AFL Grand Final – Sydney v Hawthorn: I got a golden ticket

Hawthorn versus Sydney

2.30pm, Saturday  27th September 2014

MCG, Melbourne

Crash Thompson

The Footy Almanac Grand Final lunch has now become a part of my Grand Final tradition. What a great afternoon and inevitably evening. Just like last year I had no ticket to the Grand Final, and I wasn’t really looking for one. Everyone who asked, I happily told that I would be spending the day on the couch with my Hawthorn loving family. So a little extra celebrating on the night before seemed like a good idea.

Not too late though, and a mid-evening taxi ride home meant I would be in good shape for the couch coverage. My wife had been at work all day and our girls had been to the Grand Final parade with one of her friends. Turns out that Collingwood supporting friend had a golden ticket she wasn’t going to use and my wife had decided I was Charlie Bucket.

The girls were still up, a little late but it was Friday night and they were understandably excited about the big day tomorrow. They were whispering in mum’s ear “can we get it for him?” and duly produced a zip lock back with the golden ticket inside. After going over the details my new mission was clear, a solo commando raid on the MCG and get the boys over the line and the rest of the family would come in for the after party.

This would not be my first time at the chocolate factory. Growing up in the Mallee we usually watched the Grand Final at the Ultima pub for many years, then for a few years at the Ultima footy clubrooms and later on at the golf club rooms – ‘89 being the most memorable of those.   Coming to Melbourne to the Grand Final wasn’t something I dared to even think about as a kid. The only VFL/AFL games I had ever been to were when my younger brothers had come down to play little league.

In ’91 I was at Melbourne Uni, but travelling home most weeks and playing for Ultima in the Kerang and District Football League at full back. This was supplemented by mid-week footy at centre half back in the Melbourne Uni intercollegiate footy for Ridley College. I ended up with a premiership medal in both competitions that year.

I could have trekked out to Waverley Park to watch the Hawks beat the highly fancied Eagles in the Grand Final (despite Hawthorn not losing a match at Waverley that year). But my first footy trip to Maude, drinking beer straight from the Pluto beer gun out of the barrels buried in ice on the banks of the Murrumbidgee seemed like a better idea. I had dipped my toe in the Grand Final waters earlier in the season when I saw the Hawks win the preseason cup against North Melbourne at Waverley under lights. So that would have to do for now.

Who would have thought at that stage though it would be 2008 when Hawthorn next made it the Grand Final? With all the talk this week of Hawthorn’s period of dominance since their first flag, that 1992-2007 stretch was a dry and thirsty desert between two golden oases. Nevertheless I enjoyed Grand Final viewing at such places as Jimmy’s Sports Bar in Hong Kong Stadium and at the Brewhouse Cafe in Atlanta.

By the time the Hawk’s chance came around again I had to be at that 2008 Grand Final in person. Most folks I spoke to before the game told me that I was wasting my time. Geelong were such raging favourites. But I decided early in the week I would be confident we would win and told everyone who asked my opinion we were certainties. That was my first time at the Chocolate factory and I was like Augustus Gloop rather than Charlie Bucket as I slurped at that Premiership chocolate river. If I never went to another Grand Final I could die happy.

In 2013 my wife snared a ticket, I was happy to stay home with my two girls on the couch. We watched in our lounge room in Preston cheering and jumping around every time the Hawks kicked a goal and chewing our fingernails and burying our heads under cushions as Freo came at us. In the end Hawthorn held them at bay.

We jumped on the train and into the MCG to take part in the new post-match event of a music concert on the ground before presenting the teams. My wife had been celebrating hard and we pretty much had to carry her to and from the train (think Violet Beauregard being rolled away by the Oompa Loompas).

So after a morning of household chores, and shopping and Preston market I caught the train into Jolimont. I kept an eye out for Rick Kane in case he was catching the same train in, and in the end ran into him around the back of the great Southern Stand. We were confident it would be close and that we could get across the line. Rick asked me if I had any superstitions on match day. “No, actually yes, I never sing the theme song until after the match when we won.”

To my seat, middle of the top deck Great Southern Stand, on the forward flank for Hawthorn’s first quarter. I was seated between two grumpy looking Swans supporting women in their mid 20’s – I was unsure as to whether they were that way because I was sat next to them or they brought those faces with them. At any rate it wasn’t going to be a good day for those ladies.

I decided to grab two beers to get me through the pre-match spectacle. My preference would be to have a game of footy – the Box Hill vs Footscray VFL final would have suited me fine. Anyway Ed and Tom did their thing and it was generally well received by the crowd. Everyone stood for the national anthem (while I am having a whinge give me Waltzing Matilda anyday) apparently ONJ struggled to keep pace but I was singing too loud to notice. I thought of my daughter Kaisha at home and knew she would be belting it out; it is one of her life’s goals to be in ONJ’s place singing here.

Hodge won the toss and so it was on. Poor kicking early from the Hawks, Shiels hitting the post and Gunston in particular were early cause for concern. Kennedy with all his backstory and family ties to Hawthorn kicked the first goal and my thoughts wandered to the headlines of a Kennedy led victory, freed by the focus on Franklin. But my fears were soon dispelled. Apparently about 10 minutes in John Longmire knew something was wrong. It was at this same time I knew everything would be alright. Buddy looked dangerous in his new colours but thankfully he had his old kicking boots with him.

Hawthorn were full of tackling. The close in flicking the ball around by hand in any direction that had seen them carry out all year was working better than ever and despite the Swans attempting to be frenetic they were standoffish, caught with the ball and ineffective in disposal. Hodge, Mitchell and Lewis seemed to be around every contest. But importantly the youth of Hill and Langford were also creating opportunities. Puopolo’s goal pegged back all the Swans had done to assert themselves.

We know Buddy’s bad can be followed regularly by Buddy’s good and his mark and goal despite an elbow to the back of his head by an enthusiastic Lake were solid. The inconsistent finishing of Franklin was immediately contrasted at other end by Breust who slotted his set shot with a bit of “Buddy Arc” in his own run up.

Even a Ted Richards ride on the back of Roughead couldn’t get the Swans going as Hill crumbed and snapped truly.

Burgoyne’s march through traffic in the middle was more evidence that the Hawks were on and the Swans were not. In some ways it was as tell-tale of a man riding high in a winning team as Goodes’ run on the wing the week before against the Dockers.

Roughead fairly smashed the body of Dan Hanneberry and Gunston ended up scrambling in the square and kicking the Hawks fourth.

Buddy’s mark in the pocket again held the promise of a fight back but his kicking said not today.

And then the kick-ins. The Swans lacked purpose, direction and accuracy and the Hawks were ready to try and cut off any options. Stratton smashing Rhys Shaw’s kick over the boundary made a statement.

Malceski read the ball and defended well but Hawthorn were able to lock it in send the ball back to the square. This is where Will Langford was waiting and snapped a great goal over his shoulder.

To be leading by 20 points at quarter time was almost all you could have asked. Stand up and clap the boys as they head into the huddle. My neighbour’s demeanour had not improved and so I assumed I had not missed any glimmer of hope for the Swans that my bias may have obscured.

Quarter time never seemed so long. I wanted more. And more I got.

Ben McGlynn’s running goal early in the second quarter meant all three Swan’s goals had been kicked by former Hawks. Breust’s knock to the head looked worse on the replay than it looked as it happened, but his kick looked good.

The Canadian Mike Pyke had probably been winning the battle in the ruck for the second quarter but it was Hawthorn’s ruckman Hale who was able to get forward and on the end of a little short pass from Mitchell and add another for Hawthorn. Langford’s goal on the run quickly followed and many would have been happy to give Hawthorn the cup then.   Hodge marked in square and goals.

Sydney suffered another blow as Jetta who was not having his best day was injured when he collided with McEvoy. Perhaps and even bigger blow to the psyche of the Swans was when Gary Rohan’s kick in effort was so poor I wondered if Ed Sheeran had done some kind of Prince and the Pauper swap and pulled on the Swans jumper.   His short pass was intercepted by Hodge who played on and sent the ball back in for a goal.

Goodes showed he was still interested leaping in front of the marking contest to take a good grab and goal and the Swans actually dominated the match for an extended period of about 8 minutes with Franklin taking a juggling mark in the square and converting.

Rioli’s smother of Tippet’s handball and then quick chip to Roughead underlined the value of having his combination of slick skills and hard work in the team. Roughead’s goal giving the Hawks a 42 point lead at half time.

At half time I grabbed two more beers. Long queues and staffing that seemed to care little for efficiency meant that I missed the Grand Final sprint. A childhood favourite memory was seeing Geoff Ablett win on a number of occasions. Back to my seat as the centre bounce down (or is it up?) to start the second half took place.

The third quarter, surely we would see the Swans at least throw something else at the Hawks who would be expected to take the foot off the pedal. That just generally seems to be how footy is played these days. But no, it’s Roughead and then Gunston firing up forward with goals for the Hawks. Kieran Jack pulls one back but the sting is out of the game and the Swan’s fans are lukewarm in celebration.

Buddy continues his good form up forward and adds another for the Swans, but his partner in crime Kurt Tippet is having a shocker as Brian Lake gets a nice ride over him and holds the mark.  With the ball at the city end again it is Suckling booting it home, notably it is Isaac Smith and Luke Breust over to him to celebrate.

Hill running all day and this time a run down the wing ends up in Roughy’s hands. He is matching Buddy kicking his third. The Hawk’s tackling and running in numbers continues to be relentless. Now with numbers in the forward line Langford manages to dribble on towards the goals which bounces high and through the middle. I am sitting right behind this and all the Hawks supporters are out of their seats.

Tippet takes a brave mark and kicks his first for the day, Lake really has done a great job on holding him. Three quarter time is here 54 points in the lead and I am happy to accept that we have won. Now to relax and enjoy.

My Sydney neighbours abandoned me for the last quarter, still a chance to make the flight home for the world’s most expensive fish and chips for dinner at Doyle’s I guessed. Make the most of it before the Cost of Living Allowance is ditched. Feeling lonely I hatched a plan. I would wait ten minutes and then go down to level one and try to get a ticket from a departing Swan’s fan to watch the rest of the match from ground level.

Roughead kicks his fourth and Cyril is subbed off. I head for ground level. As I reach the standing room area a Swans couple are leaving, I politely ask if they are leaving and could I have one of their tickets. The guy grunted and the girl reached into her bag and handed me her ticket. Row H, good result. My new neighbour was a very grumpy and very vocal Swans supporter. The Hawks fans in front of him were stirring him to make things worse for him. But I can understand both his mood and his staying to the bitter end.

Goodes and Franklin both kick consolation goals. Thankfully their influence has been limited by Hawthorn’s determination.

Burgoyne’s goal is sweet reward for his constant efforts around the contest today.

Kieran Jack slightly improves a poor day for him with a goal.

Roughead’s fifth goal and Burgoyne’s second for the quarter rub salt in the wounds. When the siren sounds the Back to Back job is done. The final margin is 63 points. Luke Hodge wins the Norm Smith Medal. Best players for me are Hodge, Lewis, Mitchell, Langford, Burgoyne and Hill. Franklin and Malceski best for the Swans.

I joyfully watch the presentations, my mission complete. My family are on the train into the MCG to join the celebrations on the ground. I may not have won the chocolate factory but my team got the chocolates.

If it were my place to make dedications I would dedicate this win to my dad, and all the dads that gave the gift of a life of following Hawthorn to their children.

About Troy Thompson

Grew up in the Mallee at Ultima. Played footy at R.O.C FC, University Blues, Newlyn FC, Macquarie University ARFC, Burleigh Heads and Atlanta Kookaburras. Played at West Brunswick AFC in Ammos and am a life member of that club. Writer and Editor for World Footy News website.


  1. Grant Fraser says

    Did any “experienced” (not old) Hawks supporter watch the Grand Final sprint without thinking of Geoff Ablett?

  2. Great read Crash, excellent story and summary, glad you had a good and unexpected day


  3. Great Willy Wonka analogy Crash. And love the comparison of Burgoyne’s march through the middle with Goodes run the week before to epitomise the winning team’s modus operandi. All in all, ripper read. As was the game. #BacktoBack

  4. A great read, Crash. Loved it!

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