Fifteen minutes until the opening siren and I'm doing my warm-up.
My fifteen year old son Sean and I like to have a kick outside gate seven before the game. Sometimes we are joined by his younger sister Ella ( she has passed up this opportunity today in favour of a trip to the Sun Theatre with her girlfriends to see 'Wolverine'!! Yeah I know, unbelievable).
Our opponents today are the Sydney Swans. They are exactly the team that we need to play; hard and unrelenting, just what the dogs aspire to be. Sydney were formerly South Melbourne before they relocated in 1982. For whatever reason, we could never beat them in Sydney. Every season i would sit in front of the t.v. thinking 'surely today we can do it.' We never could. Until round 2, 1990 when Leon Cameron playing his first game (and Granty his second), were able to bring home the bacon.
Big Tom Campbell starts in the goal square and has a couple in the first five minutes. Both sides are pressing hard and Sydney are able to scrounge a few majors when the ball hits the deck near their goals. Still the dogs persist and a long goal from Tommy Young and they are only a goal down at quarter time.
The dogs are playing some inspired football in the second quarter which lifts the spirits of the spartan supporters. Surprisingly the cheer squad looks pretty thin on for members this year. Even when things have been average in the past, you could normally count on the area behind the goals to be well populated. Three goals down at half time but with better delivery into the forward line, we could have been closer.
Sitting inside docklands with the roof closed, you are oblivious to the weather outside. And so it was when we went out for our half time kick we found it had been raining. We have a bit of trouble adjusting and there are more mongrel punts than Crossy has produced in his lifetime. How nobody has been hit is beyond belief...
The third quarter is full on with hard tackling and kamikaze efforts. Long bombs to Campbell in the square don't result in marks but snap goals to Granty. The creme de la creme occurs minutes later however. A Cross 'floater' lands in the goal square where Campbell palms it over his shoulder. Gia connects at full speed with his left foot bringing squeals of delight from the bulldog faithful.
They say the really good teams play out the quarter and this is illustrated by the Swans as they kick three in the last five minutes to gain 26 point buffer.
The talk amongst friends at three quarter time is that we want the boys to 'hang tough' and not to capitulate. I have been drifting off to the qualifying final of '97. The Swans had been grand finalists the previous year but on this occasion the Dogs had a ripper first quarter kicking 9 to zip! Where's James Cook when we need him??
There are no miracle comebacks in the last quarter but the scraggers continue to throw their bodies about. Cooney provides the play of the day with a 80 metre, 4 bounce sprint down the centre of the ground only to see his kick marked by an opponent five metres from goal. The Swans prevailed by 35 points.
Making my way around the ground to the exit, i am proud to see the supporters crowded around the race, cheering off their boys. Happy days are on the way.