A Fan’s Delusion Takes Up Residence With A Real-Life Dilemma


It’s a small word. Only one more letter than ‘if’. With a potential impact that’s just as big, if not bigger.

Thing is, where ‘if’ achieves maximum impact in retrospect, ‘who’ is introspective. Where ‘if’ can cause sorrow & regret, or hope for the future in equal measure, ‘who’ is a many faceted diamond of emotions bonding a highly unstable reactive core of possibilities.

When the outer shell is breached, there are those who cannot face, understand nor contain what lies beneath. For others it is a chance to swim in the clear blue waters of acceptance & understanding of self. This produces certainty, excellence, success.

The other produces fear.

I live with fear every day and ‘who’ is at the heart of it. My fear is not for myself. I know who and what I am.

But every passing day my mother gets further & further from who she used to be, while magnifying her worst idiosyncrasies in an effort to hold onto something. To remember an answer that used to be automatic.

Where once she could deal with fear authentically, her inability now to answer, when the question of ‘who’ comes up, terrifies her. It’s not yet become a vacant fear, thankfully. It’s still a live struggle of looking for an answer and being continually frustrated by what she finds.

Her instinctive response to what her now exposed and vulnerable reactor core is telling her, is rejection. But she can no longer understand why. And that leads to hesitation. Perpetual uncertainty. A panicked reversion to patterns she desperately thinks might be the right ones. Fear. Because she’s never sure that they are anymore.

It’s as if her brain has cried, ‘Enough.You’ve seen, heard, tasted, felt … done, enough.’

However, unable to find the ‘Off’ switch, it has reverted to shutting her down from the inside out. Causing her to betray herself as she fights desperately for her identity, with no proper understanding of what it is anymore.

It’s just not ‘THIS’.

That’s the only thing she knows.

I try everything I can think of to provide triggers for her to use … and hope she doesn’t shoot herself with them. This year, one of those has been AFL.

We barrack for Hawthorn. (Time was when Mum was still her old self, she wouldn’t have stood still for such a suggestion. Footy … Any sport, was Evil! The work of the devil. Whooda thunk Adam Sandler stole my mother’s schtick for his movie, The Waterboy?)

Unlike Bobby Boucher’s mama though, my Ma was serious. Vehemently so.

Now ? She will listen politely when I say we love Hodgey & Sammy. That we need Brian to be as thrifty and miserly on-field as he is off it. That Poppy is a wonderful little termagant we can rely on to never give up.

Then she’ll see him dive into a pack, nearly get his head taken off, then emerge with the ball and CHAAAAARGE – his little legs churning, the opposition’s players hanging off him in a vain attempt to bring him down.

It’s then that Ma invariably dissolves into laughter and burbles, ‘That poor little boy keeps getting attacked by the older boys! Why?’ (Although we watch on a 42″ LCD TV, the wide shots on the telecast have convinced her AFL is a game played by schoolchildren. And they all look like ants to her).

‘They’re contesting the ball Ma.’
‘Ball? Is his head the ball? Why do they have to roll around like pigs in the mud?’
‘Poppy gets low to make it hard for them to tackle him legally.’
‘Legal? Bah … That’s wrong! They’re going to hurt eachother doing that.’
‘They play hard Ma.’
‘That’s not playing. That’s wrong. It’s Evil! The devil’s work.’ (Went through a few roundabouts without indicating, but here we are again).

But Mum keeps watching and she sees Roughy pick the ball up off his bootlaces, turn and smoothly snap another goal.

In my litany of names we worship earlier, I didn’t include Roughy. I never do. Thing is, much as I might wish her to, Mum won’t remember who Hodgey and Sammy and Breuuuuuuust, et al are, far past me telling her that we love them.

But she LOVES Roughy.

I think it stems from when she saw him pull a couple of ‘assailants’ off of Puopolo one week, and the sense of justice she felt then has imprinted itself, far past the dissolution of her memory of the actual incident.

‘There’s that good boy son. Is he a good player?’
‘One of the best Ma. Look he just kicked a goal. Yes Roughy!’
‘See him win that ball Ma?’
‘Yes Roughy!’
‘See his control there Ma? How determined he was to get that closing goal for the quarter?’
‘Roughy is good.’
‘He’s our best player tonight Ma. The reason why we’re in front. He understands the moment.’
‘What moment?’
‘See him run there. How determined he is. We needed that goal to close out the quarter.’
‘Roughy knows!’
‘Yes he does Ma. Yes he does!’

And in the end, that goal born out of a combination of sheer determination and complete awareness – kicking the loose ball ahead on his wrong leg, then putting his head down and outsprinting everyone to the goalsquare to put it through with his trusty left – won Hawthorn the game.

We didn’t play our best when we had ample opportunity to do so. Port Adelaide were their effervescent selves in effort, if not always in execution, but they didn’t have anything to do with it. Sure, they kicked alot of behinds – on the field and on the scoreboard – but the frenetic nature of the first quarter meant their shots were often difficult ones, not always easily convertible.

I suppose you could say that nothing should be easy about a Preliminary Final. And the teams in them should frank their lofty standing by succeeding nonetheless.

You could also say that Port benefitted last week, from Fremantle’s profligacy in front of goal and ended up paying it forward to Hawthorn here.

You could further say they were gifted two easy goals right in front from umpiring howlers – Schultz throw to Gray; the Monfries jump into Gibson – the three blind mice then attempted to ‘atone’ for by blindly paying ridiculous frees against the Power in the last quarter.

The inconsistency was staggeringly inept.

In the end, both teams were not good enough. Port Adelaide were not good enough to beat a Hawthorn team that failed – AGAIN – to capitalise on two separate key surges of momentum in the second half, even though the Hawks had ‘turned the creases’ and were running from the contest during the last quarter, in the hopes of wasting time.

Hawthorn were not good enough to execute in key moments of dominance they had created, in order to blow the game open. Like a gambling addict on a losing streak, the Hawks were GIVING their chips away in the last quarter, blindly falling back on panicked patterns of ball retention and ‘hug the boundary line’ time wasting because they had forgotten who they were.

In the last ten minutes of the game, it was as if they were hoping Port would run out of time before they themselves ran out of money. After Ceglar’s muffed pass to an open Hill deep inside attacking fifty arrived as an inviting half-volley, only to spin past the disbelieving speedster more violently than ‘Gatting Out; bowled Warne’, the Hawks never looked like scoring.

What’s worse we never looked like wanting to score either.

The highest scoring team in the competition forgot who they were because they seemed to think they had done enough. Like the frontrunning ‘rabbits’ of the European middle distance races in the 80’s, one moment they looked the cocks of the walk, the next, compounding feather dusters.

That was because Hawthorn CHOSE to stop.

The Power saw it. Then they moved.

Good enough yet or not, Port Adelaide at least stayed true to themselves all the way to the end. Bitter though it would have tasted.

For the fourth year in a row, Hawthorn competed in a Preliminary Final whose winning margin was less than a goal. For the first time since 2011 we were in danger of losing in normal time, deep into the last quarter. Both then and now, we had stopped completely.

Then, because a desperate Collingwood – outplayed all night – made us stop with unrelenting pressure. Bitterly disappointing but fathomable. This year? Now we stopped because we chose to. We were too complacent to put the finishing touches on a bed we’d made for the night. So we ended up in the grip of an unholy capitulation, our ‘settled’ bed of roses rattling worse than Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist.

We had a few points more leeway than 2011 though, thanks to Roughy’s effort and awareness. He had been an injured spectator back then. In the end that was enough. Time beat the Power because we were too busy trying as hard as we could, not to lose.

Let that be a lesson. Sydney knows who they are, no matter what anyone else says, or insinuates, or complains about.

Hawthorn just pretended to at the death and almost payed for it. If that continues tomorrow, there can only be one winner. Unlike 2012 when we were the better team running on empty … And Sydney simply … Were.

This time it won’t be close either way.

And that’s how it should be if Hawthorn find a positive answer to ‘who’, in order to cement their standing in the modern game.

Otherwise, Sydney already knows the rest. If I can give some presumptious advice to my beloved Hawks about getting the job done this coming Saturday, it’s this:

Over the last three years you’ve lost a chance at the ultimate prize by being respectively, by the opponent overwhelmed, by exhaustion and opportunism overrun. And you’ve found a way to succeed while playing within yourselves.

This year has been one of setbacks and prospectively valid excuses … none of which you have allowed to divert you from your best Premiership defense since 1989, until the last ten minutes of last week.

You gave – yes, GAVE – your opponents the opportunity to create two concrete chances, to win a game you had controlled from the start of the second quarter to the moment in the last quarter you decided you had done enough. Despite players being down. Despite reliable cogs in the machine threadding under the wear and tear of unforced errors.

You held your identity in tact to overwhelm Port Adelaide’s ‘IF’, with your version of ‘Hawthorn Hears A Who.’

And then you stopped.

That ought not to happen again. Not because it shouldn’t. Not because victory depends on it. You’ve already proven – if only in tight & desperate fashion against Sydney in Round 18, and of course last week – that it doesn’t.

However, if what I’ve written means anything deeper than the surface scratchings of a fan’s delusion, it is this:

Never Forget To Remember Who You Are, for as long as it is clear to you. (because there may come a time when you’ll have no choice but to forget).

HAWTHORN          2.3       8.4       13.6    15.7 (97)
PORT ADELAIDE 3.9      5.11       8.13   13.16 (94)

Hawthorn: Roughead 6, Gunston 2, Smith 2, Hale, Langford, Suckling, Duryea, Hodge

Port Adelaide: Monfries 4, Gray 3, Neade, Wingard, Westhoff, Boak, Schulz, Polec

Hawthorn: Roughead, Langford, Hodge, Mitchell, Lake, Burgoyne, Stratton
Port Adelaide: Gray, Boak, Ebert, Hombsch, Jonas, Monfries

Hawthorn: Lewis (corked thigh)
Port Adelaide: Hombsch (concussion)

Hawthorn: Jordan Lewis (corked thigh) replaced by Jonathan Simpkin at three-quarter time
Port Adelaide: Jackson Trengove replaced by Andrew Moore three-quarter time

Reports: Nil
Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic,Schmitt.
Official crowd: 74,856 at the MCG

Roughead (Haw) – 3.
Langford (Haw) – 2.
Gray (P.A) – 1.


  1. Poignant reminders. Thanks Gregor.
    Go Roughy. Go Mrs L. Go you Hawkers.

  2. ‘Hawthorn Hears a Who’ – love it! I share your mother’s protective feelings towards Poppy and love for Roughy and shall be egging on your Hawks tomorrow.

  3. Hi Gregor
    I reckon the Hawks took your words of advice to heart. Rarely has a grand final team so convincingly remembered exactly who they are.
    Kerry Smith

  4. What a piece Mr Lewis. And great to re-read after a magnificent GF win! While I might think you a tad harsh on Hawthorn’s last quarter against Port, your point cannot be ignored. This game is about memory and history as much as it is about the moment. What you remember about who you are and what you stand for will deliver, as it did the mighty Hawks in 2014 and 2013!


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