The Swans are playing in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon. Now that does not happen often these days. I think back to my halcyon days of football spectating from the mid-70s to the early-80s before the Swans headed off to Sydney. Six VFL games on a Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, and rain, hail or shine my brothers and I headed off to the old Lake Oval, the MCG, VFL Park or the various suburban grounds that hosted the old VFL teams. In this period I missed few games at South and attended most other grounds many times.
We are playing St Kilda today. It’s very easy to think nostalgically of days gone by. I can only recall going to the Saints old home ground at Moorabbin once. It was in the late-70s on a frigid winter’s day. I reckon there were only about 3000 people there. I don’t think I am making this up, but my memory is that some Saints supporters had a 44 gallon drum on the terrace with a fire going to keep warm. We kicked 3 goals for the day and lost by 10 goals. When I reached my car (a 1969 Toyota Corona) in the Linton St carpark after the game my hand was shaking so much I could not get the key in the lock. We did not go back there again.
Thankfully the Saints, along with four other local teams, now play at the relatively new Docklands Stadium where the biggest call will be whether the retractable roof is open or closed. I’m meeting my oldest brother Tony there. As I’m running late I miss the opportunity along the way to buy something to eat. I chew in to my retirement savings and buy a chicken burger and chips. Back in the day, I can’t ever remember buying food at any of the old suburban grounds, perhaps other than a meat pie.
It’s a lovely late autumn’s day. The sun is shining and the roof is open. The Swans start brightly carrying on from our recent good form. Harry Cunningham gets us on the board with a clinical running goal created by pressure around the ball. Young Hayward goals from a set shot from 45 metres out. The Saints get one back. The old firm of mid-fielders are hitting in hard along with Heeney, Hewett, Lloyd, Jones and Mills. Hannebery is everywhere and is rewarded with a pass over the top for another. The Saints look really good when they get the ball outside and generate run. They hit back and reel in the difference. Another goal from a Hannebery set shot has us up at the break.
My mate Geoff has arrived late in the first term with his boy Marius, having been delayed by basketball duties. The Saints get an early goal to square the ledger, though we start to take control thanks to great pressure all around the ground. The Estonian Rampe is back marshalling the defence with Nick Smith also playing one of his best games for the year. Nic Newman is continuing his fine form and looks like he could cement a place down back. Another running Cunningham goal wedged between a Kennedy snap and a Reid set shot has us up by a few goals at the main break.
Another observation I’d make about modern footy is that it’s so easy to spot people’s allegiances. In the old days a few may have a woollen scarf or jumper or a badge on the duffel coat. Now pretty much all spectators are festooned in their club colours; t-shirts, jackets, scarfs, caps and beanies. Red and white clusters match red, white and black ones.
Modern stadia have certainly improved the overall spectator experience, mostly for the better. However as the sun is setting towards the west and coming through the open roof my experience high in the eastern stand is starting to be hampered. Fortunately it’s not affecting the Swans game and we assert our dominance. The ball is trapped in our half and we close off the Saints path out. A fine individual effort from Towers delivers a goal and extends the lead to around 20 points. It’s an arm wrestle though we seem to have the upper hand.
Buddy gets on the board after some wayward attempts then Rohan takes a courageous intercept mark and goals from 50 metres out on the boundary, though both goals are matched by the Saints against the run of play. We finally gain a significant break and reward for effort when Tippet steers a set shot home from deep in the pocket and Newman with his trademark left foot dobs one from outside fifty. We are 33 points to the good at the final break.
Into the last quarter we seem to have choked the effort out of the Saints and they are starting to turn the ball over badly. Goals to Hewett and Buddy put the game beyond doubt. The rest is junk time really. Papley who has been good gets a couple and Buddy finishes with four, a few of which will make the highlights package as usual. My hands are getting sore as Marius has been high-fiving every goal. We win by 50 points.
It’s been a fine and even performance from our boys in front of nearly 30,000 fans, a moderate crowd by today’s standards. The young mids are stepping up to support Joey, Hannas and Parks, while youngsters like Melican are showing they belong at this level. We are back to playing Bloods footy and maybe this season still offers rewards for those willing to put in the hard yards.
Our Votes: 3 Hannebery, 2 Kennedy, 1 Lloyd
Lifetime Swan Keiran Croker is a semi-retired public service engineer manager. He is loving the modern day Bloods. Read more of Kieran's work at www.footyalmanac.com.au.