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Proudly Sydney

From the Outer: Trust in the Bloods

Longmire post match - Rd 17, 2019 Coach John Longmire speaks to the media after the loss to Carlton.

When German rockers Scorpion penned their iconic power ballad ‘Wind of Change’, they were celebrating glasnost in the Soviet Union - the end of the Cold War, and portraying hope at a time when tense conditions prevailed. As they were heading down to ‘Gorky Park’, they were listening to those winds of change sweep across the Soviet capital. As we headed through the gates of the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday, that very same gust penetrated the soul of the Bloods.

This year, the seventeenth edition of the Moore’s annual pilgrimage has its own transformational feel to it. For the first time, my brother’s Blues brood are attending and for the first time, my youngest cygnet, George Sidney will enter the most sacred of sites.

Arriving intermittently on match eve, we greet and immerse ourselves in the comings and goings as only family can. Grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles embrace and debate begins. Will it be the Red or the Blue?

In recent times, the Sydney Swans have embarked on their very own journey of change, incorporating youth (especially youth), improved speed and outside run as the focal point. True to the pioneering spirit of the club, an exciting new direction hallmarked by structural change, has at times astonished and impressed. While this contemporary path looks headed for future success, the rejuvenation of the list brings with it a need for renewed emphasis on the trademark approach.

Reasons for excitement are plentiful and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to quash the expectations placed on our outstanding young crop. It’s a group that’s growing in size and stature at an incredible rate. Heeney, Aliir, Jones, Mills, Papley and Hewett are all maturing and growing in consistency. The next wave is just as impressive as Florent, Hayward, Melican, Dawson, Rowbottom, Ronke, McCartin and Blakey are quickly forging their very own paths to the top. This core of young blood will not only hold us in good stead, but begin to silence the cynical hordes. But not just yet.

For many of our clan’s yearly crusades, we’ve met with an undoubted air of confidence and expectation when discussing our team. We’ve seen the modern greats. As the air swirls around us inside this famous ground, we can almost feel their presence. However, in this restoration phase, uncertainty has its place. We expect a win, but we’re not convinced. Not just yet.

After a brief bus trip down iconic Oxford Street, we arrive in the precinct for a pre-game kick and a bite. As we enter the classic cauldron, we note that banners are banned today. It must be windy. From our vantage point, we have an uninterrupted view of the flags atop the members and ladies stands. Their direction is a state of constant change. The Blues begin the contest in superior fashion winning multiple clearances and dominating field position. The conditions appear to be confusing as there’s an obvious reluctance from our boys to kick. With handball being the preferred option, territory is elusive.

The first quarter proves to be an even affair and with those flags blowing our way for the next, our optimism grows. However, it proves to be the decisive stretch. While our most crisp and clinical ball movement for the match ends in a K. Jack major, we miss opportunities. Our opposition do not. My Blue bagger nephew Paddy didn’t miss his opportunity to rub things in. He’s six. He’s allowed.

The deficiencies in our game cannot be wholly attributed to the testing conditions. The absence of a true ruckman is proving costly. As the game goes on, the navy blue on-ball brigade extend their dominance. We seem to be lacking in intensity too. Perhaps these are the signs of a tiring young group. These are the signs that we’re beginning to learn to read with our team. We’re not used to this, but we’re adjusting. Change is healthy.

In true Bloods fashion, we continue to fightback and when Papley goals to get within a point during the third quarter, that old familiar feeling returns. Our developing team can’t sustain that fight though and we’re eventually overrun by an improving team, but one that we were expecting to beat. The latest inclusions to our annual Moore event are in full voice as their club song plays. Our lot can only watch on in an unaccustomed bout of envy.

While the football didn’t quite go to plan, the rest of the weekend most surely did. For my youngest cygnet to join my eldest in such a red-letter tradition is truly priceless. These are the most memorable of times as they will themselves grow and change alongside this team.

Following kick-to-kick frivolities, we travel back by bus back to Bondi. The togetherness and unspoken love that is felt by all make this annual gathering a thing of rare beauty, which will remain forever cherished. And soulfully, at the heart of it all, hosting from our home away from home, as always are our mighty Sydney Swans.

We’ve been spoiled for success over the past three decades and now it’s time to stay the course. Trust in these Bloods and do not doubt. As the Dalai Lama once said, fear and trust cannot go together. This result will prove to be the bump in the road that continues to galvanize this group. These winds will pass and calm will be restored. But not just yet.

Joe Moore is a devoted Swan who belongs to a large like-minded flock. He lives in Hobart with his wife Kate and their cygnets, Ollie and George. You can read more of his work at footyalmanac.com.au.