There were some lean years at Hawthorn after the 2001 preliminary final loss to Essendon. My hero Trent Croad was flogged to Fremantle. Alistair Clarkson came to the club in 2005 as senior coach. I had a sticker labelled Clarko’s Kids that had baby face images of Sam Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Lance Franklin and Jordan Lewis. Anticipation was building and in 2007 we rejoined the big stage in a huge elimination final at Etihad with the roof off in 28 degree weather. Hawks looked shot but came back to be down within a kick with seconds to go. Franklin marked 65 metres out on a deep angle. With 7 seconds left he swung onto his left and unleashed a bomb that split the sticks. The following week was an anti climax as were tossed aside by North Melbourne in Ben Dixon’s last game.
The 2008 finals series was tremendous for Hawthorn. Geelong and Hawthorn emerged as the top two sides and their round 17 clash that year which Geelong shone light on what was to come. Young Lance Franklin had a stellar season breaking the ton against Carlton in the final home and away game. Geelong went into the Grand Final firm favourites. I had hope but wasnt being a fool. Eye brows were raised when Stuart Dew, retired Port Premiership player was recruited off a Mexican bar stool many kilograms over his playing weight, itself significant.
I headed around to the father in law’s place at quarter time of the big 2008 dance. Being a keen football follower, I reckoned Ben would enjoy some vociferous company. As a Irish man who found his way here in the fifties he took to our game and ended up with quite some klout with a club in the Bendigo league. He never forgave Carlton for the loss of three local stars in their prime, despite this being the team of choice of his wife Mary AKA Mrs Judd. Years earlier Ben had taken an instant dislike to Greg “Diesel” Williams. Whether the game be live or a reply, whenever Williams got the ball Ben would clench up, lean forward on his seat and expel with disgust “Hit that bastard Williams!”. After a suitable pause he’d eyeball you like a clip behind your ear was coming then say “I hate that bastard Williams”.
You’d need a staff that included biologists, psychologists and fortune tellers working day and night to distill the source of this Chateau Williams. I cant confirm this but feel confident in surmising that this phrase originated only AFTER Greg had left the Swans for the Blues. One time in the early nineties, Ben, Mrs Judd, son Paul and I headed for Princess Park for a Hawks V Blues clash where we took a seat amongst the Blues faithful. Within minutes of the opening bounce Diesel came roaring out of the middle, ball in hand, looking forward. Paul and I on instinct after years of conditioning, mouthed aloud in duet that infamous call – “Hit that bastard Williams!!!!!!!!”. Ben turned to us outraged and no longer in the censor free zone of the lounge room admonished us with “SHUT UP !!!! – YOU WANT TO GET US KICKED OUT???!!!”. Diesel has come and gone but the phrase live on – Hit that bastard Judd, Carey, Warne, Sheedy, Hird, Gillard, Bert Newton [insert your favorite player/celebrity here] etc.
We took him to a game a few years back – Swans V Hawks. Barry Hall was playing. There were some pre game words about the need to keep Barry’s name out of the “Hit that bastard” slapstick. We got to the G hours before the game so Ben could find a photo of himself at the MCG museum working around the G on a bulldozer in the early 50’s. He’d scored a job preparing earthworks for the then new Olympic stand for the ’56 games. The young students staffing the Museum had neither capacity nor interest in hearing the story or finding the photo. Who could blame them? The museum was devoted to sports people rather than a Hall of Fame for construction workers. The photo floated up later as part of the national photo archives. You could tell it was him. “That’s not me” said Ben. That’s you we told him. A week or two passed. Okay that’s me he said. He later told me he’d driven that dozer into a damn and bogged it. Hit that bastard dozer.
The Hawks were still in it at half time due mostly to some shocking shanking by the Cats. While optimistic, there was a sniff, but also a sense of the inevitable. Then came that third quarter that stunned Geelong into panic. First Buddy bags a ball burster then Cyril beats 3 opponents on a wing that lifts the whole side. Stuart Dew snaps a goal, plays contested interchange with Mark Williams who goals, then sorts out Geelong’s defence to handball Cyril into an open goal. The Mexican move has played out – this is the moment for which his ex Port assistant coach Clarko had recruited him for. The favourite was been outed, stung into submission. Thier demise is to launch various subsequent premiership assaults. Pacts and curses come into vogue between the clubs that is only broken by this year’s preliminary final, some 5 years later.
Now when Dew kicks his goal and its apparent the comeback is on, I’m face first into Ben’s telly screaming YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. Its only after William’s goal that we realise Ben is missing. He is found lightly turning the vege patch with his spade, too tense to watch the competition unfold. You can picture the scene in your own head when he watches boxing – which he regularly changes channel to if the game is punk.
He is well into his Eighties but it’s nothing for us to swap over 100 texts on game day. Fox Footy is our mutual friend and while most of our texts are footy related, occasionally we stray off track into politics or (look out) multicultural concepts. When it gets heated we’ve been known to go quiet for a day or too before hitting the SMS training track together again.
I’m sure at these times, he is thinking……”Hit that bastard Gwyther”.
Straight after the game I get the only phone call from my 79 year old mum made to me from her mobile phone. It had become a bit of Nokia paper weight for her in spite of several tutorials, diagrams and guides I’d produced for her. She had about 3 weeks left – though we didnt know it at the time. She was so very happy the lads had won the day.