On Saturday, south-east Queensland will play host to two classic AFL grand final match-ups from the noughties.
The 2018 AFL season has been very unusual. Each round has had an unexpected result – such as Round 6, in which my team, Sydney, managed to upset Geelong at GMHBA Stadium by 17 points.
Teams have gone from contenders to pretenders and back again within the span of three rounds (looking at you, Port Adelaide), so as a neutral, you can’t help but look forward to what happens next.
But as a supporter?
Occasionally it can be thrilling, but most of the time, it is stressful.
I officially started barracking for the Swans in 2007, after resigning myself to the fact that Melbourne were not going to win a premiership in my lifetime.
(Since the Dees haven’t made the finals since 2006, while Sydney has won a premiership and been a perennial finalist, I made the right decision.)
Anyway, the Swans’ form was a bit up and down in 2007, but they managed to qualify for the finals in seventh place. Unfortunately, their opponent happened to be Collingwood, who Sydney have an atrocious record against.
To make matters worse, it was at the MCG, a venue that the Swans cannot seem to adjust to. So, it wasn’t all that surprising when they lost by 38 points.
2008 was slightly more productive, finishing sixth and defeating North Melbourne in an elimination final at ANZ Stadium by 35 points. Yet, as statistics show, the winner of the elimination final tends to lose to the loser of the qualifying final – which is exactly what happened against the Western Bulldogs.
If I knew what was to come in the following year, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed.
In 2009, the Swans missed out on the finals and I wondered if our premiership window was now slammed shut.
Fortunately, in 2010, Sydney finished fifth and defeated Carlton in a thriller at ANZ Stadium. The semi-final was also a nail-biter, though once again the Bulldogs were too strong.
To make matters worse, beloved coach Paul Roos resigned and appointed assistant coach John Longmire as his successor. This was devastating for me at the time because of everything Roos had done for the club. While I did not barrack for Sydney when they won the flag in 2005, breaking a 72-year drought, or were runners up in 2006, I appreciated these moments all the same. Once you start supporting a team, you are entitled to claim their history as your own.
While I had my doubts about Longmire, they were fortunately put at ease.
Sydney had a solid season in 2011. My favourite moment was defeating Geelong at Kardinia Park, the first time any team had achieved that in 1462 days. This victory was dedicated to Jarrad McVeigh’s daughter, Luella, who had tragically passed away during that season.
The Swans also upset St Kilda at Etihad Stadium, in what was Ross Lyon’s last game as Saints coach.
The lowlights included losing to the Bombers at Etihad Stadium – Adam Goodes missing a goal after the siren – and going down to the Hawks at the MCG in the semi-finals.
While I was pleased that we weren’t regressing, I was concerned that we might not win another premiership for some time.
However, success was right around the corner.
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The Swans usually struggle at the start of each season, so when they won their first five games in 2012, I started to believe that this was our year.
However, our most memorable victory was undoubtedly the grand final.
Despite never having matched up on the Hawks all that well, and not seeming to know how to play at the MCG, the Swans prevailed by ten points.
I still can’t believe that it actually happened. However, repercussions have haunted the Swans ever since.
Sydney were no longer underdogs, which was arguably the reason they won two flags in the AFL era.
Instead, the contenders tag didn’t sit well with Sydney at all, and recruiting Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin didn’t help matters.
On paper, a couple of gun key-forwards and a host of star-studded midfielders would deliver two premierships.
Sydney haven’t won a flag since.
In 2013, the betting markets had the Swans second, only to Hawthorn, to go back-to-back. Unfortunately, Fremantle out-pressured Sydney in the preliminary final. It was a great effort, yes, but the manner in the game was lost – as well as the qualifying final against Hawthorn – was concerning.
In 2014, as overwhelming favourites, Sydney of course were thrashed by Hawthorn to the tune of 63 points in the grand final.
I was confused. Gutted. Angry. Finishing on top of the ladder meant nothing. Comfortable victories in the qualifying and preliminary finals felt meaningless.
But as bad as 2014 was, 2015 was even worse. Losing in straight sets to Fremantle and North Melbourne was humiliating. It felt wrong.
2016 was a significant improvement, though choking in the grand final once again was distressing.
Then Sydney lost the first six games of 2017. Somehow they snuck into the finals – being the first ever team to do so – and thrashed Essendon by 65 points in the first final.
I was so impressed by how well Sydney had played, I assumed a premiership was on the way. Unfortunately, they were knocked out of the semi-finals by a rampaging Geelong at the MCG.
As for 2018? It’s been more of the same.
Sydney kicked off their season with a win against West Coast in Perth, but in Round 3 – as red-hot favourites against Port Adelaide and playing at the SCG – the Power got up.
Fortunately, the Swans bounced back against the Greater Western Sydney Giants in Round 4, and managed to hold on against the Western Bulldogs – who had been a bogey team in recent years – the following week.
So, of course, Sydney then lost to Adelaide at the SCG, which was frustrating because the Crows were depleted by injuries and had lost to Collingwood the week before.
I could never have imagined beating Geelong in their own backyard a week later, considering the atrocious performance against the Crows, yet somehow a famous comeback was staged after trailing by 22 points at three-quarter time.
That’s footy for you.
Overall, supporting the Swans is a rollercoaster. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.