AFL Round 18 – Hawthorn v Sydney: the threads of life, and footy

There were a lot of people in the crowd converging at the MCG and most of them seemed to be Hawthorn supporters. A lot of them were good enough to congratulate my son on his No 23 Swans guernsey. There was a lot riding on the game and most people saw it as a grand final preplay. And of course there was the added excitement of Buddy and a few other players who had swapped from one team to the other.

It had become a bit of a ritual for us to go to the footy in Melbourne with Vaughan and his kids and he would do the same in Sydney. Vaughan taught me about footy in the first place when we were sharing a house at university. He had always loved the Hawks and his kids proudly wore the gold and the brown. I had seen them grow from babies to young men. And during the living of our lives, there was always the footy. And as always, it taught us a bit about the rest.

Roughhead and Franklin traded goals early in an early sign of one of the big contests. Tippett looked ominous with his strength and his marking but it seemed to be the smaller men in the Hawthorn midfield who held the key to the game. They seem to have the wood on the Sydney mids and they stopped the game blowing away and then they pulled it back.

I had only seen Askin once or twice since they had shared a falling down place above a shop in Richmond in the late 80s. He had his kids and a French exchange student called Pierre. Pierre had never been to an AFL game before. He hadn’t even been to a sporting stadium before. His parents thought them too dangerous. But it was his first game and there were 70 thousand there and he was into it. He didn’t really understand the difference between a goal and and a rushed behind but cheered every Hawthorn point as if they had won the flag.

Askin leant over at the beginning of the second half and asked whether I thought Goodes had another year in him. I said that I didn’t think so. He was losing his pace and it would be a shame to see a champion finishing in the reserves in his final year. In the way of all armchair coaches, we wisely agreed just before he kicked two goals in about three minutes.

That seemed to spark Sydney to pull away to be about three goals up. It looked like the Swans were going to soar away but the Hawks ran them down to be just up at the third quarter break. And though the Swans kept pressing,they couldn’t quite get there. If Goodes had been paid the mark in the goal square late in the last quarter, the game might well have been won. But when the siren went, it was the Hawks by ten points in one of the great games of the year.

As we walked back, my son said that he wasn’t too worried. Sydney were always going to drop one and they weren’t far off the pace. He was right about that. And there were other lessons too; like that you shouldn’t write off a champion and you shouldn’t write off a champion team. And if you keep trying you can achieve what others have given away. And sometimes, even with your best efforts, fate can conspire against you. But more than that, there are long threads in life that make it worth living. The thread of families and great friends. And I wouldn’t have traded being with them for a 10 goal victory on TV.



  1. Rick Kane says

    Thanks Ian, your story was as unhurried as the game was frenetic.

    Preplay. Love it.

    The game was a cracker.

    Go the Hawks!

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