It’s not the accumulated losses that made it hard to head east on Saturday night.
A trip across Sydney is more epic these days than anything Marvel could script. The inner west is choked by the making of at least three new ways to get to an airport that is already at capacity and a network of asphalt gulches from which West Connex will spill its ample traffic. The roads around Central Station are plugged by a conga line of exhausted buses waiting for overdue trams. The route towards Paddington is sliced by enormous trenches waiting to absorb our threatened electricity supply and relocate it to Belmore Park. Apparently, the city east substation has reached ‘the end of life’.
I found myself hurrying through the obstacles, doing the whirl of parking spots just before 7pm, slaloming my way down Moore Park road on foot, judging the margins between camellias and pottering fans. A siren sounded.
‘What’s that for?’ asked a girl of her date.
‘Oh, that’s the start of the fourth quarter for the reserves,’ he answered with lazy confidence. When I hit the tunnel, the club song was up to loyal sons marching onward to vic-to-ry. I overtook a woman in her Rohan jersey and took the stairs two by two, arriving at the landing of the O’Reilly just in time to see the crowd rising to its feet and to hear the first long note of the Last Post. I realised that I was hurrying to catch the silence.
We came with a wonky optimism, possibly borne of low expectations, the humour of the endgame narrative surrounding Captain Kennedy and his iron men, the wistful acceptance of home ground disadvantage. Early signs were good. Dawson slotted the first goal. He’s come on in bounds. Heeney was in ferocity mode. Clarke and Rampe were full of intent on the O’Reilly wing. I’m loving how much more organised Florent is; he’s one Swan who can confidently move, decide and dispose all at once. But within ten minutes the turnover game began again, and the Giants played their greedy way. The crowd slumped on pressured chains and bad decisions, our muteness broken only by a late quarter conversion from our Sam Reid and a silky straight mark and kick from McCartin. O’Reilly Lisa always complains that it’s only noisy when we’re succeeding.
A more deliberate approach to forward movement helped the scoreline in the second. There was a genuine effort to creep it in by foot or air and keep it there, made more intriguing by the absence of Lance. Rows S to T admired Blakey’s lazy kicking style, as relaxed as a kid punting in the yard and straight through the middle sticks – a genuine green shoot. Reid took a beauty in the forward pocket and kicked it as required. It wasn’t glorious but it was full of steady grit. Parks hoofed a captain’s contribution. Until the turnover game began again, Lloyd and Blakey and Jones, the ball back down the other end. Only a triplet of late defensive blows from Melican held us within a goal at the break.
That Anzac silence is one of my favourite moments on the stadium calendar. It’s such a rarity these days, inside or out, to be together en masse in silence, to be undisturbed by the manic din of entertainment or activity. That small silence of the Anzac game, as well as a space for remembrance, is a pause which always reminds me that holding steady, not doing too much at all, is another way to be productive. Because of the quiet which precedes it, how much more clearly can we hear the first note of the Rouse and feel what it means?
The second half of play wound its way down. Papley’s third quarter punctuation goal was a shining light, contorted in its daring, belief and execution. The home crowd extended the three-quarter time anthem (sensitively chosen by the hype committee!) with a limp acapella left-over – ‘Ohh oh … livin’ on a prayer’. Eventually, speed and efficiency and a huge hunk of points scored through interception wore a hole in the Swans. Those western Sydney men know something about detours that the sheltered eastern Sydney siders have forgotten.
Clubs put forward their players and coaches to chatter the noise of officious productivity, as if their members are shareholders who need the promise of profit every day. Councils and governments do the same thing with spending and jackhammers, as if their citizens are stakeholders only in urban agility. Today’s commentary-filled footy supporters are coerced into being just like the boy on the street who knows nothing about pre-game sirens but needs to have an answer. That’s what’s made it hard to go to games – all that ‘end of life’ avoidance is exhausting! By Round 7, 2019, I’m not altogether averse to sitting in the clear space of nobody knowing where this team is at, letting these young men simply play while we wait to see what note will emerge. All I really need are signs of creativity. As O’Reilly Max put it early on in the night, ‘Having had all that success, it’s actually exciting and even a privilege to see what comes next.’ (If only they’d keep it quiet enough to let us chat about it in the breaks!)
We wandered out the Moore Park gates and stood face to face with Stade de Gladys, eerily lit, its innards exposed, whole parts of it simply gone, left like a ruin, except it never had enough time to accumulate that much history. Stade de Glad is the jewel in Sydney’s crown of apprehensive productivity. With its constructions signposted by orange vests, cones and barricades this city seems to belong appropriately, for the moment, to Sydney’s new football promise decked in the very same hues.
Further up Moore Park Road, an elderly Swans supporter stopped to smell the bounteous camellias and seemed sweetly satisfied, as she moved on, to find they smelled of nothing.
Mathilde has been a Swans member since 2000. Her love of football is part physical, part geometrical and part philosophical. She lives in Sydney with her partner and their eleven year old son and wiles away her winters in the O’Reilly stand. Mathilde writes regularly for footyalmanc.com.au.