A Swans premiership win is for the greater good
Photo: Getty Images
SOAPBOX: A Sydney premiership is a better outcome for the league, the game and everybody who isn't a Hawthorn supporter. Here's why.
As the season winds to a close, one of the few lingering pleasures for supporters whose teams have bowed out of the finals race is picking favourites from the remaining clubs.
In almost all cases, we choose who we support based on the lesser of two evils. You're more likely to hear "I can't stand X, therefore I'm cheering for Y" than "I really like X, I hope they win." Long-standing rivalries, memories of grudge matches past, slights from opposing supporters, dislike of a particular player or coach – all good reasons to cheer for the other team.
Now the grand final is at hand it's time to make one thing blindingly, inarguably clear: Hawthorn is the greater evil. If you're not a Hawks supporter, cheer for Sydney. If you think Hawthorn deserve the flag, cheer for Sydney. And even if you're a Collingwood supporter, and you made the trip to ANZ Stadium and put up with two hours' worth of arrogant Swans fans telling you your team sucks, you better be cheering for Sydney.
Simply, it's for the greater good that the Swans lift the cup on Saturday.
In economic terms, a Sydney win is by far the preferable option for the AFL. The turnout for the Swans v Magpies prelim on Friday was a disappointing 57,156. That's maybe 10,000 less than the league had hoped would go through the ANZ Stadium turnstiles. Subtract 5000 or so Magpies fans and there is real room for improvement.
A Sydney premiership will encourage the fence-sitters to consider a membership for next season. It will raise awareness of the game in a lucrative market traditionally dominated by that other code. If the Melbourne Storm win, especially, the Swans will get reams of ink in both state newspapers and more minutes on the nightly news.
This exposure will have a flow-on effect to the other Sydney club, GWS. A healthy rivalry is key to growing the Giants' fledging fan base. A red-and-white premiership will feed that rivalry, encouraging GWS fans to stand more proudly behind their club and pray they can take the premiers down a peg or two in 2013.
By now, you're probably thinking, 'Why do I care about Sydney?' Most footy fans don't, and some – those who regard Andrew Demetriou and co with a special ambivalence – probably wouldn't mind seeing the league fall flat on its face in its quest for El Dorado.
But no matter how you feel about the expansion sides, at this point we have no choice but to hope the GWS experiment works. Would we prefer a Blacktown black hole that slowly sucks revenue from the league's coffers?
Just on other codes - the A-League is in the midst of mounting its strongest challenge yet to footy's national dominance. This is especially worrisome in the harbour city, where Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero will soon be suiting up for Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers are reportedly in talks with Shinji Ono and Michael Ballack.
That's a hell of a lot of good press the AFL would like to counter, and somehow we don't think a Hawthorn premiership will play too well in The Daily Telegraph.
Speaking of the Hawks - they have tapped out their membership base. They're never going to be much more of a success than they are now. Their growth trend is approaching a straight line. What would a 2012 Hawthorn flag mean for the league? Fewer bucks, less growth and limited exposure in key markets.
On a shallower note, a Sydney win will also wipe out some of the air of arrogance that has begun to hang over Waverley Park and all who wear the brown-and-gold. The league doesn't need another Geelong dominating the game for years on end. It's boring, it's predictable, and it fosters the worst in their supporters (no offence to Cats fans).
Everybody knows the Hawks are a talent-heavy club. They've got stars all over, including an undisputed legend-in-waiting in Buddy Franklin who is, frankly, so good it's unfair. They are the silver-spooners of the AFL and they'll be good enough to win the flag next year, and the year after, and maybe the year after that too. It won't be as palatable to the rest of us if they don't take some knocks along the way.
If the Hawks lose, it will also snap a run of five straight premierships to Victorian clubs. For the first time since 2006, nobody in Melbourne will get to gloat. At the very least, that will make for a pleasant change.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport – and certainly not those of BigPond Sport's editor.
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