We were delighted to have any football at all this weekend, and when Sydney FC Women ended up with a standalone fixture at Jubilee Oval, this was a chance to give some good support to the girls in blue. A fabulous display in the first half again had the league leaders well ahead by the break, and the Cove was in full flow all the way through. Until the last few minutes. We should have been singing “We are Sydney” as the girls strolled to victory, but instead a horrible series of events cumulated in the ejection of our fearless capo Michelle and left us all shell-shocked and utterly disgusted. Read on, scroll the photos, shake your head in disbelief.
We left way too early to get to this one, but in the end it was a masterstroke. The 2.15pm departure from Ryde had us parked up in our now customary rock star car park adjacent to the main stand right on 3pm, a good half an hour ahead of our 3.30pm meeting with king of the ball crew Rossco. Luckily he was already there, soaking up the atmosphere and watching the players arrive in the glorious sunshine and we left Aurelia and Anna there and headed to the Kogarah Club for a first lunch of 2022. What a good lunch it was too.
Confusion over which gates were open saw everyone eventually going through the same gate A. The blistering sunshine looked to be on its way out with a huge storm cloud forming in the distance. The stadium had a smattering of fans, some clad in Perth Glory shirts, but mostly in sky blue, and everyone was kept to the lower tier of the main stand with a small pocket in the Cove. A strange moment when walking to the active bay, the security stopped me to check my ticket. This was all General Admission as far as I knew, and I was explicitly told which bay I had to be in. Little did I know that the theme for the afternoon had been set. Aurelia and Anna had taken up their positions right in front of the Cove, decked out in their finest A-Leagues tracksuits, brand new out of the packet.
Major news of the Sydney FC women’s drum, Michelle had it reskinned and the boys made light work of adorning it with more Cove stickers pre-game. We were in for a treat here. Oddly enough we had been evicted from our usual spot at the bottom of the bay and were directed to the men’s Cove section in the tier above. No great shakes, or so we thought. The players emerged to a grand chorus which continued on well after the team huddles and the opening whistle. There were a few changes today, Taylor Ray succumbing to Covid and replaced by Sarah Hunter, and Nat Tobin being cautiously rested after her injury last time out, replaced by Natasha Prior. Other than that, the team looked like the purring machine that we have become accustomed to, so hopes were high for a big performance.
The game started well. Perth couldn’t keep the ball and Sydney FC were dominating. The corner count went up and up, and the sky blues took the lead with a fine goal from the right. Cortnee Vine dinked a ball to Remy Siemsen, who spun to flash in a cross that was touched by the keeper but only to goal machine Mackenzie Hawkesby who finished easily. Not long after, Hawkesby released Vine, who powered past her defender and smashed the ball home, a goal very similar to last week’s effort, and a timely reminder of what she can do for club and country.
We were barely half way through the first half when Vine gave us another display of her magnificent repertoire. Rachel Lowe’s ball up the line was just kept in by the divine Cortnee by the corner flag. A shimmy and a nutties left her defender for dead, and the cross was expertly turned in by the demon in the box, Siemsen for a third. The afternoon then got a little silly. The jobsworth security guard, so used to having lots to do, entered the ten-strong Cove and told me off for standing on my seat. Only thing was, I was standing on the floor just like everyone else (I’m not that tall) and the incredulous look sent him scarpering away with his tail firmly between his legs, ready to formulate his next made-up indiscretion. When two of the Cove guys were scolded for sitting on the fence at the front, this started to get a little too much. We pleaded to get our normal spot back down at the bottom and the intervention of someone at Sydney FC made that happen. Honestly, it felt like the security were out to score points – watching our every move like hawks and making for an uncomfortable atmosphere.
The half-time whistle gave everyone a chance to take a deep breath, and there was plenty of conjecture about what had just gone on. Shane from Sydney FC membership was a calming influence, but there was something brewing. Rose from The Ladies League came down to check on her daughter, JD was recording his half time chatter, and everything was set for a big second half shooting towards the Cove.
Yet another corner from Mackenzie Hawkesby was floated in perfectly for Charlie Rule to run on to and plant her header firmly into the net. What a start to the second half. Captain Princess Ibini danced up the left to almost unlock the defence, while Lowe smashed in a shot that hit a defender when it looked as though we might get a repeat of last week’s goal. Sydney FC were rampant. Hawkesby lifted in a ball that hit the bar, Ally Green teed herself up for a repeat of her semi-final goal from last year, but fluffed the final shot, and then a flurry of substitutions changed the game. Paige Satchwell and Cote Rojas came on to replace two of our Matildas, and Rojas almost wriggled through a third challenge to get a shot away but was denied. When Rojas turned in the area and hit a shot, a harsh penalty was awarded and while we chanted her name, Hawkesby pulled rank quite rightly and chose to continue her goalscoring feats after last week’s penalty success. With some cajoling of the keeper and some snide words from the Glory players, the penalty was a good height for the keeper, who flung herself to her left to push the ball away. Rojas would have given her shit for that one, and that’s our Bob to the back of the penalty queue. Lowe then had a good chance to score, while Rojas was adjudged to have handled when scoring a fifth that was unbelievably chalked off.
Perth had a bit of a late rally but blazed over their best chance, and that’s when the fun began. Capo Michelle was busy fiercely banging her drum when she was approached by a member of security. She was told that she was being ejected for standing on the seats. An absolute joke of a reason to eject someone and something where a quiet word would have sufficed; she was giving the drum what for and was in her element as the game reached its conclusion. The mood in the Cove was one of helplessness, as any call to be reasonable was met with intimidation, heavy-handedness and backchat. When the police became involved, positioning themselves in arrest-mode, it became clear that this was getting totally out of hand, and way out of synch with what was, to that point, still an enjoyable afternoon. With no sensible person in authority within ear or eye-shot, Michelle was led away and turfed out. The ultimate ignominy for a non-crime that did not fit the punishment.
The game ended in silence as we tried to process what had just happened. A rousing rendition of “We Are Sydney” by the orphaned Cove failed to bring the players over to celebrate the victory; even that felt wrong, and the feeling of being considered an unwanted nuisance was amplified. This was a low point in supporting Sydney FC this season. While the security team revelled in their successful ‘hit’, we made our way out through the main stand to congratulate the players on a fine performance.
Cortnee Vine was on the phone to her agent before agreeing to an interview; Remy and Ally were in jovial spirits, the sky blue wonder Sarah Hunter was enjoying the conversations and Ante was giving a good interview to the cameras. We were then asked to leave; the temptation was there to tell the security guy to fuck right off, but there was nothing gained from that and away we went. Aurelia and Anna were already out and ready to go, and there was a post mortem outside as the players of both teams made a swift exit.
The journey home was quick, we were back in Ryde by 8pm, detouring to pick up dinner and walking in to a teenage party in full swing. Oh joy.
Another fabulous performance from the magnificent girls in blue today then, and a performance of the highest pedigree from Cortnee Vine. Rachel Lowe and Mackenzie Hawkesby are absolute gold in midfield, while Remy Siemsen’s finish showed us what we’ll miss when she’s on international duty. The day surely belonged though to the security team at Jubilee Oval. An unparalleled display of over-policing, a pompous, unnecessary piece of security work that went a long way to spoiling the entire experience in what was such a happy and jovial occasion on a hot and sunny afternoon. A Cove of ten fans was made to feel like criminals all for the sake of having a foot on a seat. If this is what we have to put up with for the rest of the season, we’re going to see more people thrown out for unbelievably petty events. My blood is boiling as I write this; how this can happen at an A League Women’s game is beyond me. Sydney FC, the A-Leagues, Football Australia, I ask you, do you want Active Support or what?