Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : VFL            Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

The Burra Swan Song

Bill Swan's Boy DANE

Who'd have thought that fifteen years after Bill Swan wobbled a drop punt through the goals to grab his adopted club, Williamstown, the premiership in probably the most dramatic VFA grand final of all time, his son Dane would be starring with the Seagulls' AFL partner Collingwood, in a hybrid VFL? Dane was only six years of age when his father sent Princes Park into delirium on that remarkable VFA Sunday in 1990. And he wasn't even born when his father turned on a brilliant display in the middle of the Junction Oval to drive the Burra to the 1982 premiership. Port's eighth premiership since 1964, and Swan's fourth since joining the club in 1975, it seemed the Burra, with three consecutive flags, was invincible. After all, Preston, coached by Ray Shaw, whose sons Heath and Rhyce are now teammates of Dane Swan at Collingwood, was the best side in 1982 and should have won the flag.

The Port Melbourne Bill Swan knew as a child was a dockside enclave steeped in working class folklore and swarming with children. Its football club was not only successful, it was a colourful and rugged place where stories about painters and dockers and men of questionable means were prolific. Just as prolific was the crowd on the terraces and the grassy knolls that ring the old, fortress ground. The ferocious barracking and the smell of the soap factory. No one who played there in the 70s and early 80s could ever forget how exhilarating an experience and genuinely unique it could be.

And yes there were some classic brawls and incidents. And although most belong in yesteryear, they were unrivalled for drama and theatre. Bob 'Bullwinkle' Profitt driving some part of his body, 'elbow' cried the Coburg supporters, into John Scholes' head in 1976 was a standout. Like the true warrior he was, after emerging from the rooms with a bandage encasing his head Scholes just kept getting the ball. Bandy legged and invincible, the now departed Scholes left a mark wherever he went in the world of sport. Our legendary, and genuinely scary coach, Harold Martin, escorting umpire Frank Vergona to the umpire's race, to the utter contempt of the Burra supporters, was another classic moment. For all their bravado the Burra boys knew that Harold had their match, on or off the field.

A SUCCESSION OF LOCAL BOYS

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Bill Swan, Fred Cook, the Goss clan and a succession of local boys produced cameos that helped bring the VFA back to life in the 70s and 80s. For although Port is now flush with money and has, in president Peter Saultry, a man steeped in that history, the once mighty club is struggling to win a game, let alone draw the old guard back to their alma mater. Although Sunday's performance against Bendigo was honorable it was still a loss. Defiantly standing alone, with only one other club, the relative VFA newcomer, Frankston, Port desperately needs to recruit some star players. With huge losses to Sandringham (69 pts), Williamstown (85 pts) Frankston (107 pts) and Box Hill (61 pts) and only one victory in seven matches, the Burra is deep in troubled waters.

Sadly, the old city of Port Melbourne is nothing like the place that brought Bill Swan to life in the 50s and 60s. The exodus of the old working class and an influx of yuppies wedded to apartment living might not have afflicted Port's cash flow from its pokies venue, the Rex, in Bay Street, but it's meant the end of the old tribalism. 'The old community is dwindling fast, and its footballers no longer exist…Soon, what is left of the community must answer the question whether it is a more honorable option to call it a day while the memory still lives, than to pretend that nothing has changed, and in so doing, insult the deeds of their forefathers,' Port Historian, Terry Keenan, rather glumly opined in his 1999 book A Taste of Port.

Ironically, while Port struggled to constrain the lowly Bendigo Bombers in the final stages of Sunday's game, Frankston forced the much fancied and AFL enriched Williamstown to fight every step of the way, before losing by 17 points. Frankston, with three wins and good form is not only the benchmark stand-alone club, it boasts the elements of community that inspired Port and was its lifeblood. On Saturday, the mythical Port Melbourne meets Tasmania in the ABC match of the round. With a large viewing audience glued to the TV Port has a chance to win over the hearts of yesterday. I shouldn't reminisce. But just imagine the old Port of Cook, Swan, 'Gusher' Goss and his schooldays mates from around the corner playing Tassie at Port in the TV match of the round. I'd kill for that.

 

 

 
 

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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