AFL Grand Final – Sydney v Hawthorn: Mission Accomplished

Football has arranged an array of emotions for me to negotiate over 38 years as a Hawks supporter. If the best memories in life involve your childhood then as a kid I was spoiled right into my early 20’s. In my first 17 years supporting Hawthorn (1976-92) I was fortunate enough to witness 7 day and 7 night flags – in an era where night premierships still meant something. A win was exaltation and a loss devastation, things always seemed amplified to my younger self. World events did not matter compared to football. Ronald Reagan getting shot was of less significance than Peter Knight’s troublesome ankle.

Really, by the time I was 22 I could have ruled a line under it all and been satisfied that I had seen more than an average lifetimes worth. But football doesn’t allow the drawing of lines, it sucks you in. It controls your life, emotions and decisions in subtle ways. I could not contemplate living too far from Melbourne because of the Hawks, I could not contemplate taking a holiday during footy season, I could not contemplate a job that restricted certain times, I was addicted. As you get older you can be much more mature about wins and losses, pragmatic about what it all means in the scheme of things but deep down, hidden from the public gaze, it is still exaltation and devastation.

Then there were a few dark years. Finances plunged and players left – all of our interstate players in Hall, Robran, Allen and Jarman were gone. Death was waiting at the door. When the Hawks faced merger in 1996 I donated a months pay to help save the club – it was the same amount that Dermott Brereton donated although he was far more capable of doing so. That club just meant too much. If Hawthorn died what would life mean to me. Is it worth living, are there other things in life? Maybe, but I had invested all my eggs in the one basket and I wasn’t going to find out.

The club was saved and grew in strength off-field but didn’t seem like it was ever going to reclaim its former glory on it. A wooden spoon was avoided in 1997 and again in the following year. A rise up the ladder was followed by another plunge and further wooden spoons were only barely avoided in 2004 and 2005.

Then the remarkable happened. With the youngest list in the AFL, or close to it, they knocked off arguably the greatest side in history. Geelong of 2008 were 23 wins, 1 loss, percentage around 200. The invincibles were vinced. While the 17 year drought was nothing compared to what clubs like St.Kilda have put up with, it was a different experience to see your club nearly fold, lose for months on end and work their way back after what I had seen as a kid. Was this it? Was this as good as it gets? Was this a point where a line can be drawn under? No.

Success demands success, winners are brought back down. We missed the finals, we couldn’t beat Geelong and a media hungry for a kill saw its wounded prey. ‘Over-rated’ and ‘underachievers’. The newspaper columns were seemingly written by Essendon, Collingwood, Carlton and Geelong supporters who reveled in it. A Preliminary Final loss in 2011, an unexpected Grand Final loss in 2012. ‘Hawthorn chokes again’. Deep down it hurt. You can laugh it off, joke about it, but all you really want is to win a premiership and rub their noses in it. Its not politically correct etiquette, its football. Winners are grinners and losers can please themselves. 2013 was redemption to make those scribes fill those newspaper columns with mild retractions. Two premierships is a good result from six years no matter what anyone wants to write about it.

2014 was now about greatness. The winner of this game would have a post 2000 record of 3 premierships and a runners-up placing to match the efforts of Brisbane (2001-2004) and Geelong (2007-2011) – two of the great teams in history. Greatness can never be discounted, it has to be spoken about with a sense of respect. There can be no over-rated, underachieving chokers in this realm.

The stage was set, greatness was at stake and Sydney warm and deserved favourites even if the Hawks match up well. The day is perfect. 22 degrees, sunshine and a light breeze. My seats near the cheersquad at the city end are as good as it gets in ballotted outcomes. From the outset Hawthorn played Sydney at their own game – pressure, tackle, harass. The Hawks were inspired, fanatical and focussed. They were unrelenting. This was a game of many individual highlights but as a whole will probably not go down as a classic due to the margin. It was a win against the odds, of again having the hardest fixture, the serious long term injuries, the set-backs and hurdles that kept having to be cleared all year.

Rioli smothered and intercepted, Hodge and Mitchell controlled the midfield, Burgoyne is silk, Langford is inspirational, Lake and Gibson composed and desperate, Stratton safe, Lewis determined, Hill mesmerising, Breust reliable, Roughead a star and Spangher a cult hero. There is no weak link, everyone does their job to perfection. For all the supporters it is joyous celebration, particularly those that were there for the dark 17 years or who had had enough of reading newspapers in recent years.

This is now greatness that can never be taken away. A line can now be drawn under this. This is MISSION ACCOMPLISHED…….until the ball bounces in February again. But all that is a long way off. It is time to head to Glenferrie Oval later today and bask in the achievement of the moment.




  1. Pamela Sherpa says

    Well done Hawthorn . Fantastic effort . Enjoy the summer of celebrations.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Wonderful victory. Great write up. Enjoy your celebrations forever.


  3. Neil Anderson says

    Congratulations to the Hawks. Until you reminded me about some of their lean times and the near-death experience in 1996, I always used to think the Hawks had a dream run, particularly after 1976.
    I remember before 1961 they were the easy-beats, but as you say, it’s a case of ‘mission accomplished’ well and truly now.
    I hope you enjoyed the Glenferrie Oval celebrations, because as you may have read on these pages, those celebrations one day at Whitten Oval are what Footscray supporters long for and dream about.
    You were born at the right time to follow the Hawks and now young Kaisha Thompson is following them as they start a new dynasty.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    From a team considered an underdog, that was as good a grand final arse-kicking as I’ve seen I reckon. I really enjoyed it, and I barrack for the Cats.

    It’s not often I go for Hawthorn, the Waverley GF in ’91 was probably the only other time.

  5. Grant Fraser says

    Armin – you nailed it. Thank you for writing what we have felt.

  6. Craig UpperHAWK says

    Awesome article Armin. I feel so fortunate so have supported this amazing club since I was a kid. The ghosts of 2012 were well and truly buried deep under the east parklands of Melbourne Saturday afternoon with as complete a team game as u will ever see. Absolutely sensational and we will enjoy this one for a long long time.

    Up the mighty hawks!

  7. Great write up aussie80s, yes we have our scars and yes it has been a fantastic modern journey, these last 7 or 8 years and yes, thinking about it through your observations gives me pause to really appreciate how fortunate we are to have back to back premierships. What a team! Go Hawks!

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