Thursday, 8 October 2015

Grand Final - West Coast v Hawthorn

Saturday 3 October 2015


The Holy Trinity 

It's true that good things come in threes
There's Nirvana, The Police and the Bee Gees  
The Stooges were Larry, Curly and Moe
and on a certain type of sloth, just count the toes
Little pigs, blind mice and billy goats gruff
The three witches that haunted Macbeth and Macduff
The clover or shamrock and the musketeers
And Hip Hip Hooray - the traditional three cheers 
The number of gears on a manual car
Participants in a menage a trois
The Bronte sisters could all write books
And Bacon's triptychs are worth a look
The Third Man by Greene is exceedingly clever
There's also the Chappells, if you count Trevor
The Supremes and The Andrews' knew how to sing 
There's also three parts to The Lord of the Rings 
The original Star Wars trilogy
And of course, Lewis, Rioli and Lethal Leigh
Three veg are served with a standard roast
The father, the son and the holy ghost
But the holiest trinity I've ever seen 
Is the Hawks in thirteen, fourteen and fifteen.

Cyril - Lord of The (Big) Dance

At the 20 minute mark of the final quarter in Saturday's Grand Final, Cyril Rioli took a mark approximately 35 metres from goal on a 35 metre angle. As he went back to line up the shot on goal, and with the game all but won, the Hawks fans behind him began the Cyyyrrrill... Cyyyrrrill... Cyyyrrrill... Cyyyrrrill... chant, bowing down in supplication as they did so. 

It seemed a just acknowledgement of his extraordinary match winning performance, but in fact it was much more than that. The Hawks fans intoning his name and gesticulating in reverence may not necessarily have known it, but their expression of devotion had a quite literal biblical antecedent. 

The name 'Cyril' is derived from the Greek name Κύριλλος (Kyrillos) meaning 'Lordly' or , 'Masterful'. This in turn comes from Greek κυριος (Kyrios) or 'Lord' and is used in the Greek Bible to refer to God or Jesus. So you see, it's all in the name, yet even titles such as 'Lord' or 'God' don't quite match the reverence and esteem in which the great number 33 is held by Hawks fans. And 33, you'll recall, is the age Christ was when he died. Spooky. 

(Numerlogical interlude - in each of Hawthorn's three successive premierships, we've kicked 11 behinds, which is 33 in total - so the signs certainly seem to be pointing towards some sort of divine intervention) 

Back to the game and Cyril missed the goal, but it no longer mattered by that stage. 

The chant erupted again just prior to the presentation of the Norm Smith medal winner for best afield. The voting for this award is ostensibly undertaken by a panel of distinguished experts - in reality former players and media personalities - but just in case they hadn't got it right, the people were taking the opportunity to have their say. Either that or the results of the secret ballot had been leaked to 90,000 people. 

As much as we love Sam Mitchell and believe that he would have been a deserving winner after another cracking game, there could have been an awkward moment had his name been read out. There might even have been a ground invasion had Cyril not won it. The crowd intoning the name of the winner before it was revealed was reminiscent of the Brownlow Medal count on the Monday when the AFL online Shop advertised Sam Mitchell Brownlow memorabilia during the course of the count. Except this time the crowd at least got it right. 

As Cyril accepted the medal, I thought back to the guy next to me in the queue outside the MCC Members in the morning who was placing bets for the Norm Smith medal on various Eagles players. He explained to his companion that for each of the past three Grand Finals he had bet on Rioli to win, but Cyril had consistently let him down by playing poorly, so this year he was overlooking him to bet on the opposition. Really, as he said this he should have known...  
Cyril's game was a microcosm of his career highlights reel, a sort of top 10 of his various talents...slick handballs, speccies, intercepts, chase downs, wrap up tackles, tap ons and twisting and turning out of trouble.

1. The pivot - standing off the pack, he snuck into a goal scoring position so that when Rough threaded a handball to him through a pack, he pivoted, turned and slammed through Hawthorn's first goal. 

2. The invisible man - how else to explain how he found space to mark a beautiful pass from Schoenmakers about 40 metres out. His second goal.

3. The lunge - when Burgoyne shaped to pass the ball in his direction, Cyril was five steps behind Hurn, or possibly McGovern,  but by the time the ball arrived Cyril had pushed to the front to take the mark.  

4. The feint - having taken his fourth mark inside 50 for the quarter, he walked back calmed everyone down as if shaping to take the shot, then casually turned and passed to Brad Hill who ran in uncontested to kick the fifth goal of the quarter. 

5. The tap on - after a sublime tap to Breust, he backed up by tackling Shepherd to the ground and winning back the ball for Hawthorn.

6. The chase down - Having competed for the mark against McGovern and fallen to the ground, Rioli's audacious chase down of Hutchings after starting 20 metres behind him brought another free kick that started a chain that resulted in another goal to Gunston 

7. The intercept and quick give - in one of the most sublime passages of play I've ever witnessed, Cyril executed an outrageous intercept of a McGovern handball and handballed off to Breust quicker than the human eye could detect. Breust, passed to Puopolo who measured a perfectly weighted kick that Gunston ran onto for another goal. 

8. The deadeye - a one step kick from outside 50 that would have floated through had Roughead not marked it on the line

9. The opportunist - a scrimmage in goal square resulted in a free kick to Breust, but before anyone noticed, Cyril had got the ball out to Smith for another goal

10. The speccie - in the final quarter, with the only interest being whether Rioli would win the medal, he soared over a pack on the Member's wing - right in front of all the Norm Smith judges - to pull down a speccie. 

Bound For Glory 

Ever since Angry Anderson sang Bound for Glory from the Batmobile in 1991 - the last time the Hawks and the Eagles contested a Grand Final - it has been a long-standing Grand Final tradition to moan and carp about the pre-match entertainment. Social media is making this pastime easier than ever before, although the AFL's insistence on booking international artists, tragic old acts from a bygone era (Chris Isaak, Bryan Adams) and young performers the crusty out-of-touch footy heads have never heard of (Ellie Goulding) is making the whole thing an easy target.   

Ryan Adams I like (he has just released a cover version of Taylor Swift's 1989 - the entire album! Note that 1989 is a famous Hawthorn premiership year). Bryan Adams on the other hand, is not someone to whom I've paid much attention, although his opening number, Run To You might have been ringing in Cyril's ears as he ran down Hutchings in the second quarter. 

Likewise, his final song Can't Stop This Thing We Started ably sums up Hawthorn's run of premierships. 

Most people thought Bryan was okay, it was Ellie who attracted the snipers and haters this year. Partly because she's a young pop act the football commentators have never heard of, partly because she's from overseas - some people just want Paul Kelly to sing Leaps and Bounds or Mark Seymour to sing Holy Grail every year -  but mainly because in this instance, there was a technical hiccup that made it apparent either she was lip-syncing or the band were miming. Or both. She should just say she was doing a DJ set.    

At the Virgin Australia post match party Ellie Goulding warbled through one of her pop hits, Love Me Like You Do, with the refrain 'What Are You Waiting For?' to which the emphatic response from the thousands of Hawks fans who had stayed back for more than an hour was ... 'the fucking premiers, that's get off and bring on the Hawks!'  Hot as she looked in her tight leather pants and blond hair, she was no Mitch or Hodge, to say nothing of Cyril. Open letter to Ellie - next time you're performing to a parochial sporting crowd whose team has just won the premiership - an easy way to get them on side is to shout 'Go Hawks!' It's easy.  I'd been doing it all day. 

I understand the cries against importing international acts for the pre-match entertainment, but there are only so many Australian artists who might legitimately suit the occasion. My favourite Aussie Rock God is Nick Cave, but I doubt I'll ever see him belt out The Mercy Seat or Stagger Lee in front of the Members Pavillion. I'm just not sure how the line, "I'd crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy's ass hole" would go down. 

In the past I've seen Peter Allen, Olivia Newton-John, John Farnham, The Seekers, Delta Goodrem, Tina Arena, Daryl Braithwaite, Slim Dusty, Men At Work, Hunters & Collectors, Archie Roach, Yothu Yindi, Powderfinger and yes, Rolf Harris. Even Brian Mannix has performed - there's not that many more iconic Aussie acts left, not with lead singers who are still alive that is (sorry Triffids, Skyhooks, INXS, Angels) - Cold Chisel did the NRL Grand Final, so that would just be copying, which only leaves AC-DC (probably too expensive), Midnight Oil (who aren't together), Kylie Minogue (why has she never done it?), Hugh Jackman (well he's hosted the Tony's, so he knows how to win over a bitchy audience), and of course Joe Dolce. What about Jeff Duff singing, I'm Your Football, Kick Me? Or perhaps Neil Finn - we're not beyond pretending New Zealanders are Australians when it suits us.

Premiership Portents

I had to forgo some of my usual Grand Final customs this year. With the public holiday on the Friday, there were no after work Grand Final Eve drinks. Also my brother wasn't attending the game, so that meant our traditional Grand Final breakfast at Il Solito Posto had to be cancelled. In another awkward sign, local team Aberfeldie won their premiership, having lost in 2013 and 2014, therefore breaking the pattern of Abers loss and Hawthorn win. 

If these boded ill for Hawthorn's chances, working against this, and for us, was the fact that I had managed to secure a ticket for my wife Angela. The last time she attended a Grand Final was 1991 - the last time Hawthorn defeated the Eagles.  Plus the last team to win three in a row was Brisbane in 2003, and just like us, they lost the Qualifying Final on the road in the first week and fought their way back to face the same team in the Grand Final - where they reversed the result.

In another portent to a Hawthorn win, I queued overnight outside the MCC Members to secure my normal seat on Level 2, Bay 43, seat 20. And just as we had planned 12 months earlier, my Grand Final buddy, Andrew, jumped in beside me in seat 21. Three consecutive years in the same seat next to Andrew - the game was in the bag.

Any lingering nerves about the game were entirely put to rest when I saw in the Saturday Herald-Sun that The Bachelorette, Sam Frost, was tipping the Hawks. After all, there is a girl who knows how to read men. But what's with Buddy's fiance, Jesinta Campbell picking the Eagles?

First Half - Last Rites

Having already run though Cyril's highlights, there's not much more to say about the game. He was more or less it. It was as hot as predicted though with the temperature well into the high 20s by game time. Hodge won the toss and kicked with the shade to the city end in the first quarter. Thankfully the Hawks were attired in brown and gold stripes rather than the gold lame and silver ice dancing outfit, and we ran out through a fantastic banner that read, "OUR HOUSE, OUR RULES" that hinted to visiting West Coast fans that their parochial cries for deliberate out of bounds and "BAAALLL" wouldn't be rewarded quite as readily here as in Subiaco. 

Having said that, the opening goal of the game to West Coast's Luke Shuey came from a dubious free kick against Jordan Lewis for a high tackle. From that moment, however, Hawthorn exhibited the sort of intensity, manic pressure and attack on the ball that they did the previous year. They were nearly as ferocious and driven as the members barging through the turnstiles at 8am that morning to get to their preferred seat. 

Two acts stood out - Isaac Smith and Shaun Burgoyne both ran back with the flight of the ball to take contested pack marks. As a result, we kicked the next five of the first quarter and the first four in the second quarter, making it nine goals in succession. It was a brilliant exhibition of goal kicking, or 'impacting the scoreboard' as the commentators might have it. 

The game was following pretty much the same pattern as the 2014 decider against Sydney, even to the point that a single inspirational act by Luke Hodge in the second quarter came to symbolise Hawthorn's first half dominance and had most observers nodding with admiration mixed with resignation that a Hawthorn victory was somehow preordained. In 2014 it was the intercept from the kick-in and goal; this year it was his audacious banana goal. 

With his back to the goal and trapped on the boundary line, Poo handballed under his opponent's reach to Hodge. Still hemmed in on the line, Hodge shaped for a banana kick and off one step from the boundary line a good 40 metres from goal, he sent the ball high and on an arc that saw it bend back around itself and float straight through the middle. In fact it never looked like missing. Minutes later, West Coast captain Shannon Hurn had a set shot from about 30m directly in front. He missed. Portents anyone? 
From there the Hawks slammed on a few quick goals: two to Gunston courtesy of a mark and handball from Cyril (who else?) and another after a tap on from Breust, followed by Isaac Smith kicking a raking left footer from outside 50m that cleared the pack and ran through. Not yet 13 minutes into the second quarter and the Hawks were 43 points ahead.  Deja-vous.

Half time: Hawthorn 9 3 57 v WC 3 8 26

Second half - Three-peat

By half-time the lead had been cut back to 31 points and the Hawks looked like they were wilting a little in the heat. I thought we'd rejuvenate during the break and come out and put the game to bed early, but instead it was the Eagles who looked more energetic. Jack Darling marked and goaled and all of a sudden the lead was back to four goals. Even so, I sensed we were just waiting on one more Eagles mistake before we righted things and got back on top. Instead, we got several Eagles mistakes. 

Running into goal, Luke Shuey managed to pinpoint a pass to Hawthorn's Taylor Duryea, somehow missing all three Eagles players in the vicinity. Then Jack Darling had his 'dropped the World Cup' moment - spilling an easy chest mark close to goal, then fumbling the ball to allow Ben Stratton to clear it. Less than a minute later, Ryan Schoenmakers was slamming the ball on his boot to put through a goal for the Hawks and take the lead back out to five goals. 

Having righted the course of the game, and with the temperature climbing over 30, the Hawks took the extremely sensible and sun-smart measure of keeping the ball in the shade near our goals. As with the first two quarters, Hawthorn kicked a series of goals in quick succession to take the heat out of the contest, even as it was rising on the field. 

Gunston took an uncontested chest mark in front of the pack from a Frawley bomb to kick truly. Two minutes later he was sprinting towards goal to take another mark from the Poo's measured kick after Cyril's intercept and quick give to Breust. For the second time in Grand Finals, Gunston had kicked 4. If that excited us - and it did - then we reached fully blown arousal when Isaac Smith channelled Will Langford 2014 to send a low, grubbing ball goalwards from the Langford pocket. 

When Mitchell fed out a handball to newly activated sub, Matt Suckling, who naturally slammed it on his killer left foot for a goal, the Hawks had a 50 point lead. It was as if Suckling had been brought on for just that one moment.

To lose from here would be beyond even Richmond's powers of ineptitude. By the time Rioli kicked truly from beyond 50m two minutes into the final quarter, it was impossible - not that it was a goal; The Rough marked it on the line so that he could get on the score sheet. Cyril also fed out the ball to Smith so he could kick our 16th goal. We should have kicked more, but a series of missed shots highlighted the level of exhaustion in 30+ heat. The Poo was so heat addled he eschewed a set shot from 35 m to pass to Stratton further out and on a worse angle. Stratton duly kept his perfect record of missing intact.  

The last remaining highlight was when Brian Lake dived to smother Josh Hill's dribbled shot at goal from 10m out. It was their Shaw-Riewoldt moment - even Hill had to smile; well it was either that or retire on the spot. When Brian displays greater athleticism than you, it's time to admit defeat. Lake's dive was as perfectly timed as his move from the Bulldogs to the Hawks where he has now played in three premierships. 

It is generally accepted that the team with the best defence wins premierships, and Hawthorn's on this day was magnificent. In addition to Brian Lake, James Frawley, recruited from Melbourne at the end of 2014, was outstanding after a patchy first final. Earlier in the year against Sydney he'd kept Franklin goal-less and he repeated that from against Taylor Walker in the semi final, Pavlich in the Preliminary final, and Josh Kennedy in the Grand Final. Kennedy came into the match as the leading goal kicker in the AFL with 80 goals for the season, but so ineffectual was he against Frawley that the crowd was giving him bronx cheers when he touched the ball in the final quarter. He still didn't kick a goal.    

Also in defence, Josh Gibson, Ben Stratton and Taylor Duryea were superb. It was another extraordinary team effort.

The next day at the Glenferrie Hotel in Hawthorn, the song rang out with boisterous exuberance at regular intervals. I was with Chan-Tha, Pete and Grant, but I ran into my Grand Final buddy, Andrew, as well as several friends from other Hawthorn eras. Margaret and Patrick from the 80s, Greg and Pauline from the 70s. Over 40 years of supporting Hawthorn, and the afternoon was like the happy ending of one of those films where all the characters turn up in the same spot at the end.

Grant commented that every year Hodgey gets up to speak and he congratulates the opposition and uses the throwaway line that he's sure they'll be back bigger and better next year. But the reality is that none of them come back. Fremantle hasn't got back. Sydney didn't get back. What makes anyone think the Eagles will get back? In fact the only team that keeps coming back is Hawthorn! And now that the three-peat has been achieved, the word for next season is 'Four-thorn.' 

Final scores: Hawthorn 16 11 107 d West Coast Eagles  8 13 61

Goals: Gunston 4, Smith 3, Rioli 2, Hodge 1, Birchall 1, Hill 1, McEvoy 1, Roughead 1, Schoenmakers 1, Suckling 1

Best: Rioli, Mitchell, Smith, Hodge, Frawley, Lake, Gunston, Gibson, Schoenmakers, Burgoyne...oh fuck it we may as well mention all of them, Roughead, Lewis, Birchall, Duryea, Shiels, Stratton, Breust, Hale, Puopolo, Hill, Suckling, McEvoy, 

What we learned: After four premierships, including three in a row, Alastair Clarkson is probably the greatest coach in Hawthorn's history - and that includes John Kennedy and Allan Jeans. And yet in neither of those years has he won coach of the year. Not once. It's a bit like Keith Richards being overlooked as best guitarist in the Rolling Stones. You have to wonder what the criteria must be. Perhaps once he solves climate change and defeats ISIS, he'll make the shortlist.  Come on Clarko - play your role. 

What we already knew: Grand Final week was rocked by revelations from former Eagle, Daniel Chick, that during West Coast's premiership year of 2006, a number of players were abusing prescription drugs and that a culture of indiscriminate drug use pervaded the club. I thought this was reasonably common knowledge among football fans, so what's new? Well, as it happens, Essendon has just appointed John Worsfold as coach - a pharmacist by training and the man who oversaw the Eagles during the period in question - you can see what appealed to the Essendon camp. 

Monday, 28 September 2015

Preliminary Final - Fremantle v Hawthorn

Preliminary Final – Fremantle v Hawthorn

Friday 25 September 2015

Domain Stadium, Perth

The Big Decisions

There comes a time in life when big decisions have to be made; when you have to make the right decision at the right time. I’m therefore pleased to report that when those moments occurred in Saturday nights’ Preliminary Final between Hawthorn and Fremantle, officialdom stepped in to make the correct calls at the crucial time. 

First there was the free kick off the ball against Hayden Ballantyne that turned a Fremantle clearance into a Hawthorn shot on goal. Yes it was there; for all that some people carried on about the softness of the decision, you could see that Ballantyne clearly bowled over Suckling so that he could become free on the wing to receive the kick. He was after an unfair advantage so it was a definite free kick. 

Then David Hale was set to shoot for goal from outside 50 metres, when one of the umpires called a 50 metre penalty. Channel 7 never showed the infringement, possibly the cameras didn’t pick it up, or possibly, it was only detectable to the trained eye of an umpire. In any case the resulting goal brought the Hawks equal after Freo’s fast start.

As welcome as these decisions were, there was an even more crucial intervention before the ball was even bounced, when the AFL decreed that Hawthorn could wear their brown and gold stripes in place of the Power rangers outfit. It is a measure of how hideous our gold and silver lame outfit is that the brown and gold stripes look to be the epitome of timeless style by comparison.

Freo have been fast starters in their victories this season, so wresting control in the first quarter was where we own the match. After Chris Mayne missed a set shot that would have put Freo three goals up, the Hawks kicked the next five for the quarter. This included the two umpire assisted goals, but also set shots to Breust, Schoenmakers – after a glorious pass from Cyril, and a round the body snap from Suckling. 

When Breust turned on the boundary line early in the second quarter and got the ball to Liam Shiels who found Schoey with a pin-point pass, the Hawks had opened up a 22 point lead. 

From that moment, however, Freo got back into the game and began to dominate general play. But key moments went Hawthorn’s way. Roughhead, wearing a bandage that made his head look like a circumcised penis, slotted a beautiful goal from 50 metres out on the boundary line. A moment later on the half-time siren, Fremantle’s Jonathon Griffin had a set shot from 30 metres out directly in front and as the Freo players began celebrating, the ball veered off dramatically and smacked into the post. The Hawks by 16 points at half-time.

Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe had been hampered by a leg injury early and the signs were not good for him when even Ben McEvoy outran him on the wing. However, in a tribute to the powers of sports science, he came out after half-time as if nothing was wrong and began winning the ball out of the middle. When it emerged after the match that he actually had a fractured fibula, you had to wonder how he had walked, let alone burst through packs with the ball. 

The third quarter followed the pattern of the second, with the margin hovering between 8 – 28 points. Hawthorn couldn’t get the lead beyond five goals and Freo couldn’t get it within one goal.  Bradley Hill, Cyril and McEvoy kicked goals, only for Barlow, Mayne and Griffin to respond. Then Fyfe dived across Suckling’s legs right on the siren. Suckling took the free kick from outside 50 metres with four men on the mark sent it curling through – it was the kick heard across the world, or at least by our neighbours as we roared it home from our lounge room. 

The First Rule of Football

The final quarter began with Hawthorn leading by 17 points, but this was reduced to just nine points after Freo opened with a goal and a couple of behinds. It looked like Freo had all the momentum and were going to overrun the Hawks. Then Hodge limped off to compound our woes.  

It wasn’t looking promising, and then Freo broke the first rule of football: never attempt a longish back pass when Cyril is in the general vicinity. And by ‘general vicinity’ we pretty much include the entire forward 50. Tommy Sheridan dropped the mark and Cyril swooped onto the ball and kicked a goal. 

Then they did it again. Cameron Sutcliffe kicked across goal and this time Tendal Mzungu was spoiled by Matt Suckling, allowing Cyril to again swoop on the ball and snap another goal. When Taylor Duryea, who had played one of his best games for Hawthorn, won the ball in the midst of three Dockers, and sidestepped all of them to kick a long goal from the boundary, the Hawks were 26 points in front. We were still up on our feet celebrating when Roughead kicked another won – five goals up and surely on our way home for another Grand Final. Glorious.

Final scores: Hawthorn 15 4 94 d Fremantle 10 7 67

What we learned: Freo fans are feral. Two weeks ago while watcing the Qualifying Final between Hawthorn and the Eagles, I opined in my ignorance that Egles fans were more feral than Freo fans. But events at the Preliminary Final suggest otherwise. Before the game even started, they booed Brian Lake’s kids as they ran off the ground after celebrating his 250th by running through the banner with him.  I mean these are 6 year old kids. There was the bloke on the boundary who shaped up to either hit or slap Isaac Smith as he ran to collect a bouncing ball near the fence. Then, when Luke Breust was pushed into the fence he was assaulted by a fan wielding an inflatable anchor and verbally abused by another hero leaning over the fence. Plus disturbing footage later emerged of a guy in the crowd wearing a no. 10 Freo jumper punching a woman in the face.  Perhaps he was inspired by his number-sake, Michael Walters, who was reported for punching Taylor Duryea after the ¾ time siren, but this was a far more vile and violent act. At least Duryea could reasonably expect to be hit at some point. When Clarko said before the game that Hawthorn had to take the crowd out of it, he wasn’t speaking figuratively; he meant literally, as in soccer style fan lock-outs. Turns out he knew what he was talking about. 

What we already knew: ”Ballantyne’s a …” I was watching the match at home with my family and the most dramatic incident occurred late in the second quarter when my eldest son Oscar dropped the c-bomb at Hayden Ballantyne over some typical piece of Ballantynesque interference. This caused his mother to turn on him, and although I also reminded him about appropriate language, there was part of me that thought, well, when the boys’s right, he’s right.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Second Semi Final – Hawthorn v Adelaide

Second Semi Final – Hawthorn v Adelaide

Friday 18 September 2015

MCG, Melbourne

Leadership Spill

Leadership was very much on the minds of Australians this week. After last week’s loss to the Eagles, many commentators questioned the leadership of Luke Hodge. A quiet game on the back of a drink-driving incident the week previous indicated to many that Hodge was no longer fit to lead the Hawks – that Hawthorn needed a spill of leadership positions.

A good institution, one with the right values and a clear vision, one with the right leader already in place, trusts its decisions and stays strong. That’s why Hawthorn stuck with Luke Hodge and why the Liberal Party had to replace Tony Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull. Of course the leadership of Hawthorn is far more significant than the leadership of the nation, but perhaps both now have the best possible leaders at the helm. 

With Abbott gone and Hawthorn remaining alive in the finals, Australia feels like a better place than it did a week ago. 

Abbott had to go because, above all, he’s a dick: misogynist, monarchist, racist, homophobe, and worse, a rugby fan. In the end Abbott simply didn’t have the numbers whereas Hodge did: 15 kicks, 9 handballs, 4 marks, 4 tackles and 4 goals, including the first, a long straight set shot from 50 metres after intercepting a kick-in. This was effectively the match winner.

From then Hawthorn weren’t troubled at all. In the first quarter Hawthorn kicked 8 goals to 2, and Adeaide’s goals were both fortuitous: a free kick for deliberate out of bounds agsinst Grant Birchall who was pushed as he kicked it, forcing the ball over the line, and a freak gal from Patrick Dangerfield on the boundary, under pressure and on the run – there was more chance of him remaining with the Adelaide Crows for the 2016 season than repeating the feat. If that was how they were going to get their goals, we weren’t in much danger. 

And so it proved. Three first quarter goals to Breeeuuust, two to Hodgey, plus a sizzling running goal from Isaac Smith set up the win. So dominant was Hawthorn that even Ben Stratton had a set shot. He missed, but it was one more set shot than his opponent, Eddie Betts managed. Jordan Lewis finished the quarter by threading through a goal after the siren. 

Ryan Schoenmakers had another one within two minutes of the retstart. The second quarter was more even, but only because the goal review system came into play to overrule another Breust goal, claiming his boot never quite touched the ball. Breust later said he definitely kicked it, and that’s good enough for me. 

A half time lead of 45 points seemed fairly impregnable, but when Rough sent a long bomb sailing through from the centre square within one minute of the restart, it was effectively over. Though not before another goal review fiasco – this time they didn’t overrule the umpire when they should have.  Not that it mattered; bu that stage the score was 97 to 43.

This is how finals are meant to be: an anxiety free procession of Hawthorn goals – 21 in all. The most stressful this game got was late in the final quarter when we were wondering why Cyril was still out there risking injury when he should have been under the ministrations of a talented masseuse, or even a cocktail waitress. 

Speaking of Cyril, in an inventive marketing ploy, Hawthorn placed one of Cyril’s boots at a designated spot near the ground post-match and then tweeted the location to fans. Whoever got there first would receive the second boot hand delivered from Cyril. The boot was placed at Citizen’s Park in Richmond, on Gleadell Street. My friend Chan-Tha lives just around the corner so she set off, but sadly just missed out. On the video the club posted of the exercise, you can see her having a quite understandable tantrum when she realised she missed it. It’s a shame because it would have been good to drink champagne from after we win the premiership. 

Final scores: Hawthorn 21 9 135 d Adelaide Crows 8 13 61

What we learned: Hawthorn has made it to a fifth successive Preliminary Final – one step closer to the three-peat, but we're not getting ahead of ourselves; at Hawthorn we’re just taking it one Grand Final at a time. 

What we already knew: Just as most non-Hawthorn fans generally like Luke Hodge, or at least wish he played for their club, likewise most left wing voters quite like Malcolm Turnbull, or wish he’d mount a leadership challenge against Bill Shorten.  

Monday, 14 September 2015

Qualifying Final - West Coast v Hawthorn

West Coast v Hawthorn 
Friday 11 September 2015
Domain Stadium, Perth

Premiership Hangover…Literally

Premierships Are Plural 

Twenty3 is back for the finals! We took the year off, partly due to footy fatigue after three solid years of blogging - call it the premiership hangover, make that a premierships hangover - at Hawthorn premierships are plural - and partly because after the Round 2 loss to Essendon I nearly lost the will to live, let alone blog. But like Dipper, Dermie and Burgoyne, I live for September so I'm back on board to see the Hawks through to our historic three-peat.

Good things come in threes: little pigs, blind mice, Macbeth’s witches, the Chappell brothers, the Beckett trilogy, Stooges, the toes on a sloth, manage a trois’, Hendrix albums, Lethal Leigh…the list goes on, so it seems only right that we add Hawthorn premierships to the inventory: 2013, 2014 & 2015.

The sun is out for the first time in what seems like months, the blossoms are blooming, spicing the air with a piquant scent and the news is devoted almost entirely to football - even the biggest migration of refugees across Europe since WWII can't keep Cyril off the front page of Friday's Age. It must be finals time - Spring has sprung and I'm on heat for Hawthorn! 

Hodgey – a man of conviction

The Hawks are well and truly primed for this year's flag. Hodgey's preparation is as meticulous as always - he's down to 3 or 4 drinks before a game now. 

Serving his second suspension of the year in the fortnight before the finals, Luke Hodge was caught driving while over the limit, blowing .068. Attempting to explain himself on television, he said he’d had 3 or 4 drinks at a poker night with mates. Of course all drinkers who have ever tried to cover their tracks after drinks with mates know that by 3 or 4, he really meant 5 or 6, and they were probably pints not pots. 

Most observers were surprised that there was no blanket ban on drinking, but when a photo of the night emerged showing Campbell Brown at the table, fellow Hawks fan Baker expressed surprise that there was no blanket ban on Campbell Brown. Where there’s an off field indiscretion, he pointed out, Brown is usually somewhere nearby. 

Of course Hodgey’s beer diet might be in the name of bulking up a bit to compensate for 'lite & easy' diet he's been on for the past year.

While idiotic, and perhaps indicative of a mindset not wholly focussed on the premiership campaign, Hodgey’s a bit unlucky - a victim of technology and the new puritanism. In the past a well-recognised player in this position would be waved on by the officer with the promise of a couple of Grand Final tickets, and the results of the test would be ‘misplaced’.  The technology no longer allows for that, but notwithstanding the fact that he shouldn’t have driven while under the influence, calls for Hodgey to be suspended by the club for the finals are ridiculous.  He’s received the legal fine the demerit points are deducted and he’s now the face of drink driving. No one else, save for members of the legal profession, lose their job over such an incident.

As a two-time premiership captain and two-time Norm Smith medallist, Luke Hodge is widely respected as a man of his conviction. Unfortunately, that now means a drink driving conviction.

Buddy’s Issues

The other big pre-finals story is Buddy Franklin. When is Buddy not the big story? As we all know, Buddy has withdrawn from Sydney's final this week due to unspecified 'mental health' issues as well as some explicitly specified epilepsy. 

Of course at Twenty3 we wish Buddy only the best - after all, this blog is named after him, after a fashion. We can’t help thinking, however, that his issues, whatever they are, might be another manifestation of the Hawthorn curse. 

Evidence is mounting that players who leave Hawthorn for another club suddenly lose their ability to play on the field or cope off the field: Jonathan Hay, Mark Williams, Dermie, Jade Rawlings, Campbell Brown, there are numerous examples of players who were never the same once they swapped the brown and gold for some other team's kit. Trant Croad is probably the best exhibit – he lost his powers when he went to Fremantle and then magically regained them when he returned to Hawthorn. 

We sincerely hope this isn't the case with Buddy. He's probably the most exciting footballer to play the game in the past 20 years - okay Cyrils' not bad either - so we'd love to see him recover, get back out there kicking goals, and more importantly, living well. 

You Are What You Wear

Somehow, despite finishing third, Hawthorn are hot favourites for the flag...I mean we're hot and all that, but you'd think the teams that finished first and second – Fremantle and West Coast - might rate a mention. I’m less certain, it is worth noting that in each of our past five premierships, 1989, 1991, 2008, 2013 and 2014, we’ve defeated Geelong at some stage in the Finals series or in the Grand Final itself, but this year they haven’t qualified for the finals, so it’s going to be tough without our fnals bunnies to beat along the way. 

So we’re drawn to play the Eagles in Perth. In 1991 this was the scene of what I consider to be one of our greatest finals victories – defeating a dominant Eagles in the first final played outside Victoria. I wasn’t so confident this time around, even though we’d defeated them at the same venue a few weeks earlier. 

For a start we were wearing our Power Rangers outfit. This little number features a gold brocade yolk over a shimmering silver front teamed with white shorts and white socks. Sure it’s spring fashion week in Melbourne but that doesn’t mean we have to dress for the catwalk. In the debate over worst strips ever, our one-off navy top with brown and gold harlequin pattern always comes in at number one, but this new clash strip looks certain to usurp it. 

It’s got a marching girl, ice dancer vibe that not only renders it unsuitable for football, but makes it look too camp even for Mardi-Gras. 

I’m at my friend Chan-Tha’s for the match with a few Hawks fans, one Eagles fan and a few randoms who ostensibly don’t care. A couple of the boys have gone to Perth for the match. We are envious at first, but by ¾ time we’re glad to be back in Melbourne, away from the horror show.
I know umpires are only human and want to be loved, but they became addicted to the roars of approval that greeted them every time they awarded the eagles a free kick – so they kept awarding them. 

It is often commented that the crowd in Perth virtually constitute an extra player for the home team, and this is why. A few weeks earlier the Eagles crowd were at the centre of the Adam Goodes booing controversy. While it is widely understood as being racist, the Eagles crowd, in their defence, pretty much boo anyone not wearing an Eagles jumper. And vehemently so. The Sydney home crowd may be the most ignorant, in that they still have no idea of the rules, and simply don’t understand any decision that goes against Sydney, the Eagles crowd, even more so than the Port Adelaide and Freo crowds, are by far the most feral.  They hate everyone equally.

Predictably they are booing Hodge on this night. You do have to wonder about Eagles fans – these are the same people who gave Ben Cousins, a well known ice addict a standing ovation and named a wing after Chris Mainwarring who died from a drug oversose – yet they boo a bloke who had 3 or 4, okay, 5 or 6 drinks. Go figure.

Tricky conditions – wind, rain and Eagles fans – made scoring tough.  As a result, goals for both teams only came through errors; Hawthorn clangers or Eagles indiscretions – Xavier Ellis’ coathanger on Cyril that resulted in a 50 m penalty and may rob the X man of playing further part in the finals. 

The first quarter was relatively even, and we looked reasonably dangerous when we went forward. Cyril was playing like he meant it, and we matched the Eagles for endeavour. We even led by 1 point at quarter time. But the second and third quarters saw the Hawks outscored 10 goals to 2, and we were 50 points behind at ¾ time. I don’t want to inventory the horror goal for goal, or clanger for clanger, but it was our worst performance for the season – and this in a year when we lost to both Essendon and the Giants. 

Hodge played like he was still sheepish about his recent bender, or possibly still hungover, Rough made uncharacteristic errors, at one point dropping a simple chest mark, recovering only to miss a simple shot on goal, Shiels was sloppy, Breust and Smith ineffective. But it is unfair to sibgle out individual players or specific incidents; Hawthorn was simply outplayed by a better team on the night. 

Also Clarkson was outcoached by former lieutenant Adam Simpson. Like Hardwick before him this season, a former Hawks assistant has worked out how to stop Hawthorn scoring, or even moving the ball with anything like fluidity. Admittedly, Clarkson made some strange moves, starting with Frawley up front, and then moving Lake up forward. It’s hard to know what the thinking behind Lake going forward is, though doubtless the genius behind this move will become obvious when he kicks 5 goals in the Grand Final and wins another Norm Smith medal. It may have just een a pragmatic move caused by Gunston going off with a likely season ending ankle injury.

All in all it was a disastrous night for the Hawks. Our finals campaign hasn’t been helped by assistant coach Brendon Bolton leaving to go accept the senior coaching role at Carlton (I mean good on him, but couldn’t it wait – aren’t there AFL rules preventing this?) nor by the tragedy of Brett Ratten’s son being killed in a car accident, or indeed by the news of Buddy’s issues. The players would be inhuman if they weren’t affected by these events.  If we can win the flag from here – and it’s not impossible – then we’ll have pulled off one of the greatest premierships of all time.

Final scores: West Coast 14 12 96 d Hawthorn 9 10 64.

What we learned: Alastair Clarkson’s mantra of when one soldier goes down, you just bring in another has been adopted not just by other clubs, but has even crept into the literary world. This week new books have been published by authors purporting to be other people. David Lagercrantz is continuing ‘The Girl…’ series in the wake of Stieg Larsson’s death, while Anthony Horowitz is writing the James Bond books that Ian Fleming can’t write, also due to having died.
Still in the world of, ahem, culture, news in that Bryan Adams is to perform at the Grand Final. Second rate entertainment like that probably deserves an all-WA Grand Final.  

What we already knew: When Brisbane won the third of their three-peat premierships in 2003, they too lost the qualifying final intertstate (to Collingwood) only to receover and eventually defeat Sydney in Sydney in the Preliminary final, before reversing the earlier result against Collingwood in the Grand Final. Could this all be part of Clarko’s masterplan?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Grand Final - Sydney Swans v Hawthorn

Saturday 27 September, MCG

Hawthorn Hedonism

"The sweetest victory of all"
left to right: Oscar, Tom and Grant celebrate
“This is the sweetest victory of all,” said Paul Keating at the Bankstown Sports Club on 13 March 1993. “This is a victory for the true believers.” The occasion was the ALP’s victory in the federal election, but he might just as easily have been referring to Hawthorn’s victory over Sydney in the 2014 AFL Grand Final.

Hawthorn overcame adversity on an almost Kurdish scale to triumph in this year’s premiership: Buddy Franklin defecting to the opponent at the end of last season, coach Alastair Clarkson being hospitalised and out of the game for five weeks with Guillain-Barre syndome, long-term injuries during the season to key players Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Josh Gibson, Cyril Rioli, Ben Stratton and Brad Sewell, suspensions to Brian Lake and Jarryd Roughead, the toughest draw of any club, an avaricious Grand Final opponent with a higher salary cap than any other team, and Ryan Schoenmakers’ hair bun.

If Buddy’s defection to Sydney soured to a degree 2013’s Grand Final win, then this is one we can savour; not just because of the obstacles we overcame, or that we won so emphatically, but because Buddy was on the other team and in his own way, got to share in it.

However, if this was a victory for the true believers, there weren’t many of them in the lead up to the match. In the betting markets, the Swans were short-priced favourites, starting the match at $1.35 to Hawthorn’s $2.65 – a massive differential for a two-team contest. In The Age on the day before the match, 19 ‘experts’ tipped Sydney to win, compared to just four for Hawthorn (and they shall be named and feted: Jesse Hogan, Peter Hanlon, Michael Gleeson and Wayne Carey). Even on the day after we’d won by 10 goals, the AFL website still had Sydney listed as overwhelming favourites. We weren’t just underdogs, we were whining, chained up mutts.

Of the 23 ‘experts’, 19 selected Swans players to win the Norm Smith medal, compared to just four selecting Hawthorn players, with Peter Hanlon and Wayne Carey both picking the Hawthorn/Luke Hodge double. Bizarrely more people thought Luke Parker would win the Norm Smith medal than Luke Hodge. What were they thinking? Who is Luke Parker?

The experts were talking up Sydney based on an impressive performance against North Melbourne the previous week, compared to Hawthorn’s relatively tougher and more taxing match against Port Adelaide. As far as short-sightedness goes, this is like getting a sleeve tattoo in your fit, toned and taut 20s without factoring in the sagging triceps, or chicken wing arms of your 50s.

In the finals Sydney had struggled to beat fourth-placed Fremantle and had then rolled over a weak North team, who had finished sixth. Compare this to Hawthorn who had defeated Geelong, a team that had sat top three for 13 weeks of the season, and Port Adelaide, who had spent longer at the top of the ladder during the season than any other team (7 weeks), including Sydney (6 weeks) and Hawthorn (5 weeks).

Aside from overcoming tougher finals opponents, the experts and tipsters seemed to have forgotten that Hawthorn finished with equal wins to Sydney (17), and defeated them on the same ground just eight weeks previous. Even when Sydney defeated Hawthorn in Round 8, it was in Sydney at a ground we’ve only played twice before and we were missing Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and Brian Lake, plus Josh Gibson and Cyril Rioli became injured during the game. And even then we only lost by 19 points.

These experts were blinded by the bling of Sydney’s supposed virtues and oblivious to any merits the Hawks might possess. Luke Parker, who I’d barely heard of, was suddenly being spoken of as the new Ablett – he was favourite for the Norm Smith medal no less. As good as Luke Parker might be, the experts in the media seemed to overlook that the Hawks boasted Luke Hodge and Luke Breust – that’s one more Luke for a start. They salivated over Sam Reid but forgot about Sam Mitchell, sang the praises of Jarrad McVeigh but barely mentioned Jarryd Roughead, acclaimed Lewis Jetta but neglected Jordan Lewis, glorified Kieran Jack but disregarded Jack Gunston, extolled Nick Smith and discounted Isaac Smith, praised Ben McGlynn and snubbed Ben Stratton and Ben McEvoy, and talked up Josh Kennedy over Josh Gibson. If the football media was to be believed, it was as if the Hawks weren’t going to be there at all. No one belived in us.

Florine with some Hawthorn bling!


When your team qualifies for the Grand Final you immediately search for omens to reassure you that they will achieve victory. Naturally this process also means that you have to overlook those inconvenient signs that don’t fit your preferred hypotheses. Nor does it matter that fans of the opposing team are also seeing their own signs and that you can’t both be right, but you persist with your portents all the same.

Having said that, the omens I identified leading into this match were fairly persuasive, and perhaps even partly responsible for our ultimate triumph.

The local team I support in the EDFL, Aberfeldie, made the Grand Final for the second successive year. In 2013 Abers lost and Hawthorn won, so when Abers made it back to back losses in 2014, it was a sure sign that the Hawks were also on their way to back to back wins.

I’m no fan of Olivia Newton-John’s music (though like most men my age I quite liked the tight black leggings she wore in the latter stages of Grease), but I couldn’t help but see the greater significance of the fact that when she last sang at the Grand Final in 1986, Hawthorn defeated Carlton in the Grand Final.

In 2013 when Hawthorn won its 11th premiership, our number 11, Brendan Whitecross missed the match due to injury. Here we were going for our 12th premiership and who gets left out of the side to play – number 12 Brad Sewell. On this basis, Kyle Cheney, number 13, has no chance of playing in the Grand Final next season. Kyle, you may as well know now.

This year I again queued early outside the MCC Members to secure a good seat for the game. Last year I’d managed to get in the front row on Level 2 of the MCC Members stand and sat second seat in from the aisle. The guy next to me last year was also a Hawthorn fan and a good Grand Final companion who knew the game well. When I arrived I again went to the same area and moved into the front to row, and who should be sitting in the aisle seat but my friend from the previous year. Did I know then that we'd win?

It’s not unusual

There are omens and then there are the Grand Final traditions. I’ve built up so many over the years that by the time I’ve fulfilled them all there is barely time to watch the game.

This year was even more complicated because Hawthorn friends Pete and Grant managed to wrangle a ticket for Oscar to attend. He wouldn’t be sitting with me, but he would be there, on hand to experience his first Grand Final at the ground! So after collecting my seat ticket in the MCC, I went home to collect Oscar and came back to the city.  Here was another sign that things were going to work out. All of this running around on public transport involved three train trips and a tram trip, but every connection was seamless and there were no excessive wait times.

Oscar and I met my brother Graeme for our traditional Grand Final breakfast at Il Solito Posto, off Collins Street. The owner is a classic – a Tiges fan that on this occasion was exasperated by a couple of elderly customers who were fussing over a luch menu that wasn’t yet available. An Il Solito breakfast is big and an excellent way to fortify yourself against later hunger and having to queue at the hot chip counter. Plus they serve beers. If the Tiges ever make the Granny, it will be the place to be pre-match.

We dispensed with our long-standing tradition of a beer at the Imperial on the corner of Bourke and Spring, and went instead to the Duke of Wellington to meet Pete, Grant and the gang to collect Oscar’s ticket. Graeme then made his way to the ground while Oscar and I joined the Hawthorn crew of Linda, Melinda, friends and family with whom I sat during the 80s. When Hawthorn is in the big one they hold a car park BBQ and we catch up with an array of old and new Hawks fans.

Then it was time to take Oscar to his entry gate and head into the ground. One quick Crowny at the Tower 6 Bar and I went to take my seat. My timing was poor, however, because I ventured to Level 2 just as Tom Jones was introduced, so you can imagine the congestion at the entry and the clogging of thoroughfares as the septuagenarians stood to squeeze out of their support garments to hurl them at Sir Tom.

As a former cheer squander from the 70s and 80s, I still love to check out the banners and the Hawks had a beauty to commemorate Hodgey’s 250th game on one side and team bonding on the other.

On Grand Final day there seems to be a couple of hundred people on the arena when the teams run out, but nevertheless, the shivers buzzed up and down my body like a quick-working drug when the boys in brown and gold emerged. We’re here again.

It has been a recent tradition for teams to soundtrack their entry with music other than their club song. This is because most club songs are naff. Hawthorn’s and Sydney’s songs, for instance, both feature banjo solos. Most famously Port Adelaide have adopted INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart as their anthem, which must seem ironic to any of their former board members. I hadn’t realised, however, that Sydney had also adopted some entry music: in their case the opening tribal drums, heavy breathing and screaming of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead. It sounded great. As audio branding goes, it certainly presents a more formidable soundtrack than Hawthorn’s Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Full-on football

The Tackle

Of course it’s not about the music, it’s about the game and that got underway with a series of fast and ferocious skirmishes as players from both teams went at the ball. 

The scores were even early on but it was clear that Hawthorn were playing with a rabid intensity rarely seen outside religious insurgencies. Sustaining this ferocity was going to be the challenge. Which made early missed set shots from Liam Shiels and Jack Gunston frustrating. But we were getting the ball, and more importantly, stripping Sydney of it on the rare occasion they had it. 

Josh Kennedy of the Swans kicked the first goal of the match, but the Hawks responded quickly with Brad Hill running clear and getting the ball to Matt Suckling, who speared a pass to The Poo. His set shot from 50 was a beauty and the Hawks were level.

After Buddy marked strongly and goaled, the Swans were ahead again, despite Hawthorn’s ascendency around the contest. This was Buddy’s second mark, but as Matt Spangher had done when Franklin took his first mark, Brian Lake fell roughly into him ‘in the contest’, in this case driving his elbow into Franklin’s head. Buddy was playing well, but he wasn’t going to get many easy, let alone pain-free possessions.

Shaun Burgoyne was playing a beautiful game of poise and polish. When he took possession time seemed to stop for him. He occupied his own world. His pass to Breust on 50 was gorgeous. Breust’s monster kick from the 50 arc straight through the middle was even better.

The scores were even again, but then the Hawks took over. The final 10 minutes of the first quarter and the first 10 minutes of the second quarter was the decisive period of the game. During it Hawthorn applied relentless pressure on the Swans players and tackled like the All Blacks, basically pummelling the Swans into submission. In one sequence, four consecutive contests saw Sydney players try to take possession but get flung off the ball or ridden into the ground. Hawthorn was missing shots at goal, but this just meant but Sydney had to kick the ball in and this was a task they approached with all the assuredness of a male virgin confronted with a woman in lingerie.

The extreme pressure eventually led to goals. Instead of marking, Heath Grundy punched the ball into the arms of Brad Hill who kicked a simple goal. Jarryd Roughead hit Dan Hanneberry so hard it knocked the wind and also the will to live out of several Swans, and led directly to Gunston running in to kick an easy goal. This tackle epitomised the way the Hawks were approaching the game and would come to symbolise the match. Then Will Langford hurled himself into a pack and emerged to snap over his shoulder for our fourth unanswered goal and fifth of the quarter.

Quarter time: Hawthorn 5 5 35 v Sydney 2 3 15

The Burst

The second quarter began inauspiciously enough with Ben McGlynn kicking a goal for Sydney and Ben McEvoy and Sam Mitchell both missing set shots for Hawthorn.  At the six-minute mark Hawthorn’s lead was 16 points; nine minutes later it was 47 points. For repeat viewings, this was the period of the game that will rival Stuart Dew’s magic five minutes from the third quarter of the 2008 Grand Final.

Luke Breust kicked his second goal from a free kick; then Mitchell marked and passed to Hale who kicked accurately. From the next clearance Hodge handballed quickly to Langford who burst through half forward to kick another; then Roughead slammed it on his boot and Hodge marked in the goal square; a behind to The Poo gave Gary Rohan the kick-in which Hodge intercepted for another goal to give the Hawks a 47 point lead and trigger utter pandemonium in the stands. We kicked so many goals in such quick succession I nearly did my hammy standing up to cheer them.

When Adam Goodes kicked Sydney’s next goal, Bruce McAvaney in the Channel 7 commentary noted that this was the first goal of the game not to be kicked by a Hawthorn player, or someone who used to play for Hawthorn, as Sydney’s other goal kickers were Kennedy, Franklin and McGlynn. Franklin added another after a good mark, but then Cyril brilliantly intercepted a Tippet handball and passed it to Roughead for his first and a half-time lead of 42 points.

Half-time: Hawthorn 11 9 75 v Sydney 5 3 33

Hawthorn’s half-time score of 75 was more than any other team had kicked in total against Sydney in the previous 12 weeks – except of course for Hawthorn in Round 18. Had I known that at the time, I might have been more bullish in my half-time assessment of the game. But I was still tense.

The biggest Grand Final comeback is 44 points for Carlton in the famous 1970 Grand Final. It was difficult to see that Sydney would muster something of its equal, but they had Buddy, and we’d nearly blown a five goal lead in the final 10 minutes the previous week, and Sydney still had 60 minutes of football to bridge the gap if they were good enough. So Hawks fans, while confident and slightly dizzy, were still not wholly certain of victory.

The main argument against a Swans comeback in the second half was just how well the Hawks had played in the first half.  That had to count for something. Mitchell, Hodge, Lewis and Burgoyne were playing likes princes, but other lesser royals were also pivotal: Langford, Hill, Shiels, Stratton, Suckling and Spangher. McEvoy and Rioli more than justified their selection, while Breust, Gunston and of course the great Roughead were superb. It had been a complete team performance.

I joined my friend Martin, a Cats fan, in the Sir Bernard Cullinan Bar. He was quick to declare the match for the Hawks. One guy I pushed past on my way to the bar saw my ‘Premiers 2013’ cap and suggested I update the year. I may not have been wholly convinced as yet, but the non-partisan fans were already looking forward to next season.

The Kiss

If we can kick the first goal of the third quarter, I thought, we’re nearly there. Within minutes we had two: one to Roughead and one to Gunston, and the lead was 55 points! This was a goal glut. This was Hawthorn hedonism!

Two quick goals to the Swans brought us back to something like sobriety. The second was to Franklin who was playing a great game considering how seldom the ball was in his zone.

Cue the highlight reel: Lake takes a screamer over Tippett, Suckling snaps over his shoulder for a goal, Goodes misses a set shot, Hill passes to Roughead who kicks his third, then Langford, who has already kicked goal of the day twice, supersedes them with the best one yet: winning the ball from Josh Kennedy on the boundary line in the pocket, he kicked the ball low to keep it under Kennedy’s flailing attempt to smother, but drove it so hard into the ground that it bounced high and also eluded another Swan. If we were scoring goals like that, then the Fates were guiding the ball for us. As it went through I leapt to my feet with such mad exhilaration, I actually got a headrush and nearly fainted. I could not have been more aroused if Scarlett Johanssen, wearing nothing but a Hawthorn jumper, were to whisper the score into my ear.

And I wasn’t the only one feeling stimulated by the goal. Tangling with Buddy, Luke Hodge gave him a kiss on the cheek. In the most famous of all kisses it is Judas who betrays Christ by kissing him. In this one, it was Christ kissing Judas.

The kiss, of course, is a symbol of love, passion, congratulation, friendship and affability. It’s a greeting and a farewell, and perhaps in this case it was a bit of both. This Hodge-Franklin smooch joins the gallery of famous kisses: Judas kissing Christ, Auguste Rodin, Rene Magritte, the grafitti on the Berlin Wall of Roanld Reagan and Leonid Brezhnev, and of course the most famous smooch of all, Dermott Brereton and Billy Duckworth.

Magritte - this says more about Rene Magritte
than Hodgey & Buddy
How Rodin saw the Hodgey-Buddy kiss

With a 54 point three quarter time lead, I was also up for kissing just about anyone who strayed into my path, so Hodgey’s affectionate peck on Buddy is quite understandable.  Particularly as Tom Jones and Ed Sheeran had sung the Prince hit, 'Kiss' earlier: Hodgey was simply enacting their prophecy.

Dermie and Duckworth pucker up
Reagan and Brezhnev

Hodgey & Buddy: all is forgiven, but only because we're 9 goals up

Three quarter time: Hawthorn 16 11 107 v Sydney Swans 8 5 53

The Strip - “If Hawthorn win I’m getting naked”

In the first minute of the final quarter, Hodge got the ball out to Isaac Smith who passed to Luke Breust in the pocket. Breust’s elegant kick went straight through the middle to give the Hawks a 10-goal lead.

From here on it was a brown and gold celebration. Rioli was subbed-out and Taylor Duryea came on and gathered nine possessions in 15 minutes – more than several Swans players managed for the entire match. He was so effective he nearly played himself into Norm Smith contention. As did Ben Stratton who took a series of fine marks at half back.

Shaun Burgoyne bagged a couple of goals – the first from outside 50 after a graceful turn.

Duryea went on a five bounce run along the outer wing after which he was pushed, gifting a free kick downfield and goal number five for the big Rough!

Hodge hung about on the Members wing taking simple marks to repeated roars of “Ole!” from Hawks fans.

In my row speculation had begun about the winner of the Norm Smith medal winner. I thought Mitchell, another said Hodge, and someone else said Lewis,. Andrew next to me nominated Stratton while I also heard Langford. I thought they should quickly mint a few more so that everyone who deserved it could get one. Just as there should have been a seond Jock McHale medal for ‘Bolts’ – Brendan Bolton who coached for five weeks in place of Clarkson. Is it time they renamed that medal the Alastair Clrkson medal? Ot least give him a statue at Waverley.

The most pleasing aspect of the final quarter was that Hawthorn kept going and still outscored the Swans, kicking five goals to three – never letting up and not allowing Sydney any cheap consolation goals. Pretty much every player got a final quarter touch and a chance to take a bow as they did so. And each player rotated off the ground received a standing ovation as they ran towards the bench.

The only way this could have been better is if the final play had come off. With just 10 seconds on the clock, Burgoyne had the ball on the northern flank, looked up and saw Matt Spangher loose in the opposite pocket. As the ball sailed in Spangher’s direction, every Hawks fan rose in anticipation of to the perfect finale. A goal after the siren to The Spang might have provoked a ground invasion. Sadly the fates weren’t with us and Sydney managed to intervene before the bearded one could take it.

It was one of the most gratifying Grand Finals ever, and when the final siren rang with Matt Suckling about to gather a loose ball, I leapt to my feet and embraced Andrew next to me. I’ve met this guy twice in my life and on each occasion we’ve embraced in tears – I think there might be a bromance brewing. We’ve made a pact to meet up at the same seats next time the Hawks are in the big one.

Many commentators would described Hawthorn’s performance as ‘total football’ – in refernce to the Dutch football game-plan of the 70s in which every player can play every position. And while that is as true of this Hawthorn team as it could be of any Australian football team, this was more than just ‘total’ football;, it was ‘full-on’ football.

The Norm Smith medal was awarded to Luke Hodge – his second following the one he won in 2008. Watching the game live I thought Sam Mitchell or Hodge would win it. Watching it in replay I thought perhaps Jordan Lewis might have won it, but really, it was only ever out of those three. Between them, Hodge, Lewis and Mitchell received 28 of the 30 possible votes (with Gibson and Langford also receiving one each), so really, they should each have received one. Hodge probably got it as much for his smother against Port Adelaide the week previous as for anything he did this week. It is perhaps instructive that Roughead kicked 5 goals and didn't come into consideration. 

I like a woman who is true to her word. Heather McCartney, arrested for stripping in one of the corporate boxes after Saturday’s match, later told the Magistrates court, “I said if Hawthorn win I’m getting naked. And they won, and I got naked.” Well that seems perfectly reasonable to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said exactly those words and then acted on it. And really, if ever there was an occasion that justified it, this was it: Back-to-Back Premiers. 21 goals. An emphatic 10-goal triumph. Revenge for 2012. Matt Spangher. All good reasons to celebrate. All good reasons to disrobe. In fact I’m shocked more people didn’t ‘get naked’ for Hawthorn. Getting your gear off and parading about not only a perfectly natural response to Hawthorn going back to back, it’s the only response.

This is Hawthorn hedonism.

Final scores: Hawthorn 21 11 137 d Sydney Swans 11 8 74.

Attendance: 99,454

What we learned: Sydney may enjoy a higher salary cap than any other team, they may have outlayed $2 million this year on their two key forwards alone, but they still lost the Grand Final by 10 goals. Clearly the salary cap is still too restrictive.

What we already knew: There’s never a frown with the gold and brown.

What we wonder: When the boys get together in 2039 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our back to back flags, as they did this year for the 1988-89 triumph - will Buddy have to leave half way through the night? Or will he just have to shout the drinks?

What we can continue to take satisfaction from: Forget the Kennett curse – it is worth noting that in each of our past five premierships, 1989, 1991, 2008, 2013 and 2014 – we’ve defeated Geelong at some stage in the Finals series or in the Grand Final itself.

The author celebrates!