American Sydney Swans supporter Rob Pait had waited more than 30 years to catch his beloved team in the flesh – and a recent visit to the SCG would exceed all he had ever hoped for.
Not only was the die-hard fan in the SCG stands for Sydney’s thrilling clash with Collingwood in Round 10, an exclusive club tour gave him a glimpse of the premiership cups, the coaches’ room and the Paul Kelly Race.
Pait cheered on the Swans from behind the goals at the Randwick end, and although the red and white fell seven points short against the Magpies, he says he’ll only ever look back on his trip to Australia with fond memories.
“In life everybody has things they absolutely want to do before you kick the bucket, and for me seeing the Swans play at the SCG was truly a bucket-list experience,” Pait told Swans Media.
“The energy in the stadium, being able to see the game up close and watching the dynamics of the game play out right in front of me as opposed to on TV, was everything I had hoped it would be. I was as excited as I’ve ever felt about being at any live sports match in my life.
“And as for the tour, (Swans Community Engagement Executive) Alex Bouttell was such an amazing tour guide. From the moment I walked in and shook his hand I could sense he was determined to make me feel as welcome at the club as he could.”
Pait stumbled across the Swans in the late 1980s when ESPN was broadcasting the VFL in the USA.
The Los Angeles resident now watches Sydney live or on demand on AFL.com.au through the club’s Global Supporter membership.
It was on AFL.com.au that Pait saw Leo Barry fly high to seal the Swans’ 2005 premiership victory, and again as Nick Malceski iced Sydney’s 2012 Grand Final win with a snap at the death.
“I didn’t learn the term ‘Swans tragic’ until I started connecting with other Swans fans on Facebook, and that was about 30 years after becoming a Swans fan,” Pait said.
“And being the Swans tragic I am, it has always been just absolutely amazing to be able to cheer on the boys all the way from America.”
But while he’s made countless memories to treasure within the walls of his living room, he enjoyed being a part of the 34,000-strong crowd at the Swans-Pies game so much that, one day, he’ll book another Australia-bound flight.