Main content
Proudly Sydney

Footy Flashbacks: Hawthorn

From left: Mitch Morton, Josh Kennedy and Marty Mattner hold the 2012 premiership cup aloft.
I actually said to some family members early in the season that I had a feeling the Swans would be in the Grand Final later in the year, and that I wanted to do everything I could to be a part of it. I had this funny feeling that the Swans would be there on the final Saturday of September, and I knew that if I kept up some good form I’d be a chance of being in the team on the day.
Mitch Morton

In a series new to 2019, we revisit moments in history involving the Sydney Swans’ round-by-round opposition.

History, nostalgia and memories form a special part of what makes Australian rules football great, and we hope the Footy Flashbacks series reignites some of your fondest Swans moments.

In the latest edition, we wind back time to the day Mitch Morton won a premiership medal in one of the most fascinating underdog stories in the game’s history.

Mitch Morton was delisted by two AFL clubs, managed just 83 senior appearances in nine years, would vomit violently before every match as a result of crippling anxiety, and didn’t play his first senior Sydney Swans game until Round 21, 2012.

But just over a month later – in Sydney’s 2012 Grand Final showdown with Hawthorn at the MCG – Morton would realise a wild dream conjured in the backyard of his Lake Grace home as a little boy.

Nothing looked out of the ordinary as champion Swans Adam Goodes and Jude Bolton climbed onto the podium to collect their premiership medals after the 10-point triumph over the Hawks.

Goodes and Bolton had both played more than 300 AFL games and had already won a premiership in 2005.

But Morton had already attempted to forge an AFL career at two other clubs – the West Coast Eagles and Richmond – and was playing just his fifth game for Sydney on the biggest stage of all.

Adding to the underdog story was the fact the small forward’s anxiety reached an all-time high on Grand Final day, with the 25-year-old vomiting 10 times before the opening bounce, and again at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter time.

Mitch Morton looking for a lead.

“I’m really happy with what I achieved and the fact that I gave it a shot for nine years. I’m proud of myself for sticking at it for so long, and in the end I was able to be part of something that I had dreamed of since I was a little kid,” Morton told Swans Media.

“The 2012 year in itself was challenging because I had played 17 or 18 games in the reserves and had been working really hard to get a senior game. And after playing 60 or 70 senior games in the three or four years before that, I hadn’t played a full season of reserves footy for a while. So it was just really hard to crack in and get a senior game. 

“But I actually said to some family members early in the season that I had a feeling the Swans would be in the Grand Final later in the year, and that I wanted to do everything I could to be a part of it. I had this funny feeling that the Swans would be there on the final Saturday of September, and I knew that if I kept up some good form I’d be a chance of being in the team on the day. They didn’t lose many games in 2012, and you don’t change a winning side very often, but I was there at the right time of the year in the end.

“The hardest challenge of my career was dealing with my anxiety. From the outside, I’m not sure what it looked like, but those who know me well know how hard I worked at getting on top of the anxiety. We’re still seeing in society that it’s not easy to push through that stuff. I tried and tried and tried, and I did my best, but realistically for major parts of my career it got the better of me. I’m happy that I was able to hold it together for long enough to be able to be part of something as special as I was.”

Morton booted two goals in the Grand Final clash with Hawthorn, slotting back-to-back majors late in the second quarter to put the Swans 16 points ahead.

In an uncanny sequence of events, Morton snared his first goal off a right-foot snap on the back of a Goodes handball, before threading another right-foot snap on the back of a soccered Goodes kick.

But Morton says it’s not his two goals from which he draws most pride.

Mitch Morton watching on as one of his two goals sails through the big sticks.

“A lot of people will look at the goals that I kicked as the biggest moments of my game, but I think a lot of the stuff off the ball was more important than the goals,” Morton said.

“At quarter-time Hawthorn’s backline had been pretty dominant against us forwards, so we changed our structures up and were able to get on top of them. So for me the goals were really just a bonus. I made a number of tackles and they were more important to me than the goals on the day." 

The Western Australian also bobbed up with a piece of brilliance at the 19-minute mark of the final term, beating Hawthorn’s Josh Gibson and Ryan Schoenmakers to a loose ball inside 50, and handballing the footy forward for Kieren Jack to pounce and goal.

Scores level at 78-apiece.

Goodes then snapped and goaled three minutes later, and Nick Malceski sealed the Swans’ fifth premiership with a snap of his own at the death, Sydney clinching a 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81) victory in front of a 99,683-strong crowd.

Morton says he’ll never forget the buzz in the air as the final siren reverberated throughout the MCG.

“Everyone out there on that field has been working since the age of four or five to be part of something like this,” Morton said.

“Whether you think it or not, that’s what you’ve been doing since that age: honing your skills and getting better at something you love, so that one day you can perform on Grand Final day. It felt like a whole lifetime of work coming together in one moment.”

Mitch Morton (left) and Josh Kennedy (right) the morning after the Sydney Swans' 2012 premiership triumph.

Life is very different for Morton these days.

The former Eagle, Tiger and Swan, who retired from AFL footy at just 26 years of age in 2013, is working as a finance manager in Perth.

But one thing that will never change is his immeasurable pride in his 2012 premiership medal. 

Morton keeps the gleaming gold in his drawer full of socks and jocks – and it’s a medal that, in his eyes, will forever shine.

“It reminds me to never give up.”