No “i” in Swans
The Sydney Swans can now lay claim to the title of being the greatest Aussie Rules football team of all time.
Not so much in terms of their victories, even though two wins from three grand finals in eight years is impressive by any measure. More so in terms of the sporting cliché that there is no “I” in team, as this team is the most remarkable collection of unfancied, unwanted, and even unknown blokes ever to grace a footy field, who have thrived at a club which places collective effort over the desire to build up a few individual superstars.
A few weeks ago after watching the Swans do a number on my team Adelaide at our home ground, I wrote in Sydney’s Daily Tele about how one of the best things Sydney had going for it was being so consistently underrated by the Victorian football media.
Earlier this year Mick Malthouse, doyen that he apparently is, said it was something of a farce that Sydney were in the top two on the premiership ladder, and no reliable indication of their abilities.
Coming back not once but twice to win Saturday’s remarkable grand final should force Mick to politely eat his words.
While the ability to fly under the radar was a factor, the greatest thing Sydney has going for it as a club is its culture of unity and self-belief. The rollcall of blokes who put in on Saturday includes a who’s who of players who were dumped and discarded by other clubs but who thrived at the Sydney Swans.
While the Hawks are ruing the inaccuracy of the biggest name in Aussie Rules, their glamour forward Lance Franklin, the Swans’ win was made possible by hundreds of heroic efforts across the park.
There were many standout moments in this game, in which the Swans set a new AFL record by becoming the first club to lay more than 100 tackles in a grand final. The opening and closing goals by Nick Malceski, both of them among the best goals ever kicked in a grand final.
Adam Goodes playing on one leg and still kicking the last quarter goal which let Sydney pull back level with the Hawks. Lewis Jetta sprinting away from Cyril Rioli, in one of the most joyful celebrations of the indigenous contribution to the game.
But the best moment for mine was a tackle right at the end by Adelaide Crows’ discarded defender Marty Mattner, when with two minutes to go and the Swans up by just five points he chased down forward Luke Breust to stop a potential Hawthorn surge.
I’ve watched the last ten minutes of the game on the IQ about a dozen times now, and Mattner’s determination says everything you need to know about this awesome footy club. Cheer cheer the red and the white.
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