As a Hawthorn supporter who owns and still listens to every Australian Crawl album, I love it every time Cyril Rioli kicks a goal and the Hawks supporters break into song with “Oh Cyril, I would do anything just to be like him”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek take on the classic song Errol from 1981’s Sirocco, the album named after Errol Flynn’s yacht.
On Sunday afternoon, the Hawthorn faithful had plenty to sing about as Rioli booted five majors in Hawthorn’s come-from-behind win over Fremantle at the MCG.
Nobody can deny the natural talent of Rioli who, at just 21 years of age is emerging as one of Hawthorn’s all-time greats. His silky skills, his explosive pace and an uncanny ability to read the play is well-matched by his tenacity in defence.
This was perhaps best illustrated in Rioli’s famous game-turning chase and tackle on the boundary in the 2008 Grand Final. Cyril’s small victory over three Geelong opponents on that very sunny September afternoon illustrated for many the difference between the two sides that day. Hawthorn simply wanted it more.
Against the Dockers on Sunday at the ‘G’ Rioli showed us that along with pace and tenacity, versatility is another one of his traits. With full-forward Lance Franklin a late withdrawal with a calf injury, Cyril was called on to provide the Hawks with another target up forward alongside Jarryd Roughead.
And for most of the afternoon, Cyril’s performance in front of goal kept the Hawks within reach of the Dockers.
Despite Rioli’s five goals in three quarters of football, the Hawks looked unlikely. The critics, I’m sure, had their pens at the ready with the lead “no Buddy, no Hawthorn”.
When Fremantle began the final term 18 points up, it looked almost certain to be the Dockers’ day, especially after Stephen Hill goaled in the third minute, to put the purples more than four goals clear.
But it was Hawthorn’s senior players like Hodge, Osborne, Mitchell, Roughead and Birchall who responded, the Hawks booting the next eight goals to earn them a famous victory, cementing their position in third place on the ladder.
But without Buddy, it was Cyril who led the way, providing a target for the Hawks to keep them in the match with his career-high tally.
Cyril was typically humble in victory after the match. When asked about his performance he responded by saying with a wry smile “good to have Buddy out of the side, gave me a bit of space”.
Yep, never mind Errol Flynn, he always seemed a bit arrogant to me. But Cyril, well, if I was playing footy, I would do anything just to be like him.
Sasha Lennon is a Brisbane-based Knacker whose writing can be found at http://sashasoapbox.blogspot.com/