General footy writing: How a boy earned his Hawthorn stripes

By Jason Christou

Grand Final day 1989. Cross-legged under the television. Before me, a glass of chilled milk. I watched the condensation dribble down the glass, pooling into a moist ring.

Expectantly, I tilted my head towards the television fuzz.

A week earlier Mum had helped me attach streamers to the balcony barrier. My team’s brown and gold colours flittered against the remainder of my family’s blue and white.

On this day, my family — the opposition — are huddled on couches, while I preferred my strip of carpet. As close to the television — to the action — as visibility allowed.

The last Saturday in September, 1989. I was six years, four months and some days old. I guzzled my milk.

I took inventory of my lounge room, a sweep of my combatants, while the Channel 7 cameras panned across throngs of Geelong and Hawthorn fans.

A platter of party pies sat on the coffee table before my Dad, who lobbed them continuously into his mouth. Mum sent me reassuring smiles. My nerves had sent my thighs into spasm, bouncing rhythmically against my carpet cushion.

Outside, a car roared down our street in Geelong, squeezing out a pre-emptive toot, and the siren on screen blared simultaneously.

My brother leapt from the couch, and slapped his hand across his chest. The Cats and Hawks lined up across from each other as Advance Australia Fair kept them quiet for a couple of minutes. As the players assembled in their positions for the game, my brother walked up and thumped me in the shoulder. My Mum protested, I went down, and my Dad figured that was what the day was about.

I laboured in recovery while the ball was bounced to start the game. A dead arm was confirmation of my position in the hierarchy among the siblings. On the television, I watched Dermie and his permed mullet get smacked by Mark Yeates. And then Dipper was hit. There was nothing I could do.

The Sherrin bounced end over end over end as players thrashed for its attention. The Hawks swept downfield early and scored more often. As I approached the fridge for a top up at quarter-time, all I knew was we were winning.

Second quarter and Mum was doing the dishes, Dad was contemplating party pie number forty-seven, and my brother considered his next attack. My spot on the carpet awaited me, and my next swig brought a flurry of Geelong goals. The Cats threatened to clip the soaring Hawks, until one Gary Ablett took the game by the scruff of the neck.

A 32-point Hawthorn lead. Then nineteen. Then twelve. And then six. Johnny “The Rat” Platten tried to hide the ball under his mop of curls, diving repeatedly on the ball. The Hawks wound down the clock.

My other arm went dead but I didn’t notice it. I heard the lawn mower spurt to life outside and Mum pulled out a book.

Outside on the balcony, my Hawthorn brown and gold streamers had the ascendancy over the Cats’ blue and white. A puddle formed as a liquid place-mat for my glass of calcium goodness. And you couldn’t strike the grin from my lips.

We had done it. The Hawks had done it for me. Their bloodied faces, punctured lungs and cracked ribs were worth every blink of my attention. As were my dead arms.

A force collectively so much stronger then one young voice. A united voice, a second family.

Comments

  1. Damian O'Donnell says:

    Geez I hate Hawthorn!

  2. I was able to enjoy 89 as a footy spectacle – one of the closest in a long time. As a Carlton supporter, we had tasted victory over the Hawks in 87, revenge for 86 and while I had supported them in the 70s GFs, by thelate 80s, they had just been too successful. Geelong had not been in a GF in my memory and they had Gary Ablett snr. What an amazing game it was! I will always remember all those wounded Hawks, the Ablett 9 goals, and Stan Alves on the ABC saying “I want to go to the toilet!”

    I had a surreal time trying to watch the 08 GF in a sports bar in Christchurch NZ. All was going well until mid way through the second they switched to the local rugby! There was only one other Aussie there so retreat was the only option. Fortunately there was another place nearby, the Holy Grail, with enough screens to cover both codes.

    Hawthorn are a club that knows how to win. Even well below their best they managed to beat us last Saturday though we could say Fevola lost it off his own boot (but then he was also the one who got us close to winning!) Hawthorn is the only club to have been premiers at least once in each of the last five decades. Carlton can only match them if they win this year. Much as I would like this, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    It’s amazing that Hawthorn has any supporters with those colours but obviously loyalty can transcend them!

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