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From the Outer: Gee, I love the footy!

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: George Hewett of the Swans is tackled by Karl Amon of the Power during the 2019 AFL round 21 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Sydney Swans at Adelaide Oval on August 10, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Photos)
ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: George Hewett of the Swans is tackled by Karl Amon of the Power during the 2019 AFL round 21 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Sydney Swans at Adelaide Oval on August 10, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Matt Turner/AFL Photos)

With age comes perspective (and the ability to make a weird grunting noise when lowering into chairs). Football has to be about more than winning. Don’t get me wrong, I hate to see my team lose and sit on the lower rungs of the ladder, however, I can see the bigger picture.

Living in Melbourne I try and get to one interstate match a year as finances will allow. In early January I booked the trip to Adelaide with Mrs D. We would leave the Cygnets with Nan and enjoy a rare weekend away. At the time of booking I thought by mid-August the weather would be picking up and we would be fighting with Port for position in the eight. Unfortunately, the reality did not match the vision.

Things got off on the wrong foot. At 2am on flight eve, young Jack came storming into our room with a fever. Bleary-eyed I hid under a pillow (I don’t display courage under fire in these circumstances) as Mrs D reached for the Panadol. The next four hours were a blur of tears and trips to and from the kids’ room. Pre-dawn discussions were had as to whether the Adelaide trip would be cancelled. The alarm went off at 6am and I bounced out of bed with all the enthusiasm of someone who has had 1 hour 47 minutes sleep.  Thankfully Jack’s fever had settled and he seemed ok, so we decided to head for the airport.

After a quick lunch at the Cathedral Hotel with other Swans travellers and special guest Will Hayward we made our way to the Adelaide Oval. I was last here eight years ago. I must say I am a little disappointed. The unique character and charm of the Adelaide Oval seems to have been lost to progress. Once upon a time Adelaide Oval was arguably the most picturesque of sporting ovals in the world. The new design fights to keep some of the charm, yet progress has clearly won the battle. It has gone from being an oval to a stadium. That being said I am for all intents and purposes a grumpy old man, and everyone else seems to love the new design.

Mrs D and I take our seats high up on Level 3 with fellow Swans travellers. I am dressed for a crack at Mt Everest, yet I am still freezing my lanky backside off. I am not quite sure if it is rain or snow that is coming in horizontally at me?

Heeney is on fire early in game 100. He kicks our first and marks strongly shortly after (but misses the shot unfortunately). In dark times throughout the season I have found myself simply sitting back and watching Heeney during matches. His ability to take a contest mark or execute a bone crunching tackle is compelling viewing. In the darkest of times during the early `90s I used to do the same thing and focus on watching Paul Kelly.

The rain pours in and Port starts to take control. Other than a few well connected pieces of play that lead to goals we are just scrapping to stay in the match in the first quarter. The brutal length of the season seems to have sapped the energy out of the legs of our younger brigade.

Kennedy just doesn’t know how not to give 100% and his young apprentice Hewett is also trying valiantly, however the dam wall opens in the third quarter and Port put the result beyond doubt.

In the stands the Swans travelling crew rise as one to try and cheer a set shot from debutant Bell home for goal, yet alas, it falls short.

Poor Mrs D looks like she is suffering hypothermia (that’s saying something considering she is from Tassie). I am pondering exactly why I am here? After a few minutes of self-pity I snap out of it. Yes, I am disappointed, yet when I stop and think about it my perspective kicks in.

I have been a Swans supporter since my teenage years and the cyclic nature of footy means that you can’t have the highs without the lows. It sucks, but it is reality. Growing up in the 1990s things often felt shambolic and it was hard to see the forest for the trees. While season 2019 has been tough, you know we are on the right track and that with experience and time our youngsters will vault us up the ladder in seasons to come. The foundation of the club is solid as a rock.

Football has to be about more than wins and losses (says he whose team has lost six in a row). In time I’ll forget the belting on the park, but I’ll long remember the romantic dinner with Mrs D (in a restaurant where I could only pronounce 9% of the menu) and the lazy afternoon passing away the hours in Glenelg, without a care in the world.

I’ll also long remember walking 46 kilometres on a Sunday morning in search of breakfast. I am not certain that Sunday trading has come to Adelaide just yet? Perhaps that is my punishment for not having breakfast at the hotel? I refuse to pay $37 for three bits of toast and hash-browns that were first cooked when Paul Roos was still coaching the Swans – yep, I am a grumpy old man and tight with a dollar (poor old Mrs D has made a questionable pick).

Football has brought us to Adelaide to explore a new city and despite the two hours on match day being poor, overall it has been a great trip.

That is the thing about football. We all love and crave the wins, yet it is only a piece of the full puzzle. My perspective tells me that season 2020 will see us back on the rise. I am on the Swans train for life and while the losses are outnumbering the wins I am going to simply sit back and focus on the bigger picture.

Season 2019 for me has been about travel and spending time with those I love. Football has taken me to Adelaide to enjoy a great get away with Mrs D this weekend. I have seen my four year old son Harry light up like Christmas day as he posed for a photo with Aliir Aliir at Swans training in Sydney (he has mentioned it for the last 131 days). I also won’t long forget the day when Jack told me over Coco-Pops that when he is 16 he will fly to Sydney to play footy on Saturdays with Buddy (I doubt Buddy’s hamstrings will hold on at 46) and be back by Sunday to be ready for school on Monday.

At the end of my Adelaide adventure I am weary (those West End Draughts over lunch haven’t helped) and keen to get home. Passing through security a young kid in Swans kit points out to his Dad that there is another Swans fan in line. I swing around and the young chap’s Dad is the boss himself, Tom Harley. We chat while being probed by metal detectors. I leave with the feeling that we are in safe hands and he is a good bloke.

Season 2019 has not been what I had hoped for, yet it has still delivered adventure and joy is spades. Gee, I love the footy! Cheer, Cheer!

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.