AFL Grand Final – Sydney v Hawthorn: Save the last dance for me

Early into the Third quarter at the Rd 18 match between Sydney and Hawthorn at the MCG my friend Darren and I agreed that at least one of these teams would be playing in the Grand Final. We were talking about the Swans. They were twenty three points up. The game was a ripper. By the time the final siren sounded we had changed out view, slightly. We believed both teams would be playing off come the big dance.


The Hawks won that encounter by 10 points. The come back in the second half was remarkable. More than that, it was decisive. The Hawks literally harassed the Swan into surrender.


Could that result get traction as an argument in the lead up to the Grand Final? Not at all. Minds were made up and they were made up tight. They could not have been made up tighter had they been on the Harper Valley PTA. The Swans would win. Said the scribes. Said the betting market. Said the punters.


How confident was this Hawks fan? Confident enough, with a side serve of anxiousness and a glass of well bodied paranoia. This wasn’t on an empty stomach. I already had a bellyful of butterflies. I reckoned we could beat the Swans. We match up well against them, we have had their measure over the last two years and we have a full squad to choose from, a rarity this season. Yet still, my self doubt and voices of unsoundness sounded the loudest.


The MCG on Grand Final day is one of Australia’s seven wonders. Walking within the throng, itself pulsating our collective raison d’être, you almost want to bottle the bonhomie, the raw and uncooked belief in something better. Neil, Chantelle and I are going to the Big Dance. We eat a bratwurst dog, with pickles and chilli, under DKL’s statue. Then we part ways. Such is the ticketing arrangements for this game we are seated in three different parts of the ground. That’s cool.


My confidence is given a hoick when I bump into fellow Almanacer, and more importantly, fellow Hawker, Troy Thompson (he of World Footy News) as I head to Gate 6. The last time we saw each other was yesterday at the Almanac lunch. We even shared a taxi home. Troy didn’t have a ticket yesterday but snared one this morning. He is beaming. We exchange the quick positives and I’m feeling better for the stock-take.


I have a great seat. Between the wing and forward flank (Punt Rd end) on the second tier of the Southern Stand, Row B. This is the best view I’ve had in the last three years and it bodes well. I should say, I’m not really superstitious. I am however, wearing a Hawks t-shirt I bought after we beat Adelaide in the 2012 Prelim and then went on to the GF and, well you know the rest. I’ve worn this shirt to every Hawks game since. And, as Dips reminds me, to pretty much every Almanac turn as well.


My lack of superstition goes beyond the shirt. 2014 has been a fortunate year for me, Hawks wise. I spent an evening in conversation with Hodge at a local cricket club function, him as guest speaker, me flogging Almanacs. This meeting allowed me to present Hodge with a 2013 Almanac and get a couple of pictures with the great man.

Several months ago Almanacer Hawkey, called me out of the blue with a ticket to the Hawks twenty five year celebration of it’s back to back Premierships in 1988/89. The night was a rip-roaring success, not the least because we were seated at the same table as Hawks captain, Michael Tuck. Yes, I got photos. I treasured these two encounters as symbolic; a talisman of what 2014 might hold for the mighty fighting Hawks.


The final link of the good luck charm occurred as I took my seat. Sitting down and surveying the majesty of the MCG on the day of the big dance I saw sitting but several seats to my right and in the first row, Tim Adams, Almanacer and Number 1 Hawks fan. It was particularly special to me to be sitting so close to Tim and his son Zander. Tim was the first Hawks fan in the Almanac family that I met back in 2008.


Sadly, I wasn’t able to land a ticket to the 08 GF. I found out later (and not from Tim) that he had done his darndest to get me a ticket. I was very touched that someone I didn’t know that well would go to the trouble of trying for me. Tim is a top bloke; footy wise, music wise and beer wise. It was great to finally met Zander as well. As we readied for the first bounce the various omens congealed into a warm glow and it felt good. The auspices for the last Saturday in September were, indeed, favourable.


The Hawks won. We literally, as good chefs say these days, smashed them. For 15 minutes in the first there was a wrestle for control and then the Hawks took control, and in as unrelenting a manner as I have seen, drove the stake hard into the heart of the Swans.


I tweeted that neutral fans might have wanted a close game (our half time score vs the Swans full time score) but I’ll take what we got. They say revenge is a dish best served cold but out on the field the Hawks were on fire.


Who knows what Clarko did to fire them up (and I trust Michael Gordon is already authoring the Hawks 2014 campaign, where, no doubt, we’ll find out some of the inner sanctum secrets) but the rocket they rode was inspired. It was as if they had been listening to The Police song, ‘Every Breath You Take’ (I’ll be watching you) and taking in the literal meaning. At the end of the first quarter it was all high fives with strangers, a quick joyful (but not over the top) review with Tim and Zander, and a growing buzz within that was slowly killing off the butterflies. The stand-out stat on the scoreboard was the tackle count. Hawks 22, Swans 7. Holy cow batman!


The Hawks started this game where they had finished against the Swans back in Rd 18. To get back into that game and win it they had to harass the hell out of Sydney. To win this they had to harass the hell out of the Swannies from the get go. And they did. Bone crunching tackles. Spangher and Gibbo and Lake landing so forcefully over the top of Buddy and Tippet as to let them know we weren’t in the shadow of their might. The Hawks tackles and bumps and intense harassment were in the spirit and the rules of the game. More importantly, they set the context of this year’s big dance.


The Hawks efficiency was another thing to behold. By half time the Hawks disposal efficiency rate was sitting at 77%. Staggering. Players like Burgoyne, Birch, Hill and Shiels were weaving through Swans, with handpasses of all manner and distance hitting their mark a split second before the hand-passer was tackled. The speed of ball movement combined with the audacity of risk and belief. It was spellbinding. At one minute Burgoyne was a hero, the next it was Langers, then Hodge steps up or Rioli is splitting the difference.


Inside this beauty and mayhem, this timing and recklessness, this art and science stood Lewis and Mitchell. They managed the ball, they managed the play. Trace each moment of sheer brilliance back to its set up and you will find Lewis or Mitchell. And Hodge. It was his game. His 250th. Has there been a better 250th played? He was brilliant in the backline and the forward line and at centre bounces and in the air and on the ground and tackling and being tackled. There’s an old-timers saying that goes, he’s so tough he has muscles in his shit. That’s Hodge.


The story of 2014 belongs to the mighty Hawks. They faced trials and tribulations (I really have to lean what that word actually means) but they battled on. Even the coach went down. By season’s end pundits believed that they may have played their last bit of brilliance quelling the youthful vigour and attack of Port Adelaide. Be the end of the Big Dance pundits were wondering if the era of mighty Hawks was only just beginning.


I took the South Morang train home. We had friends over for the game and then a BBQ and then music and wine. I was as happy as. The family was as happy as. The train swayed with the mood of the carriages. I called Vicki. I gushed. She was as light as champagne bubbles. This win was special, it was sweet. This was for Troy and his family, for Hawkey and his family, for Tim and his family, for Hawthorn, the family club. It was our dance, and the Hawks faithful would dance all night long.



  1. Put this piece in the book.

    P Flynn

  2. Great read. Amazing, wonderful, inspiring, mighty Hawks!

  3. Super work, Mr Kane. I was very happy for you on the day – wherever you were.

  4. Great piece Rick, loved reading it. We are very fortunate to be Hawthorn supporters indeed.

  5. Love it, Rick.
    Though that t-shirt has probably done enough now.
    Love the mix of community and footy.
    Well played.

  6. Phil Dimitriaids says

    Bottle this one and put it in the Pool Room Rick. Beautifully written mate.

  7. Thank you Flynny, Charmaine, Cookie, JH, E.r and Lord Bogan. I appreciate the kind words. You won’t be surprised to know that I’m still walking on air. I watched the game again this afternoon and still roared with every tackle, audacious play and great goal. Burgoyne from 50, Roughie’s clear eye, Hodgey’s steal and all three Langer’s goals.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    Congrats Ricker

  9. Andrew Starkie says

    Thought Mitchell was best followed by Lewis.

  10. Monica Kane says

    Great story Rick. Your metaphors and analogies have me in stitches. Something for everyone! And yes, congrats on the win. ;)

  11. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Fantastic Rick and don’t worry as a redleg over here I am still in ecstasy . Mitchell is a win for the good old fashioned footballer . It was a win for your recruiters and tactically with all your left footers From a Norwood perspective , Paupolo is a lesson for this , gen y a guy actually prepared to listen and work on his weaknesses and get the utmost out of himself , yes disappointing re a contest for us neutrals but the hawks were awesome

  12. Great work Rick, I had been waiting for your article.

    I thought we would match up well on the day but was concerned by the all-out love for Sydney shown by all the tipsters. Did they know something that I had missed? Was I too biased towards the hawks?
    15 minutes into the game I felt confident that we could do it. It was the constant pressure – you could just tell that Hawthorn were switched on today. It is up there with the demolitions of Essendon and Melbourne in 1983 and 1988.
    That they were able to maintain the pressure for the full four quarters makes it one of the best Grand Finals we have won.

    Go Hawks

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Well done Rick. Great read. Hodgey is now a legend of the game.
    Amongst all the premiership memorabilia I’m sure you are purchasing, make sure a new T-Shirt is included!

  14. Well done Rick. And great work by your Hawks. There are some teams that grate because of their arrogance. Hawthorn is not among them.

    I enjoyed your piece, especially the Harper Valley PTA reference. It’s a sadly under-employed metaphor!

  15. Thanks Mr Starkie, there was a cigarette paper’s difference between Lewis, Mitch and Hodgey’s game. I was happy Hodgey got the NS medal but I wouldn’t have blinked if one of the other two stood on the dais.

    Monica, did you watch the game? The whole game?

    Mr Rulebook, agree with your observations, the Hawks seemed to have cooked up a pretty good dish with all the wild and wonderful ingredients.

    Thanks aussie80s, yes, it was the 4 quarter effort from all that won the day.

    Thanks Luke, a new shirt is in order, but I have to think wisely about what I get, after all this shirt has won us back to backs!

    Thanks Mr Randall, we have been accused of arrogance! Appreciate the Harper Valley PTA note, we’ll keep using music references until the river runs dry.


  16. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Rick, I had been so caught up not paying too much attention to the week, saving myself for the big day, that Hodge’s 250th escaped me. Am a big believer in the milestone for a spiritual leader. When I saw the banner moments before the siren, something turned deep inside.
    ‘Beauty and mayhem, this timing and recklessness, this art and science’ … what a beautiful combo of words to describe why we fall in love with the game. The euphoria is wonderful and carries you a long way, nest-ce pas? Enjoy.

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