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Swans fly – and drive – south, hopeful of AFL grand final win

Samantha HutchinsonNational reporter

Andrew Pridham is Mr Popular.

It’s three days out from the 2022 AFL grand final and the Sydney Swans president’s phone won’t stop ringing. Friends, family, colleagues, and more than a few hangers-on are all calling with the singular hope of the impossible – a last-minute ticket to see the Swans square off against the Geelong Cats on Saturday.

It will be the Sydney team’s first grand final appearance in seven years.

β€œI’ve got a lot of friends this week,” the investment banking boss laughed. β€œIt’s fine, but I just wish the phone would bloody stop ringing.”

Hostile territory: Swans president Andrew Pridham in Melbourne on Thursday.Β Eamon Gallagher

The club president has been in Melbourne tending to a packed schedule of finals events, which kicked off on Sunday night with the Brownlow Medal. By Thursday, the rest of the club’s directors had arrived for a board meeting in a makeshift Swans office set up in a Collins Street high rise.

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That afternoon, a charter flight carrying the team and Swans chief executive Tom Harley – a former two-time Geelong premiership winning captain himself – touched down at Tullamarine Airport. After that, the focus will turn to a final training session on Friday morning at the MCG.

There’s a million dollars prizemoney on the table for the team that wins the match. But for Pridham and the Swans supporter base of more than 55,000 members, victory would also break a 10-year premiership drought. Taking home the silverware in the same year its champion forward Buddy Franklin kicked his 1000th goal would also be especially sweet.

For former journalist and one-time No. 1 ticket holder Cynthia Banham, attending the match was a non-negotiable.

The Sydney-based Swans ambassador set out on Thursday morning on the Hume Highway with her husband, 10-year-old son and the family’s labrador to make the 900 kilometre pilgrimage to Melbourne. A family living a couple of doors down the street is also joining their red-and-white convoy, she said.

β€œIt’s one of the nicest touches about it,” she said, referring to Swans supporters taking to the road to make the finals with their scarves or other red-and-white merchandise streaming out the window. β€œFor days after, you see these fans heading back north, stopping at the different truck stops and their scarves waving out the window … it’s nice to be part of it.”

Geelong enters the play-off as the hot favourites after finishing the tournament at the top of the ladder at the end of a 15-game winning streak, but Sydney has secured nine wins in a row and beat the Cats by 30 points in their only encounter this season.

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Banham’s family has shelled out about $1200 for their three tickets to sit with fellow Swans supporters at the game, and will then attend a supporters’ dinner that evening at Crown’s Palladium.

β€œWin or lose, we’ll be there … so let’s just hope it’s a win,” she said.

Other pilgrims have opted for the route which starts at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. Former AFL commissioner turned Swans supporter Sam Mostyn is flying out of Sydney on Friday night, while investor Mark Nelson – a Richmond supporter who’s been coaxed by his Swans-supporting wife to join the red-and-white bandwagon for the finals – is taking a chance catching an early morning flight on game day.

β€œIt’s a bit of a risk, I know ... but I was there in 2005 [at the Swans premiership] and it was just fantastic, amazing. You just have to be there,” he said.

The Caledonia chairman will be sitting with his family of four in the stands with Swans supporters.

Upstairs in the MCG’s Olympic Room, the AFL will host a crowd of more than 500 including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, along with industry heavyweights including Seven Network chairman Kerry Stokes, chief executive James Warburton, Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany and NewsCorp broadcasting boss Siobhan McKenna.

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Mostyn will be there, as will former Australian Sports Commission chairman John Wylie – a Magpies supporter – and GWS Giants president Tony Shepherd. The Sydneysider will be dressed in his team’s orange, but with a touch of blue to mark what was a 60-year connection with the Geelong Cats.

β€œI grew up as a Geelong supporter – my mother used to have to drag [my guernsey] off me so she could wash it. But I’ll have my orange on … once you’ve started your own club, there’s no other way.”

Samantha Hutchinson is the AFR's National Reporter. Most recently, she was CBD columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Before that, she covered Victorian and NSW politics and business for The Australian, the AFR and BRW Magazine. Connect with Samantha on Twitter. Email Samantha at [email protected]

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  • AFL grand final
  • Sydney Swans

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