The first in 1961 I was barely cogniscent of my own identity let alone VFL, Hawthorn and their first flag that year.
So let’s jump into the transporter and materialise back onto the family farm with me, at 11 years of age on 25th September 1971.
I attended a small primary school just 800 yards (metres came later) up the unsealed road on which we lived. Leongatha East Primary School. Now gone. In my first year I had a rather dour disciplinarian teacher named Peter Jackson whose name sake cigarettes I would rather smoke – the milds of course. Fortunately he left and in grade 1 enter John Wall, the portly young fresh out of teachers college Charger driving wannabe hipster. Both a wonderful teacher, hilariously funny clown and more importantly child at heart, Wall was a mad Hawthorn supporter which inspired the entire school save one girl – already entrenched as a Collingwood supporter – to become indelibly linked to the brown and gold.
In the outside world, and largely unbeknown to us kids save for those weird new beards and baggy eyes on the Beatles , a summer of love was brewing. A revolution was also growing at Glenferrie with the arrival of Peter Hudson, the John Wall like portly full forward. It didn’t take long for our home knitted guerneys (some with cable motifs depending on the knitting skill of the respective mother) to be adorned with the stiff white sown on plastic number 26 of Huddo’s guernsey as he conjured goals constantly and freakishly into our youthful awe fueled entrancement. He favoured the flat punt where the ball would skid straight off the boot so defenders could familiarise themselves with the manufacturer and construction information as it traversed the journey goalward. In contrast heart throb Collingwood full forward Peter McKenna favoured the now generation drop punt.
In the years that ensue while we acquired new knowledge about picannis nodding, the Hawks assemble the Credence Clearwater team that will pursue the 1971 prize including Leigh Matthews, Don Scott, Bob Keddie, Peter Hudson, Kelvin Moore, Peter Crimmins, Allan Martello along with veterens Ken Beck and David Parkin. Peter Knights misses with injury.
The Saints are building too – after their break through win of 1966 – there is an expectation of another with the calibre of Ross Smith, Bob Murray, Barry Breen and Carl Ditterich embedded into the black, white and red.
The game is a bloodbath. Both sides throw elbows, round arms, fists and forearms at each other during contests, off the ball and in stoppages. Hudson, on track to break Bob Pratt’s 150 goals in a season record, cops a blow from behind to the ears from big Cowboy Neale depositing a Jimi Hendrix like soundtrack within his game conscious for the remainder of the game. He struggles, in a daze.
The Saints are quick, dour and tough. By three quarter time, the Hawks were in danger of becoming tomorrows fish and chip paper down by 20 points. Huddo playing like he’s on LSD with double vision. Can, will, does he break the record on our way to the flag? I can’t handle the radio commentary anymore and take the 3 minute walk up to our dam to contemplate this new understanding of disappointment. Surrounded on 2 sides by mature cypress, it’s an appropriate funereal place to confront a growing sense of grief.
So here’s me up at the dam, sooking and piffing rocks in frustration into the dam (an indictable office under Dad’s rural regime) and using new found profanties (mostly learnt in Dad’s interaction with recalcitrant cows) when mum’s voice echoes up the banks and over the water to me – “Michaellllllllllllllllllllllllll” !!!!!!! – then the words of every footy true believer ( a status I was then yet to subscribe) – “They’re coming back!!”. I’d missed Matthews huge barrel from 60 out in the opening minute that cranked the momentum, Bob Keddies first and mercurial champ Peter Crimmins courageous true snap in my frustrated assault on the frogs.
By the time I get back to 3LO’s commentary snapping, popping, phasing and snarling out of the HMV valve radio, the gap is closed to one point. Keddie and Scott pour em on despite a late Saint rally, the flag is ours and the frogs begin to croak more freely.
With Hudson mentally smashed into Alpha Centuri, Kennedy had swung the game dozer Bob Keddie to full forward. Awoken to the Hawks predicament, Keddie conjures 4 final term goals. Hudson has a couple of go’s at the record but the cowboys blow peals on in his head and his sprays one chance, hits the man on the mark with another. The game is played at such a frenetic pace, the earlier malice is lifted and pure footy ensues.
Hudson kicks 150 goals in this season, yet Leigh Matthews wins the best and fairest on his way to 7. The group continues on to participate in finals constantly in the 70’s, punching through in 1976 and 1978 both against the glitter and glam rock of Ron Barrassi’s North Melbourne.
For St Kilda, grand final presence takes another 26 years when the Stan Alves coached group succumb to Darren Jarmen and the Crows in 1997. That final glory yet to be again sated.