AFL Grand Final: Bad kicking is bad football

It is the oldest saying in the game. Bad kicking is bad football. It was true long before they invented ‘scoreboard pressure’, players became ‘delicious’ and the Hawks won the stat sheet.

Sydney won because they kicked straight. Hawthorn lost because they didn’t. Eleven goals 15 points to 14 goals 7 points – 26 shots to 21. Consider the last quarter points – Franklin plus one out of bounds on the full, Sewell with two unsuccessful shots, Gunston hitting the post when not far out….and the Hawks were in front early in the quarter.

And yet it was a real festival of footy. I saw a Hawthorn supporter bouncing up and down to the Swans song not far from one of the brown and gold cheer squads after the match. He is Chinese – perhaps they do things differently, culturally, out Box Hill way.

There was also something about the competitive quality of a match. A real fifteen rounder which did both teams credit, to use an old-fashioned idea which might be brought back. A lot of people enjoyed it as a festival of footy, all the more as the weather held off and the music was coming. (Shame about the extra speakers which further distort the infamous concrete stadium sound – they worked with Paul Kelly but not with Temper Trap.)

As the game’s strongest critic of tackleball, I should have supported Hawthorn – who lost that one about 84 to 110 (i.e. a total of 194 in 120 minutes of football). Even as a pro-umpire footy observer perhaps I should have supported this crazy gladiatorial game, as it gives umpies a chance to display their bouncing prowess.

Yet, even more powerful was the background and quiet Schadenfreude Cheer Squad. Alastair Clarkson gave the most profound after the match talk at the club function later that evening. He spoke about what is really tragedy. True tragedy is about life and death rather than the ‘theatre at the MCG’ and losing a footy match – it was one of the profoundest speeches in the history of the game. However, Al is also the coach who created ‘unsociable’ football. It was Al who also starred in the ‘Battle of Britain’ at the Oval in 1987.

This year Hawthorn has played brilliant rather than ‘unsociable’ football, although a couple of high tackles should have led to free kicks on Saturday. However, given history it was easy for a supporter of a national game and a Cats supporter, remembering the Hawks’ coaching and presidential past, to join that quiet Schadenfreude cheer squad.  It was easy to feel some empathetic ‘Schadenfreude’ – starting with joy in Sydney/South Melbourne’s pleasure and even more, in the literal translation from the German, joy in Hawthorn’s pain. ( And also, Go the Berlin Crocodiles!)

A lot of people at the G and around the country, perhaps most unfairly, were pleased that Hawthorn had ‘a Kennett of a day’, at least after the final siren.

‘Pay the price’ said the Hawthorn banner. Perhaps, the national game-friendly God also said they paid the price for their unsociable past. Or perhaps they paid the price for the money game of the AFL today. Or perhaps, they were unlucky. Or, simply, they just didn’t kick straight.


Steve Alomes played the game at the lowest level, in Tasmania, Canberra and Japan. His new book Australian Football The People’s Game 1958-2058 is available from




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