Swans kickstart a Sydney sporting revival
Can the Swans take down Hawthorn this week? (Image: Slattery)
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As a proud Sydneysider who doesn’t support any team, my faith in Australia’s biggest city’s flagging sporting fortunes was given a huge boost last night when the Sydney Swans cruised into the AFL grand final with a 13.18.96 win over arch-rivals Collingwood’s 10.10.70.
Leading at every change, the 26-point victory ended a losing streak against the Magpies that stretched back to June 2005 over 11 successive games, seven of them at ANZ Stadium.
The sea of red and white was dominant in the crowd of 57,156.
Manly could have matched the Swans in the NRL, but with the exception of skipper Jamie Lyon and Brett Stewart, they forgot to turn up to play.
As a result, they were flogged by the Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith-inspired Melbourne 40-12 – seven tries to two.
But to further restore the faith, there will be a Sydney-based side in the big one when the Bulldogs take on the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium tonight, in front of an expected 70,000 crowd.
The Swans and either the Bulldogs or Bunnies are a far cry from the sporting frailities shown by Sydney-based teams in 2013:
* The NSW Origin played better than in previous years, but still lost 2-1 to give the mighty Maroons a record seven successive series victories.
* The NSW Waratahs turned in their worst season ever with a record 12 losses, eight of them on the trot.
* Sydney FC finished fifth on the A-League table, but was the only team in the top six to have a season’s minus goal difference of 37-42.
* The NSW cricketers haven’t won the Sheffield Shield since the 2007-2008 season, the 50-overs since 2005-2006, or the Twenty20 since 2008-2009.
* The Sydney Kings basketballers are a basket-case, long gone are the halcyon days of Mike Wrublewski, Steve Carfino, and Brian Goorjian.
* And the NSW Swifts haven’t won the ANZ netball championship since 2008.
Poor fare from Australia’s biggest city, normally recognised over the years as sporting the hardest-to-beat sporting teams.
So full marks to the Swans and especially to two unsung heroes, Richard Colless and Johnny Longmire.
Colless was originally from Western Australia, but has been chairman of the Swans since 1994 – the longest serving AFL chairman-president currently in office.
And there’s a very substantial reason for that – he’s the very best.
Longmire is only in his second season as Swans coach, and he’s been flying under the radar since he took over from the legend Paul Roos.
Beaten in the semis in his debut year by Hawthorne, Longmire has reached the decider in his second.
The combination of Colless and Longmire off the field, with Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton, Josh Kennedy, Lewis Jetta, Lewis Robert-Thompson, Kieren Jack, and former Canadian rugby international Mike Pyke on the field are the real reasons why the Swans are genuine flag contenders.
Coincidentally, both Des Hasler and Mick Maquire are in their first seasons with their respective NRL clubs.
But Hasler knows all about winning premierships, two as a player in 1987 and 1996, and two as a coach in 2008 and 2011 – all with Manly.
In his first season with the Bulldogs, he’s taken them to the minor premiership. With just two more wins and Hasler will become the first coach to win back-to-back premierships with two different clubs.
Maguire has trodden a very different path.
Persistent injuries were the reason he only played 13 games for the Raiders, and five for the Adelaide Rams. He began his coaching career as assistant to Melbourne’s crack coach Craig Bellamy, and branched out on his own to win the 2010 Super League grand final, and the 2011 Challenge Cup in his only two years coaching Wigan.
The tactical battle tonight between Hasler and Maguire will be special. And special for the supporters of both clubs, as well.
The Bulldogs have won eight premierships, the last in 2004. The Rabbitohs have won a record 20 premierships, the last in 1971.
It’s a night not to be missed as Sydney as a sporting city begins to fight back.