AFL Round 21 – Hawthorn v Collingwood: Great Expectations and the human condition

“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

Sunlight and wind. It feels like spring. The Woods are taking on top-of-the-table Hawks after two big wins.  Myrmidons of justice are swirling. I’m off to the footy with Anastasia. She’s a mad Hawk. For years we’ve shared footy talk over coffee but never been to a game together. At the pub now I learn a key part of Anastasia’s history: she once threw a man.

In round 1, a Geelong supporter attempting to make his way to the aisle during the last tense minutes of the match, squat-paused, just as Cyril started weaving his magic. He paused right in front of Anastasia. Anastasia now tells me how she picked up this man, a man bigger than her, and threw him back to his seat. I’m tense.

We meet her mate Ivana (with MCC membership) outside Gate 3. Tonight I will enter the fabled MCC members for the first time. I feel ill-at-ease; like Pip upon his first visit to Miss Havisham. But I expect I will, like Pip, get a look at the human condition from the other side. The Russians take me immediately down to the famous Bullring. A silver haired employee appreciates my companions: “Good onya,” he winks. There are photos on walls down here. The MCC bowling green, October 1, 1898. Without me, the game has started.

It’s fast and open. Swan, Ball and Beams are in it. Buddy kicks a goal with that appalling kicking action. Gibson stands up in the tackle. Beams snaps and goals. It’s 6-4. Quarter time.

We’re in the Blazer bar as the Hawks kick four to start the second quarter. No one is moving. Do people come to the members to watch footy on TV? When I emerge from the bar, the crowd is restless. Antagonised.  It’s 10-4.

Further evidence is gathered to support the removal of all video review from all sports. And rain is falling now. Rubbish blows boldly across the turf. The Russians head strategically back to the Bullring. Lynch kicks through the detritus. 10-6. The umpires confusedly gift Hawthorn two goals through incorrectly awarded free kicks.  It’s 12-6.

The staid members’ pavilion is now erupting. In the standing room behind me are four young Collingwood boys, dishing it out to the umpires in high-pitched anger.

“Two teams ump!”

“You Idiots!”

“Ruining the game!”

It’s easy to imagine them as Fagan’s posse of contumacious vagrants. Ahh, the Member’s.

Immediately behind me, a man in a tweed jacket (“I follow the Adelaide Crows, you know”) is leaning over the seats and speaking directly into my Eustachian tubes. “The crowd wants to see tackles rewarded. But the league are poofing it out. I blame Demetriou.”

My senses are jarring with the Fagan louts, Tweed Crow and a characteristic HarryO goal all vying for attention. Tweed wins: “If they can capitalise with one more before half time it will be invaluable!”

Cloke goals on half time and it’s 12-9. There’s argy bargy. Mitchell is remonstrating. Maxwell and his magpies leave with spring in their step. Aggrieved. Has something turned?

I fail to find Anastasia and Ivana at the Bullring. It’s chockers. Adult staff are chasing adult patrons who are carrying glasses where they shouldn’t be. Ahh, the member’s.

Third quarter starts frenetically. Puopolo misses then goals. Goldsack’s muffed kick-out from full back is marked by Franklin. Goal. It’s tough out there. Sustained pressure. The umpires have swallowed their whistles. Scores remain 14-9 for a long time.

Last quarter. It feels like an even match, though the Hawks are starting to run ahead of the ball into an open forward line. It looks good when comes off. But it’s a risky and arrogant way to play footy. It’s 16-9. Collingwood peg back three goals. It’s 16-12. Fagan’s troop start up again:

“Oh whaddoya want Lewis? In the back?”

“Give it to Buddy he fell over”.

“What a disgrace”.

Tweed: “What exactly are the entry requirements to the members enclosure? I’d like to know.”

When Roughead goals from 50 metres it’s over. Hawks have won in close and split the Collingwood unit.

Anastasia is belting out the song. We all head to the Bullring again. I’m waiting to buy three pots when I find myself getting picked up at the bar by a man (“you are very good looking”). Another first.  The Russians are somewhat envious.

That’s enough social research for one night. When Pip returned home from Miss Havisham’s he felt “ignorant and backward.” That’s not my feeling now; though I do need to adjust some Great Expectations.


HAWTHORN      6.4            12.5            15.9            18.11            (119)

COLLINGWOOD 4.5            9.8            9.11            12.12            (84)

GOALS Hawthorn: Franklin 4, Smith 3, Whitecross 2, Gunston 2, Hill, Rioli, Hale, Lewis, Roughead, Breust, Puopolo.

Collingwood: Cloke 3, Beams 2, Blair 2, Swan, O’Brien, Elliott, Thomas, Lynch.

BEST Hawthorn: Hodge, Birchall, Lewis, Sewell.

Collingwood: Swan, Pendlebury, Beams, Grundy.

UMPIRES Stevic, Nicholls, Rosebury (check your pockets).

CROWD 71,533 at MCG, a fair proportion in the bar during play

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Beautifully written David,

    “Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!”

    Miss Havisham may have been talking about Collingwood.

    Where did Hawthorn get all these bloody fans? They weren’t around in the 80s.

  2. Nice report Mr Wilson but no mention of Cyril’s runs down the flank to goal (assist) in the second? Surely a highlight or two!

    Cheers & go the mighty brown and golds!

  3. Ripper report Dave. I thought the Pies played well. The final margin surprised me. Cyril’s speed is magic. Loved his soccer goal early in the game.

    I was with some mates recently and we debated Mark Murphy v Beams. Give me Beams any day.

  4. Lord Bogan – thanks a lot.
    Yes, this Dickens seems very insightful. will go places.
    I was shocked by the sheer scale of brown & gold last night, too.
    Even our carriage from Southern Cross to Flinders Street ON THE CRAIGIEBURN LINE had more brown & gold than black & white.
    Who would have thought?

  5. RK –
    Cyril is brilliant, of course.
    His zig-zagging is enough. But his standing vertical leap is astounding. Sticky fingers.

  6. Thanks Dips.
    Beams seems harder than he’s ever been, I think. Unflinching.
    I reckon it’s been to his great advantage to have worked alongside L Ball; to be fair to Murphy. Perhaps all young draftees need some guidance.

  7. Great report, Dave.

    And don’t listen to Kane. If he wants to read about Cyril, he can write his own report.

    Big Solomon played a blinder on the Hawk rucks, I thought. Exciting future with him in the middle. But Hawks too good on Friday night.

  8. A great read, Dave.

    And an excelent observation about the bars. It was during a long session in the Bernard Callinan Bar, Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test, when one of my mates remarked: “You know, our MCC memberships are just an outrageously expensive cover charge which allows us to drink in these bars.”
    Plenty of truth in that.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff again David. I’ve been a guest in the members a few times, it’s a much different experience than I first expected.

    Probably Grundy’s best game so far. Hawks have troubled us for a very long time. Couldn’t fault the Pies effort.

  10. Exceeds all literary expectation, every time. Hats off to you and Dickins(on).

  11. Ho hey MOC, Smokie, Luke & Bada-boom.
    Thanks all.
    MOC – I reckon the ruck division is looking grand, too. Hudson’s been a great pickup to help with the teaching.
    Smokie & Luke – there’s a cultural study to be done on Members (of any club), senses of entitlement and boorishness. Was it Groucho Marx who said something about not wanting “to join a club that would accept me as a member?”
    Effort was solid- felt like an even game. Hawks too good, but on another day, you never know.
    Bada-boom – tanks a million.

  12. daniel flesch says

    Inspired piece well -written , David , but some inaccurate Collingwood bias , to wit :”The umpires confusedly gift Hawthorn two goals through incorrectly awarded free kicks.” I guess you are referring to the one where Sinclair jumped head-on into Franklin , not looking at the ball and chopping his arms. Alas , this attracts a penalty. The second one involved Shaw pushing Franklin in the back . A slight push , certainly , but still gets penalised. ..For some reason or other you didn’t mention Blair’s “goal” which was touched off the boot . Mystery.
    ” The Hawks are starting to run ahead of the ball into an open forward line. It looks good when comes off. But it’s a risky and arrogant way to play footy.” Strange you describe it thus – looks like skillful to me. Showing faith in team-mates. Would it be arrogant if Collingwood did it ? In the last quarter the trailing Pies executed a series of risky handpasses to get out of defence into attack. This Hawthorn supporter thought it bold bordering on brave. Going down fighting . I have a Collingwood supporter mate , we met at school 50 years ago. Like nearly all Collingwood supporters he’s endearingly maddeningly one-eyed. We go to matches together. Every time the Pies lose it’s because ‘The umpires beat us.”

  13. Ahh, that’s great Daniel.
    It’s a confounding but beautiful old world of quirks & interpretations, isn’t it?
    Some comfort to imagine that these free kicks & plays of daring/arrogance all balance out in the end.
    Enjoy the finals.

  14. “Please, sir, I want some more”.

    Wrong book, granted, but the sentiment still applies.

  15. packed house –
    the sound of Rioli
    losing his man

    great stuff Dave.
    joy to read.


  16. Thanks for finally writing about >AFL Round 21 – Hawthorn v Collingwood: Great Expectations and the human condition <Loved it!

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