Flag trio: Adam Goodes, Nick Malceski and Jarrad McVeigh at Lakeside Oval yesterday. Photo: Joe Armao
SYDNEY was doubly invested on Saturday, with a hard-won AFL premiership and with a gracious podium tribute from beaten Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge, who said the Swans were as ''well-respected and well-liked'' as any club in the competition. Their popularity now transcends even Melbourne-Sydney sectarianism.
But it imposes obligations, too. At 9am yesterday, an obscenely early hour, the Swans dragged themselves blinkingly into the sunlight at the Lakeside stadium, their old Melbourne haunt, to commune with about 3000 local fans.
Nick Malceski and Josh Kennedy led them in, arm-in-arm, part fraternal and part, you suspect, for mutual stability. Unlucky and unslept, Ben McGlynn still was wearing a suit and club tie.
Shane Mumford missed the team bus and arrived late and loudly, dressed in formal slacks and shirt, match-day guernsey and lurid green sandshoes. He was one of many of Saturday's war-wounded, but grinned: ''Not feeling a thing.''
Rhyce Shaw didn't make it along at all. But the Swans know about him what he never quite trusted even about himself at Collingwood, that he will be there when it matters. He was on Saturday.
There might not be another club in the world quite with Sydney's provenance and personality. There is old South Melbourne, still alive to its fans, who seem mostly to accept - as so many soccer fans do about their clubs - that they will see their heroes live only spasmodically. The rest of the time, belonging is enough.
Sydney nurtures this part of itself. Coach John Longmire told the throng yesterday he felt a lump in his throat yesterday as he sat on the team bus and watched the South crowd heave into view.
Next to him sat Dean Moore, who was once South Melbourne team manager, and who, when extinction threatened, helped to shepherd the move to Sydney and remains with the club still. Almost the first person they saw was the arch-loyalist Bob Skilton.
There is new Sydney, which for so long lived a precarious existence, but now has its own well-established niche, identity and set of spoils. Linking them, there is the Bloods, a construct that borrows an old South Melbourne nickname to describe a sect whose total, mutual and unflinching dedication drove the Swans to a breakthrough premiership in 2005 and is still their driving force now.
Adam Goodes, one of four to play in both flags, summed it up thus: ''You know what to expect from us, and we love giving it to you: 100 per cent for four quarters, every time.''
Josh Kennedy was totemic of this grand final. He grew up steeped in the equally proud Hawthorn tradition of his father and grandfather, but now was re-christened in another. ''I couldn't be happier now,'' he said. ''I'm just stoked to be a part of this Bloods family.''
And that probably best explains the Swans: they are a family, with a home in Sydney, but roots and ties everywhere.
Its members bleed for one another: the pancaking of Dan Hannebery demonstrated that. It has mavericks: Mitch Morton, a misfit at West Coast and Richmond, has found a home. ''It's so good to be a small part of this,'' he said.
Like many families, the Swans have their own lore. They eschew conventions concerning team-building. They have had only one top-10 draft pick in the past 10 years, and he has a broken leg and did not play on Saturday.
But a Shaw from Collingwood did, and a Kennedy from Hawthorn, and four other refugees from other clubs, and a ruckman from Canada who once scored a try against the All-Blacks in a rugby international, and who was still pinching himself yesterday. ''Great sport, great fans, great culture,'' said Mike Pyke. ''Great club.''
Too soon yesterday, this family had to go home. First among the avuncular Melbourne uncles seeing them to the door was Skilton, stronger than ever in his conviction that a club that was distant, but still recognisably his, was better than no club at all.