AFL Grand Final: Hawthorn vs. Fremantle
MCG – 28 September 2013
As a Richmond supporter, booking holidays out of Victoria in late September has been a reasonable bet in recent years. In fact, I could have booked holidays for Grand Final weekend every year since the mid-80s, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be torn away from watching my team on the G on that last Saturday.
But having a 13 year old son who passionately follows the Hawks and can play a bit himself has meant that September school holiday travel has been a little more fraught with danger in recent years. As a result of my desire to seek sun, sea and surf and an acceptance that the Richmond bandwagon, comfy as the seats are, would be in for the annual service by mid finals, we booked a week in Noosa, which included the Grand Final weekend.
I had taken him to the opening final versus the Swans, when the Hawks second half had established their premiership credentials, only for their dominating win over last year’s premiers to be lost in the Freo and Port’s upsets and the huge Richmond and Carlton eliminator. Hawthorn, who by then had the week off with Franklin and Rioli to return, were off-Broadway as far as the hype was concerned. Methinks in hindsight they liked it that way.
However, after the Cats beat the Power, I told the boy that we’d need to get tickets early for the Prelim as we couldn’t afford to front up to the MCG late Friday night after work and struggle to get a seat.
“No, I’m not going” he said. “I’ll be too nervous, I’ll watch at home so if we lose, I can go to bed quickly”. He invests a lot of emotion in games, his white line fever traits when playing spill over into when he watches. I admire his maturity in knowing he’ll be a wreck if he’s there to see another close one.
So, the nail biting win over the Cats was watched at home, with elation mixed with despair and the bean bag he was sitting on coming in for some dreadful beltings as they fell behind at the last change. Happily for him, they got up, and so the following week would see the big one played while we were out of town.
Noosa in September school holidays is like North Hawthorn, with flights jam packed with pasty skinned Melbournians keen for a glimpse of the sun. You walk down the street and run into people you see at the Coles near the Glenferrie Oval, and Hawks towels and jumpers appear on Little Cove beach.
We missed the GF week hype, with the Brisbane news covering only aspects of the build-up and us watching just to get glimpses of the Melbourne weather and congratulate ourselves on being in the sun.
Grand Final day started then as the previous 5 days of our week had, with 7am swims to wake up, 9 til 1 on the beach and then home for lunch and avoiding the heat of the middle of the day. Forecasts of hail on the Birds of Tokyo were laughed at, as we basked around in shorts and bare feet.
My sister in law had left Noosa a few days before after two weeks up here, and as part of the traditional going home ritual of passing on boxes of uneaten and unopened food to tourists lucky enough to be staying, we inherited a barely used packet of footy franks. I walked into Hastings Street, bought the last 6 long rolls they had and surprised the kids with hot dogs for lunch as we nervously awaited Dangerfield’s Bolt-like defence of his sprint crown.
The weather gods smiled upon us, in a bizarre way, as the Noosa sky clouded over, meaning we would feel no guilt staying off the beach for the afternoon, and after a useless and futile handshake wishing the boy good luck, the game started. Thank heavens Channel 7 provided a 60 second countdown clock to the opening bounce, as who wants to see match ups or pre game niggle.
Crowley to Mitchell seemed to indicate that the plan was for one man to stop the entire Hawks clearances and half back drive, rendering Sewell, Hodge, Birchall and Burgoyne redundant. Gunston and Hale reminded us quickly that since the wonder draft that delivered Buddy, Roughy and Lewis, the Hawks recruiting has primarily been lesser names and older players who fitted specific roles. Lake would through the afternoon reinforce that in spades.
The tackling is fierce, with the ball often travelling fair distances without a kick or handball, taking me back to some of the bruising Hawks GF encounters of the mid-80s. The Pav is unsighted in the first quarter, Freo showing too many nerves and their desire to take the lead and show courage is culminating in flawed shots at goal. Buddy plays up the ground, the (assumed) final act in a year-long rehearsal for life without him, which Clarkson has managed to perfection.
At half time, we consider watching the second half of the game at the surf club on the big screen, all the better to celebrate in style, however hubris is quickly replaced by practicality and after a lamentably short two song set by the Hunnas, the second half awaits with Freo having history against them.
Within a short period of time, the couch my boy is sitting on starts to feel what the bean bag did the week before, and when various turnovers occur in the middle through Hawthorn trying to do too much, there’s nervousness and anger. A single kick margin, momentum is wearing white, and Noosa is not the happy place the Queensland tourist people advertise. Three quarter time sees clichés abound, and it’s anybody’s game as we hear continually. You just get the feeling, the next goals’s so important, blah blah blah from Dennis and Bruce, with Tom and Leigh giving me the irrits more than usual.
Sunshine returns over the next 30 minutes, with Smith’s bomb letting you know that sometimes it’s just your day. Puopolo keeps the ball in the forward line with numerous acts that won’t make a stat sheet, but what coaches love to see. Today, Freo are the bug, the Hawks the windscreen, and redemption arrives for the brown and gold.
This time last year, we were leaving a BBQ as the siren went, the twelve year old in tears and ignoring any assurances of well played or you’ll get better in 2013. This year, the siren signals the walk of the victorious, as we head into town to get fish and chips.
Replays of the final siren show Hodge still directing traffic to the last moment of the game. Gibson is in tears, Lake bewildered. 15 points perhaps flatters the Dockers, although debate will rage over Fyfe and Ballantyne’s early misses.
Hastings Street isn’t exactly awash with brown and gold, but a few jumpers are visible. On the main beach, hundreds of families couldn’t care less and we see at least three weddings in various beachside restaurants, more than you’d have across all of Melbourne on the same day.
The boy is happy, relieved for his team and feeling better than he did the previous year. I am walking along the beach with my kids, about to tuck into a dim sim and knowing I’ll be swimming early tomorrow morning. In clicheville, we call that a win-win.
HAWTHORN 2.3 5.5 8.8 11.11 (77)
FREMANTLE 0.3 1.6 6.10 8.14 (62)
Hawthorn: Gunston 4, Roughead 2, Franklin, Rioli, Smith, Breust, Hill
Fremantle: Pavlich 3, Walters 2, Mzungu, Mayne, Pearce
Hawthorn: Lake, Gunston, Lewis, Rioli, Hodge, Birchall
Fremantle: Mundy, Fyfe, Crowley, Johnson, Barlow
Votes: 3. Lake, 2. Gunston, 1. Hodge (with apologies to Mundy)