A TALE OF TWO MATCHES
This article was originally published on The Roar.
It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. Moore Park, in the heart of Sydney, sees
two stadia sitting side by side. And with matches scheduled for both on the same day on
Saturday, just a few hours apart, an opportunity was presented for a sporting double-header.

The first leg, at the SCG, saw the Swans take on Hawthorn. The ground was bathed in sunshine,
the surface looking a treat. And despite popular wisdom that suggests Saturday afternoons aren’
t a popular timeslot in Sydney, a strong crowd of 29,431 made the trip to the SCG to see the
match.

It didn’t take long for the home side to get on top, and the first half saw the game threaten to
turn into a blowout. Even with two late goals to the Hawks, the Swans still led by 47 points at
the long break. The crowd, the majority decked out in red and white, were in good spirits;
applauding the goals while talking and laughing among themselves. A major conversation topic
was young Swan Lewis Jetta and his quest for an opening goal for his career. Jetta already held
the record for the most career behinds without a goal, and a couple of misses in the first half
added to the drought.

Although the majority of the crowd were in red and white, there was a healthy Hawks contingent;
and a Hawthorn revival in the third term saw the visiting fans find their voice. Urged on by the
fans in brown and gold, the Hawks got the margin back to within four goals.

But the Swans fans also began to become more vocal, roaring their disapproval to the umpires at
a run of free kicks going Hawthorn’s way. And there was more to cheer about when young gun
Trent Dennis-Lane landed a brilliant opportunist goal. Late in the term Adam Goodes kicked a
steadying goal for the Swans. And as the clock ticked towards 33 minutes, Jetta gathered the ball
on 50 metres. The crowd roared as Jetta kicked the ball between the big sticks; but few of the
roaring crowd heard the siren sound before Jetta laid boot to ball. But unfortunately for Jetta,
the umpire did hear it. The goal was disallowed and the hoodoo continued.

But the game was still in the balance, and the Hawks remained with a chance despite having been
so comprehensively outplayed in the first half. Willing the Swans to lift, the “Sydney (clap clap
clap)” cheer began to be heard more often, louder with more fans joining in.
But the siren and the break before the final quarter seemed to stop the Hawks’ momentum,
and the Swans regained the initiative in the final term. It didn’t take long for it to be clear that
the Swans would take out the win; but there was still one more piece of unfinished business
before the siren could bring the game to an end.

It came when Martin Mattner found Jetta unmarked within goal-scoring range. Jetta made no
mistake, and finally the goal-kicking monkey was off his back. As his team-mates ran to him
to celebrate, a standing ovation came from the crowd. The final siren came, and the Swans
had taken a 44-point victory. The team song was played over the PA system, the crowd
singing along.

After the game, a function at the indoor nets gave supporters a chance to celebrate with the
Swans. And a couple of hours later, it was off to the Sydney Football Stadium for the A-
League season opener, as Sydney FC took on Melbourne Victory.

Although the crowd at the soccer was under half the AFL’s crowd, the volume they made was
more than double. While most of the crowd were Sydney FC fans, a good Victory contingent
was on hand. And, taking advantage of the double-header, there were many in attendance
still wearing their Swans gear.

Co-ordinated groups at each end sang throughout the match. And before the game, a giant
banner was unfurled over the Cove. “Memories may fade, history lasts forever” was the
message, along with graphics of a premiership celebration. It was a spectacular banner display
from the Cove, who have put on similar displays in the past; but sadly it will be the last.

On the pitch it was a subdued opening, with both teams feeling each other out. Off the field it
was anything but subdued, the singing fans in voice. The songs from both ends could have
come from a Jekyll and Hyde songbook – clever chants of the virtues of their team mixed in
with expletive-laden hate anthems.

After half an hour, Alex Brosque broke through to open the scoring for Sydney FC. The Cove
went into a frenzy, beer cups flying through the air as the giant flags began to wave. And in
the seats on the sideline the crowd came to life with a giant roar.

It was 1-0 to Sydney FC at the break, and shortly afterwards Terry McFlynn doubled the
advantage with a spectacular header. It was no less than the run of play deserved, with the
home side being clearly the better side. The hour mark passed, and it appeared the locals
were cruising home for a comfortable win.

But 10 minutes later, the Sydney crowd were stunned into silence. Sloppy defending yielded
three soft goals for the Victory, and against the run of play the visitors were in front. Even
the Cove found themselves subdued, while the Victory fans at the southern end began to be
more audible from the sidelines.

A noticeable feature when attending Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory game is how tight
security is. Where my entry to the SCG had security only give a token split-second look inside
my bag, entry to the SFS required me to empty out my bag as police with sniffer dogs
watched on; and then I was selected for a pat-down frisk check. While Swans and Hawks fans
had happily inter-mingled at the SCG, the soccer crowd was strictly segregated with Victory
fans kept at the southern end behind a row of riot police.

Such security measures annoy soccer fans, but they don’t do themselves any favours. A flare
was lit at the back of the Cove, the red light visible around the ground as smoke began to
billow over the arena.

The idiot who lit the flare not only vindicated the presence of tight security, but performed a
sickening low act of betrayal. Giant banners such as the one at the start of the game were
close to being banned, and were only allowed after the Cove leadership met with the FFA
under the condition that no flares would be lit. It was a dog act by whoever lit it – those giant
banners were a spectacular sight, and fans around the ground will be disadvantaged that they
will no longer be permitted.

Shannon Cole got a goal back for Sydney FC to level the scores at 3-3, and that’s how it
finished. But the long faces on the Sydney fans as they filed out of the stadium showed that
although the game was a draw, it felt like a loss; the one that got away after they held a 2-0
lead on the hour.

Two very different games, two very different crowds. Both have their place in the Sydney
sporting calendar; an increasingly diverse and crowded schedule for those who follow multiple
sports. And the Moore Park region continues its sporting versatility for the weekend with an
NRL blockbuster between the Roosters and the Dragons.