Sydney’s fair-weather fans no match for Melbourne passion
THIS is the story of two games of football, the first of which proves that the AFL is an absolute powerhouse which is rightly the envy of sports administrators the world over, the second of which casts doubt on its ability to extend beyond its tribal powerbase in the civilised AFL states.
Carlton-St Kilda at Etihad and Sydney-Collingwood at Stadium Australia.
I was lucky enough to be at the first match. It stands as one of the greatest games of footy I have ever seen. And like many people in Sydney I could have got tickets to the second match but piked due to the drizzle, the fact that it was televised, and also because I (rightly) suspected the Swans would lose.
Tempting as it was to travel 20km to sit in a half-empty stadium getting drenched while watching Collingwood fans scream with delight, the couch beckoned - and with the benefit of hindsight I’m glad that it did, as my mates who trudged out to Homebush are still recovering from a miserable night.
What they’re not recovering from though is that sense of palpable, physical sickness which true fans experience when they realise their team is getting too old, too slow, too predictable, that it frittered away victory by failing to turn up for the final term, and as such will have its first quiet September since 2001.
A genuine fan would have woken up on Sunday feeling as if there’d been a death in the family. They would have awoken yesterday to see four pages of spreads in the sports sections detailing the failures of every Swans player, questioning the performance of Paul Roos, speculating about the future of club veterans and the coach.
Instead, the (non) reaction has confirmed again how quickly Sydney fans lapse into the shoulder-shrugging ambivalence and “oh well, there’s always next year” rationalisations which are the hallmark of a marginal sporting franchise.
That most certainly isn’t a criticism of the Swans or their coach. The players, and Paul Roos, have invested so much spirit in the club, with silverware to show for it, and they would be feeling gutted and ashamed at Saturday’s no-show.
It’s the fans that are the problem.
Apart from a few fanatics - many of them expats from AFL states - going to a Sydney game is a merely an option here. And winning is regarded as merely nice, or preferable, rather than the absolute cornerstone of your mental wellbeing.
It’s a marked contrast from the world’s-best-practice agony and pride of Carlton fans at Etihad the other Friday. They died a thousand deaths, almost lifting the roof off that closed stadium as the Blues staged two miracle comebacks, led by Judd’s heroics, to be denied what would have been one of the greatest victories in football history.
The Swannies are reminiscent of the pre-Bulldogs Footscray, their fans prepared to cop a gallant defeat. It’s the mindset which Terry Wallace targeted in his inspired post-match address in the Year of the Dog documentary – “If I see one of you blokes getting a pat on the back at the club tonight for trying, God help me I’ll spew up.”
Sydney’s ambivalence is the X-factor for the AFL as it embarks on WS18.
As an Aussie Rules tragic resident in Sydney, I support the western Sydney concept, and want it to succeed. I can see the arguments for widening the audience by guaranteeing an AFL game in Sydney every week, by staging derbys, for capitalising on the great work of Auskick and the poor management of NRL clubs by their amateurish boards.
But what’s still missing is passion. If you can’t convince the supporters of an existing club that footy isn’t a matter of life or death – it’s much more important than that – how can you convince fans of a non-existent club in a non-AFL area to care about a new, made-up team?
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…