Today we are off to see the Swans’ last regular season home game. The first for the part time family this year. The car will be packed, we will hopefully find a parking spot in Surry Hills, walk across Anzac Parade and go to the SCG. Or relent and park in a parking station somewhere. The train trip and bus journey is just too annoying and long for us, we have discovered through past
This is my last game I will be attending as a Swans supporter. I am going to be a Giants supporter next year -I have the membership and I want to be a part of the new push into Western Sydney. That makes today especially bittersweet, as I have supported the Swans since their arrival in 1982 – a very unusual thing for a 10 year old growing up in Greystanes to do. It sprung from watching the VFL on a Saturday afternoon from 1980 and 1981. Though, I didn’t go to a Swans game in those years – my parents weren’t that interested in any kind of football and going to the SCG solo wasn’t really an option, especially when we moved to the Blue Mountains. VFL support was tough in a Blue Mountains high school in the 80s. No kid was interested in fairy football, aerial ping pong. Same went during my marriage, when AFL support and attendance was the occasional, fleeting thing.
It is different in the Blue Mountains these days – whenever I wear my Swans gear, I am almost always stopped in the street by someone wanting to talk AFL. Trains containing Swans supporters can be seen each time they play. I was even at the Blaxland barber shop, and the conversation was about the last game of Tadgh Keneally. Another end of something.
People keep saying to me that “you can’t change teams” – especially Victorians, who think that it’s like choosing to have different children or parents. But it’s not like that – it’s about enjoying the game of AFL. It will be considerably easier for us to get to games next year – especially as the home games will all be at Homebush and, I suspect and hope, during the day. If the Giants and the AFL are serious about attracting families from the greater west, then daytime games will be better for that.
I have heard some people in Blacktown grumble about the fact that games won’t be played at the partly council- funded ground at Blacktown – but that is pretty much an impossible option for a major sporting team of any code to consider. The train station is too far away, the local privately owned bus routes are pathetically under resourced and the road outside would gridlock in seconds if 25,000 people were there. Homebush – which is in western Sydney – was the only realistic option.
But back to the Swans. The team has a fully fledged niche in Sydney culture and will continue to have with the new team. They are largely a team for people from the North Shore, Northern Beaches, Eastern Suburbs and Inner Western suburbs to support and cheer. The people for whom rugby league has soured or AFL is one of the sports they follow because they have an open mind about following sport. For those people, the SCG is easier for them to access and it has a wonderful atmosphere that won’t ever transfer to ANZ Stadium. I do love the SCG for football. We will still get to Swans games next year – after all, they do have the Local Taphouse just up the road and the games will be of better quality. And my partner prefers red to orange. Being of an inner city sensibility, she also likes other Swans supporters. There is also an abiding admiration for the culture of a team that has always performed better than it appears to be on paper. A club that has boasted the inclusion of fine men like Brett Kirk, Paul Kelly, Jarrad McVeigh, Adam Goodes and Tadgh Keneally. The clear “no dickheads” policy. The club that civilised and boosted Tony Lockett. As do I, to be honest.
That is why today is a special one for me – the end of a 29 year supporting journey, of sorts. Just of sorts. I’m not giving away the jumpers, scarves or shirts. But I won’t miss the kicks backwards and the sitters missed from in front. Apparently Folau can kick with great accuracy in set shots. That will make a nice change.