It’s a lovely sunny winter’s day in Melbourne so I have promised to take my elderly Mum for a drive. I pick her up from home in the eastern suburbs and head up the highway towards the Yarra Valley. The plan is to drop in somewhere for coffee and cake then head back in time to catch the Swans game late afternoon from Sydney on TV at the local sports club. We find a nice café in Lilydale.
By the time we wind up and hop in the car, the ABC radio tells us the Swans are two goals up on the Eagles. Oops … I’ve got my times wrong. On the 20 minute drive back I get the chance to take the game in on the radio, which is something I don’t often do these days given the ready availability of games on TV. Alistair Nicholson is heading the call with expert comments from coaching legend Mick Malthouse. Mum is always interested in Mick, as she worked with his Mum back in Ballarat in the early 1950s in a well-known department store. Mick tells us that the Swans are taking on the game through the corridor and taking full advantage of the Eagles zoning off. When young James Rose goals on the run, it’s his first game for the year, we have the first three.
The radio team always paint a vivid picture of what’s happening, Nonetheless I still get frustrated not being able to see the play unfold. At least its better then back when I was a kid glued to the radio, when frequent crosses to the races at places like Caulfield, Randwick or Doomben interrupted the flow of play. Worse still was when your game never made it on to the main call and there was a reliance on infrequent around the grounds reports to fill you in. Times have changed.
As we roll out of the car the Eagles have struck back with a couple of goals to their Josh Kennedy - ours is not playing today. And when we settle in within the club they have hit the front. With Mum in tow I need to be on good behaviour.
It looks like a nice day in Sydney too. And I can tell from the flow of play late in the first and early in the second quarters that we are on today with good movement from our mids to our forwards.
Of course we have a modern day rivalry with the Eagles, particularly from the mid-2000s when we had a run of very close games with the spoils shared for a premiership each over 2005 and 2006. The Eagles have not won at the SCG since 1999 though. However we are at the opposite end of the ladder now, though perhaps we can upset last year’s premiers after all.
Early in the second quarter we lose defenders O’Riordon and Thurlow both to concussion from separate incidents. This will test our defence, on a day when premiership backman Reg Grundy will complete a well-deserved lap of honour at half time, can the defenders around 150 gamer Dane Rampe stand up?
The mids certainly are standing up, led by Georgie Hewett who has morphed from forward to run-with player to genuine ball winner. And with classy winger Ollie Florent dominant we are surging towards a forward line where Franklin and Reid, in rare form, are on the rampage. A five goal to three quarter has us 21 points up at the main break.
McVeigh does not return after the break, hobbled with another old man injury. So we are down to only one interchange on the bench. It does not seem to make a difference though. We are rolling over the Eagles. This is vintage Swans footy. Tommy Papley is doing his energiser bunny impersonation popping up everywhere with two goals in a row. When new boy Dan Menzel hooks a clever cross-the-body kick to Buddy on the move through the 50 metre arc, Bud bulldozes over the advancing Eagles defender and drills another. I allow myself a fist pump and a clap of the hands. We are seven goals up. Seven!
Never the optimist, I’m concerned that the Eagles will rally in the final quarter and finish over the top of our depleted defence. However the boys are superb with Rampe, Lloyd, Aliir and Mills ably supported by emerging mid Jordie Dawson, who is looking more at home every week. They mop up everything that comes their way. And we are blessed with a couple of bits of pure class from young Blakey. This kid could be anything. Paps kicks his fourth and fifth goals to top off a best on ground performance. Then Buddy kicks a typically outrageous goal, his fifth too, after the siren from the boundary to ice a 45 point win.
I’m loving this bunch of players. Even though the accepted narrative is that we are rebuilding, this lot just does not know any other way but to give it their all. The best way to grow young players is to teach them how to win. And with the return of the likes of Kennedy, Jones and Cunningham after the bye round, perhaps we can string together a run of wins and push up the ladder. I’ll be enjoying the ride.
Time to get Mum home for a cup of tea.
Keiran Croker is a lifelong South Melbourne and Sydney Swans fan. He has also followed in his father’s footsteps and supports The Borough. Based in Melbourne, he is an engineer in the field of water supply. He writes for www.footyalmanac.com.au