Swans almost give fans a heart attack
Sydney Swans coach John Longmire (Slattery Images)
You know that feeling you get when you know something is about to go wrong? I hate it. Football is great at making people feel this way.
I often say there should be health restrictions that appear on the back of a football ticket:
“If you have a heart condition, do not enter.”
“If you are prone to emotional anxiety and severe shock, do not enter”
“If you wish to have a stress-free enjoyable night, you should go to the movies instead”.
Yes, last Saturday night’s game was certainly as distressing as it was exciting.
Essendon was playing host to the Swans, who had just come off the back of an emphatic win over Western Bulldogs, but were yet to prove themselves against a much-improved Essendon side in Melbourne.
Conor, my Bomber friend, came with me as we caught the train in and bought our standing-room tickets.
From our standpoint we watched as Alwyn Davey kicked the opening goal for Essendon.
We watched on as young Lewis Jetta sprinted away from old Dustin Fletcher and went on to slot the Swans’ first soon after.
Sydney dominated early as majors from Andrejs Everett and Sam Reid helped jump-start Sydney’s campaign.
The (slow) return of the Mummy, Shane Mumford, is looking good for the next few weeks as he moved forward and took some promising marks and goals.
Sam Reid was prolific again as he soared high and kicked truly twice.
Much hype has been made about Sam Reid, and I can see why. Reid seems to be able to float in the air and time his run to almost perfection. The future looks bright for this young man.
Meanwhile, Calder Cannons recruit Tony Armstrong had an unbelievable first quarter and brought a lot of pace to the Sydney game.
It was pretty clear that this had been a major strategy for the Swans this week. They were playing an un-Sydney-like brand of football, which focussed heavily on fast, play-on footy.
It was very much a free-flowing game as they played on at all costs. And it was working; the Swans led at quarter time by 22 points.
As the second quarter began, Rhyce Shaw continued his fantastic form from last week, drilling one home from a fantastic intercept. This was a common theme throughout the night.
The Sydney pressure on Essendon was amazing, forcing turnovers and clangers everywhere.
More than that, it was often the perceived pressure on the Dons that really had a negative effect on Essendon’s disposal efficiency.
Dyson Heppell and Jobe Watson were perhaps the only shining lights in what was a very poor quarter by Essendon.
Throughout the entire first half, Essendon incredibly managed to kick 11 behinds to their singular goal. The majority of them were from set shots.
This inaccurate kicking was due to low-percentage shots out wide, caused by Sydney’s ability to close down the gaps and again put pressure on the Essendon attack. It was a joy to watch.
I cheered and celebrated as Kieran Jack kicked two awesome goals, including an impressive left snap around the body which widened the half-time margin to 37 points.
During the long break I finally had a chance to gloat to my other Essendon friends. It was a long time since I had seen a Sydney victory in Melbourne.
Conor had no choice but to laugh at Essendon’s misfortune. He was unhappy but was still optimistic for the second half.
He would have to wait a full 16 minutes into the third quarter until Ben Howlett kicked a goal and broke the Don’s goalless hoodoo.
The game intensified, yet Sydney still looked the better team. The explosive excitement from Lewis Jetta out on the wing and the quick rebounds from Shaw, Grundy and Richards made this one of the finest football displays from Sydney in a long time.
The spread and run of the game was apparent from our aerial view of the field and the sheer speed at which Sydney could turn defence into attack was something to remember.
Essendon was finding their share of the ball with the majority of the game played in their forward half.
Their inside-50 count was extraordinary considering their bleak score line.
You could tell the Bombers were trying their guts out. Yet they seemingly received no reward for effort, squandering their opportunities at goal.
Dan Hannebery had knocked himself out and from the big screen, he appeared more than unhappy about his gifted red vest.
Warrior Jude Bolton was playing terrific in-and-under footy as he always does and Ryan O’Keefe too found plenty of the ball.
Craig Bird linked up with Kieran Jack, who delivered long to Lewis Roberts-Thompson’s mark and goal.
Lewis Jetta, playing the game of his life, received the ball from Jack and booted the ball high into the stands, landing it literally three metres away from my third-tier seat.
I was so happy Swans were playing well that I believed nothing could bring them down.
This turned out to be a dangerous prediction.
The last quarter started and suddenly Essendon found the ball and managed to actually kick straight.
Alwyn Davey kicked two consecutive goals and Nathan Lovett-Murray’s burst-through run-in goal brought the Dons fans to their feet.
I still wasn’t fazed.
Josh Kennedy, who was having a relatively quiet match, linked with Jude Bolton, who kicked an incredibly important goal.
He showed it, his celebration as joyous as mine.
There was a feeling in the air. I didn’t like it.
It wasn’t long until Brent Stanton found the goals, and the momentum of the game.
Players like David Myers, Courtenay Dempsey and Jobe Watson stood up and fought back.
When Howlett hacked it from 50, sneaking it over the line, the roar of the crowd was incredible.
Chants rang around the stadium and there was a belief in the team that they could actually come back and win this.
Essendon was dominating in the clearances and this set up an eerie Watson goal.
The margin was 16 points. I was about to tear my hair out.
How could this happen? Please no! I crave a win!
But the crowd didn’t listen.
Their support was so loud I felt like a drop in the ocean.
Why couldn’t this game be played in Sydney?
Sure enough, the Bombers kept on coming. Watson led from the front and the previously rare stoppages fell in the Bombers favour.
Leroy Jetta soccered a goal and I just wanted to lie down and die.
The margin was four points.
The stress took years off me. I was overwhelmed with nervousness and panic.
Could it possibly happen?
Could Sydney be the losing side in what would’ve been the greatest comeback in AFL history?
It was not fun anymore. Suddenly, a McVeigh clearance bombed forward.
A Reid tackle, the ball spilled to Jack, who kicked it forward past the fumbling Fletcher.
Jack picked it up and ran towards goal, but he too fumbled!
A rushed handball to Lewis Jetta. He picked it up. He Snapped.
GOAL! I jumped for joy.
I screamed at the top of my voice.
The Swans supporters behind us made the same amount of noise as the whole Bomber crowd.
But it was not over.
I knew full well that the Bombers would surge again.
Skipper Watson marked 35 out and goaled, bringing it back to four points.
I couldn’t stand it.
The anxiousness was overpowering; there couldn’t have be much time left on the clock.
Another push forward.
How long could it be until the went?
A long kick went to Dempsey, who marked on the 50. He played on.
It was then that the siren sounded, 35 minutes into the final quarter.
The Swans held on!
It was pure elation as I shared high-fives and hugs of joy.
Essendon supporters felt despair, shame and misery.
Thank God the Swans held on.
Thank God for that amazing game of footy.
Thank God I don’t have a heart condition!