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From the Outer: Pilgrimage to SCG

Kennedy post match - Rd 4, 2019 Josh Kennedy spoke to SwansTV after tonight's loss to Melbourne.

As a parent you always want the best for your kids. With that in mind Mrs D and I packed up the family and made the 800km trip from Melbourne to take Harry (aged 4) and Jack (aged 7) to their first game at the SCG. This was not the night I’d hoped for.

As we made the short stroll from our apartment in Randwick through Centennial Park my mind drifted back to the first time I set sight on the SCG. As a bright eyed nine-year-old in 1987, I sat in the Doug Walters stand, surrounded by shirtless blokes wearing Stubbies and reeking of coconut oil on a sunny Sunday arvo as Stevie Wright kicked eight goals and Warwick Capper sat on blokes’ shoulders for fun. We reached the double century against the Eagles that day and belted them by 130 points.

We make a quick pit stop at the Backyard Burger Kitchen Restaurant in Fox Studios to clog up the arteries. After demolishing the contents of a small cow I make my 3278 unsuccessful resolution to start eating healthier. We take our spot near the fence in the Victor Trumper Stand. I grab a drink from the Doug Walters Bar and enjoy the symmetry.

Jack and Harry are bright-eyed and point out the stands with the ‘green roofs’ which they recognise from the TV. At this stage the night is full of promise.

It becomes evident early we are seated behind an obnoxious opposition supporter. You know the type – a ‘veteran’ of three games for his school thirds back in the day yet constantly questions players’ courage and lets everyone within 3km know that he knows every player’s name on his team. He relishes the discomfort he is causing those around him. Come Monday he will be back on the beat dispensing parking tickets.

Young Harry is tired and cranky from the get-go. Technically he should be in bed. I fear we are in for a long night with our three-foot dictator.

The Swans start well in the first quarter and within a flash we are up by 22 points mid-way through the second. Could it be time to put the feet up and enjoy a comfortable victory? We look sharp and Jack is out of his chair as his favourite player Kieren Jack hits the scoreboard. Lloyd is conducting proceedings off half-back and Florent is providing good run and carry.

There is a nice link tonight with Justin McInerney making his debut. Justin debuted in the under 8s for the Macleod Junior Football Club in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. My young Jack donned the blue, white and yellow of Macleod Eagles for the first time in the under 8s last Sunday. If Jack is to follow a similar path to Justin he will need to rise above his father’s genetics and hopefully he inherits his mother’s appetite for the hard ball.

Just as I am starting to bathe in the glory of our lead and beautiful surroundings the Demons hit back hard. The wrong Jones brother starts kicking goals out of his backside and Gawn is putting on a masterclass. We make a number of costly turnovers.

I’m starting to get peeved in the stands. My grand plan of a glorious introduction to the SCG and a lifetime of memories for the boys is all turning to mud. Jack turns to me midway through the third quarter and says ‘I don’t think we are going to win tonight Daddy’, his little heart sinking. At that stage I feel like jumping the fence to provide a third marking target in our forward 50. Perhaps if I threw myself recklessly into a pack the umpire would give me a free kick? My premature balding and sauce-stained Levi’s may give me away though? I’d do anything to make the kids happy.

My old mate The Parking Inspector a few rows back is in full cry as the Demons take the game away from us. The kids are drawn to his irritating voice. ‘Why does that man keep saying silly things?’ Jack says. I tell my little man that we don’t carry on like that at the footy. At least the boys might learn something tonight.

My mind flashes back to 1987 again. The game was so much simpler (do I sound like a bitter old man yet?), Quick kicks out of the centre, wool footy jumpers, high flying marks and KB Lager. I miss the unstructured nature of footy in the `80s and early `90s. Tonight, Buddy threatens to light the game up, however, several long-range shots come up short. There is a lack of dare from the Swans.

The kids are losing interest as the game meanders away from us. They are tired from the 7am flight and day of activities and now are niggling each other. How can I salvage something from the wreckage? It’s time for a trip to the concession stand. Thanks to the good people at Peters Ice Cream a couple of Drumsticks take any semblance of discontent away from the Scallywags. It is parenting 101 that ice cream fixes everything.

But ultimately, the footy has been pretty ordinary and there is to be no high-fiving and hugs at the final siren. We leave an unhappy tribe in search of the elusive cab outside Fox Studios. I switch the focus quickly and start talking to the kids about tomorrow’s trip to the Zoo.

I’ll get perspective in a couple of days, however, tonight has been a disappointment. As a supporter we have to take the lows with the highs. There can be no moments of euphoria without the odd moments of despair. I’m old enough to remember the darkness of the early `90s and totally appreciate what a charmed run we have had over the last two decades. I’m not sure where to from here for season 2019? With youth comes fluctuations in form and the loss of McVeigh, Smith and Grundy down back is not easily fixed.

I desperately wanted to make tonight a special one for the kids and their first visit to the SCG but we will have to wait for another day to create those (more) special memories. The Dodson family will dust ourselves off and get ready to make another pilgrimage from Melbourne to the SCG again next year. I hope the Swannies can dust themselves off and go well next week against the Tigers!    

Originally from Wagga Wagga, Craig Dodson loves the Swans, is tempted to pull on the boots – mainly cricket boots, but occasionally footy – from time to time, and has his energy taxed by two pre-school boys. You can read more of his work at footyalmanac.com.au.