As footy celebrates 140 years at the SCG former Footscray and Sydney Swans defender, and media commentator, Neil Cordy reflects on his 40 years active involvement at the ground. In this second instalment he looks back at his days working in the media.
Being able to play footy for the Sydney Swans and NSW was a pleasure and honour in itself.
But I’ve enjoyed the rare gift of being able to continue my connection with the great sporting arenas as a TV, radio and newspaper reporter.
The year (1994) following my retirement I was back at the SCG in a new role as a boundary rider for Channel Seven and their coverage of the AFL.
Two years later I changed employers and was working for Network Ten. In my first year there I had the thrill of reporting on the Swans first grand final appearance since 1945.
It was a busy week in the build up with Andrew Dunkley initially suspended from the grand final before the Swans took out a court injunction to allowing the Sydney full back to play in the season decider.
Over the following decades I ended up spending more time at SCG press conferences than I did as a player.
It was a golden era for the Swans and newsworthy events just kept on coming. In 1996 Tony Lockett set the SCG rocking like never before when he kicked a point after the siren to send them into their first grand final since 1945.
He made more history three years later when he broke Gordon Coventry’s record of 1,299 career goals.
They lost the 1996 grand final to North Melbourne but played in another five over the next 25 years, finally breaking their 72 year premiership drought beating West Coast in 2005.
Working as a boundary rider for Ten on the coverage of the 2005 grand final I had the honour of interviewing Leo Barry just moments after his match saving mark. As a defender I had to ask him if it had crossed his mind to punch the ball instead of going for the grab. Thank god he didn’t.
Over my decades of reporting at the SCG the stories were by far the good news type. But the saddest by far was the death of Swans head trainer Wally Jackson who died of a heart attack during the round 19 match against the Kangaroos. I was working as a boundary rider for Network Ten on the match and could see everything unfolding within a few metres of where I was sitting.
Wally suffered the attack right alongside the interchange area during the third quarter.
Swans Doctor Nathan Gibbs worked desperately to save Wally’s life before an ambulance arrived but he couldn’t be revived at the ground or at the hospital.
As the horrible scene unfolded I was in communication with my producer David Barham. I knew Wally had a wife and children but didn’t know if they were at the ground. Because of the grave nature of what was happening David and I agreed not to report on the incident unless it stopped the game.
Looking back on the tragic circumstances it was a decision I’m glad we made. Wally’s passing was a rare low point in my time at the SCG.
One of the greatest thrills was watching the career of the great Adam Goodes unfold. After playing a season in the reserves in 1998 he blossomed into a true legend of the game highlighted by two Brownlow Medals (2003, 2006) and playing in two premierships (2005 and 2012).
By the time he hung up his boots in 2015 he’d played 372 games, 143 of them at the SCG more than any other player in the history of the game.
His career would intersect the arrival of Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin to Sydney’s most famous sporting venue. They played two years together as Swans fans witnessed a passing of the baton from one champ to another.