A dove among pigeons: tales of a Swan in St Kilda heartland
Not that long ago I was on a train in India. Aside from my parents and my sister I was the only non-Indian on the train.
It was packed and I estimate I was the only person with white hair within a 20-kilometres radius. I was a dove among pigeons.
I copped glares left, right and centre. I was almost a celebrity. It was a strange sensation, which bordered on uncomfortable and awkward. Yet I loved it.
I loved that I was exciting, unique, an attraction. I was almost famous. Although I do believe that this should be taken in very small doses.
It was a feeling I felt once again last Saturday night. St Kilda was hosting my beloved Sydney at Etihad Stadium and I was attending with a Saints mate.
We trained it in and took our cheap seats in the rafters. The Swans were in reasonably good form but I wasn’t overly confident, knowing their poor record in Melbourne.
Everybody’s favourite Lenny Hayes was playing his 250th game and in all honesty it was something I was glad to be apart of.
My admiration for Hayes is second to none, and I believe his courageousness, guts and philosophy is something all football fans should acknowledge.
The game began and Jack Steven booted the first for the game, but an unlikely running goal from Sam Reid evened it up.
I could feel the Swans starting to get a run-on in the first as Bolton thumped one from outside 50. Then Supercoach star Josh Kennedy slotted one from the pocket.
Late back-to-back majors from Saints’ Jason Blake and Nick Dal Santo kept their ship level.
A good first quarter by Ben McGylnn and an accompanying goal meant that Swans led into quarter time by nine points.
During the break I felt rather happy with myself as, for the first time, I purchased a beer at the footy as a legal 18 year-old.
But my celebration was short-lived as the Saints started the next quarter well, much to my mate’s satisfaction.
Nick Riewoldt was let off the leash and damaged the Swans with two goals and the defensive efforts of Brendon Goddard and Jason Gwilt ensured their progress. David Armitage and Steven, meanwhile, gave the Saints faithful a glimpse into the future.
St Kilda’s attack on the ball and tenacity was awesome, typified by Jarryn Geary’s brave collision in a group tackle, resulting in a bloodied face and consequent substitution.
On the other hand, Sydney’s decision making was poor and as their confidence fell, so too did their performance. With perhaps the exception of Kieran Jack the team was amiss.
A gang tackle on Nick Malceski resulted in a free kick and a goal to Ahmed Saad, which sealed their dominate quarter. The Saints led into the main break as 21-point leaders.
With mutual agreement, my mate and I went searching for better seats, and as it turned out the most convenient and best ones were deep within St Kilda’s cheer squad.
I braced myself for the onslaught. I was indeed a solitary Swan among Saints.
As it turned out we were sitting down the right end of the ground as all the action was right in front of us. Unfortunately for me it was St. Kilda’s action.
Stephen Milne kicked two in a row including one that could’ve been touched on the line. As an unbiased supporter I admitted its legitimacy, much to my dismay.
The tables soon turned as McGylnn gave the one-two and ran into 50 with a team-lifting goal. I jumped out of my seat exclaiming “MacGooooo!” and cheered loud and proud.
Through the burning glares and harsh looks I was thankful it was not a Collingwood game. However, my passion soon came back to haunt me as the Saints kicked the next four in succession.
I had front row seats to Dal’s long bomb, Arryn Siposs’ miracle snap and Saad’s fly kick goal.
St Kilda ran rampant and were beating the Swans at almost every contest. Their pressure was phenomenal and their tackle count was one of the reasons they were able to enter their attacking 50 so frequently.
On the other hand, Sydney struggled to make it past half-way and the efforts shown by some of their ‘elite’ were disheartening.
The only joy salvaged from this one-sided period was a long bomb by Lewis ‘Jetstar’ Jetta. Again my celebration was not reserved and I let my surrounding crowd know my approval.
Despite this glimpse of pleasure, St Kilda took full advantage of the quarter and led by 44 at three-quarter time.
By this point in time I had convinced myself it was game over. My friend took pity on me and was hopeful of a Sydney comeback. I was a little more realistic.
A strong mark by the Benny McGoo and a respectable goal from Jetstar earned some applause by myself – and only myself.
It was like a funeral around me and the only sound you could hear was my lonely, slow and loud clapping.
I didn’t care that I was copping looks and disapproving nods all around me. I was going to cheer for the Swans no matter what.
Kieran Jack scored from a cheeky toepoke and Sam Reid’s goal almost hit me on the chest.
For a minute – it was probably more like 30 seconds – I could foresee a possible victory, but reality soon came crashing down as Milera guaranteed the St Kilda win.
Sydney had three times as many scoring shots in the final quarter and won it along with a little bit of credibility, but the game was well and truly over.
The siren sounded and everyone except me jumped up in delight.
I was left alone to ponder where the rest of this unpredictable season might lead.
I had enjoyed the experience, but not the outcome.
Sometimes it is great to be a dove, but only if there is a noticeable lack of pigeons.
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