3 clubs, 23 rounds, A slab of passion….

Swans implode – Back to Back 2014

Screen shot 2015-03-11 at 10.16.30 AMDaniel Hannebery, Sydney Swan rising elite midfielder glides between players to swoop on the ball. As though arriving from an inter galactic transfer, Hawk Jarrad Roughead materialises before him, disarms the ball, scoops him front on before smashing Daniel from orbit into the terra firm of the MCG centre square.

Roughie’s hit mid way through the first quarter shifts the zeitgeist of the Grand Final, trundling the Hawks to emerge from a wormhole of competitiveness to eventual total  dominance. By half time neither Sydney’s elite, their second tier or riff raff can influence the dam breech now flooding their aspirations below 42 oxygen deprived points.

No way as we entered the G on grand final day at 11am did I expect such a Hawk victory. Simply glad to be here again having won the lottery of the also ran Hawk member categories not guaranteed a Grand Final ticket. All I wanted was a competitive game that didn’t result in too fine a smashing of my lads. What was to unfold in those afternoon hours had the hindsight merchants searching for clues to materialise later as “I’d been sayin….” delusional attempts at thought leadership.

Herald Sun Pic 

The ground is empty when we arrive to stake our claim on the standing room fence. The air is fresh, untainted by the approaching nasal wave of stale beer, rancid fry fat and decomposing meat pie dander.  Our allocated position appears to be just a fence. No neat bays with wide concrete steps of progressive height where the uppermost level diminishes your view of the ground to the visage of the prize fighter with the split eyebrow.  Forward from our view roll out the coiffured seats in the AFL members stand terrace. We’re on about the 70 metre mark from the City end goal. Behind us is a pop up bar and Gate 3 through which people pour, then have one poured for them,  and presumably to kill nervous time pre match squeezing their pores in our area before seeking their ticketed place. The floor, in contrast to the tradition standing area, slopes away behind us, presumably to give spilt beer an easy traverse to the drains or “slops” in the old black n white vernacular. The upside is that the building tsunami of slops deters the civilised from congregating in our bay, which I am beginning to think as the game wears on, is not really an official standing area but an opportunity to squeeze a few more clams out of the big game.

Already a large family has taken the prime pole positions on the fence so we settle in behind. I get a sense there’s more of ‘em coming the way they protect their space.  The view however is magnificent and unblemished. A teenager among them proudly wears a brand new Hawk 1988/1989 commemorative back to back guernsey in an optimistic prophesy of the witch hunt to come.

A young man join us attracted no doubt by my brown valour jacket, brown shirt and official hawks tie. He’s half schickered on the nine bucks a pop bourbon and “coke” that subsidises some of the cost of corporate dining way up stairs. He’s  still got  a raging thirst, and a huge cardboard premiership cup upon which he’s scrawled in cursive script “Hawthorn” under the engraved “Won by”. He’s got an increasing habit of hugging me close and deep upon each of the Hawk’s late second quarter goals like you would an old uncle returning unannounced from Gallipoli. My guru following sister in law gives hugs like that, so long and tight that when done you know you’ve just had a cat scan of your soul. Now when Luke Hodge marks and goals at the 12 minute mark of the 2nd quarter he’s up early with the cup waving and ranting, the result in his mind a foregone conclusion. Wiser heads around him implore him to get it down, that he’s – in the almost Aesopian tradition – “gone too early”. He meekly withdraws knowingly checking his enthusiasm against the wisdom of the group.

However, just 3 minutes later as Luke Hodge intercepts a wobbly Swan post Hawk point kick out, then has a straightening stroll before punishing the mistake with a major, our man again raises his cardboard cup skyward feverishly accompanied by loud unintelligible Hawk devotions, profanities and sheer bloody minded nirvana. This time no one condemns him, instead he’s urged on in a dream like the inebriated peasant who publicly whips his donkey to death in Dostoyevsky‘s Crime and Punishment. Nervous yet excited ghostly mirages of Carlton’s 1970 44 point deficit zombie return aside, we know the cup is ours already. The theme song erupts, the noise thickens with excited stridency as we regroup at half time. We’re almost oblivious to the unconscious possibility that  we’re behaving like those German fascists who caught the train to the wrong town for their rally.

The conga lines begin deep into time on in the third when Hawk Will Langford super glued to the forward pocket boundary dribbles a hopeful bouncing tap toward goal that fortuitously bounces at and well over the feet of the goal guarding Swan for a goal. This time the hug is one of celebration and release with not a soul around.

As Luke Breust salutes a minute into the last quarter, among us in the standing room it’s become an audition call for the father son reconciliation scene from the “The Water Diviner“.

Lance “Buddy” Franklin was probably Sydney’s best player, 4 goals with minimal supply. While his hawk teammates have moved on from his departure, many Hawk fans have not and the pixels of social media tease out any number of criticisms about his driving, alleged treachery, model girlfriend, his enjoyment of the punt and the pot along with other numerous common or garden accusations of a lack of character. Various Buddy memorabilia that in 2013 was treasured is now puritanically peddled by fans seeking absolution of his domestic presence, sadly unable to appreciate the big picture of his contribution to the club.

Pointing the finger at Buddy’s driving however was probably warranted, after all he did manage to clean up 5 cars in a quiet street single vehicle accident never fully explained as to how to a public eager for a contextualised mechanistic breakdown of his foibles. Many times, we’d witnessed this kind of carnage upon an oppositions’s backline and it was comforting that Buddy could bring that charisma out of the footy field and into our local street and under lights. Analysis of his smart phone for tell tale traces of stress hormones purportedly released in a fright remain inconclusive. Fortunately it was his girlfriends car, well actually her sponsors car, who lent it to her who lent it to Buddy.  The feat is almost worth a brownlow in itself with Buddy emerging before the media in that loveable laconic way in an appearance that for once did not include a sentence beginning with “the boys…”

So, in the third quarter we witness a scrap for the ball between Buddy, and his old captain Luke Hodge who wraps him up. As they arise, Luke hugs him close and plants a big wet kiss on his cheek.  It’s a classy one for the fans from Luke, one of you would think genuine affection that comes from such a rich shared history mixed with a cheeky little reminder of what he is now missing in his search for greatness at Sydney.

Despite being rumoured to be Buddy’s best mate at Hawthorn Josh Gibson gives a glimpse into some alternate feelings toward the great one, when, with the game won and in that rare space of being able to desert team discipline, he pushes Buddy angrily into the turf forsaking a free kick.

Where did that most sublimest of victories from? The media sure pumped Sydney up leading in despite a last round Richmond defeat, and a softish finals run into the big dance against Fremantle and North Melbourne. Hawks wore down Geelong then took apart Port early before surrendering the insurmountable lead to almost spill the chance. It wasn’t distant history either in Round 18 when the Hawks took apart Sydney at the G. Nor the 2012 Grand Final against the Swans when inaccurate kicking cost them. Suspicions grew internally that Sydney’s second and lower tier of players were flat track bullies lead by the superstardom of their guns. Starve them and you had the DJ at your disposal for all those tunes from your glory days. “Can you slow it down to 33 and a third?” asked overwhelmed Swans coach at half time.

Alastair Clarkson ends the afternoon in superhuman territory. Having built the club up from the on field debacle it was in 2003 to a triptych of premierships and a drive by shooting runner up. Fought for then by Jason Dunstall when, as acting director of football, he advocates a shot of outside blood in the coach’s seat over past hawka heroes. Sweet, poignant and fitting that it’s Jason Dunstall who hands him the cup in the last official act of the 2014 AFL season.

Clarko begins that rebuild with the weight of his tactical mind and adroitness at the draft table. (Herald Sun Pic)

It’s been a delightful day of unexpected sublime surprises, complete elation and joy. This really has been one for the true believers.

Hawthorn 21 11 137 defeated Sydney 11 8 74

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