By Sasha Lennon
This morning, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Allan Jeans.
There are lots of ‘Yabby’ stories, one of the best being the time he made a rather arrogant Robert DiPierdomenico cry during a half-time address.
The Hawks were down but not out and apparently a boisterous ‘Dipper’ was mucking about, cracking jokes and the like while the coach was trying to inspire his players. Yabby grabbed the big Italian, shoved him up against a wall and berated him for being more about Dipper and less about the team. Apparently it hit Bertie hard and he never looked back. The rest is history.
Another is the half-time address he gave during the 1989 Grand Final. Yabby asked his battle-weary chargers if they were willing to “pay the price” for Premiership victory. They were and it was well worth it, even Dipper, punctured lung and all will tell you that.
My own personal experience of the Yabby address was during the Hawthorn-Melbourne merger debate, just prior to the members’ vote at Camberwell Town Hall in 1996.
An overwhelmingly anti-merger Hawthorn crowd spilled out on to the pavement to hear both sides of the argument. Don Scott, with his shredded mock Melbourne Hawks jumper in hand was cheered. The then-CEO Peter Hudson, like other merger proponents, was mocked and booed off the stage.
The evening was a paradox – very Hawthorn-like and at the same time, as evidenced by the treatment of Peter Hudson, very ‘un-Hawthorn’. Imminent victory for the anti-merger lot was tinged with a sense of sadness and the knowledge that some deep wounds would need healing in the months and years to come.
As the carnival-like crowd continued to jeer and mock the pro-merger speakers, things began to look a little farcical.
Then Yabby took to the stage.
Allan Jeans was pro-merger. Like other good men, he did the sums and figured that joining up with Melbourne was the only option for saving something of Hawthorn, a club which in the mid-‘90s was a shadow of its former self.
Like thousands of others, I couldn’t get into the Town Hall. I was outside, listening to Yabby. I couldn’t see him. I didn’t need to.
Yabby’s argument for the merger was considered and articulate. But I can’t really remember what he said. Only how he made me feel – frightened.
His voice boomed. But not only that, it literally penetrated my body. I could feel the power of it pass through me.
Like the jokers around me, I fell silent. I stopped laughing, smiling. I listened, not so much to what Yabby said, but to what he was trying to make me feel. Hawthorn had to be saved, he wanted to save it and he would do his best to make sure we all helped him do it.
Like naughty school kids we sat stunned, silent and even a little ashamed. Yabby could do that. I know how Dipper must have felt.
A few people voted for the merger that evening. I reckon Yabby convinced them.
What happened afterwards and since is not so relevant to this story. Hawthorn rose again. The merger threat and debate around it was necessary. Like Dipper, we at Hawthorn had become a little too arrogant. Yabby showed us that.
He’ll be missed by many.
Sasha Lennon is a Brisbane-based Knacker whose writing can be found at http://sashasoapbox.blogspot.com/