AFL Grand Final – Sydney v Hawthorn: New York State of Mind

By Christian Panebianco


The place around me smelled like fresh barbecued meat and beer. I could feel the hunger for victory in the air. The feeling was familiar, as it would be to any Brooklyn, New York native involved in sport ever since he could pitch himself out of the cradle.


I’ve always been in love with the side effects of it: passion, competition, dedication. Every player, coach, or fan has one thing on his or her mind: winning. Listening to some of the stories following up this game just proved how much tension everyone was feeling. After this experience, I was able to take away more of an understanding of Australia’s footy culture.


I have been studying in Australia for two months and have fallen in love with the culture that surrounds footy. I am going to miss this culture when I go back to the States. Footy feels like the way a sport should be played. So many people have so much passion and love for the game. The players give 100 per cent 100 per cent of the time. The fans give their loyalty, along with their loudest cries and cheers. The game tests each player’s endurance, strength, dedication and capacity to keep on running.


This year’s AFL Grand Final between the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn Hawks reminded me of some of my favourite teams and rivalries back home. First off, being a New York Giants fan, I was reminded of Super Bowl XLII in 2008 and Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, when the Giants played the New England Patriots. Similar feelings circulated through me and I knew I could relate to what I was watching. Also, hearing about Buddy Franklin and his switch from Hawthorn to Sydney made the game that much more exciting. The “traitor” had to face his old team, and I could feel the pressure on him.


I could not help but notice the love that the Hawks and their fans have for Luke Hodge. He is their leader, bravely guiding his team to victory. He is a role model and inspiration for footy players of all ages. Luke Hodge reminds me a lot of New York’s beloved quarterback, Eli Manning. Eli led the Giants to two Super Bowl championships against the New England Patriots.


To be honest, I was rooting for the Hawks – and, yes, I know what you’re thinking but try to keep your mind on the game – as it seemed sort of loyal for someone who’s living and studying in Hawthorn.


I was overjoyed when I witnessed them win another championship – er, premiership.


Celebrating amid a throng of fellow fans made me feel welcomed, as if I was part of a new community. Cannot tell a lie: it actually felt more as if I were part of a new family. A family that is welcoming, loyal, and always striving for victory.


That victory song – our song – still rings in my ears. “We’re a happy team at Hawthorn … We’re the mighty fighting Hawks!”


  1. Keiran Croker says

    From a Swans supporter, I am delighted that you have had the opportunity to experience the passion of our game.

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