0-3. I didn’t see this coming. While middle-age has not been kind to my hairline or hamstrings it has taught me perspective. In 1993 it took us until Round 13 to break the season’s duck. Now, though, a whole generation of Swans supporters have known nothing but success. We have been a fortunate bunch since 1996. This is a test for players, coaches and yes, even us in the stands. Who will hold their ground and who will weaken at the knees?
Some strange things have been happening at the Swans in recent weeks. Plugger has lost three-quarters of his body weight, Hanners has gone sober and poor old Dane Rampe suddenly couldn’t jump 30 centimetres off the ground. Now the worse start to the season since the Y2K bug was considered a legitimate threat. Next thing Horse Longmire will vow to stop swearing in the box -don’t bother covering your lips mate, it is ok to let fly when needed!
It had already been a tough day at Dodson HQ. I woke at 5am with a nasty stomach bug. To add insult to injury it was also my son Jack’s fifth birthday. As he tore into wrapping paper at 6am I was already a beaten man after several visits to the gents. Today of all days! It cut pretty deep not to be able to give the little man a cuddle.
Mind you I did think about cancelling Jack’s birthday a few weeks back when he informed me that he now follows the Bulldogs (living 1km from Whitten Oval is doing me no favours), however, Mrs D advised me not to do so, or amend the will for that matter, as it would only inflame tensions and guarantee me a week sleeping in the shed.
After a day of self-pity and watching the Chuck Norris Total Gym infomercial 64 times (has anyone brought one in the 38 years they have been flogging it?) I was ready for the telecast to beam into my Melbourne lounge-room. I needed a lift. I had missed Jack’s Birthday dinner and had to settle for Hydralyte and Vegemite on toast rather than pizza and chocolate cake. My mood was dark.
The Pies start brilliantly and are delivering the ball with a surgeon’s precision. Bruce McAvaney is not helping my mood. He somehow tries to draw parallels between football and both Channel 7s coverage of the Davis Cup and Horse Racing into the first few minutes of the call. I sit and wait patiently for his ‘insights’ about synchronised swimming and how it links to the Pies ball movement from half back. Just call the football please.
Fasolo has three by quarter time – gee he comes across as a bloke who is on good terms with himself. The Pies are on fire and take a 21 point lead to the first break.
The commentators remind me that tonight the Swans have rolled out one of their most inexperienced line-ups ever, with eight players having played just 30 senior games between them. In the past we have been able to blend youngsters in spasmodically throughout the season, however, this year necessity has forced a mass injection.
The one thing we know about youth is that it is inconsistent. Flashes of dare and brilliance will be counterbalanced by clangers and failure to follow instructions. We see it all on show tonight. As supporters we must understand this balance. They Lynx deodorant I spray on every morning reminds me that I am slow to embrace change. I must be willing to embrace and cut the cygnets some slack, despite how much I crave for LRT to return to a back pocket.
The usual suspects start to find the ball in the second quarter and young Will Hayward shows he knows where the big sticks are. Aliir Aliir takes the game on at all costs, and mostly comes out on top. His dare is infectious. Jack slots two for the quarter and we are back in the game.
Half time and it is anyone’s game. I’m still on good terms with the people at Sorbent and on a much needed positive note am well on my way to being under 90kgs for the first time since Paul Kelly retired.
A thrilling contest breaks out in the second half. The ball pings from end to end. Every time we look like closing in on the Pies they counter, all the while tackling as if their lives depend on it. In his 250th Buddy just can’t seem to get things to click, despite his intent. When he gets the ball we hold our breath, waiting for brilliance. It is not to be tonight.
In the background Mrs D is busily tending to preparations for Jack’s birthday party tomorrow. Smarties are being delicately placed on top of icing as the game hangs in the balance. Hannebery has taken control of the midfield and momentum is in red and white.
We draw within a whisker. I can smell the 4 points! Then all of a sudden Hoskin-Elliott kicks one from what would have been the third row of the Doug Walters Stand. The Pies will not wilt tonight. Trouble.
Florent then slots one with the maturity of a seasoned veteran. One point down with 90 seconds remaining. We are about to find a way to pinch this one. The ball stays trapped on our half forward line, with the traffic heavier than Parramatta Road on a Friday afternoon. There is no saviour, no flash of brilliance or divine intervention to be found tonight. The siren cuts like a knife and here we are at 0-3.
Where to from here? A trip to WA and an appointment with the Giants in coming weeks. Gee this is a test. For the first time in years I don’t know how this will unfold? Uncertainty surrounds season 2017. Can we hold firm until the old guard return? How will the youngsters fare with the sink or swim policy? Uncertainty.
I’m backing us in. 20 years of stability and success have brought many credits in the bank for those who pull the strings at Swans HQ. As a humble supporter, I’m strapping myself in and getting ready for the ride. Write us off at your peril.
Originally from Paul Kelly Country in Wagga, Craig Dodson now lives in Melbourne with wife Sophie and his young scallywags Jack and Harry. He made his first visit to the SCG in 1987 as a nine year old. He still misses LRT.