One Flew Out of the Hawk’s Nest

For the first six and a half years of my football life, I struggled year after year to settle on a team that would become an essential part of my sporting life.

Family and peer pressure between the ages of one to six can be a daunting and stressful period.

My Mother, a Cat; my Father and Grandfather, Tigers; Grandmother, Collingwood (shudder); my Nan, a Kangaroo and my Pa well entrenched in the hawk’s nest.

I don’t remember too much prior to the age of five but I recall choosing Hawthorn at this stage. Not quite sure why as three of the four teams listed above occupied places in the top four at the end of the 1974 home and away season.

This just would not happen these days as I would be limited to either Geelong or Richmond based on my parent’s choices. Given that I was young boy, my father would have first dibs; then again, he already had one of my brothers as a Tiger so perhaps mum would have her way.

Not so.

Hawthorn it was to be forever and a day. After all, it is difficult to change a six year old mind once a decision is made.

Move forward twelve months and the MIGHTY hawks were playing Nan’s Kangaroos. Poor old North hadn’t won a premiership but my mob had the pleasure of winning two and being runners up on five occasions. The boys from Arden Street were no chance.

Three hours later, North Melbourne had beaten the hawks by 55 points. I am sure this didn’t mean much to a six year old but Nan told me that Hawthorn had been thrashed, they were no good and it was only onwards and upwards from here on in for her Shinboners.

Nan was a true salesman (not a politically correct world in 1975 so this reference is OK) and I was sold on (what is now) my beloved Kangas! I guess one member of my family was happy.

1976. Lost the Grand Final to (my ‘old’ team) Hawthorn. No changing my mind again despite the result as I was a much more mature seven year old and knew I wouldn’t be taken seriously with my football supporting if I chopped and changed teams annually.

Come to think of it; maybe this is how the guys who do the pre-game work at Etihad grew up. Unsure who to follow so they just align themselves with the home team for each game. Easy way out but understandable given the strain associated with choosing a team in your younger years.

The following year restored my faith. 1977 premiers over Grandma’s pies. Nan was right; onwards and upwards for this eight year olds footy team. Two out of three for the MIGHTY roos – when will the good times stop?

1978 it seemed. Hawthorn were playing mind games with me as they again beat us in the Grand Final. Didn’t they understand this was all too much for a nine year old? (almost ten)

Despite some lean years between 1979 and 1995, great players of the modern era rolled of the Arden Street production line. Malcolm Blight, Keith Grieg, Wayne Schimmelbusch, Gary Dempsey (sorry Footscray fans) Ross Glendinning, Matthew Larkin, Peter German, the magical Krakouer brothers, Wayne Schwass, Anthony Stevens, Glenn Archer,  John Longmire, Mark ‘the fridge’ Roberts and arguably the greatest of all; Wayne Carey.

1996 and 1999 brought the ultimate glory again! This time I was old enough (maturity still questionable) to fully appreciate what we achieved. Having married a North supporter in 1993 made winning twice as good but then again, losing was twice as bad.

In case you were wondering, the connection between wife and husband was not related to our mutual appreciation for North; that just turned out to be an added bonus.

The 1990s were a great decade for the club on field; being dubbed the ‘Team of the Decade’ by many neutral observers. Times may be a little tough now both off field and on field but football success goes in cycles; just hope the cycle is not too large and we can overcome other obstacles on the way.

Looking back on my (sporting) life changing choice I made as a six year old, I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite Pa’s Hawks messing with my underdeveloped brain in the late 70s and come to think of it, ALL of the 80s; the Tigers and Pies have only achieved ultimate success once in the same period.

Would Hawthorn, Richmond or Collingwood be disappointed? I think not. I’m certainly not.

Be assured Kangas; despite my parents and majority of grandparents lack of success in influencing my decision early in my ‘career’, my wife and I doing as much as we possibly can to influence nieces, nephews and children of friends to follow the mighty Shinboners.

About Stephen George

I am an avid sports fan who admires anyone who can play or participate in sport at pretty much any level. My favourite sports are AFL, soccer, Major League Baseball, Rugby League and NFL. I have recently finished my Diploma in Sports Journalism and I am interested in improving my skills by contributing to the Footy Almanac

Leave a Comment