Injury to players has a debilitating effect on all concerned. They can also cruel the imagination of the humble supporter. One such injury – and it’s amazing yellow brick road aftermath – to my Hawthorn hero Peter Hudson in 1972 continue to haunt my sense of the possible.
Peter Hudson held hostage to my football imagination from the late 60’s tll er agh…now. Until this day I suffer from a type of Stockholm Syndrome by Hudson proxy. I was in the getaway car for every last minute hip and shoulder before marking. I manned the semi automatic shoulder to shoulder as he robbed those hundred goal seasons. I cried at the safe house as I awaited his return from long term injury assignment. I refused to buckle under questioning when his freedom and subsequent retirement beckoned. Finally in his moment of redemption, I was left by the road side when the getaway car failed to show.
Huddo was on fire. 150 goals in 1971 and a flag, prefacing the tons he’d produced in 1968 (125 goals), and 1970 (146); all derived from his unfashionable flat punt kick punctuated by 50’s beatnik sideburns and thick locks of flowing unrestrained jet black hair just short of a Beatle cut.
I well remember the day I had to go into hiding. 1972 on the back beach at Inverloch late season water skiing with the family. HMV transistor radio pulling in the commentary from the opening round of 1972 Hawthorn V Melbourne. Just before half time Huddo has amassed 8 goals and is unstoppable. Then….disaster as his knee buckles and was suddenly….cactus. No chance of rehab back then – “knees” meant career closure. I was in a fog for days, weeks, months – picking at food, becoming unkempt, enduring plummeting blood pressure. I was way too distracted to salute the flag during the national anthem. Huddo retreated back to Tassie, opened a pub and got on with his life. Meantime although I realised your club is still your club even when a bit of it’s magic has gone, I was not yet sufficiently rehabilitated to confront nightly doses of boiled brussel sprouts along with cauliflower topped in cheese sauce.
By 1973 I’d graduated from the John Wall Hawthorn (Primary) Finishing school located deep with Leongatha East. Deep into that season the Hawks had a narrow opportunity to make the finals. Coach John Kennedy flew to Hobart to entice Hudson back into the fold for the campaign. Hudson by his own testimony was a legendary poor trainer, even at the peak of his messiahood, and he’d not run since the injury. After agreeing to play he was permitted to supervise his own training in a bid to win “fitness” and be up for selection. This training consisted of running between the goals and a couple of laps. After a fortnight he was deemed fit after these solo workouts sans ball to line up against Collingwood at VFL Park Waverley. He’s named in the side and Hawks management arrange to fly him over on the eve of the match. No can do for Hudson’s pub is playing host to reigning satirical king Norman Gunston and the flat punt virtuoso has to tend to the 500+ punters til midnight. Glass washing duties complete, Hudson gets up early yet fog delays his flight out. He hitches a ride with the opposition carrier who’s taking an empty crew flight back to Melbourne. He alights and boards a Hawk provided helicopter for the flight to Waverley and the inevitable packed house.
For those of you who believe in the need for a solid preseason here’s a guy that since his last game some 18 months prior:
- is coming off a serious injury
- has popped on 12 KG
- has not run, jogged or undertaken a light canter
- works til midnight on the eve of the game which is 700 km away
- builds fitness on his own running around a ground without a ball for 2 weeks prior
A quick teammate familarisation beckons in the rooms and the enormity of the experience hits him as he squeezes into the 26 titled guernsey before hitting the ground to an astounding roar. Huddo’s bad knee tears 5 minutes in – a mere distraction on his way to seeing off 3 opponents and booting 8 of Hawthorn’s 13 goals in a losing side.
All week prior my mind wandered to the upcoming match. A lift to the game is promised by a trusted inside member of the cell only to be withdrawn on the Friday night, even before Gunston has hit the stage. With live games on TV years away, I’m forced to the radio. I hang on every goal bitter at colouring in the detail in my own minds eye helicopter view.
Into 1974 and back in the pub, Hudson saddles up for Glenorchy in the TFL before returning one last time to Hawthorn to wear number 1 and kick 110 goals in 1977.