The extraordinarily unusual circumstances surrounding the AFL season means that a match of special significance will not get the attention it deserves.
Since 2010 the West Coast Eagles and Sydney Swans have played for the HMAS Sydney II Trophy and that will again be the case tomorrow, albeit in these agile and flexible times, it will be an Eagles home game at Metricon Stadium.
The match will still be played in honour of the 645 brave navy personnel who perished on board HMAS Sydney II in November 1941, when it was sunk off the WA coast by German invader HSK Kormoran. But because of CIOVID-19 protocols there will be no pre-game ceremony or post-game presentation.
Indeed, because this match was so hastily convened – initiated on Monday when the Eagles’ scheduled opponent, Richmond could not enter Queensland without going into quarantine for two weeks – the trophy is not on the Gold Coast.
This annual fixture is played between West Coast and Sydney to represent the ship’s home port of Sydney, and the state of her final resting place, WA.
Celebrated for her successful battles in the Mediterranean, where she famously sank the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni, HMAS Sydney (II) and her crew of predominantly young men received a hero’s welcome on her return to Australia in February 1941. She was then tasked with escorting troopships to South East Asia, following an Indian Ocean route along the west coast of Western Australia.
It was on the return of one of these voyages that she encountered the Kormoran, on November 19, 1941. The Kormoran was disguised as a Dutch merchant vessel that was seemingly incompetent at returning the Sydney's signals, unaware, the Sydney approached the unknown vessel. Once within range where her superior armament could not advantageously defend her, the Komoran used the advantage of surprise and brought all its armament to bear on the Sydney.
While neither ship survived, the Sydney was lost with all hands, while 318 of the Kormoran’s complement of 390 survived.
The Sydney sank without trace and was not found until March 2008, about 100 nautical miles off the WA coast, north of Geraldton. For so many of the families of those who perished in battle, the discovery offered some closure on the devastating loss.
The clubs will work through an appropriate acknowledgement of the result and the announcement of the player judged to be best afield, at a later date.