Buddy beautiful: Bloods legend Nell Cooper relaxes at her home in Broadmeadows.

Buddy beautiful: Bloods legend Nell Cooper relaxes at her home in Broadmeadows. Photo: Jason South

They call her Nellie Swan or "Mrs Sydney" around the neighbourhood, and they are monikers that speak to Nell Cooper's love for her club, but not to her location. Her team may be harbourside, but home is Broadmeadows, and that's where she was on Thursday night when her boys smashed the Cats at the SCG.

As club milestones go - an all-time record thrashing of Geelong - it was momentous, and one of the few landmark moments Mrs Cooper has missed seeing live in the better part of a century. She's 85, reckons she would have been taken to see South Melbourne at Lakeside Oval as a baby. Today she is considered a Bloods legend - one of the esteemed Ladies of the Lake.

"I'm a Blood. Always a Blood," she says, though at times it hasn't been easy.

The worst of days came in the early 1980s, when a club in strife was shipped to Sydney, the advance party in the-then VFL's national expansion. "I remember we took a coffin to the ground, it was like the club was dying." Many supporters wavered, but not Nell - though she says had they abandoned the red and white stripe of legend she would have been sorely tested.

But the colours, and some of the old spirit, survived. It took a while, but when it was reignited it was done in high emotion amid the thrill of a grand victory with the Swans 2005 premiership - their first in 72 years. Nell was barely walking when they'd last won in 1933. The modern champions dedicated that win to the old Lakeside spirit.

"That's what Kirky [Brett Kirk] said: 'This is for you'. I don't think we stopped crying for a week. We're very lucky with our players. One thing we get more than the Victorian clubs is we meet the players. We have a couple of events after the game and the players will talk to you. A lot of people envy us that. It brings the kids in, the kids get to meet their idols." Among the youngsters to have shaken hands with their heroes are Mrs Cooper's brood of young Swans, now stretching to a third generation. Eight of her 13 grandkids are fans, and she jokes: "I'm not a very nice person. At Christmas time the ones who support us get an extra nice present."

With devotion this unshakeable, cynicism does not intrude - not even when the club signed Hawk Buddy Franklin to a $10 million deal.

"I love Buddy," she declares.

She found herself endlessly defending Sydney's outlandish outlay of money even though she still works to get to matches.

"I deliver the local paper and junk mail round here - that's the money that gets me to Sydney for matches,'' Mrs Cooper says.