One week ago today I sat in the stands for the biggest game of the AFL season so far. 1 plays 2, Sydney up against Hawthorn at the SCG. Did we get the result we wanted? No. Was I disappointed? Yes. Do I regret going? Not in the least.
I never cease to be amazed by the experience that live AFL is. I am yet to see another sport that gives fans such a complete experience. The moment we hit Central station we were surrounded by fellow fans decked out in red and white and filled with anticipation. The bus trip to the ground saw us surrounded by in depth analysis from the die-hard fans that live and breathe the game. When we asked a fellow passenger how often she gets to the games she replied, ‘oh only every home game’ as if she was not a huge fan.
Once at the ground the atmosphere was incredible, with over 42 000 people packed into the SCG. Every seat was valuable, with the nature of the game moving the action around all parts of the ground with impressive speed. It is truly a superior viewing position, making the trade of comfort and warmth for a hard seat and cool wind completely worth it. AFL is as much about what is about to happen as what is happening. The truly great players are those that make excellent decisions and understand where the ball needs to go to create opportunities.
The game itself was thrilling. The two sides were so closely matched it was virtually impossible for one to develop any kind of lead. At that level it was clear they were the two best teams in the competition. I was expecting to sit back and watch Hawthorn kick copious amounts of goals and move the game out of our reach, as they are so well versed in doing. It didn’t happen. They were impressive in ways that I did not expect. As much as it pains me to say it, I feel the loss of
Buddy Franklin has caused them to become a more complete team. Their defence was incredible, rushing every Sydney player and robbing them of time, so valuable when the game hinges on good decision-making. They laid 81 tackles to Sydney’s 54, embarrassing for a team that prides itself on its defence.
Sydney did perform well, with Gary Rohan warranting a special mention, having an outstanding game and displaying what a superstar he is. Having battled through injury setbacks he is currently in fine form, a complete player taking stellar marks in both attack and defence and tackling like a man possessed. For me he epitomises the culture of the Swans, showing grit and determination. While Buddy was kept relatively quiet, Rohan stood up and showed we are a team who is not reliant on a single player, kicking 4 great goals.
While the final result didn’t go our way, it highlighted the ultimate difference between the two sides. Sydney have now lost 3 games this season within the final minutes, breaking hearts and generating serious frustration. We need to learn how to finish a game, how to make the right decisions in those final moments to avoid wasting the hard work they have put in all match. Hawthorn on the other hand, find a way to win games they have no right to win. They are a team primed for the big moments, evidenced by their incredible finals success. I watched Cyril Rioli take that final mark and knew that he would slot the goal because sadly, that is what they do.
My hope has not yet faded for a premiership and while I didn’t get to belt out the song on Thursday night, I fully intend to cheer, cheer my way into September. If we finally nail those closing moments of games and of our season, we can win and we will.