Wednesday, 28 March 2018

TIGER DIARY - 28.3.2018


It’s hard to start firing up on a Tuesday for a Thursday game. It feels a bit tragic and, well, hasn’t a round just finished? It’s too soon to start again. The work and school week have only just begun! Thus I’ve left it to Wednesday arvo - yet there are still no team announcements. Firing up on Thursday for a Saturday match, however just feels like nice due preparation. Start your tipping ritual. Check injuries ...

Week one was somehow ok as the Season Opener, but here we go again with Richmond and Adelaide. Indeed it is the GF replay, but why do we need Thursday night footy? This Thursday slot can’t be good for late night shopping either, heaven forbid! Just look what Sunday footy has done to Church attendance!

Part of me still yearns for the VFL format where all games used to start simultaneously every Saturday. 2.30 I think it was. It was quite thrilling 'going around the grounds' at breaks, seeing before your eyes how the round was unfolding. It was hopeless though if you wanted to see more than one live game per week. And there’s the rub, of course. 

Anyway, us Tigers have 3 Thursday nights this year. I don’t think it’s a factor in ladder outcomes.

I’m particularly looking forward to the onfield numerical matchups tomorrow night:
18 on 18 - Rance and Betts
9 on 9 - Cotchin on Sloane
8 on 8 - Jack Riewoldt on Jake Kelly
and particularly 6 on 6 - old Carlton mates, Bryce Gibbs and Shaun Grigg

Even a day early, Bring it on!

CLASSROOM - Last Minute Tip Changes


Steyne Park, Marrickville | Saturday 24th March

On Friday night, shortly before the Essendon/Adelaide clash, I shared a little text exchange with Anna of the Marracka Villes. ‘Go Bombers!’ I typed. Anna was already experiencing the tightrope of team tipping. The Marracka Villes had locked in the Crows, but new right-hand Ezra was pushing for a late swap to Essendon. Anna was reluctant.

The game unfolded as it did, with an early Essendon lead and a strong come back by the Crows. At 9.22pm a text came in: ‘Last minute swap by the Marracka Villes – game 2 & already some tension.’ At that stage of the match, it looked like a mistake, a rookie error on the part of right-hand Ezra. ‘Last minute swaps are very perilous,’ I replied.

Esteemed Tipster Sally has perhaps been the strongest voice on this subject. Sally has maintained a bottom line to her many years of tipping: Never ever change your tips!!

The rationale may go something like this … if you tip and you’re wrong, you have a single disappointment, that of not getting the tip. If you tip, change and are then proved wrong, you have a double dose of disappointment – the disappointment of losing the point + the disappointment of having changed your tip. There may be additional sub layers involved – wondering why you didn’t trust your instinct, angsting over your inclination to self doubt, fears of sinking into a deep, season-long existential battle …

But, on the flip side, the promised high of a last minute swap that turns out to be a success is very tempting. And it is indeed a high high! As Essendon tenaciously clawed their way back into the lead and held on for a victory, I was curious about the tone at Marracka Ville Central. It appears that a very dignified Ezra simply offered a knowing smile. 

The question then becomes - how many times does tipping juju voodoo allow a tipster to get away with last minute changes? Is there a relationship to lucky dips or probabilities or some such other enchantment? I have to admit, my perfect 9 in Round 1 included not one but TWO last minute changes!! (Essendon was not one of them.) I had originally chosen Melbourne to defeat Geelong but reconsidered hours before the game on finding out it was Joel Selwood’s 250th game. (I was at Selwood's 200th game in Geelong and it was fierce!) That combined with the return of the Son of God might just get them over the line if it got tight. Turns out Max Gawn got them over the line.

There are conditions that warrant a relatively level-headed consideration of a last minute tip change. A last minute star scratching or key position injury. A particular emotional drive – think the death of Adelaide coach Phil Walsh. A milestone for a true clubman. A tropical weather system. But all of these elements belong more in the camp of speculative magic. Peter reminded me over coffee on Saturday that really the numbers are your best friend.

What think you Tipsters, to change or not to change?

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

TIGER DIARY - 21.3.2018


2017, Done and Dustied

A crumpled old blue silverware polishing cloth got going on my new Tasmanian Tiger souvenir teaspoon.
The brand-name “Randa" came up out of the gloom and tarnish, girt by an outline of Australia. 

I’m thinking... circa 1967, but possibly as recent as 1980? Definitely from the last golden age of yellow and black. 

Here it is now, for the first time in 37 years, my own little piece of shining winner's Silverware.

Finally out of its deformed and brittle presentation box and into my proud hands.

And what a trophy it is! 

It was given to me by dear, loyal Swans fans Mathilde and Patrick after the 2017 Richmond Tigers won the Grand Final. 

It will never be used to eat a boiled egg, nor stir sugar into tary old cups of black tea.

Half-filling the concave spoon section is a little glued-on information plaque. 

The handle bears another one with a nice little picture of the once menacing but now extinct carnivore. 

The Tasmanian tiger is not the Richmond mascot, but Tasmanian born players have made such disproportionately huge contributions to the club since 1967 when Royce Hart crossed the Tasman, then followed by Michael Roach, Ian Stewart, Brendon Gale, Matthew Richardson and Jack Riewoldt that indeed, the Tasmanian Tiger makes a very fitting Richmond icon.

So I’ll be keeping my Tiger Teaspoon smiling-shiny.  It shall remain untarnished by all that relentless Richmond stirring.

Remember, to avoid extinction you have to fight and fight and win.

Monday, 4 September 2017

TIGER DIARY - Finals Week 1


Fire up footy freaks for the finest show on earth 
when the only four legged, feline finalist foes fight it out on Friday. For real!
This game should be a classic of flare and fortitude - 
a feast on fruits from the season’s fiery football forge.
Stay the course brave Tigers.
Bring it on Richmond, in all that is Yellow and Black. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Round 6, 2017: Wall and the Art of Swans Maintenance

This is something different now.

This is no longer strategy or logic. It is no longer conjecture. It’s not insight or forecast. This is nothing the water cooler can sort, nor the pages of the rags, nor the arcs of the desks of the footy show hosts. This is too tough for digestive juices.

This can no longer be the hot air balloon of hope being launched each week. It is no longer slam slam, dunk. Or bounce back. This is not pure collective will that can alchemically heal. It is not the work of the voodoo queen or the faith healer, the optimist or the sports scientist or the player GPS.

The Swans have hit the wall. And this is now a case of way-finding. ‘You just have to find a way,’ said Longmire post Round 6.

In mid February, a friend and I scraped a wall in my house. It had been peeling from water damage, the fault finally corrected in the bathroom on the other side, the wall left to dry. And it continued to peel. The surface flaked and opened and fell in small geometric pieces. I moved a large pigeonhole bookcase up against it and life went on. Occasionally I could hear those pieces drop to the floor behind. And then the paint split over the top of the shelf and around its sides, like skin peeling back, one hundred years worth of life insisting its way through, the epidermis of each effort becoming visible.

I watched this wall for some two years, knowing I should get to it and make the stich in time that would save nine. But I’m not ‘handy’. I didn’t trust that I could start in on the problem and not make it much worse. I didn’t know the path and wondered what would happen if I got lost, how much it would cost, what mess it would make. Until February. My Cob was away in Seattle for a month. So, one Tuesday in monsoonal rain, my friend and I ripped in. She had form. We scraped and dusted, patched and filled to a somewhat undulating landscape that she said I could sand and prime. But I am a poor perfectionist. I decided a second coat was in order. I lay in the middle of the night watching a trail of short movies on rendering, plastering, skim coating. I swung my legs out of bed in the morning and mimed the hawk and trowel action I would need. I didn’t think I could do it.

The following Tuesday, I slapped a top coat compound onto the middle of my widest scraper, held my breath, placed it at the skirting board and pulled it towards the ceiling. It worked. I did it again. And again. Each stroke held equal measure of doubt and delight. And it kept working. More or less. And I kept going. The scales started tipping to delight. That night, I pulled up a chair and sat in front of it, exhausted by day job and single motherhood and my self-inflicted DIY, and I took in its pale surface, still imperfect, but enough. I bowed to my Sensei before bed.

Watching the Swans play the Blues on Saturday, I saw a group of men stifled by the not knowing. Paralysed by the worry of possibly not being able to find the path, the fear of the mess they were making on the way: the panicked handballs, the turnovers, the time and space they thought they had but didn’t, the time and space which they thought they didn’t have but in fact did, the Goddamn! Godforsaken! God forbid! long kicks to the forward line. It hurt to watch. Not cause they were horrid but because they were so human.

When I got round to sanding my good enough wall a week or so later, it shed its creases and joins. It looked more and more like clean façade and confidence built and built in me as I circled round and round each tiny landscape wearing them to my idea of flat. I hit a tiny point, almost like a barnacle. And I pressed right into it and a piece fell straight from my wall and onto the floorboards below. When I looked up, I saw a hole the shape of Corsica. And then another small island further on. My little archipelago stalled me for weeks.

I researched what to do. I contemplated scraping back again. Someone suggested Spakfilla. But why stitch once when maybe it was a job that might need nine? I started drumming on the wall each night, listening for all the hollows that might join my island paradise. All I wanted to do was finish the job! I sought advice from a friend professional. ‘Ah just fill it up again,’ he said. ‘Old houses are just going to do that. Fill it up and keep going.’

So I filled my islets with joint compound, dried and sanded and re-filled, dried and sanded again. When the Cob returned from the States and helped me sweep my admirable wall with primer, we watched it become more and more what it was supposed to be. Until the roller pulled off Corsica again! Something in me wanted to sink and abandon.
‘We’ll leave it as our imperfection,’ he suggested. ‘As a reminder of all the work it took to get here.’ The Cob is blessedly not a perfectionist; he is a creative. I went out and bought Spakfilla.

Captain Kennedy must feel like sinking too. Winless since getting his cape, famous only for the superpower of being the only team in history to go from a Grand Final one year to 0-6 the next. He must wish right now for a miracle product in a small blue tub. But Captain K has wisdom, expressed in an interview this week: ‘You can try too hard to improve. We really need to get back to basics.’

I brushed some primer over that Spakfilled Corsica the other day. An earthquake wouldn’t move it. I still don’t think of myself as ‘handy’. But we painted our patched and primed kitchen this week. We cut and rolled. I enamelled the picture rails and skirting boards, fixed the window putty in the old backdoor glass. I know what order to paint the sash window. And this morning I even changed the power switch covers to match the new colour. Since I met Sensei Wall, I look at things that need doing and the thought that comes to the front is ‘I could do that.’

It’s almost a fascinating and rich place to be as a supporter, 0-6. On some level we’re only ever mending and disguising, working with the layers that have accumulated. And that’s ok. There’s many an apparatus in this world which prefers perfect running order or the flawlessness of façade. It’s actually a gift to see the work of repair being performed. It was a good thing for Longmire to say in the presser—you’ve just got to find a way. We supporters understand that. From our own wayfaring.

The Swans need to put their backs to a wall like mine this week. Train for nimble choices, block out the hollow spots under the surface, and have belief in their capacity to strengthen them when they do open up. Which they will. Some serious run would be helpful but it’s not apparent where that will come from. They’ll have to be attuned to and work with the solution that does present, at each step. I hope the new three year deal with Kennards gives them a lift!

This is something different now.
It has to be hop skip and jump over the first four stages of grief.
It has to be patch and continue.

Tiger Diary: 3.5.2017


Pulled Tiger on Toast at the Adelaide Oval

The jury is in and it says that the Crows are peaking way too soon.

Having gorged themselves on Pulled Tiger on Toast

And every other flagging delicacy of the Winter season.

The other starved seven left standing in Spring

Shall share at the Table Top in

Humbled Crow Crumble and Cream.

Round 5, 2017: Keeping the Faith

Coming home from work on Friday afternoon, two kindy-aged kids strike up a conversation over the back of a bus seat, their adults oblivious or pretending to be.

‘What house number are you?’ asks the child behind, accompanied by a grandmother. ‘I’m number 12.’

‘I’m number 2,’ replies the child in front, after a nervous check with Dad.

‘I’m number 12 from Minchinbury. I live in Minchinbury.’

‘I’m 2 from Dulwich Hill.’

They spend some time looking over number 12’s new LEGO set, a yellow submarine with divers, discussing its features. In the first pause, number 12 announces, ‘You know there’s a zombie apocalypse in Minchinbury. It’s starting now.’ Number 2 looks blank. Dad is shaking with what I imagine to be giggles.

‘Do you know why there’s a zombie apocalypse in Minchinbury?’ Number 2 looks blankly at number 12.

‘Here, have the microphone.’ And number 12 tilts his imaginary microphone at number 2’s mouth.

Number 2 answers simply. ‘I don’t know.’

My Cob and I look up Minchinbury. Sydney 2770, directly adjacent to Blacktown, bang in what the Giants would call their heartland. It couldn’t be a more ominous start to Round 5. This week was already being billed as ‘unchartered territory’, brought to Swans supporters by the doleful record of history, the statistical nightmare of a possible 0-5. And it was brought to us, if we were to believe it, by a city in two halves.

I spent the week considering my own two halves. I am born Australian/French. I spent the week considering the electoral brochures of eleven French presidential candidates, weighing up a vote for an ideology I believe in versus a strategic vote to ensure the least damaging result in next fortnight’s second round, and how best to bring those two things as close together as possible.

It’s on my mind as we drive to the game on Saturday. The abandoned shops on Parramatta Road reflect a strangely warm autumn twilight. My Cob pipes up that he really should learn the Marseillaise. So we begin a lesson somewhere around Annandale. ‘Allons enfants de la Patrie …’ and then the lines about the day of glory having arrived and the bloody banner of tyranny being raised against us. By the time we are close to the ground, we are up to the chorus – ‘Aux armes Citoyens!’ – and the call to soak our fields with the blood of the impure.

It’s unlike us to be early into the O’Reilly. The brass band takes off around the perimeter. I flash my Heeney badge at Gwen in Row T. She checks her inside pocket to see who’s still there: Parker, Papley, Cunningham. She’s not sure how long Harry’s got! We watch a new video of her granddaughter, progeny of a Hawk and a Docker, learning numbers with her nan: 26 Parker, 15 Kieren Jack.

The umps are out, knees up. The cheer squad is laying out the banner ropes. Tom Harley’s ready alone on the back row of the interchange. The media men pull at their lapels. And the members who’ve scored the tunnel positions hold up their phones in unison as the players appear from the race. I feel we’re going to win tonight!

And within 45 seconds Captain K kicks our first goal in agreement. Harry sets up Tippett for a second in two minutes. Papley’s on the board in under four minutes. Gwen and I share a wink; it pays to be in her pocket tonight! Tippett flicks it to Lance who coils from 50 for our fourth. This is the best five minutes of football we’ve had all year! But as soon as we say it, it turns. George is still in the contests and Mills is plugging defensive holes, perfectly. But Western Sydney start to clear it and mark it and score. When Lobb and Johnson and Cameron have their own five minutes of fire, the margin has closed like an anemone some Giant has stuck their finger in.

The second quarter gives us a first look at Melican and his full-stretch overhead mark. There’s a bit of swarthy about him. We need a bit of ‘swarthe’. But the Giants continue to spread and goal while our boys play an infuriatingly manual game of rock, paper, scissors with the ball. ‘Kick it!’ we scream from the O’Reilly. And they do, straight to a Giant. There’s a lack of rhythm in our game; it’s not tide between the teams, just relentless breakers from one end. I begin to watch a woman in a red and white striped dress a few seats across devour a bag of fried chicken, ripping and sucking three pieces all the way to the bone. It’s the most mongrel I’ve seen from the red and white all night. The Giants draw me back to the contest with a stream along the wing below and I observe their frightening speed. And the two images collide in my mind to bring visions of zombies and carnage.

Gwen passes the Anzac biscuits backwards at half time. We can hardly chat. We watch the tiny kids in big shorts. Some fan wins one hundred ‘Swans dollars’ in a trivia quiz at half time, despite getting a third of the questions wrong. ‘I don’t think the Swans dollar is worth much right now,’ quips O’Reilly Max.

The zombies take Grundy first. He emerges from a pile with the strangest lump on the side of his head and descends to the rooms below. The quarter teases us with another mark from ‘the Swarthe’ and goals from Rohan, Sinclair and Lance. The run comes in starts, and the contested tally is tightening and the handball game works for a minute. But they’ve forgotten how to be targets and find each other. That first five minutes of football may just be the best we’ll see.

Connie in Row S turns and sighs, ‘It’s going to be a long season!’ But we comfort ourselves with the holidays we might take in September. Gwen and Nigel won the first Qatar Airways tickets in Round 1 and Geneva is lovely in late summer.

‘It’s not over yet!’ insists the Cob.

‘We could hang in Bali with the Hawthorn boys’, suggests O’Reilly Max.

‘Is it too much mindfulness with Kirky?’ continues Connie.

The players loop another party-light string of treacherous handballs round the backline through Hannebery.

‘Let’s just have footfulness!’ laments Max.

And then the zombies take 12. Kennedy is helped from the game, our leader’s blood soaking his own field all the way to the boundary. The tyranny of the Giants is upon us. If they put the microphone in front of me and asked me why, I would answer, ‘I don’t know.’

It mustn’t be easy to play this way in front of thirty-five thousand people. It’s not easy to watch. The stairwells start to fill with folk dragging kids and scarves. Then our ninth goal is Lance’s 800th. It’s worth a moment to celebrate. I start to sing the Marseillaise under my breath until O’Reilly Max reminds me it’s the Lions up next at home. Our mob parts with pursed lips and shrugs, silent nods and waves.

Commentary will have us in a full scale re-build now. It will have John Longmire under pressure. It will have stars past their prime and kids not ready. It will have worrying signs and more statistical impossibility. How fast we move from A to Z in this world. It’s not frame by frame anymore but an emphatic swipe to the left.

The following morning, I stand in an encouraging queue at Sydney’s French school. This presidential election is being billed as France’s great identity crisis. I pass the wait redrawing the game in my mind. Perhaps the Swans are in an identity crisis of their own. Are they weighing up playing a game which they believe in versus a game they have calculated will bring them success based on the league’s recent results? And are they still undecided? Is that what all the hesitation is?

My vote slips neatly into the small brown envelope marked ‘République Française’. I won’t assist the nationalistic rhetoric of tyranny and foreign invasion that is being used to mobilise divisiveness and fear in France right now. Just like I won’t be drawn into some constructed partisanship with Western Sydney. They are no zombies! They look organised and skilful, big, fast and very alive. They might be giants as soon as everyone thinks.

For us, there’s a sixth round next week. I don’t want arms or blood or battalions that bounce back! I don’t need the promise of an apocalyptic reversal of fortune. I just want them to play with heart, overcome their fears and the Blues.

This piece was first published on the Sydney Swans website, Monday 24th April 2017.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tiger Diary 12.4.2017

Richmond continue to remain undefeated…….

Thus spaketh the Tigerland website !
Sounds a bit like an enduring power of attorney, but that's just the way things work in The Year of Answers.
I like it ! 
And apropos more Answers, I do need to say within this predominantly Red and White forum that Daniel Rioli’s stunner of a goal on Saturday afternoon reminded me so much of Lewis Jetta’s long awaited first AFL goal for the Swans. May he have a wonderful career playing his own kind of Rioli Magic.

And may Todd Elton quickly recover from another humiliatingly awful game. 
In 2012 he played against Adelaide in a game we lost having led at quarter time by nearly 50 points. I think he managed one kick for the game. A couple of runs in low-stakes AFL games finally followed last year, then an excellent pre-season and VFL start to this season earned him the trip to Perth to face the Eagles. 
He had a game-low 3 kicks and looked like a rabbit in the headlights.
The crushing feeling of being again unable to repay your coach’s faith could seldom have been worse.
Thank goodness we won this time. 
Is “Sorry coach, I can’t.” your final Answer, Todd ?
Will the real Todd Elton PLEASE STAND UP !

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Round 3, 2017: Swan Lake

Waking on Saturday morning, there are only a few tiny clouds circling the immense camphor laurel outside our window. It’s sunny in Sydney, just past 7 o’clock, first day of school holidays, no urgency ... but that hypnopompic gentleness is broken by the nag of something not right. And the mind scrambles backwards for the root of the cause, and Saturday morning comes into focus as the thing that follows Friday night and Friday night … we lost. By the threadbare margin of 1.

It’s a disproportionate disappointment we feel, isn’t it?


I bought us a new phone last Wednesday. Ours had been struck by Sydney’s volatile summer weather, a crack of thunder so loud I woke to a right angle in bed. The Cob saw the full blue light in the lane beside our living room.
I plugged the phone in and handed it to the Cygnet. He tried the 40 ringtone options and settled on a rather pompous digital classic.
            ‘Swan Lake!’ yelled the Cob from the back of the house.
            ‘Perfect!’ I said, ‘for Lance!’
I threw out the packaging and began preparations for dinner. Until I poked my head gingerly around the Cob’s study door: ‘Doesn’t the beautiful Swan die in Swan Lake?’
            ‘She does.’
On Thursday, the Cygnet and I watched Marngrook in anticipation of an interview with the 250 gamer, and just as Lance’s smiling face hit the screen, the phone rang Tchaikovsky’s famous motif. Lance’s face. Swan Lake. The two things clanged like cymbals.
‘Perhaps we should change the ringtone,’ I suggested, suddenly in the role of the harried heroine who knows the future and must remap the present to save everyone. ‘The Swan dies in the end, darling!’
            ‘Oh Mum, you don’t really believe in that stuff …’


The coffee machine is my first companion on Saturday morning. In the motions of brewing solace, I
can see the dropped mark that began the 4th quarter, the drop but then the free and the goal to Reid. I can see the tightrope ‘play on!’ against Jones, the ensuing swerve of Varcoe. I can see the 20/20 vision of brother Sam on Ben, the beautiful 1,2 from Florent, through Buddy to Hayward for 6. I can see the miss from Fasolo. The miss from Jesse. I can feel the kinetics of Buddy’s knee high pass to Florent for a 1 point deficit. And as the heat builds in the milk jug, I can feel newbie Dawon’s point to level, Captain K’s point to edge us ahead. I can hear Gwen in Row T yelling: ‘C’mon Swans, use it!’ (Gwen rarely yells.) Will Hoskin-Bloody-Elliot slots. But I can see Lance’s pressing assist to Newman for points. And a mark from Ollie on 50 and just ahead, Lance again, screaming for it inside, wings at full span open to a fairytale. But Ollie doesn’t see him. There it is, fading from view, the kick to Lloyd and the flick to Dan and …

Home from the SCG on Friday night, the Cygnet tucked in bed, still in my scarf, I had parked myself on the floor against the couch with Thins chips and verbena tea. I wanted to check that last quarter, as if by checking it, I could change it. But they couldn’t use it. None of their efforts could tip the score. They couldn’t make the moment what it might have been for Lance.


Buddy Franklin appeared during Sydney’s 2005 premiership season. He debuted in Round 1 on the SCG, against Sydney. I remember noting the beautiful West Australian kid playing for Hawthorn, the kid all arms and legs like a mantis you would pray for. Hawthorn were bottom dwellers and lovable then.

There was something in the way he moved, like he worked on glide and sweep. He defied the brute physicality of players around him. And yet he was all physics. But I didn’t know what he could do back then. I didn’t understand. I was newish to the game myself. I watched Buddy for sheer incomprehensible pleasure. And I watched him grow into strut and champ, into the history books. And I grew to understand the unlikeliness of what he does.

The shock of his move to Sydney came with wonder. He would be on our side! I decided to call him Lance from the beginning, a clean break from Hawthorn’s Buddy. It took Sydney a time, I think, to find the right tension for Lance, to loosen the Bloods reins enough to let him fully claim the track. But now the arc of our little netball oval is truly his workplace, our pocket his pocket. We see him week to week, know him in a possessive embrace, ensured for the years ahead.  

It’s a disproportionate custody we feel. 


As I finish that first Saturday morning coffee in the northern sun that drenches our dining table, I see Lance’s face as he leaves the field, twitching with disappointment. I see all the first quarter free kicks to Collingwood that had nothing to do with umpires. I see Reid’s diabolical handball when he should have had the shot. Over and over again it loops to nothing. I can hear myself asking O’Reilly Max ‘Do you think they all have glandular fever?’
‘Of the spirit,’ he replies.

We want to believe that it’s possible for our team to get up and going every week forever, even though we know it isn’t. We want them to exceed the human median. When they match it, it’s uncomfortable. ‘Cause we seek elevation and magic in football, the same magic that promotes our ringtone into some kind of Godly apparatus and elevates the disparate elements of our everyday lives into an oracle of balletic proportion. We want to believe in that stuff! The disappointment comes when our team looks unremarkable. We love that our players are human but we crave for them not to be. Perhaps that’s what Lance took time to reconcile in the finals series of 2015.


Saturday segues into Sunday and the should-haves and could-haves are dimming but not out. I realise the condemned Swan is me. I have a choice as we face 0-4 or 1-3. Accept this fate of being a Swan forever or throw myself in the lake.

Round 2, 2017: The Dogs are No Bunnies

It’s an excellent word, unfurling. Comes off the tongue with its meaning ready made. And if the Doggies had been put away over the off season just like their Premiership flag, they sure rolled themselves open and spread themselves out on Friday night.

With our Cygnet away at music camp, the Cob and I found ourselves with a rare three nights as a twosome. We headed to our favourite Pakistani in Enmore. It’s a white tiled affair with lighting that doesn’t hide a blemish. There’s a tandoor at the door with strips of chicken and fish oranging on skewers against the wall. The palak paneer has punch. The breads come too hot to handle. It’s a place whose din always reminds me of the months I spent on the subcontinent as a nineteen year old, living on a few dollars a day, eating at roadside stops and street carts, months of simplicity coupled with sensory weight. The Cob and I sat eye to eye, pulling at naan, scooping at daal, spooning spinach and tearing chicken, past the point of being full, into that territory when taste overrides sate.

We waddled to the pub down the street. The Warren View has sat at the intersection of Stanmore and Enmore roads since 1870, when it boasted a view of a mansion called ‘The Warren’, the home of a tycoon wool merchant and politician, Thomas Holt, who named his estate after the rabbits he bred for hunting. I suppose he would have kept dogs.

We rolled in on the coin toss. Two fellas peeled off a small round table right in front of the main screen just before the siren. We haven’t watched a game together in a pub for an age. Possibly it was a dozen years ago in Lismore with a mate who barracks for Freo; we watched them play Sydney with the sound down. But sound and mood were up at the Warren View. The room was lined with lads. A table to the right propped a single numberless Doggie and a rowdy cohort of unidentifieds around him. We noticed a small plastic Premiership Cup in the centre of their beers. One hundred games for Libba and Reid and Sam goaled within the first minute. But I was still taking in the room. The numbers 19 and 29 down the front, the six sole women in the room, the SciFi door of the Pokie lounge, swallowing and spitting its callers. Tippett was suddenly down. But a second to Reid gave permission to be loud in there! And then Laidler was lining up for points. Swans had the first ten clearances of the match! The lone Dog applauded Bob’s first.

There’s something wonderful about the watching experience that is not from one’s sofa, nor from one’s stadium. In the intimacy of the pub, it’s a bit of both. We come together as spectators, casually, unsorted by the rigours of the stadium, intimately. We have one eye on the play and one eye on each other. And it’s a dance of attention that somehow expands the game.

It was horrid watching Reid in the ruck; I want him to think of himself as Swarovski crystal from now on. The shout for Ollie was already up for Florent. And Hayward ingratiated himself straight away. Newman and the replacement MO didn’t do too badly either. But the midfield looked inert. And our defence looked terrifying—for us. What was once stable now felt like that room of one arm bandits next door, a confined space where you might lose everything. The bodies we offered up down there for bolstering left a vacant lot in our front half. So when the rebound did come, the chase and recoil came quicker. Rabbits hounded into their warrens. The Dogs just run you to death.

The Cob and I spent half time sipping and wondering. Sydney’s population has just hit five million. What would become of humanity? We ordered million dollar scotches and a middy. One of the guys at the table ahead of us sat head down, rolling his coaster round and round while his mates stocked up for Part 2. He looked like Jared Moore, the brick-wall ex Swan 33. He looked very like Jared Moore.

He stayed calm while the rest of us swelled to the fourth. Up we went, down we sat. But he watched with the pendulum swinging on the inside. A Dogesque daisy chain of handballs landed in Buddy’s basket. One goal, two goal, three goal … When Reid’s sixth kicked us into a four point lead, the front room erupted. I wished it was 12 seconds on the clock not minutes. Picken missed the next attempt and the Irishman at the Cob’s shoulder gave him a wink: ‘I was calling to hook it.’

But they were so quick. They were so organised. Their structures were impeccable. Bont, Picken, Stringer, Picken. What was left to defenders? Our lone Dog in the pub was calm enough simply to applaud. He knew that his fellas had the smell of the kill in their nostrils now. The Doggies are playing with taste not sate.

As the siren cleared the field, the ladies at the adjacent table gathered up bags and coats. The Dog had his photo taken with the plastic Premiership. The fellas at the table in front ordered another round. All of our collective feeling unfurled in a jumble of shown and kept. That must be what teammates feel like sometimes. The Cob and I sipped the last of the amber medicine and contemplated Buddy’s effort, Reid’s dessert, the kids, Jared Moore.

‘He doesn’t look big enough to be Jared Moore,’ said the Cob.

‘He looks too young. His nose looks too straight,’ I added. He was glancing at us too.

Onto Enmore Rd we stepped, nothing in view but the downward slope. The Warren doesn’t exist anymore. Well not in its entirety. But much of the sandstone was used to line the gutters of Marrickville. We googled Jared Moore on our way down the hill. It was him! He did have the straight nose. But it wasn’t him. He’s got a coaching gig at North Melbourne. Long gone. Swings and roundabouts. As we passed the park, the Cob piped up:

‘Remember what we used to call him?’

I remembered.