AFL Round 12 – Hawthorn v Carlton: There’s no victory in a brave defeat

by Callum O’Connor


Two days out from our laboriously planned trip to the footy, which was first suggested two months ago, Jack hits me up with this text and the match has a whole new level of interest. He is hoping for, but not expecting, a Carlton victory, so the prospect of watching the Napoleon Dynamite of Carlton being thrown to the wolves of Hawthorn is one that we will follow with interest. Joining us on the train to Southern Cross Station are Rachel (who more or less organised the whole shebang), Maddie, and Jack’s girlfriend Kasee, but not Mikey, a diehard Hawks fan, who scored two premiership seat tickets in a majorly rigged school raffle.  “You know Mikey offered me the other ticket?” Jack bemoans to me. “Why didn’t you go?” “Thought it would be rude. Then, Bec took the other ticket.” He leans back and sighs dramatically as we pass Montmorency. “That’s what I get for the one time I think of other people…” Such is life as a Good Samaritan.

Rachel and Kasee miss the train at Greensborough because, as Rachel texts to Jack, WE WERE WALKING REALLY SLOWLY BUT DIDN’T REALISE SO WE THOUGHT IT WASN’T OUR TRAIN AND DIDN’T REALISE IT WAS TILL IT STARTED TO LEAVE HAHAHA, and Maddie misses the train at Watsonia because, well, Maddie does that kind of stuff. We all meet up by Southern Cross and, with time to kill before the bounce, we grab a bite to eat at Subway, where the main topic of conversation is who will be aligning with who by game time: Maddie goes for the brown-and-gold and Rachel is one of the more insane Hawks fans I’ve ever met, whilst Jack and Bec are Carlton fans. I’ve decided to sit on the fence, and Kasee feigns an allegiance to both Richmond and Gold Coast to dodge the decision. We have enough time to stroll in as the ground slowly fills up, giving me room to stretch my inconveniently long legs over a couple of rows of seats. Rachel entertains herself by watching the Hawks’ warm-up, focusing in particularly on her future husband Isaac Smith and their future adopted son, Bradley Hill.  Meanwhile, Kasee and Maddie discuss their dresses for tomorrow night’s Year 12 Formal. This is primarily a substantial conversation for girls only, seeing as guys’ outfits only vary in shirt colour and tie shape.

The most absorbing pre-game aspect is the screening of a 2005 match between the Hawks and the Blues. The sheer improbability of watching a pudgy Lance Whitnall outrun Jonathan Hay is just too bizarre to take seriously. Jack receives some bad news as Carrazzo is a late withdrawal for another inexperienced player in Sam Rowe. “Well”, Jack says matter-of-factly. “That’s shit.” We go to meet Mikey and Bec and quietly seethe with jealousy at their cosy seats: full eye-level view of the entire ground, so close to the interchange gates that you can feel the heat of the Short Man Syndrome burning out of Alistair Clarkson.

The Hawks start in seriously ominous fashion, with Roughead, Franklin and Gunston all kicking goals in five minutes. Jack receives a text from our mate Nick, possibly Carlton’s most pessimistic supporter, who says JESUS IT’S ALREADY UGLY. This is a person who was ‘escorted’ out of the MCG in the previous match for smashing his mobile against a wall. Sadly, Napoleon Bootsma’s highlight for the match is being lined up on Franklin for all of ten seconds (which nearly gives Jack a heart attack). Indeed, if it wasn’t for Mitch Robinson, who single-handedly holds the Blues in the contest, the Hawks could’ve had the first five. But then the Blues find a way to wrest back control: four consecutive goals, including one to Jack’s new favourite, Casboult, who has stalked his way around the forward 50 like a wolf, crushing down marks, and Robinson, whose hideous set shot slides through impossibly, like the AFL equivalent of a French cut. When Waite slots one from the boundary and Tuohy roosts a snap from fifty home, the Blues have improbably hit the lead, but don’t maintain it to quarter time. Jack is fairly happy with the quarter, but he has reason to not be when Murphy gets absolutely nailed by Hodge in the second and goes straight down bang where he lies. Mikey sends me a sneaky text to tell me that Bec has virtually cried in the middle of all the premiership-seated fans as Murphy limps off with his jaw cracked. But, somehow, the Blues are really rolling, their lead extending to thirteen points at half time when Judd, in his milestone 250th, drives one through from fifty, that echoing, fractured cry of “Juddudd” ping-ponging and ascending from the Carlton contingent all over the ground.

The Hawks are looking unwilling, particularly Brian Lake, who gets out-marked by Betts and then gives away a fifty when he continues to complain, probably demanding why nobody at the Bulldogs told him that people would be so mean when you’re no longer the only decent defender at your club. However, Jack still isn’t happy (neither is Bec, according to Mikey, and we really can’t imagine Nick is either) and Rachel and Maddie still aren’t worried. For all of Carlton’s dominance, they only hold a slender lead, and Hawthorn, to quote One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, are not a team “you can beat two out of three, or three out of five, times; you gotta keep on beating them every single time.” Whatsmore, Hodge is stirring: six touches in the last fifteen minutes of the second. Hodge is the Hawks’ warrior, and few players in the league are more important to their teams. However, there’s nothing in the opening four minutes that suggests Hawthorn is ready to explode: Waite slots one inside the opening thirty seconds as, up the other end, Jamison beats an increasingly petulant Franklin, again and again and again, in one on ones. Carlton continue to grind the Hawks down with their pressure, winning clearances and sweeping the ball cleanly and quickly from half back. If it wasn’t for Gibson, his head swathed in bandages, who provides rebound out of defence whilst shutting down the dangerous Waite, the Blues probably would’ve taken the game in the third. But the Blues were just a step away from taking control at all times, always waiting, looking over their shoulders for the Hawks’ fight back, as if Plan A is shut-down mode.

Finally, it’s Mitchell who turns the match: an improbable, off balance snap off one step flies through, a terrible turnover from Lachie Henderson gifts Roughead his second and a coast-to-coast goal to Gunston causes the Hawks’ faithful to erupt; this game is on. Jack is up too, giving zero attention to Kasee as the umpires begin to pay free kicks that they ignored in the first half, with an unfortunate number falling the way of the Hawks. By three quarter time, the crowd is a boiling mass of navy blue, with writhing arms being furiously hurled in gesticulations of angst. Something has slipped. By three quarter time, the Hawks are two points up and, crucially, the previously unstoppable Robinson has his left arm uselessly dangling down his side, missing that extra touch that the Blues had early. The frees continue to fall the Hawks’ way, becoming “farcical”, to quote Jack; the peak of which is Mitchell being given a free a split second after performing a one-handed basketball pass. The only moment in which the Blues shoot themselves in the foot is by delivering Mitchell three virtually uncontested marks through defensive fifty efforts. “What’s the phrase? Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result”, grumbles Jack. By the ten minute mark, control has turned and Jack is bitterly resenting the third Franklin goal of the quarter. My Grandad used to tell me about defenders in the early 1950s simply giving up once John Coleman got in front on the lead. Well, Franklin is the same. Jamison has fought admirably in the one on ones, but no one can catch Franklin once he gets going. It’s simultaneously beautiful to watch and downright unfair. Rachel, who has quietly and ashamedly watched what she later describes as “the better team losing” (Mikey’s reaction was somewhat less sympathetic), finally gets something to cheer about as Bradley Hill slots the sealer. Hawks by 15 and Jack, not normally one to be infuriated by defeats, grumbles about being ripped off. For what it’s worth, the free kick count was 14-4 in the second half. The Hawks, once again, prove that they can win games off a quarter and a half’s effort, but I somehow doubt that it will last. Carlton can take comfort in possibly being robbed, but Jack is just annoyed that the Blues have cost themselves wins against big teams through lack of composure two weeks in a row. As a Richmond supporter, I can quietly commend his refusal to be happy with brave defeats. But at least he gives Kasee a little more attention on the squashed, groaning midnight train ride home.


CARLTON               4.2 8.5 11.6 13.9 (87) HAWTHORN          4.4 6.6 11.8 15.12 (102)

Carlton- Robinson, McLean, Kreuzer, Simpson, Judd, Waite.
Hawthorn- Hodge, Gibson, Roughead, Stratton, Hill, Mitchell.

Betts 3, Waite 2, Casboult, Robinson, Tuohy, Gibbs, Kreuzer, Judd, Rowe, Armfield.
Hawthorn- Roughead 4, Franklin 4, Gunston 3, Hale, Mitchell, Hodge, Hill.

VOTES: 3-M. Robinson (Carl) 2-J. Gibson (H) 1-L. Hodge (H)


  1. Rick Kane says

    Brilliant! Sorry, I don’t know the author’s name but can I say (and this is an absolute commendation) this reads like an episode of Girls, that is how well wriiten it is. A Gen Y perspective of footy suddenly makes us older writer/readers seem, well, old, the way Girls does. And I’m a Hawks fan!

  2. Peter Fuller says

    I concur that it’s a briliant piece (by Callum O’Connor according to the front page introduction).
    I was disappointed with the result, but not catatonic. It conformed to my expectations, both in advance, and as the game progressed. I’m a Carlton fan not entirely convinced by the present list, so taking on Hawthorn a couple short of our best 22, and then losing Murphy and, effectively, Robinson in transit was always going to be an impossible assignment.
    My major grievance was the shocking seat I secured, so I’m intrigued Callum that you could spread your long legs over a couple of rows of seats – even assuming that you lost that benefit as the crowd built up. I’m very interested to know what time you arrived, and where your seats were.
    I can’t manage the booking system at Etihad at all. Supposedly as an AFL member, I am entitled to reserve a seat for the (outrageous, but tolerable) booking fee of $7. Irrespective of when I go on to the Ticketbastards website looking for the “cheap” AFL member seats, I find a message “no seats available, please reduce the number of seats you are booking”. Given that I have another disguise as an umpire, I am “Johnny-no-mates”, so I usually go to matches alone. This makes it somewhat awkward to try to reduce the number of seats I am seeking. I am then typically redirected to the generous offer of $26 seats (plus booking fee). So I decided to take my chances, and arrive early, on the promise of a specified seat at no cost, on presentation of my AFL membership card. Arriving at 6.30 I was provided with a seat with obscured vision alongside one of the television screens, where approximately one-third of the arena wasn’t visible. When play went into this area, I was obliged to turn my attention to the pictorial representation, 200 metres away, and then somehow make the call as to when the players would re-emerge from my personal twilight zone. Added to my frustration was the fact that those operating the screen pick unhelpful moments to switch from the play to critical advice, such as warning patrons not to go on the field. If I hadn’t been on level 3, I would have been sorely tempted, so that I could have a look at the play.
    Since my parents raised me with the mantra “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, say nothing”, I won’t allude to the obnoxious Hawk partisan three seats along from me.

  3. Simply outstanding. Thanks so much for taking the time to pen this.

  4. Great report, Callum. “This is primarily a substantial conversation for girls only, seeing as guys’ outfits only vary in shirt colour and tie shape.” Good to see some things haven’t changed in the last 40 years. Love it.
    You have a keen eye for the game too. Mick has improved the Blues by 5 goals this season.

  5. Tony Robb says

    Thanks Callum Having travelled from Canberra for the game it was a bitterly disappointing result but enjoyed your report all the same
    cheers TR

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