won the Brownlow Medal.

“It was such a great era. For me, Kel was the genesis of what became the Bloods spirit and eventually took us to the 2005 premiership.’’