Grand Final – West Coast v Hawthorn: A few days later, at the Espy

Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda, 2015, early October, sunset.

Music plays, glasses clink, conversation and laughter bubble.
Suddenly, a dishevelled Hawk (not a Hawks supporter – but an actual Hawk; the bird) crashes through the door of the front bar. Players and decorations around the pool table turn their heads as one.

“We did it!”

Hawk’s hand slips on the door; she overbalances, rights herself, clumsily.

“Ahhhh. Threeeeeee-peeeeeeat! We are the greatest!”

All heads in the bar turn away.
There’s muttering.
Low glances.
Eyes flicking sideways.

“Oh jeez…” says one of the pool players from the corner of her mouth. “Here we go.”

“Is there nowhere safe in this town?” says a backpacker at the bar.

The talking Hawk now stands triumphantly just inside the doorway.
Legs splayed.
Baby in her arms.
Glint in her eye.

“Yeeee-hah! That’s why we play! That’s what it’s all about!”

Even the muttering has stopped now. Music too.
She’s rapidly causing a scene here.

“I said: THREEE-PEATTTTT! Where can I get a tattoo in this place?”

All are avoiding eye-contact with this Hawk.
Wishing her to quietly rack off.
Silence fills the front bar.

“Ahem,” says a voice from the shadows. “You’re making a goose of yourself, Hawk.”

“Who says so?” says the confused Hawk, squinting in the direction of the voice. “Show yourself.”

The pool players and bar staff straighten. There’s just the whiff of an old school bar-room brawl about proceedings.

“I do,” says the voice, bodily stepping forward. The stepping reveals the voice to emanate from an old and wizened Magpie (a talking magpie – go with it). ”I do, young Hawk. You would do well to quieten the heck down. Come with me. Bring a pen.”

The Hawk is sufficiently gobsmacked to follow wordlessly into the Gershwin Room. Red velvet curtains shimmer.

“Here, pin-cushion man, can you mind my baby?” says the Hawk, passing her week old baby to a heavily-pierced stranger already nursing a pint. She reaches for a pen and notepad.

Upon entering, her raptor eyes adjust rapidly to the unnatural gloom. Magpie is leaning against the near-empty bar. “Come over here, Hawk.”

Hawk steps noisily across the room. Carpet sticking to her Blundstone’s slightly. “What is it, Magpie? You’re jealous, aren’t you?”

“Ahh, young Hawk. No, no. I’m cast as Font of All Wisdom in this scene.”

“Are you, indeed?” cries the incredulous Hawk, eyebrows flying high. “What poppycock is this?”

“Shut up and listen, Hawk. Take notes,” says Magpie, sighing with a resignation. “You are turning into me. Or what I used to be like.” Magpie shivers, “It’s awful.”

“Huh?”

“Look at it. Up until 1961 I’d won 13 premierships. A staggering strike rate. You had won none.”

“Ancient history, old bird, doesn’t count,” says Hawk.

“Hold on. Everyone hated me. They resented my success. It wasn’t much fun. Although successful in terms of premierships, I was the most despised club in the competition,” says Magpie, swirling the dregs of a Cooper’s.

“You still are,” says the Hawk, deluded.

“I think not,” says Magpie, reaching theatrically for a handily-placed mirror and holding it up to the Hawk.

“Bullshit,” says Hawk. “We are the family club.”

“Hawk, take notes. Hawk, Australians hate a tall poppy. They hate repeated success. Australians love an underdog, There is such a thing as a good winner, too. I won 13 flags before I understood that a competition only exists if all parties exist. It doesn’t do to dominate a competition.”

“So what did you do?” asks the Hawk, hooked on the word “dominate”.

“Look at my record. I lost. I still won enough so it was interesting for me and my supporters. I made lots of Grand Finals. But listen – I lost them all. It was great for me, it was great for the competition. Since your first flag in 1961, I lost Grand Finals in 1964, 1966, 1970, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 2002, 2003, 2011. Mind you I won a couple as well, 20 years apart – you need to keep your fans interested.”

“Right.”

“But look at you! You’ve won in 1961, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2008, 2013, 2014, 2015. With losses in 1963, 1975, 1984, 1985, 1987, 2012. It’s greedy.”

“Right.”

“Greedy. I know it feels good to win, believe me,” says Magpie, pouring herself a fresh pint.

“Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes,” says Hawk, eyes gleaming again.

“But listen, it feels even better knowing that you’ve helped not just yourself, but the WHOLE COMPETITION.”

Hawk appears puzzled. She scratches her 2014 tattoo.

“Look, you need to share it around. Congratulations, sure. You’ve done well understanding modern footy. And benefited from it. Just like I benefited by understanding how to profit from changes to stab pass rules in the 1920s before anyone else did. That’s admirable. But you need to share it around. Everybody hates you now.”

“Do they? Can’t I have just one more? I’d love to win it again next year. Can I have one more year? Then I’ll draw level with your 4-in-a-row,” asks Hawk, seeming to listen to Magpie’s advice.

“And after that? It will be ‘One more year,’ and then ‘One more’ again. You’re addicted, Hawk. And you need to quit forthwith,” says Magpie, wearily. “If not for your own sake, then for the sake of the competition.”

“I’ll think about it, old bird,” says Hawk, making to leave.

She strides haphazardly to the door, stops, and looks over her shoulder. Magpie stands relaxedly at the bar, head tilted as if trying to decipher this puzzling Hawk. Hawk, pushing on the door with one hand, says: “Nah – I don’t know about the rest of you sad sacks, but I’m just playing my role. And my role is to WIN.”

The Gershwin Room door swings closed. Magpie is alone. She hears the opening lines of the Hawthorn Club song raspily, obnoxiously, from the front bar next door. She shakes her head wistfully and says to no one: “She’ll get it. One day she’ll get it. I just hope it’s not too late.”

 

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About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. Brilliant and insightful. Can only hope the feather duster of the future does not have brown and gold traces…if only for my kids.

  2. aussie80s says:

    Great analogies but socialism in society and in sport are two very different creatures.

    In society you would expect that everyone is treated equal, even portions are handed out and everyone gets a piece of the pie.

    Sport is an entirely different creation within this civilised community. Sport is a game, it is partaken in as a pleasurable pastime within the structure of society. But humans, like all animals, have an instinct for survival. That instinct means a natural tendency to be competitive. In sport that leads to the aim of victory.

    In sport people want to win, it’s just a natural reaction which has come through our evolution as a species. In sport we do not want to be politically correct, to share success with those that oppose us, to hand out meaningless participation certificates. In sport the participants risk serious injury and tragically on occasions even death. You would not sign up to a 9-5 job where every day you would wonder if you need a knee reconstruction before the day is out. Sport is a form of legalised warfare with enough rules in place to allow it a position in society (although cage fighting may have gone beyond those boundaries).

    Football premierships are there to be won and enjoyed on the rare occasions that it may occur. If everyone hates Hawthorn for having success then I don’t mind one bit. As you said, Australians hate tall poppies so I expect Hawthorn to be hated by other supporters. To be loved as an underdog by opposition supports means your team hasn’t achieved anything. What pride is there to be had in that?

    I don’t particularly like Essendon, Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong or Sydney for various reasons but purely on a football rivalry only. I have friends that follow those clubs and don’t dislike someone for the club they follow. We are all still a part of society and it is just a game. Societies’ structures do not fall apart on the result of a game. I sit next to opposition supporters at matches and we all just recognise it for what it is – it’s only a game.

    I expect Hawthorn to try and win a fourth successive flag next year. We don’t owe any responsibility for other outside success beyond the control of our club. There are rules in place to keep the competition even these days with drafts and salary caps so each club is then responsible for creating their own chances. When Collingwood won four in a row 1927-1930 they were cheating the Coulter Law of player payments as John Wren was slipping all their players significant extra inducements. With the modern socialist structure already in place that can’t happen anymore or there are serious ramifications.

    “But you need to share it around. Everybody hates you now.” What are you suggesting? Hawthorn lay down and give some team a meaningless flag? I dislike losing and love winning but would find no pleasure if someone just said I could have a premiership because it was my turn. The joy from winning comes from the fact that it is so hard to do and you have to fight for it.

    If everyone hates Hawthorn then I have no problems of living with that, it is a byproduct of supporting a sporting team. If everyone were to hate an individual because they barracked for Hawthorn then there would be a serious social issue. We don’t have serious social issues in football thankfully.

  3. E.regnans says:

    Cheers Aussie80s – I wrote is an imaginary scenario.
    A talking Hawk meets a talking Magpie.
    Not supposed to represent real people or a real situation.

    I’ve popped explicit reference to that in the story now.
    I agree with everything you say – the game should bring people together – and does – rather than the opposite.

    =
    And thanks Graser.

  4. and don’t forget baby Feathery

  5. Dave Brown says:

    Yes, at the moment the scenario where a Hawk travels alone (not counting the eyas) must be imaginary. At least the Magpie is drinking Coopers. People and birds are quite capable of wanting to win and understanding it’s not in the best interests of the competition and both of those contradictory ideas being ok.

  6. E.regnans says:

    Spot on D Brown.
    May requires a stepping out of oneself.

  7. Steve Hodder says:

    hmmm; losing premierships for the betterment of the competition? That’s a new one on me. Very novel Dave. Rabonzo let his trout go. Something similar?

    Funny piece anyways.

    onya

  8. daniel flesch says:

    As a 1950’s kid who supported Hawthorn from before their first Flag , when they were cellar-dwelling easybeats , i agree they’ve been winning a bit too regularly . Like Melbourne was doing back then – and look (no. don’t) where they’ve been lately. On the other hand , a fourth flag in a row would please not just Hawthorn people. Surely for a lot of others it would be worth it just for the sight of Eddie’s reaction

  9. Luke Reynolds says:

    I really like that old and wizened Magpie.

    Superb ER.

  10. E.regnans says:

    Thanks gents,
    The Magpie could have produced this list to make her point.
    VFL/AFL Premierships since 1961:
    Hawthorn 13
    Carlton 8
    Essendon 6
    Richmond 5
    Geelong 4
    North Melbourne 4
    West Coast 3
    Brisbane 3
    Adelaide 2
    Collingwood 2
    Sydney 2
    Melbourne 1
    Port Adelaide 1
    St Kilda 1
    Footscray 0
    Fremantle 0
    Gold Coast 0
    GWS 0

  11. daniel flesch says:

    I think this sums it well. For those uninterested in reading a long article – Jake Niall writes that a lot of Hawthorn’s top / senior players are prepared to get significantly less money than their “market value.” More good players , same salary cap. Simple really .

    http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/hawthorns-domination-shows-up-the-other-clubs-20151006-gk2o0v.html

    Jake makes other pertinent points as well, one of which is other clubs could do a Hawthorn if they made the right decisions.

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