History … Barry Round, who played in the Swans' first Sydney side in 1982, with Jarrad McVeigh yesterday in the jersey to be worn this weekend. Photo: Steve Christo
IT TAKES a lot to rattle Barry Round. A 193-centimetre, 105-kilogram brute of a man from rural Victoria, Round was as nervous as a kid on debut.
He had already played 258 games in a 13-year career, starting with Footscray before crossing to South Melbourne and then sticking with the club as the Swans, literally, flew north for the winter of 1982.
Round played the year before when South tackled Collingwood at the SCG in front of more than 22,000, proving there was sufficient interest in the southern code. The VFL wasted no time in relocating South permanently and they hosted Melbourne in round one eight months later.
The original ''Bazza'' - he had the nickname long before Barry Hall came to town - takes up the story: ''There was no way known we were allowed to lose that game. We would have cheated if we had to,'' he said yesterday. ''I remember when the siren went it was just a huge relief and everybody plonked down and thought, 'Thank God'', opened a can and celebrated. It was a massive lead-up. All eyes were upon us.''
In the now traditional Saturday night timeslot they've made their own in the decades since, Sydney will battle Melbourne again this Saturday night and the club are pulling out all stops to celebrate the occasion.
The team will wear a special commemorative guernsey for the occasion, one that replicates the same design as they wore against the Demons in 1982. However, in this edition, on the red V will be the names of the players who played on that night, while the white panel will feature all 299 players who have played for the club since relocation.
Round still recalls that first game as the pinnacle of the Swans, even if it was occasionally hard to concentrate in the weeks before.
''The first game had a big build up. We had a dinner at Lady Fairfax's house, I remember running down the steps of the Opera House [for the now famous publicity shot] - it was a real effort to keep your mind on the game of footy that needed to be played,'' he said. ''Thank goodness we got across the line because there were a lot of distractions.''
However, the club's harbourside history hasn't always been filled with glamorous dinners, pink helicopters and freakishly talented full-forwards.
''There's been some highs and lows. When we first came up from South Melbourne, the facilities were archaic down there but they weren't much better up here, either,'' he said. ''I remember when we had to train out on the old No.2 oval, which was otherwise used as a car park filled with hollows. We used to train at night because everyone had a day job and the lights were barely a 240-watt globe in one corner. It's amazing when you look back now.''
Round said the arrival of Greater Western Sydney this season invoked a further sense of pride given that if it wasn't for the Swans' success, the Giants almost certainly wouldn't be around. ''I do look back with pride that we were the start of the national competition,'' he said.
Jarred McVeigh, who grew up supporting the Swans, said his teammates were acutely aware of the club's modern foundations. ''I can remember coming to a lot of Swans games, back when you could pick any seat you liked,'' he joked.
Round admits he didn't think he'd live to see the day when McVeigh and other Swans would win a premiership as they did in 2005, let alone become one of the league's strongest clubs. ''I'm pleasantly surprised and now this is one club the others envy,'' he said. ''I couldn't have seen that when we first came up.''