Hunger or Entitlement? Why Limit Yourself to One?

There is no better way for a sports fan to start their weekend than the thirteen hour span of last night & this morning.

Well, my Hawks could have won. Selfishly, I would definitely have felt better about that.

Even so, despite the results – in all the contests I got to see – this past overnighter of non-stop, top echelon matchups in a trifecta of my favourite sports, could not have potentially been any better.

Alright, I could have done with a rotating combination of Miranda Kerr, Paz Vega and Vanessa O’Hanlon bringing me chips and beers, while dutifuly providing a complimentary sounding board for me to bounce ‘opinions & ideas’ off …

… But ya take what you can get, in such a ‘dream’ scenario.

So sport it was. And despite the diverse nature of organised athleticism in evidence, I couldn’t escape the common theme while watching.

Hunger and Entitlement were on clear display, right from the very first contest of the evening. My ladder-leading Hawks back in Friday night prime time, against a Kangaroos outfit likely hungry to show they were entitled to more respect, than their loss against Brisbane last week afforded them.

Both teams had key injuries. For Hawthorn, it’s been a theme of the season. For North Melbourne, it’s been mostly a case of not having their best midfield rotation fit & available all year.

Hawthorn already had Rioli out, and lost another intrinsic spoke in their wheel of speed & class in the warm-up, with Brad Hill ruled out due to knee soreness. North Melbourne put a line through Robbie Tarrant for the year during the week, then lost a big part of their grunt & guts, with Jack Ziebell unable to play.

He joined his silky midfield leader Daniel Wells on the sidelines, while Hawthorn could at least be reassured by the return of their own midfield general, Sam Mitchell, to partner the resurgent Brad Sewell in the furnace heat of the extraction engine room.

Sewell lasted less than half of the first quarter.

Suddenly, a big part of Hawthorn’s work ethic, that drove the nuts & bolts of the machine which could produce the classy outcomes of great renown, was gone. The spirit of hunger for the contest remained unfuelled, leaving only the empty sense of entitlement that has been the barometer of this generation of Hawthorn’s worst play.

After a bright start and a useful first half, North Nelbourne had been able to break out and maintain a lead on the scoreboard. But they hadn’t taken enough advantage of Hawthorn’s clear entitlement issues being exacerbated by injuries, leaving them vulnerable to the Roos’ rumbling hunger for redemption.

Five minutes into the third quarter, Hawthorn hit the lead for the first time all night. Like an undefeated heavyweight champion ‘deciding it was time to finish’, they took the game over before landing their lead-taking haymaker, right on North Melbourne’s chin.

Then they stepped back, their sense of entitlement demanding they make room for their overwhelmed opponents to fall, resting their abused chin on the soft pillow of capitulation.

Hunger had been replaced by expectation born of a champion’s entitlement. Unfortunately for Hawthorn’s fans, like me, the Kangaroos were disinclined to accept such abuse lying down. Instead they hungrily absorbed the Hawthorn haymaker as part of the price you pay in a contest, and exploded through the Hawks’ unguarded expectations with an immediate reply, to retake the lead and never be headed again.

In response Hawthorn summoned only petulance, and relied exclusively on the individual efforts of those isolated pockets of non-entitled resistance, to give their mathematical opportunity to win the game a pulse.

All the while, the Kangaroos never compromised or reserved the hunger of their effort. Through mistakes and misfortune. Gamely resisting those individual reverses the Hawks intermittently produced, the Kangaroos devoured every last morsel of the moment, their irrepressible hunger had induced.

Daring combination play through the heart of the ground was the delectable filling in the sandwich, bookended by the hearty appetite for winning the contests that mattered on either side of the ground. North Melbourne was both pretty and effective, because they stayed hungry from start to finish.

Hawthorn may have felt aggrieved, by circumstances and missed opportunities, but in a contest, no team should feel entitled to do so. Those that do, often pay the price that Hawthorn paid last night.

It was the same price Colombia paid, half a world away in Brazil this morning.

Perfect so far, the Colombians started their World Cup quarter-final against their stuttering hosts Brazil, too caught up in what they were entitled to expect, to realise what was coming. They thought they were in a football match, but the Brazilians introduced them to a full-contact dinner service that only they themselves entered hungry enough to win.

In a match marred by more ugly, nullifying tactics from a Brazilian team that had been scared to the ‘sudden-death’ of a penalty shootout by Chile, Colombia were scraped and scragged and studded into a match-long, juvenile debate with the referee.

All the while the Brazilians were hungrily carving out chances, as accompaniment to their second successive, game provided, back-post, early minutes corner, gift goal.

Sure the Colombians may have felt entitled to more ‘help’ from the referee. But in Brazil? Against Brazil? That’s just the blind leading the blind.

By the time the Colombians got out of their own way enough to produce some football, the match was close enough to the end, that Brazil could employ the full array of the time-honoured, dessert course menu time-wasting, to complete their ugly tactics dinner service, and stifle Colombian momentum.

Emblematic of the root causes of Brazil’s victory being wholly undue to any semblance of jôgo bonito, but completely reliant on individual attitude, was the main contribution of Neymar all game – getting himself stretchered off, thus wasting more time, and killing momentum again.

Brazil entered this game so hungry to win, they forgot to be scared to fail, as they had been most of the tournament so far. Colombia misplaced their hunger before & misdirected their anger during the game, because they felt entitled to win, because of what had come before.

If there is one person in world sport, justifiably so entitled, it is Roger Federer. So long his sports non-pareil, Federer’s abysmal year in 2013 ceded both the contemporary and the all-time discussion of supremacy to the storied comeback Rafael Nadal was able to coalesce.

Now just three behind Federer in total Grand Slams, and ahead in most other statistical categories, Nadal laid claim last year to ‘The Best Ever’ mantle being quickly disrobed from the stalled Fed-Express, to drape his own reinforced greatness in porphyry.

Now Federer has the chance to make his nemesis work that little bit harder, to assume any such mantle. And he did it with a prime example of his quiet hunger gracefully, yet still ruthlessly, quelling any sense of youthful entitlement Canadian Milos Raonic might have been feeling, deep into his best ever run at a Grand Slam.

Federer’s appetite for matchplay enabled him to make diffuse, the youthful fire of Raonic’s burgeoning ambition. So much so, that he reached the point of making his opponent feel entitled to no more than four games per set.

Not so much a confrontation, as a lesson in manners and acquiescence. Just the other shoe dropping in the unnecessary conundrum of motivation in sport.

Where there is entitlement without hunger, you’re more than likely to come up short.


  1. Cracker of a night for sport, as you say Gregor.
    North and the Hawks unexpectedly captivated me. I reckon North just can’t play defensively, and that is what Brad Scott tried to teach them this year. As soon as they slow it down and start to chip the ball around, they are like deer in the headlights. When they run it they are as good as anyone.
    I thought North were just starting to get stage fright when Lake and Hodge fired them up by trying to strong arm them. Lake is a real space cadet. On song as in the GF he is brilliant, but he marches to a different drummer.
    To North’s credit they stood up and said “we aren’t going to be bullied” and their attacking footy in the 3rd quarter was dazzling.
    Djokovic v Dimitrov that followed the AFL was equally as compelling. Dimitrov with the flair, and Djokovic steady under pressure in difficult conditions. Hot and windy, with the baselines looking like a Chennai test pitch.
    I have never seen the grass at Wimbledon look so dry and bare. What is going on? Dimitrov spent more time on the canvas than one of Mundine’s “bum of the month” competitors.
    I love the fast, aggressive tennis that quick surfaces like grass promote – but that was Russian roulette in terms of the players ability to turn.
    Neymar has a fractured vertebra and won’t play the rest of the World Cup, which will only make Brazil more defensive and cynical.
    Top stuff Gregor. Keep ’em coming.

  2. Gregor Lewis says

    Thanks Peter.

    I deliberately kept names out of my match description for fear I would lose my tenuous hold on my self-control.

    Space-Cadet is right … And Hodgey was just a half step away from making his offensive & defensive efforts count all night.

    Emblematic of the Roos’ shamanic reading of the night’s omens and the flow of play, has to be Petrie’s two tackles on Suckling – especially the first one, when running from forward of centre, to crunch Suckling right when he would have felt most comfortable …

    … On the end of a quick daisy-chain of handpasses. Ruined his and the Hawks’ collective night.

    As for Djokovic v Dimitrov … Definite opportunity missed for the young gun.

    You’re right, the baseline best resembled a Dhaka Dustbowl. And that’s emblematic of the warm second week combining with modern players’ unprecedented heavy grounding of their feet, to rally from the baseline, as opposed to the feather-light rhythm serve-volleyers of yore produced … That you sometimes see from Federer nowadays.

    Still, Dimitrov had the fourth set on his racquet numerous times and it ended up gone … with the wind & Djokovic.

    I hope Federer unleashes a ‘Federal Ass Pounding’ (see movie Office Space for reference), to win Wimby#8 and delay Djokovic’s likely return to number 1 by US Open.

    Nadal’s got 4000 points to defend over the American hardcourt season. No-one else has half that many. A legacy of his All-Time great year last year.

    I think it might be tough.

    Lastly, Brazil without both Captain Silva & creative talisman Neymar for semi-final eh?

    Against ze Germans … Hmmmmmmm …

    I miss JAMES already …

    Hope Argentina v Belgium, my other hope for a cracking quarter final, doesn’t descend to similar depths tomorrow.


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