It was the last defiant act on a diseased hip that seemed intent on crossing off its it’s own bucket list by standing for the 2012 AFL Grand Final, 4 days before my right hip replacement.
Grand Final day was freezing. We get into position early and we’ve got the view to die for, lack of seat notwithstanding.
We can see the whole ground like we’re peeking out from behind one of those old fashioned windowed envelopes that were popular with business until email destroyed the time honoured concept of “later”.
One of the biggest geezers I’ve seen bred outside of captivity plonks himself right in front of me just before the bounce. And he’s wearing a Swans Guernsey. Him and his mate are from outback in NSW and here for a bit of fun. He moves aside and the good natured ribbing between us begins.
We can’t see the flight of the ball, we can’t tell if it’s a goal at either end. We watch the kick and then gauge the reaction of those stationed behind the goals to determine if it’s a goal before the noise from the rest of the ground confirms it. It’s a painful finish. During this week I see a replay of highlights and realize I’ve buried the result subliminally and for the first time feel the agony keenly of this loss due mostly to shanks at the pointy end.
Sydney really is the AFL equivalent of a home for asylum seekers from other clubs. Players on their last chance take refuge in the detention centre that is the SCG and flourish. In their side are players who were deported from other clubs for philosophical, intellectual, behavioral and religious “deviations”. At the Swans under the “Bloods” ethos they assimilate into the disciplined team focused culture. Tonight there are least 5 – Ted Richards, (Essendon), Ben McGlynn and Josh Kennedy (Hawthorn), Luke Parker (West Coast). Ruckman Mike Pyke is a Canadian Rugby player, the ultimate AFL boat person.
The two best games I saw last year where between these two clubs. The grand final, despite the result; and the Round 21 clash at the SCG where the Hawks got up on the death. Celebrating in a sea of red and white on the siren, the constant baiting from the terraces a distant memory as I sing the song til I was hoarser than a more joyous version of John Singleton in the mounting yard.
In contrast, for tonight’s Grand Final replay it’s a balmy 20 degrees. It opens well. Buddy’s been held goalless for two games straight but 2 minutes in he’s marked and wheeled onto the left for a big 50 metre goal. Champagne Football!
We’re up by 40 pts at half time. The members around me are edgy, arrogant., eating their chips quicker than usual. The metabolism is aroused. We’re walking on sunshine and don’t it feel good? I always feel a little sad during Swans V Hawks games. As discussed in an earlier post, my father was a South Melbourne supporter. He was shirt fronted into the after life well before retirement so I’ve missed half a life time of talking – and kicking – footy with him.
I’m not sure what he thought of the banjo solo in the middle of the Swan’s song but I reckon it must have provided great comfort when the Swans were the whipping boy of the VFL/AFL. The playing is crisp; almost new wave in the manner in which the rapid-fire strum is pursued by catatonic barre chord shifts. It smells of vaudeville, early black and white tele, boxing tent spruikers, the black and white minstrel show and John Lydon. Its Mammy meets Hendrix. It soothes and comforts while you’re team is being dismantled by a power bigger than a Tonight show guest crooning “You were always on my mind” with the in-house sidemen.
We get some crazy decisions tonight from the field umpires:
- Adam Goodes slides under Gibbo and takes him out with his knees. No free kick.
- Hawk Shane Burgoyne gets the handball clearance, takes 9 steps and belts it through from the 50 only to be pinged for running too far with the ball.
- Jordan Lewis bombs a long goal that maybe possibly coulda sorted perhaps was touched on the line. Goal umpy gives the two fingers but boundary umpire reckons it was touched despite him being some way from the action. We go upstairs for 4 minutes before the video umpire throws up his hands and says goal umpires call. Somehow we end up with a point enraging the members into a bullshit chant. Feels good to say it. You’ve had a bad week and now this – you have an obligation to chant.
Swans are flat, missing a couple of their gorilla backman. Got no functioning forward line tonight so having to manufacture goals.
No post Grand Final invoking of defeat “pacts” ala Paul Chapman’s Kardinia 2008 address that “Geelong will never lose to Hawthorn again” for Hawks captain Luke Hodge. Post game he plays down the grand final revenge angle. Just another step for the club on the road to Septopia.
The lads have moved through a tough draw to go 6 and 1. Next up the battlers – Melbourne, GWS and Gold Coast Suns. Wake me up I must be dreaming!
Hawthorn 18 11 119 d Sydney 12 10 82