Hawkology III: In the night garden, with Kolchak the night stalker whistling in the wind.

 

Act I: Air…Oh, Smith.

Geelong v Hawthorn (2nd Qualifying Final – M.C.G).

 

“You know how this is going to turn out, don’t you?”

Anton Chigurh, “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

 

“I call it luck.”

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck”

Solo and Kenobi converse in Star Wars (IV – A New Hope) (1977)

 

“I’m beginning to think the force and I have different priorities”.

Cassian Andor – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

 

“Luck has a way of evaporating when you lean on it”

Brandon Mull (2010)

 

“The only sure thing about luck is that it will change”

Bret Harte, “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” (1869)

 

“Good luck in most cases comes through the misfortunes of others”

Jackie Stewart, “Reflections on Success”.

 

“When it comes to luck, you make your own”.

Bruce Springsteen, “Lucky Town” (1992)

 

Interviewer: “Do you feel that you’ve been very lucky or do you feel that you do have a talent that most people you meet don’t have?”

Elvis: “No Sir, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been very lucky. I happened to come along at a time in the music business when there was no trend. The people were looking for something different and I was lucky, I came along just in time.”

A young Elvis Presley – Elvis Sails (interview), ‘Elvis 50 worldwide Gold hits -Volume 1’.

 

“Shit happens”

Existential observation life is full of unpredictable events, first reported in U.S. in 1964.

 

 

He should have nailed it. Sure as shit out of luck. I don’t blame him though. How wooden headed would I have to be? Clarkson was right to jog memories Isaac has kicked big goals in big finals. When Breust retrieved his own smothered ball, spun and hit Smith on the lead, I sighed – Siren – and then another, winner’s sigh. Through my one eye, I thought we’d been better for a shade longer, save for six floundering minutes before three-quarter-time when they were better, so maybe evens then. Still, this was no less than we deserved and Isaac will cover the distance twice. Here we go. Air… Oh, S*it.

 

A ball veers right and the symptoms and small dysfunctions of a nail-biting season crystalize into a chain of causality and non-fulfillment of hope. Reeling from a left hook, I’m painfully aware of reality and a little disappointed in myself for summoning pixie dust, for believing our luck in the close ones was fated rather than fortuitous.

 

It wasn’t always the case. In a leisurely 2-week lead-in, I was settled in my native state of fatalism. They won their last game by 111; we won our last game by 1. There were a lot of ones in that binary code and zero comfort. As the two weeks of time off marched on, I wandered out to the night garden and there he was, ‘Kolchak: the night stalker’ whistling in the wind.

 

Kolchak: the night stalker was an old T.V re-run, seen as a small child. Hard-boiled newspaper reporter, Carl Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin) investigated a hodgepodge of supernatural crimes (‘Fletch’ meets the ‘X-Files’ with production values of ‘Home and Away’) but remains seared in the memory because of the whistling in the opening title sequence – the best whistling in an intro until Guns ‘n Roses’ ‘Patience’ a few years later.

 

 

(Whistling Kolchak opening title sequence – note the big finish).

 

(And the whistling Axl Rose)

 

 

Kolchak wore a look of, ‘You know you’ve got this. Clip ‘em and then on to a Preliminary Final in Melbourne, against one of the Sydneys.’

 

I told him I wasn’t buying. Told him our forwards are like a sale on Business shirts – all small to mediums – our contested ball rebounds off the ring ropes of half back the way Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat used to and besides, this year we are tortoise-ish out of the blocks. How much catch-up to chip away at? I have an aversion to catch-up and chips.

 

Trailing by 7-points at quarter time, I’m content enough.

 

The second quarter is ours, 5.4 to 3.2. Sure, it should have been more, but the shake and bake is in view. Losing young Burton, to injury in the second, was unfortunate. The kid’s been promising late in the season. Leading by 7 at the half, I’m conscious we’ve won almost all final quarters this year – or at very least break even – so at three-quarter-time I’ll take a lead of anything.

 

In the 3rd, goals to Gunston and Schoenmakers put us up by 17-points. Schoey had 2 and after missing most of the season was on the verge of a breakthrough. The next ball came in high and he nearly clunked it. Nearly. We remained forward and a Hodge snap went out on the full, when one more will bust it open.

 

And then we f*ucked it up.

 

After cobbling 6 goals to 21 minutes in the 3rd, Geelong put up 4 to lead by 2-points. One, hustled from the middle, ended with McCarthy curling it in. We chased and harassed for the entire play and never touched the ball. Heard an out of control skid.

 

I speculated on what I’d give for 3 or 4 contested possessions (170-118 against), 3 or 4 litres of blood or 30 or 40 of the uncontested (260-188 for)? This is not creating my own burger at McDonalds. I am whistling in the wind.

 

No turning for home with a buffer. Kiss them and roll them again. We rolled last, but five previous escapes offer no accumulative luck and our magic is displaced by a cold law of averages, a downstream dis-benefit, a Ponzi scheme, three goons with pistols and a basket of deplorables.

 

Arguably they made their own late luck; Bartel’s stunning, irreparable dive, gather and handball while on his back (!) commenced a chain to their final goal and then two hustled points by Motlop asked us to make final shot.

 

Siren. Miss. A clock laughs in my face. Luck evens out. As much as I would  have preferred something different, it felt inevitable in an edge-of-cliff year at Hawthorn. On the other hand, how razor-thin and a little fortune going a long way. We were unlucky to lose, but would have been lucky to win. They were the opposite. I’d feel the same if Smith kicked straight, only less so.

 

If you’re a Hawk you know you’re lucky. Everything is okay even when it’s not.

 

When both teams folded in their next game, Hawthorn by 23 points to the premiers and Geelong by 37 to the runner-up, this felt like something old we had created.

 

 

Act II: Orchestral Maneuvers in the Bark.

Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs (2nd Semi Final – M.C.G).

 

The dream is over, following our 23-point loss to the Bulldogs; Hawthorn 12.12.84, Western Bulldogs 16.11.107.

The third quarter air smelt like teen spirit, as the young pups took command of contested ball with power running. The Hawks could not get enough footy and, when we did, did not counter attack in a style we’ve come to know and love.

I was cautiously optimistic we would bounce back after the Qualifying Final. Couldn’t envision losing two in a row, or another final ever, but have since broadened my world-view.

 

Initially, they missed and we didn’t. For a quarter and a half, my tealeaves read we’ll edge them. Thought our forwards were a little more persuasive and, despite a deprivation of ball before quarter time, they will surely tire. Hung my hat on it. I am starting a tribute band to Men Without Hats.

 

At 18:40 in the 2nd, Breust missed from 20 out and oh, how the tide turned. Although it would have meant a 27-point lead, I do not blame him. How wooden headed would I have to be? ‘Dogs put up 3 before half time and cut our lead to 1-point.

 

The third quarter was the finest mauling since the Bear that got Dicaprio. Hats off to them. Cyril had the first but then we were hit in the mouth by ball winning and ball movement, conceding six. They played hard, together and executed, while we were a little caught up in what they were doing and faded from view. It felt like they tripled our possession when, in fact, it was only nearly double (125-66). And the way they played, with wonderful edge, lightning on feet, smash and grab and gone.

 

Their story unfolded as our book slammed shut. As stories go, what a bestseller. I sensed a lot of people were going to be happy about this and recognized the excitement in ‘Dogs fans around me. It was their time, their story and conceivably their year.

 

After a quick passage through the 5 stages of grief there was music to it; the early orchestral notes of a symphony, a three-chord counterblast of punk and  the bridge over discrete rock and roll states, from ‘Why Can’t This Be Love?’ to ‘Love In An Elevator’.

 

Whatever their musical reference, ours was multi-track, mid-tempo Californian harmonies your Mum and Dad like, Fleetwood Mac probably. While I preferred theirs, loving you isn’t the right the thing to do.

 

It is a remarkably quick transition from peak of your powers, elite kicking squad, best in the modern era, to resembling furniture covered in sheets in a deceased estate.

 

At the siren, I’m a jumble of ‘Well played, dogs’, numbness and curious sprinkling of relief. A penny clunks that an addictive season of close wins was illusion filling my head like an empty can, complimentary pieces not quite binding. You’re just off it, just out of Paradise City – Cranbourne probably. After some naval-gazing there will be an answer inside (inside contested possession 161-111: against). Mind the gap.

 

David King’s mid-year report – ‘Dogs +28 a week in contested ball, set against the Hawks ability to force turnovers and score at a high clip – is resolved in a landslide. There is no getting away from this anymore, even if it is what personnel dictated. The landscape has changed (again) and, this year, teams built on rushing in and ‘not giving it back’ were the ones who realized their dream or came close. In due course, King opened the kimono with Tom Morris, “There is a tipping point and it came this year… when it’s impossible to win consistently against strong sides when you aren’t getting first hands on the ball. It’s not just nonsense… never has the statement ‘the game will be won and lost in the midfield’ been truer”.[1]

 

We also need cover for Hale and Roughead.

 

ABBEY

You think they have a chance this year?

BARTLET

Who?

ABBEY

The Celtics.

BARTLET

They still need a big man and a reliable point-guard, but they might make a run for it.

ABBEY

For a moment there I was worried.

 [THE WEST WING – Season 6, episode 1 – “NSF THURMONT” WRITTEN BY JOHN WELLS DIRECTED BY ALEX GRAVES]

 

In the week following England’s inglorious exit from Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, Greg Baum wrote:

Capitalism, it is said, needs losers. Even more so, does sport, when you think about it. Every match begins in the near certainty there will be a loser. In races, there will be more losers than winners. Over the course of a tournament, championship or season, all except one ends up losing. This means that losing is inevitable, and losers are plentiful and one day soon we all will be among them, and that includes you, Hawthorn.”[2]

 

After a consolation beer, I drifted home on a tide of, ‘Show’s over, curtain down, end of an era, that’s all she wrote, hasta la vista, I wonder what’s on ESPN, you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here’. Deserving winners dance to the party anthem, ‘Every dog will have its day’. The defeated get a grungy B-side; ‘Every dog living his life on a chain knows what it’s like waiting for nothing[3].’

 

Back at home and not ready for sleep, I wandered into the night garden and lay on the trampoline for a while.

 

There, under the serious moonlight, I reflected on the run of my life. Floating in the dark were Isaac Smith, driving one in from Cranbourne and Breust pickpocketing Sandilands (‘13), Brad Hill searing a wing before killing ‘em softly with the pass to Roughead (‘14), and the arc of Hodge and everything Cyril (’15) [Due to time constraints, we move further ahead in the action]. Like a bridge over troubled trampoline, it ends in gratitude.

 

Two weeks later the ‘Dogs won it all. They were the hottest team in the postseason and the Grand Final was a neutral’s delight. Everywhere people were happy the ‘Dogs had won the flag – and Hawthorn hadn’t. There were fresh breezes around the globe this year – the Foxes, the King James Cavaliers and the Bulldogs. When the Chicago Cubbies broke a 108-year drought in November it crowned a year of sporting Cinderellas. The Atlanta Falcons can join this list if they win their first ever Super Bowl on February 6, but Brady and the Patriots might be the spoilers.

 

I didn’t watch the Grand Final until later that night, when children were asleep. Terrific game. From a neutral perspective and searching the memory, I could not recall a finer underdog win in my lifetime… maybe 2008.

 

There will be spring and summer before the carnival returns, a much-needed hiatus for basking in Melbourne’s sunshine and finding the more to life. The Hawkish are reacquainted with reality. It’s not all premierships and ‘peats’. We know and we advise our children who don’t know. Like gardening at night, you are either leaf blowing or sucking it up and more often than not, this is how it ends. Yes, even for us. Yes, I know you don’t believe me. With an ache in your heart and redemption on your mind, you’ll go back to a love that’s waiting.

 

Next autumn we will be there again. Listening for the early orchestral notes of our next symphony.

 

 

 

 

Act III: Blood on the Trade Floor.

 

Mid-September, I shuffled back to Bendigo for work and to avoid work colleagues. On October 12, I awoke to a disturbing sound; the jingle jangle of a thousand (307) lost games and my fruit loops hitting the fan. Watching ABC News Breakfast in a trance, Sam Mitchell was as beyond comprehension as that Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen song. But soon I was back in the room, aware of my surroundings and of the town across the road, Eaglehawk.

 

Naturally, I’m not in the know about conversations, caps and incomings. Maybe a big Eagle has had enough and wants-away to reliably good coffee and capricious weather. Who are we getting? Oh, pick 88 then[4].

 

In time, a friendship with Simpson and prospective coaching role far from where he is a favorite son were an account for a change that would have been incomprehensible on the day before. On the other hand, finishing where you started and then on shoulders of teammates to misty-eyed applause is a luxury teams cannot afford and a reminder, if needed, of a chasm between the pros and the buffs at the back. When the NBA tipped-off this year, Rose was in New York, Wade Chicago, Dellavedova Milwaukee, Bogut Dallas and Kevin Durant in Oakland. Durant’s account:

 

I’m trying to find out who I am. He (Westbrook) knew who he was. He knew what he wanted to do. He got married young. He met his girlfriend in college. I didn’t have none of that. I didn’t have two parents in a home with me. I’m still trying to search and find out who I am. We end up going this way (splits arms) as far as off-the-court personality wise. And that’s not a bad thing.”[5]

 

Finding himself would have gone over well in OKC. In Durant and Westbrook’s recent reunion – a Warriors-Thunder game on January 19 – their tension was palpable. Post match, Westbrook said he is not on speaking terms with KD, which I found cool and refreshing rancor. Even when it’s business, it’s personal with you. Things tend to play bigger in the States. This will be more buddy buddy.

 

And then Lewis left. Two’s a pattern. If I was uncertain about an end of an era on September 16, I wasn’t now. Clarkson argues necessity, progress and the challenge of remaining up in the marketplace. Given the numbers he’s put up, he’s our guy. We go through this, take one for the team.

 

For our all supporters (they ask), How could you possibly have a conversation with one of the most decorated servants of your club, about him possibly playing anywhere else other than…wearing brown and gold? … Such is our admiration for those guys, such is our respect for what they done for our footy club… we didn’t want… those guys playing for a club other than Hawthorn, but neither did we want Buddy Franklin playing for another club… that’s the harsh reality of the game. What we did understand particularly with Sam and Jordan, if they’ve been so decorated for our club and we can’t guarantee what their futures look like after 2017, then surely they deserve the right to be involved in their decision making … and so that’s what we did. We allowed them into the decision making process… to have an opportunity to have say on what their career may be shaped with after 2017… Sam was able to secure a 4 or 5 year deal, not certain which one it is… but much greater security, a real adventure… and to Jordan who… has also been a very, very big part of this footy club… it was a one year deal for Hawthorn that was guaranteed and it was a 3 year guarantee at the Melbourne footy club… Also in the back of our minds (is) the need for our footy club to continue to progress, to continue to look at new ways of doing things, to continue to offer up opportunities for our younger players, for the next wave of players because we’ve seen too many times either at our footy club… and we’ve also seen at Port Adelaide and Brisbane in more recent times where you have a fantastic era of success and then it all goes pear shaped and sometimes very quickly. We never want to be that footy club. We understand the implications for a footy club when you don’t have on field success. That’s what happened to us leading up to 2004. And it’s turmoil for a club, it’s hard for supporters, it’s hard for members, it’s hard for players… If we can at all avoid that, we need to do it…”

Alastair Clarkson AGM speech – 8 December 2016.

 

Regardless of the finish, Sam Mitchell is an all time Hawks great. 307 games, 4 premierships, 5 B&Fs and a retro-Brownlow. No grease lightning, his talents were in an agile ambidexterity, total control passing, creating plays and opening up the opponent. Rarely tackled, able to work in a phone booth, pivot, distribute, release and always put others into better space. I always thought he was a little undervalued externally (perhaps not out west). Rockets are sexier than Rocket Scientists.

 

Jordan Lewis played 264 games for Hawthorn over 12 seasons, including 4 premierships and B&F in 2014. He was an original unsociable (along with Sewell, Vandenberg and Bateman), putting nose over footy and getting hands dirty. He had a terrific blend of hard and soft skills and was a first-class finisher. I fondly recall his 5 against Collingwood in 2012 and 3 against Geelong in the 2014 Qualifying Final. Three years were not on the cards with us, but he’ll be good for Melbourne, even if he’s a fish out of water in that jumper.

 

While on Departures…

 

Brad Hill played 95 games for Hawthorn over 2012-16. You might think he came across from W.A at a good time, but he was very good for us. Over five years, he held down one wing while Smith was on the other. Their combination was an offensive blitz. Watching Hill glide over the ‘G, with an opponent making no ground, was one of my favorite sights, but he always saved the best until last with the softest foot passing to a leading forward; effortless and soundless at speed.

 

 Matt Spangher played 24 games for Hawthorn over 2013-16 and 56 games in a 9-season career. Cyril excluding, it’s hard to think of a player more popular in his first 24 games. He was versatile, a reliable mark and solid decision maker. On the slower side, but you could overlook it. I liked him in the team, without quite knowing why, until I read on the Hawthorn website that he played in only one losing team in those 24 games[6] – there was something about Spang. Unluckily, injuries deprived him of more starts. Hopefully, we will see him around. There are whispers someone at 7 is working on a pitch for a backyard barbecue show with Matt at the helm, ‘Spanghers Bangers’.

 

In arrivals… Hello Tom, Jaeger, Ty and Ricky.

 

Return of the Rough.

 

In December, we received our best news of the year. Jarryd Roughead is cancer-free and able to resume normal life, including training and playing for Hawthorn. On January 20, Roughy was named new Hawthorn captain – a wonderful appointment. In the media appearance, he was genuine and philosophical, ‘It’s same old me that has just got a letter next to my name,’ and ‘I thought footy was everything up until what happened  and now that I’ve gone through what I have, I understand footy is only going to be 15, 16 years of my life… I want to potentially live to be Dad or a Grand Dad (and) that means more than 15 years of footy.

 

When asked whether Hawthorn was on the slide, he answered, ‘Eventually you guys were going to get that right… but 22 don’t win flags it’s squads… I’ve got a chance now to get back into it and have a bit of fun’.

 

Now, for some off-season fun see what you can make of the below. With a pen, some fruit and over 7 million views, he may have no need to work again.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Morris. T, “Contested ball has never been more important, says Fox Footy expert David King” Fox Sports.com.au 22.9.2016.

[2] Baum. G, “England and the lose canon”, The Age, Saturday July 2, 2016.

[3] ‘Boots of Chinese Plastic’, The Pretenders.

[4] Hawthorn got WCE’s picks 52, 70 and 88 in exchange for picks 54, 72 and Mitchell. Or in other words, WCE lost two places and gave away pick 88 for Mitchell.

[5] Kevin Durant on leaving teammate and friend Russell Westbrook in OKC, upon joining the Golden State Warriors this season. Durant and Westbrook met as teenagers and played 652 NBA games, over 8 years together. Slater. A, “Kevin Durant unfiltered on the state of his relationship with Russell Westbrook”. Mercury News (U.S.A) 1/11/2016.

[6] Hawthornfc.com.au, ‘Spangher Swan Song’ 2 December 2016’

 

 

About Paul Campbell

Lawyer, left footer. Loves the Hawks and follows a few U.S sports.

Comments

  1. Marty Gleason says:

    Fascinating season nonetheless.

  2. John Butler says:

    Quite evocative in places, Paul.

    If it was anyone else but Hawthorn, you’d have captured more of my sympathies. :)

    Brave calls in the off-season. It remains to be seen whether they were wise calls.

    Cheers

  3. Really enjoyable Paul – at many levels. Sport combines the rational and the irrational in all of us – but sadly the rational always wins out in the end.
    Mitchell will be a great acquisition for us (love the Eaglehawk reference). I suspect more for his influence, example and nouse – than his onfield (valuable though it will be). Priddis and Mitchell will be the slowest midfield in the game. Like watching a fat old cat with a mouse. But the revival is rarely as good as the original.

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