Geelong versus Hawthorn Day!

 

AFL Round 2

Geelong vs Hawthorn

By Susie Giese

 

I swear I am a child.

Excitement is the overriding feeling. I can’t sleep. I try to read a book, watch a DVD, but I can’t distract myself. I’m too excited for tomorrow.

It’s my favourite day of the year.

I dream about it for weeks, months on end. Fond memories. Beautiful times. I try to picture it in my head. Draw a picture—how will it turn out?

While actual children are falling asleep, content, with bellies full of chocolate, I lie in bed awake.

Tomorrow is Geelong versus Hawthorn day.

It’s Easter, Christmas, birthday and Grand Final day all rolled in to one and multiplied by ten. The Easter Monday “tradition” may only be in its third year, but it’s already my favourite footy fixture of all time.

I think of the heart-stopping moments. The moments of brilliance. Stokes’ fourth quarter. Jimmy’s point after the siren. Podsiadly’s six first-half goals.

Is there any modern day rivalry more appealing than that between the Cats and Hawks?

Maybe Hawthorn fans might not like it so much, but surely footy fans as a whole can appreciate the sheer brilliance of the contests these two teams produce.

I wake and it’s morning—apparently I succumbed to sleep after all. But this doesn’t last long. I’m asleep again within five minutes. I have a cold. Fantastic.

There’s the usual disorganised rush for the train. We’ve been doing it for years, and now mum, Katherine, Darren and I have leaving-it-to-the-last-minute perfected. I drag out ye olde iPhone to get my pre-game fix of Twitter news. The page loads, and my timeline is flooded with Tweets heralding the arrival of hail at the MCG. Pictures show the AstroTurf on the boundary more white than green. The steps of the MCG look like snow is building up in the corner.

When we arrive at Jolimont station, it’s to icy winds and sloshy steps. The melting hail and remaining rain deposits combine for a very wet experience.

This is beautiful weather. This is footy weather at its finest.

Ponchos line seats and scarves, beanies and gloves are hastily extracted from bags. It’s not raining yet, but we know the sunshine is a false dawn. There are ominous clouds creeping in at the edges.

It starts to rain just as the players line up in their spots. And it’s not just rain. It’s hail. And icy winds. And I’m blithely sitting there thinking this is not exactly the best remedy for my cold.

Geelong has made a sneaky little change to its named team: Byrnes in for Stephenson. I’m sure no one will notice. They’re much the same player. Have much the same build. Can hardly tell them apart.

The opening quarter more than lives up to my expectations. Darren turns to me and echoes my sentiment: “What a game!”

These two teams are made from something else. Typically, cold, blustery, wet conditions like this lead to scrimmage after scrimmage after scrimmage. Both teams are certainly reacting to the conditions, but isn’t it beautiful? The players slide and skid, skirting the ball along the ground – almost using the wet as a weapon.  The Cats and Hawks fans alike who sit around me suck in a gasp as Selwood dives headfirst to create a contest. Is he crazy or what? You can’t control a skid like that! But he stands up, unscathed. Head miraculously still attached.

It’s not that he hasn’t tried his very best to lose his head, thrice sent off for a seeping gash on his forehead.

The sun and rain battle it out, trying to control the weather. Occasionally they settle on a compromise, and we have sun showers on this Easter Monday.

There is one man in the blue and white hoops who brings a smile to my face each time he gets the ball. Tommy Hawkins—for so many years, I argued his case when people questioned his place in the side. His courage, his one-percenters—I liked them, but were they enough? Potential. It always came back to potential. It caused many an argument between me and my brother Chris.

Chris, who after attending the 2009 Grand Final has refused to go to any more matches, wishing again and again the football would end forever after Geelong wins a premiership. Chris to whom the most recent memory is the only one that counts. Chris who gave that smile in the fourth quarter of the 2011 Grand Final.

“So, has he earned his spot?” I’d squealed as Hawkins took yet another mark, not really needing an answer.

“Today he’s earned his spot,” was Chris’ answer. Simple. But for an anti-Hawkins campaigner, it was the highest praise he could give.

And now Hawkins is not just earning his spot, but owning it.

Whenever a tall forward is beaten on a wet day, it’s because “conditions don’t suit the tall forwards”. No one told Podsiadly.  And Hawkins, heck—he must’ve thought it was 26 degrees and sunny. Both men took marks they had absolutely no right to take in those conditions. Screamers. Contested pack marks. One-handers. Eight goals between them.

When so much pregame focus had been placed on the reuniting of the other forward duo—Buddy and Roughy—I was quietly pleased that it seemed our forward line was finally functioning as it ought to. Pods 5, Tommy 3, Stevie J 3—for once, all played well against a decent opposition. For once it wasn’t at one another’s expense.

Jimmy Bartel had been inked in by many for three Brownlow votes at the beginning of the game, but while he was doing well, I wasn’t convinced he was going to get them. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, this was about to change.

The rain started bucketing down. An arctic wind gusted through the stadium, chilling to the bone. It was colder than ever. Wetter than ever.

Yup, Jimmy must’ve thought. This is exactly what I’ve been hankering for.

It takes less than a minute for him to take a solid grab and kick the “clutch” goal. How does he do it? He is an anomaly. An enigma.

He is our Jimmy.

And speaking of remarkable feats—what about Selwood? People can say all they like about him drawing free kicks. Any player that continually puts their health at risk in a single-minded determination to win the ball deserves the frees. Head first. Head over the ball.

His collision with Whitecross was sickening, and not the first big whack he’d copped to the head that day. Entirely accidental, and Whitecross should be commended for his response. He knew what had happened straight away, and held his position. Sitting on the ground with a presumably unconscious Selwood face down in his lap, he signalled the doctors. He didn’t move an inch, speaking to Selwood, seeing if he could respond.

One of the beautiful symbols of sportsmanship.

With Brown still our unactivated sub, I expected him to come on. I expected Selwood to be stretchered off, and miss the next week or two.

But Selwood doesn’t play that way.

While he looked dazed and confused—did he even know where he was?—he insisted on getting to his feet. As he struggled up, he shouted for Johnson. He shouted for Johnson to direct traffic. The game always at the forefront of his mind.

He stood, and began a slightly wobbly walk to the bench on the other side of the ground, head still whipping around, trying to assess the situation.

I was still waiting for the sub announcement, and I got it. Brown activated. Smedts subbed off. Smedts?????????

And there was Selwood, jogging back onto the field.

The girl behind me could barely contain her amazement: “Jesus Christ has risen! It’s an Easter miracle!”

In retrospect, it was probably just as miraculous that Shagga Byrnes managed to make it through a whole game without being subbed on or off.

Buddy—twice—and Roughead miss gettable goals, trying to be too cute. For such strong kicks it beggars belief they tried to dribble it through. Surely people learned from Milne in 2009’s Grand Final?

People will say Hawthorn squandered their chances, and you can’t argue against that. I just think it’s more than a coincidence that Geelong continues to hold its opposition goalless in the final quarter in big games.

It’s happened to St Kilda. It’s happened to Collingwood more than once. Today wasn’t the first time it happened to Hawthorn.

Heart pounding. Breath short. Impervious to the weather. Edge of seat getting a workout.

It’s a good thing these games are so good, they’re worth shortening your life by five years for.

We’ve got this. We don’t lose from this position, we don’t.

But then the ball’s in their forward fifty. Again. And again.

Siren, the mantra starts around me. Siren, siren, siren.

There are Hawks supporters nearby who start a mantra of their own. Goal, they beg. Goal, goal, goal.

In the end, I barely hear the siren. But I think it’s there. And then the players throw their arms up.

“YESSSSS!!!!!” Everyone around me in the blue and white starts screaming. “YESSSSS!!!!!”

There is jumping. There is dancing. Hugs are commoner than the common cold.

Later, when our pulse returns to normal, we Cats fans will be able to articulate a more intricate discussion on the epic contest. How Tom Hawkins is becoming something more than special before our eyes. How our forward line—so long a chink in our armour—is moving like a well-oiled machine. How brave Selwood is—what a perfect choice for captain. How Jimmy Bartel is Jimmy Bartel.

But for now, all the emotions, all the thoughts, all the discussion is compressed into the one all-consuming word:

YESSSS!!!!!

The song is sung, and sung again. No one is in tune. Our throats are sore, our voices spent. There is clapping, dancing, jumping in the aisles.

This is my favourite day of the year, every year. And that is why.

***

Down in the bowels of the MCG after the game, Katherine calmly asks me for a wet one. She twirls around, and I see her poncho has copped a direct hit from a bird in the final minutes of the game.

“That’s meant to be good luck, isn’t it?” she asks.

Thank-you, seagull.

At Flinders Street station, we make our way to one of the food places for a bit of a filler and a hot chocolate. There, we meet Mohamed and his brother. Collingwood fans, from what I can make of it. They’re consoling a Hawks supporter, or attempting to, as they organise his order. I don’t know how favourably the poor bloke would take the assessment: “You had that game won, you know.”

Their commentary is a lot more favourable for me, Katherine and mum. They still reckon it’s going to be a Collingwood and West Coast grand final, though.

Then comes the question I dread more than any other:

“So you two—are you twins? Or just sisters?” Mohamed’s brother asks me and Katherine.

“Just sisters. She’s ten years older than me,” I inform them, as I always do.

“No!” They both exclaim, genuinely shocked. Mohamed points at me. “You look older,” he assesses. After showing my mock outrage, he grins and says, “You know, I’m only teasing.”

His brother sneaks in a free fruit tart for my mum, and we part ways as he antagonises a passing Hawks supporter: “Hey, mate! We haven’t heard yet—how did the game go?”

What a day.

I lie in bed, watching the replay. Marvelling at this most wonderful of days.

Happy Geelong versus Hawthorn day, everybody.

About Susie Giese

Born into the worship of the mighty Hoops, Susie has turned to adopting a Zen-like state during games in recent years to preserve her heart. The Cats of 2015 have the ol' ticker a-racing, though!

Comments

  1. Susie, one of these days, “Geelong versus Hawthorn Day” is not going to go to script. I just don’t know when that day will be.

  2. I don’t mind if we lose, so long as it’s still an awesome contest!

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Susie, love the enthusiasm that footy can bring out in people. Joel Selwood is a once in a generation player. Watching him barking out instructions to Stevie J while clearly hurt was inspiring, even for a weathered old Magpie. Great stuff.

  4. Andrew Starkie says:

    Great stuff Susie. Footy keeps us all acting like children. thats why we hold onto it.

  5. Josh Barnstable says:

    Jimmy Bartel woke up yesterday morning, pulled the curtains open and smiled.

  6. Ed Harcourt says:

    So did his neighbor.

    Jimmy sleeps in the buff..

  7. Poetic, Josh.

    And Ed – bahaha, good call :P

    Phil and Andrew – spot on.

  8. Great read Susie. The boys played with a fanaticism that puts to rest any notions of them not being hungry. Coupling that with their skill and strength is a beautiful thing.

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