Naturally I have to blog about footy today. It’s the only game in town this weekend.
I blame Robbie Cameron, the boy who lived up the hill from us in Boyanda Rd, Glen Iris, Melbourne. When I was an impressionable seven year old he made me a tragic follower of Australian Rules and a lifelong devotee of the Essendon Bombers.
The Bombers have enjoyed some good years during the decades that I’ve supported them, and started 2012 in fine style, winning 9 of the first 10 games and leading the competition halfway through the season. Sadly they lost the last seven games and finished out of the finals.
That left me supporting my number 2 team, Sydney Swans. A good choice, since the Swans are playing the Melbourne-based Hawthorn for the 2012 AFL premiership. But it took a long time for the Swans to grow on me.
Sydney Swans were born when the perennially struggling South Melbourne Football Club was moved north in an effort to promote the game as a national sport.
Aussie Rules had always been a tribal game, based on Melbourne suburbs. Few people in Sydney followed the game and even fewer played it. Rugby Union and Rugby League were the games of the northern states, while Australian Rules held sway in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. This is largely still the case.
The Swans in Sydney were an artificial club, cobbled together with a lot of money and with players poached from other teams. It didn’t help when in 1985 they were bought by flamboyant medical entrepreneur Geoffrey Edelsten, with his taste for flashy medical centres, flashy cars and much younger women. We wanted the Swans to fail just to see Edelsten squirm.
Yet somehow the Swans survived and prospered, battling their way to better results. They were premiers in 2005, their fourth victory and their first in 72 years. They feel like the sort of team you want to support. They have a lot of good players, though few big stars. They have particularly exciting Aboriginal players – champion Adam Goodes and new speedster Lewis Jetta are wonderful to watch.
The Swannies seem to get their wins by trying really hard. I’ve come to like them.
Tomorrow afternoon will start with a few old blokes handpassing a ball to each other in a Sydney laneway, then settling on a sofa for a couple of hours to watch the red and whites play the brown and yellows. I’ll be there, in red and white scarf. And worst of all, I’ll care about the result.
I wonder if Robbie Cameron will be watching too. All the best to you, wherever you are, and I promise to come back to the Essendon fold next season.
STOP PRESS: A thriller of a Grand Final – one of the best I’ve seen. Hawthorn well ahead in the first quarter, the Swans come back strongly in the second, Hawks erase the deficit and jump away in the third and the Swans come back in the last minutes to win the match!
For non-Australians who don’t know anything about the sport – have a look at this YouTube clip: