Following another worrying performance in front of goals, do the Swans need a head doctor? It cannot be a complete coincidence that they were playing Geelong, the team that thrashed them in the 2022 AFL grand final. Scar tissue manifests in many ways and, perhaps, the Sydney Swans are traumatised deep inside. AFL is a physical game played at breakneck speed until that moment when the forward must compose himself to take a set shot. Suddenly, the expectations of team, crowd, and self coalesce into a pressure situation inside the player with the kicking boots on standing before the goals.
A Shrink To Help Sydney Straighten Up In Front Of Goal
Isaac Heeney is a wonderful young man, a blonde bombshell with graceful moves like a panther on the footy field. Last night his pink boots let the whole world down, if you are a Sydney sider that is. He could not hit the side of a barn from forty metres out. He could not put the score on the board repeatedly when the Swans really needed it. He was not alone, however, forward after forward stepped up and missed the rather large opening between the big sticks.
Missing became a high probability, then a habit, and finally an unfortunate moral if you were wearing the red and white.
Cursing The Swans Doing My Head In
Now, it is not unusual for me to be loudly cursing my TV screen during Swan’s matches. Last night I was writhing in spasms, as highly paid AFL player after player stood up and kicked astray from near and far. Heeney put several out on the full to go with his multiple behinds. Braeden Campbell and Logan McDonald kept us in the match in terms of kicking straight when it mattered. Goals became harder to get than Hawkeis for the Ukrainians from Australia. 31 goals last week slumped to just 6 on Friday night. The Sydney team was doing great things everywhere else on the field, winning contests, and moving the ball with speed and accuracy.
Long time watchers of the non-round ball game know that missing opportunities invariably comes back to bite you on the bum. The wheel turns, as they say, and the other team gets their turn. Sure enough, Geelong came out after halftime and tightened up with their pressure and shut the Swans down. Actually, the Cats missed a few shots in front of goals in the third quarter, which got me thinking about the conditions. A news report had mentioned that high winds had closed Sydney airport, which is not that far from the SCG. Confirming this contributing factor was a Geelong player interviewed post-game saying, ‘that conditions were tricky out there.’
Still, Tom Hickey missing from 15 metres dead in front of goal was not excusable on this basis. No, missing set shots is a lot to do with head and heart in my book.
The Sydney Swans overachieved last year and copped an awful shellacking on the biggest stage in footy. They are a young group and very talented to boot. The Swans or the Bloods have always played with great heart, rarely giving up no matter the odds. Which is why the result in the 2022 GF shocked the AFL world. Confidence in front of goals is born of real belief and true grit. Pretenders are found wanting. Yelling at the screen last night I thought to myself – do the Swans need a head doctor? A mental coach to help them overcome a few inner demons? Missing shots, obviously, can become contagious and a self-perpetuating failing.
I have had several self-reflective conversations with myself about hanging up the boots as a nutjob supporter. I mean, really, is it wise to put one’s mental health into the hands of a score of young men I don’t even know? I am getting on in years and all this loud growling at TV screens cannot be good for my health.
The tribal nature of following your footy team pervades the lives of many of us. We love it when our team wins, and we plumb the depths of despair following a loss. In the bigger scheme of things, it is probably a pretty trivial affair, but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time. I tell myself that my crazy antics during games is a sign of how much I care. This year, a lot of this emotion has coalesced in front of goals, and the Swans have sucked, even Buddy has been less than stellar.
Do the Swans need a head doctor? Or is it just me?
Special mention must be made of James Rowbottom, Ollie Florent, Errol Gulden, Nick Blakey, Luke Parker, and young Angus Sheldrick for their efforts on the night. Braeden Campbell was my standout player for the Swans. The whole team played well but lacked the ability to finish in front of goals. The result was better than a loss but could have been a massive win. In this era of advanced coaching, some mental therapy addressing belief in individual players could be a sound idea. The pruning of the soft cap following the pandemic may have put paid to such things, but it may well be worth it for all of our peace of minds. Goals are important if teams want to progress and missing set shots at crucial times has become a Swan’s trend in 2023.