Strength of Sydney’s Bloods culture set to be tested after latest defeat

first_imgIn the AFL era, Sydney has been one of the league’s most consistent teams, failing to make the finals in only three seasons since 1996. In the 21st Century the Swans have won more games than any team not named Geelong. But after losing at the Gabba for the first time in a decade on Saturday night, they are facing an extended September holiday not experienced since they sold Warwick Capper to the Brisbane Bears for the price of a pink helicopter at the end of 1987.Sydney’s identity then was expressed by Dr Geoffrey Edelsten’s vanity-plated Lamborghinis and mink-covered examination tables, and it soon spiralled to consecutive wooden spoons in 1992 through 1994. With a culture reduced to hideous extravagance, the Swans could barely get 10,000 through the gates. Jack Steven takes another AFL break to manage mental health Share on WhatsApp But in this crucible of floggings, the Giants endured, and developed a culture that is the antithesis of the Edelsten era Swans – gnarled, gritty and through the likes of Toby Greene, ill-tempered. Even with the pure footballing class of Stephen Coniglio, Jeremy Cameron and Josh Kelly, the Giants have become a team that largely only their supporters could love, and you suspect that suits them just fine. As the writer Malcolm Knox has observed, it is a style that should take them a long way in establishing an enduring identity as the team of the west.The Swans have worked hard for many years to build such an identity, and you suspect an adherence to The Bloods culture will expedite the development of emerging footballers such as George Hewett, Oliver Florent and Will Hayward. Identity too is what rusts a supporter base to a club, and it is something largely forged by the adherence to a culture – particularly when times aren’t great.Sydney wasn’t the worst team on the weekend (envelope, please… Carlton!), but we are about to see if The Bloods culture is strong enough to deny their support that most dreaded of sporting insults – fair-weathered. Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Australia sport Topics Read more … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. AFL Share on Messenger Australian rules footballcenter_img Since you’re here… Share via Email features Share on Facebook And then in 1995, Tony Lockett joined the Swans and rugby league tore itself apart. The Swans came good, making the grand final in 1996. But the greatest legacy of the Swans era of success would come seven years later with the introduction of The Bloods culture – a player-driven driven initiative that came of age with the 2005 premiership. The Bloods was a nod to the old South Melbourne, but for anyone of a football following age from the 1980s onward, it became the defining characteristic of the modern Sydney Swans.Sydney premiership player Luke Ablett said that the most important element of a successful football club culture wasn’t statistics, but the character traits you aspire to.“That might be training standards, recovery standards or what you go and do on a Saturday night. You establish those values and desired characteristics and decide how you want see yourself as a group.”But Ablett also knew that these things are ultimately reinforced by the success they bring.“…if the 2005 season had continued the way it was going after a 1-3 start, then The Bloods wouldn’t have lasted very long. It might have lasted three years and people would have said, ‘Well, that wasn’t the right way to do things’.” /info/2015/jun/05/guardian-australia-sport-newsletter-subscribe-by-email Can The Bloods be sustained through an era of moderate success, particularly when the Swans are getting smashed around the ball, something that defined its previous teams? Brisbane recorded 27 more contested possessions than Sydney in the third quarter, the highest differential for a single quarter in any game this season.If the culture of the Swans era which broke a 72-year-old premiership drought is to be sustained, it will be through players such as small forward Tom Papley. Taken in the 2016 rookie draft, Papley is part of Sydney’s eight-man leadership group and on Saturday was one of the few positives in a dirty night for the Swans, kicking four goals, including one after a big hit from Brisbane’s Oscar McInerny, a man a good 27cm taller and 30kg heavier.In a young side (Sydney owns the AFL’s fourth youngest list), there can often appear to be wild fluctuations in effort, but it is not evident in Papley, whose unbridled intensity makes him come across as that annoying kid who treats training like it’s the third world war.“He just keeps having a go, Paps,” said Sydney coach John Longmire. “That effort, going back in front of a big bloke coming out, was huge, absolutely huge, and it saved us a goal. That’s the standard that is required over a consistent four-quarter performance. To do that and still kick a goal afterwards was really gutsy.”Whatever it is, the Swans will need to maintain a strong identity in a market where they now have competition. Supporters south of the Barassi line saw Greater Western Sydney as an artificial team, not “born in blood and boots” but in “AFL focus groups” (poetry has been subjected to various humiliations over the years, but perhaps none as cruel as its abuse on football club banners). Nevertheless, traditional football fans rubbernecked the living hell out of teams lining up to belt those early Giants by 10, 15, 20 goals. Losers. We love them. ‘Jesaulenko, you beauty’: sports commentator Mike Williamson dies at 90 Support The Guardian Share on Twitter Sydney Swans Read more Reuse this contentlast_img