Both my children were born in hawthorn premiership years. My son born at the beginning of 1989 and my daughter midway through 1991. It took another 17 years for Hawthorn to appear again after dominating the 70’s and 80’s.
Many a long night in the dark in Ballarat, I considered throwing the leg over for the sake of the side, a new family member and another flag. However my boys had taken one last look in the deep dark truthful mirror and determined that the metaphorical boots to be laid up.
The Hawks entered the 1989 Grand Final as a back to back favourite after flogging the hapless Melbourne the year before. The mood at the home club was also expectant as we established administration and training facilities at a remote farm house in Yendon – outside of Ballarat – to take up the pre season parenting challenge. A kind of pre parenting season Arizona or Kodoka track expedition.
I was a singer in a rock n roll band called the Shooting Czars and in 88 we’d rehearsed for a grand final night gig during the game, tele on and sound up – it couldn’t compete with our racket. Nor could the Dees that day – walloped into submission by 96 points. We played again in ’89 but sensibly rehearsed before a grand Final day. A warm day, the blossom on the move and the jasmine in the air.
That night was toasty on stage made more so by my long sleeve circa 1975 wool Hawks guernsey.
A few years later once we’d graduated from the farm house into a ramshackle wooden Victorian home, we held regular Grand Final parties where “Badger” was the consummate regular. Badger was part beatnik, part thespian, part mystic, total Geelong nut. One year pumped on both the game (strictly Coopers), beer, sausage rolls, nuts, chips, chonks and dope he blew me into the neighbours shed wall off a hip and shoulder in the contested half time back yard scrummage. The wall still bears the twisted bruising impact on the gal’ to this day. “Insha’Allah” he’d say in parting – “God willing”. This was probably a reference to Geelong’s failure to grab the big cup in these years. In following years we took this half time action up to the Eureka Stockade to play inside the Rotary constructed battle ground aka “Stockade” skinned on all sides by tall mislaid pointed poles. Eureka Park was then a neglected garden with echoes of turn of the century picnics and 1950s playgrounds. An old train line ran at the back winding up from a deep cutting off Victoria Street. It was historic but neighbourly. 30 years prior a swimming dam cooled the residents in summer until the plug was pulled during the cult of chlorine. The “mock stock”-ade, along with the diorama are now gone replaced by an overblown Museum of Australian Democracy @ Eureka in the ongoing triumph of monumentalism that is gripping Australian civic life and real estate development.
So what sort of world was this to bring up children?
My sons first interest in AFL iconography was when as a two and a half year old he spotted a Footscray AFL approved soft toy. “Bulldog!!!” he exclaimed in wide eyed delight of recognition. Suddenly I despaired at the life of pain vision that played out in my mind. Was this to be the moment he pegged his fate and faith to the Western Oval mast?. Thankfully it was merely a “world of animals” moment rather than life defining. He went onto follow the Bombers, saw a few flags then swapped to Hawthorn in his mid teens. We were spared – as a working family – of the constant cry of “WOOF WOOF” on match day in celebration of a rare Bulldog moment in the sun. Celebration followed by despair. Depression. Self Loathing. WOOF WOOF! The cycle of Dog Life. In this horror show alternate footy universe, he’d of been 8 (1 and a bit in Dog years) when the ‘Scrays made the 1997 preliminary final. Home and hosed at the last change, Dogs supporters commandeered the barrel at the Exchange Hotel, Redan in anticipation of the coming Grand Final week until Crow Darren Jarman took over the bar leading a 4 goal charge that put the dogs to sleep by 2 points. Imagine. My son. He might not have come back.
The ol Eureka Stockade diorama presentation closed with a phrase that also paralleled the justice of a Hawthorn victory that day in 1989. Narrated in deep gravitas by ex BTV6 newsreader Arthur Scuffins as a climax to the impasse on the Stockade later flowering into hard won democracy, he declared:
“And the people saw that justice was done”.
“God Willing” – despite rough house tactics leaving the Hawks with only 15 fit players, Badger’s Cats fell short by a goal as the Hawks survived the war of attrition. Little did I know that another child was on its way in 2 years. My function in perpetuating the species tied indelibly to the hoisting of premiership flags at Glenferrie.