The air was distinctly clear. Light carried far from the MCG, over Port Phillip Bay a dark glow hinted at a potential dousing sometime during this blockbuster. A millimetre or two had peppered our seats on the half forward flank, Punt Road end, before our arrival. The emergency poncho is on standby ready to be donned – SWAT style – should that shower arrive. The MCG is light up with the tone of a white energy saver bulb. With Sydney boasting such a tall timbered forward line – Reid, Tippet, Franklin and Goodes we ponder the effect on the contested mark.
One of those tree’s is our once time hero Lance Franklin, but having taken the money at last season’s end to head north, we’re keen to see his reception tonight in his first game back before the one time faithful he left behind. Pre-game his ex-coach Alastair Clarkson labels him the “faceless man” who while living on in Hawk history will be just another name on his magnetic board to ponder how to counter. It’s respect delivered with a clip behind the ears and the novelty of the put down gets widespread coverage. Every time he touches it tonight he’s booed, but it’s hard to sense any real malice, it feels more like booing the big bad wolf at your child’s kinder Xmas panto.
“Not much of a crowd” sniffs my game companion as we took our seats 20 minutes before the bounce. The game, once it commences draws us in so totally that when we next survey the crowd, it’s a packed house – 73,000 are here, the Swan’s biggest home and away crowd through history.
Franklin and Tippett mark everything teasing and outbodying the under sized Hawk defence. Both however can’t find their kicking boots and spray more times than they salute. The sea mist creeps in releasing a few larger drops compelling the release off the interchange bench of that emergency poncho. But not for long. Later I manage to fold it back up to it’s original size and get it back into the quick release bag. I’m nominated for a Herald-Sun “Community Hero” award for the month of July.
In the second quarter, Adam Goodes kicks 2 in 2 minutes and when Buddy slots another it appears the caning many pundits have predicted begins to look likely. Jordan Lewis rolls the dice and bangs a torp into the forward 50 occupied by only Hawk Paul Pupolo and his opponent, he rewards the faith running onto the ball from behind his opponent, gathering the ball and after dropping off his man gallops into an open goal.
Half time I eat my first footy pie in years, a 4 and 20 Angus. I skool it. I bathe in the nostalgia of pies past such is the gastronomic pleasure it induces. Both it and the over fried cold burnt chips that accompany it ring on loudly like the newly enhanced MCG siren long after the post midnight replay we devour on our return to Hawk central.
The twists, turns and echos on my post pie duodenum become a direct metaphor for whats to come. Down 7 points in the premiership quarter, the Hawks dig again like that memorable preliminary final of last year. Bruest kicks three, Roughie in his 200th drives one from the top of the square and Smith marks and bombs one and suddenly the deficit is erased and we’re up by 8 points.
The Hawk midfield are beginning to get on top, winning the clearances and the hard ball gets out the middle.
Franklin outruns his ol mate Gibbo to twist one through. The Hawk momentum is further slowed as Ben McGlynn goals in the square over the top off an outstretched Josh Gibson. McGlynn signals ambiguously as if agreeing with the protesting Gibson who is claiming he touched it. We go upstairs and despite a shadowy video appartiton invoking a bent back finger on ball impact, the Swans are awarded a goal. The postscript follows on twitter.
— Ben McGlynn (@McGlynn_21) July 26, 2014
Things never said: “Good to see the goal review systems works ” #point
— Josh Gibson (@joshgibson06) July 26, 2014
During the last quarter I gaze over the Hawthorn forward and realise the stark differences in strategy to Sydney’s amazons. There’s Poppy – Paul Puopolo who faces some vertical challenge, along with mid sized Luke Bruest and Issac Smith. Lanky Sharpshooter Jack Gunston is shifted to a wing. The Hawk’s favour an agile set up, Sydney the big marking, long kicking guns. All 3 Hawks reward their coach. Poppy with a magnificent tackle to bring Rampe down in the 50 drives home the resultant free kick. Sydney keep coming but when Burgoyne intercepts a tentative Swan defensive jab at the top of the 50 metre arc, his goal provides the omen that it’s perhaps the brown and gold’s night. Then Goodes goals again, his fourth to put this most stunning of encounters into another age of doubt.
Luke Hodge takes a grab just inside 50 deep into time on. He methodically milks the clock before drilling a true captains goals. For a brief moment the Hawks are back on top until Ben McGlynn kicks a goal at the death. Swans the league leaders by just .08%.
This has truly been an epic match. My voice is gone, the pie is singing the song in my stomach and the rain has gone. The Hawks have survived so far the long line of injuries thrown at it to overcome the league benchmark and keep alive the goal of that all important top four finish.