Young Swans meet Swan Young
Young Swans meet Swan Young

Sydney Young, meet young Sydney.

Although 71 years separated their appearances in the red and white, the Swans' oldest living footballer has something in common with Alex Johnson, the team's youngest current member.

Like the Melbourne-raised Johnson, Young had to leave his home State to play for the Swans.

And both consider Sydney's clash with West Coast tomorrow as one of the most pivotal matches of the season between two grand final candidates.

"The Eagles have a few forwards out," Young said. "This young bloke might be the difference."

But unlike the rangy 20-year-old defender, who has missed just two matches since making his debut against West Coast early last season, Young was not able to convert his bright start into a lengthy career.

A regular league player for Claremont before and after World War II, Young's two games for South Melbourne in 1941 came while he was based at Flinders Naval Base.

The prospect of a third game vanished when he ran into some old mates and got waylaid on the way to the match against Carlton.

"We didn't know if we would ever see each other again," Young recalled. "I had my togs with me but we had a couple of jars and I never got to the ground."

Now 94 and living just 100m from Patersons Stadium in the house he bought immediately after the war, Young has crisp memories of his two VFL games.

He played on a wing alongside Brownlow medallist Herbie Matthews in a tight win over Collingwood but lost a month later to Footscray in a match in which opposition captain Norm Ware, who would secure the Brownlow that season, put on a clinic.

Magpies Brownlow medallist Marcus Whelan was "6 foot 7 and all arms and legs but a really nice bloke", while Footscray's national boxing champion Ambrose Palmer "would put the fear of God into any man".

"The grounds were heavier than in Perth, the crowds were much bigger and though their players weren't much better than ours, there were more good players in every team," Young said.

"I played on a wing and in a forward pocket.

"I got a couple of kicks but, being in the navy, I never knew when I was going to able to play.

"You would get one day leave a fortnight and though the watches might be organised to allow you to play football, you could never be sure when your ship was going to sail."

Sail it eventually did, with Young being stationed on the requisitioned Chinese steamer HMAS Wing Po, which was involved in the evacuation of Singapore and spent 62 harrowing days towing the crippled destroyer HMAS Vendetta to Fremantle.

Young went on to play 100 matches for Claremont, captaining the club in 1949, but a combination of poor form and a transfer to Kalgoorlie saw him miss the premiership hat-trick from 1938.

In 2005, a campaign by _The West Australian _ saw Young credited with two Claremont matches in which he was selected as 19th man, taking him to his century and automatic life membership of the Tigers.

He is the oldest surviving player at both the Swans and Claremont.

The West Australian

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