I’m in to my seventh decade of following the Swans, and each year still brings that child-like expectation and hope for the season ahead, though it has been a patchy opening to the year so far. It’s been an underwhelming start on the field with only one win from the four games so far. We need a win. And due to some other commitments this is my first chance to see my boys live, in the flesh.
So, I’m off to the Docklands Stadium on Easter Saturday night to see how we can handle the 2017 Premiers - the Tigers, who despite losing some key players are still one of the competition powerhouses.
Watching South Melbourne play Richmond at the MCG on a Saturday afternoon formed much of my initiation to footy as a child in the `60s and `70s. I can’t remember beating them there too often, if at all. Not any grand memories. Tonight I’m heading in with one of my older brothers, Tony and we are meeting my mate Geoff and his young son Marius. We gather in the unofficially named Adam Goodes Stand (Aisle 37!) – upper level on the eastern wing – a great vantage point. What memories will tonight hold? Good I hope.
It is a milestone night for our 2012 premiership player and former co-captain Kieren Jack who brings up his 250th game. What an achievement for someone from a rugby league background. His courage, speed and hardness at the contest has been a key part of our ongoing success over the last decade, or so. Well done and good luck Kieren.
It’s a lively start with both teams hard at it winning plenty of the ball. However our boys are a bit fumbly, which continually puts them under pressure with few clean entries in to the forward half. The first goal goes to the Tigers courtesy of a turnover from an intercept mark cutting off Lloydy’s outlet pass. Then we finally get some clean ball movement that enables Buddy to break free and run in for an easy goal. Marius high-fives us all. We follow up with another to Parker – high-fives all round. We briefly lead. Though by quarters’ end we have managed to cough it up again a number of times gifting the Tigers an 8 point lead. The stats are pretty even, so our level of effort is good.
The second quarter starts in a promising manner. Sharp kicks from Dawson to Papley to Heeney, resulting in a classy around the body goal from deep in the pocket. Heens is a gem. We are competitive for the first half of the stanza and when Joey Kennedy goals it’s two majors apiece - we are within touch. Then whatever we are trying to do falls apart and we seem to find ways time and time again to hand it back to the Tigers, who are ruthless and efficient in taking every opportunity gifted them. Stop-start play, poor decisions, poor execution – turnover, turnover, turnover, turnover. I’m thinking that we should be sponsored by tech giant Apple and change our name to the “Apple Turnovers”. We go in to half time 6 goals down. This could be a mauling.
Usually I much prefer being at the game than watching on tv as it allows you to see the play unfold and understand the structures and game plans somewhat. Tonight it’s only confirming that we are way off the mark at the moment and that whatever we are attempting is not working. I’m beyond frustrated! I’m thinking of leaving as we have not played this poorly in a long time. I’ve only ever done that once before, I always stay to the end win or lose. However, it would not be a good example for young Marius. I stay and text my other brother, Martin who is on holiday at Balranald. We vent and agree that we need to be more instinctive, get-and-go, more like how the Tigers are playing.
To my relief after the break we continue to be competitive and start to use the ball more cleanly. Lloyd, Cunningham and Dawson are hitting targets off half back while Jones and Florent are providing run through the middle. Two goals to Buddy cut the margin, though we manage to give those goals back by end of quarter.
The last quarter follows a similar pattern we push and goals to Buddy and Paps have us back to within 4 goals. Though we are not playing well enough to get a run on and pull off an epic comeback. Goals to the Tigers snuff out any hopes. Late goals to Reid and Heeney keep the loss to a respectable 22 points.
You could argue that we should have been thumped. We did not play well. The Tigers were very good. Though on the other hand we had plenty of the ball and battled it out – as we always do. We’re a club that sticks at it.
It seems that the experienced players are carrying a big load at the moment. Rampe was outstanding down back again. Sinclair is carrying the ruck with Joey and Parks holding the mids together. Young Rowbottom made a promising debut and Dawson played his best game to date while Jones and Florent continue to provide run.
Sadly Kizza had a poor game. He was not alone, as we have many playing below their best at the moment. He has been written off before, hopefully he still has more to give. And maybe the boys are not so far off too. A lack of confidence and form is killing us at the moment. We have been written off as a team before too, however I’m the eternal optimist. I’ll get over my frustration in a day or two and look forward to the challenges ahead. I like the kids that we are bringing in and the spark we need may be just around the corner. Go Bloods!