Finals Week 2 – Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs: The Premiership Quarter

HAWvWBD

 

The banner said it all. Hawthorn may have 75,000 members but the Bulldogs have 24 million supporters. Sometimes the gods only job is to fuse perception and reality together.

 

The Bulldogs army met at Fed Square and en masse they marched to the G, as if they were the Christian Soldiers materialised (“We are not divided, All one body we, One in hope and doctrine, One in victory”), as if they were the very souls of Dylan’s Chimes of Freedom materialised (“For each an’ every underdog soldier in the night, we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing”), as if they were riding Springsteen’s train to the Land of Hope and Dreams (“I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted, This train, faith will be rewarded”).

 

While Hawthorn supporters enjoyed a last martini in the opulence of wood-panelled Collins St bars Bulldogs supporters walked the train tracks to the battleground. They might have met at Fed Square but they come from the great watering holes of Footscray like The Station and The Mona, The Courthouse and The Reverence. And the clamour of decades (drinking to forget, drinking to dare to dream again, drinking away another season dashed against the rocks, drinking in the moment – did you sense it too – when the Doggies snapped the Eagles in half) both bottled up and given voice becomes this night. Sons and daughters of the West, Red, White and Blue indeed.

 

The Bulldogs have never won a game of football playing to the size crowd that filled the Cauldron. A crowd of this size (close to 90,000) isn’t there to see a football game. That’s a bonus. They’re there to see the fall and the rise; to glimpse, maybe even grasp tomorrow in lieu of all those yesterdays. They’re there to witness the glory of the Cross.

 

You know you’re on the wrong side of history when a dyed in the wool Hawker says before the game that even though he doesn’t have a second team the only team he has a soft spot for is Western Bulldogs.

 

Was the game won and lost on an errant Breust shot, 15 metres out, when the Hawks had the run of the game? No. Was the game won and lost on a Hawks side one soldier down because Lewis couldn’t really get into the game and then pulled a hammy leaving a midfield significantly depleted? No. Was the game won and lost because one team is better than the other? Er, um, well, you know, er, um, what I’m trying to say, er, um, gulp, gee that’s a tough questions, it’s hard to answer, um, er … Just answer the question. Yes.

 

The Bulldogs have class all over the ground. Even players like Dickson, T Boyd and Wood who weren’t especially noticeable on the night did things that helped win the game. The players that were noticeable, were very noticeable. Picken, Macrae, Dunkley and the Bont. Yeah, alright, if this is a mass to the Doggies, then here’s a call out to Smith, Dahlhaus, Daniel, Hunter, Roughead and on and on. Bloody hell, what a list! Just quietly, it was painful to see a Roughead playing so well knowing it wasn’t our Roughy.

 

When the game was there to be won, half way through the Second and during what is modestly known as the Premiership Quarter, the Bulldogs stepped up. Unequivocally. They took the belief carried by their members, fans and the footy loving public that became their supporters for the night and they turned water into wine. They swore an oath, no retreat, no surrender. While it looked ‘orrible from a Hawks fan’s view of the world, it looked simply stunning any other way you saw it.

 

The Bulldogs have announced they have arrived more than once this season but I would wager that if you hadn’t paid attention yet you are now. When they swept aside the Eagles last week punters like me called that game the Doggies Grand Final. Boy was I wrong. They’re here and they mean business. I doubt Geelong would have fared any better against such Bulldogs dynamism. The Giants gulped and the Swans sighed. The Hawks flapped their wings but couldn’t get off the ground.

 

Two images come to mind, both involve the Bont and Hodgey. One a bump, deep in the Doggies forward 50. Hodge running to defend an incoming missile. The Bont, barely 21, stood his ground and bumped one of the competition’s toughest players out of the way as if quoting Public Enemy (history, that’s his story, it ain’t my story) to take a strong and assured mark. In the last quarter Hill, trying to find a break down the middle passed to Hodge who looked quickly to handpass out of trouble. The Bont (again, as if yawning at history) touched the ball away from Hodge, gathered it up, found space and hit his mark. This, in the blink of an eye. This, while Hodge wondered where the game had gone. This was the difference. You see, Hodge was the Hawks best player and he wouldn’t have been in the Dogs first five best.

 

Kudos to the Bulldogs. I hope they take it all the way. There is much to like about them. Even without their backstory they are worthy contenders. With the backstory this has the making of a legend. The Hawks sun has set, crushed under the Bulldogs’ wheel on their road to the place of hopes and dreams and I can live with that.

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day

Comments

  1. you shince glorious in defeat.

    do you think some of the Hodge and Mitchell and Burgoynes of this world will reconsider playing on?

    or would they imagine that with O’Meara and Mitchell they will remain close enough to warrant another crack it? (I don’t think they will be close – they have done ridiiculously well with what they had I reckon – but they might?)

  2. Great work, Rick. Captured the moments perfectly. The photo of the Bont with footy in hand and Hodge at his feet is very much the image of the game. Depending on what happens from here on in potentially cover worthy…

  3. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Commiserations Slim,
    Phew! Now I don’t have to write a 1000 words of praise for the Hawks as promised. They have been a great team since 2011 and only a fool would doubt that. So many wonderful memories for you to replay at your convenience when the mood strikes. Cheers

  4. Grand stuff Rick. Like Clarko, losing becomes you. More please.

  5. Brother Trucker. I know how hard it must have been to write this. I see those smiling at the perceived demise of our great team…at the end of Hawkporn. For now, we must go Underground…but we, the members of the Brown and Gold Lotus, will arise once more. Take a position in a green leafy suburb, quite near some rather exclusive schools, and await further instructions. #Always

  6. A nice nod in the Dogs direction from a bloke whose Hawkness runs very deep. Really enjoyed the piece. I especially like the opening description of the sense of unity and common purpose among the fans as they gathered, marched and readied themselves.

  7. Nice work RK. It was a weekend for furry beasts. The Dogs and the Bears.

  8. Thanks Rick for this mighty fine distillation. Lots to like, but this is my favourite

    “A crowd of this size (close to 90,000) isn’t there to see a football game. That’s a bonus. They’re there to see the fall and the rise; to glimpse, maybe even grasp tomorrow in lieu of all those yesterdays. ”

    I suspect this Saturday will be like St Patrick’s Day- more Dogs’ fans than is mathematically possible.

  9. Nice work Rick, you’ve had a helluva ride which may or may not be over. I think back to your piece several weeks ago when you had your doubts – you know your side inside out.

    In toppling the Hawks the Dogs have banked a sizeable check/cheque in the bank of belief.

    I just dunno whether they’ll be able to keep up with GWS. Stopping Heath Shaw is a key, Picken is the man.

  10. They are a fine set of observations, Trucker.
    Tellingly painted.
    It was a game, but it somehow felt something more.
    Hats off.

  11. John Butler says:

    Trucker, when it comes to Hawthorn, my sentiments would be more Elvis Costello circa “Tramp the Dirt Down”.

    But I wouldn’t like you to think that was aimed at you personally. :)

    Classy piece.

  12. Thanks one and all for your kind words and ideas.

    I must say PW was thinking those things while the game was on. Even though Hodge, Mitch and Silk were in our best I wonder if the younger players would learn more having to do more of the heavy lifting. But I’ll leave that up to Clarko.

    Yes DB, maybe even the metaphorical image of 2016.

    PD, I was looking forward to you putting 1000 words together about the Hawks

    PB, I’d prefer more wins if you don’t mind

    GF, moving to leafy suburb and awaiting further instructions

    JTH, the Dogs were terrific and their story is so compelling. That helped massage the pain.

    Dips, would have preferred a weekend of feathered birds …

    Mickey, St Pats comparison very funny. Like The Ramones, never sold enough records but man people love the t-shirt!

    JD, if they hit the Giants with the same skills, intensity and pure belief they will win.

    ER, yes, it was something more and sadly the Hawks were the grist of that something more

    JB, I’ll take that as a compliment but to quote the old gospel song, ain’t no grave gonna keep the Hawks down! Cheers

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