Round 1 – Hawthorn v Collingwood: A Pom’s Perspective


A hockey associate of mine from the university glory days, Matt Rose is an English cricketing tragic who picked a very opportune time to visit Australia. He penned this reflection on his first AFL game at the weekend:


I’ve found myself on the front row of level 4, in a corner of the member’s reserve courtesy of reciprocal membership and I must say ‘fair dinkum’ to the MCG for being so accommodating and welcoming – this bodes well.


My first observation as I peer down at the ‘paddock’ below is that I may have just stumbled into the Forest of Dean for the Quidditch World Cup; lofty posts at each end and two marked semi-circles lie below the steep bowl, unequivocally resembling the Pottersphere’s famed sport. The game starts in a similar fashion, with a Madam Hooch-esq figure releasing the quaffle amidst a tangle in the middle of the park. I’m reliably informed that this is called the centre bounce by a few local Collingwood fans behind me and opt to befriend them, well aware that their expertise might be useful.


Apologies to the avid footy fans out there, because I can’t quite give the most enthralling account of the opening exchanges. I’m still picking things up. It’s clear, however, that a couple of interesting decisions denied the Pies a healthy start. A good nudge from out wide brought about a six-pointer to give them an early lead all the same. Elsewhere, everyone shouted ‘ball’ at one point. I enthusiastically joined in. Apparently this is something to do with not releasing the footy on the floor.


There’s a roar of approval from a cluster of Pies faithful as long socks Cox pops up…clearly a crowd favourite, though I guess one must be to facilitate such easy identification. As far as the Hawks go, what appeared to be an own goal levelled it up at 22-22. A short corner is then emphatically given by the umpire and six more Hawks points appear on the board before the quarter is up, giving them the lead at the break.


There’s a flurry of activity at the first interval, with a Gatorade van entering ‘The G ‘, as did an array of sponsors as the luminescent officials soaked up the H2O. Prefer halves – less Faf du Plessis.


The big screen lets me know that with 42 contested possessions each, things are pretty even. But whilst 26 Pie marks suggest dominance, just the 1 within the 50 for them versus the Hawks’ 2 perhaps tells more of a story.




As the second quarter comes about I’ve come to grips with things a little more and an early Hawthorn goal sets the tone after some awful handling around the goal mouth. A forward accepted the invitation and banged it in from close range.


I’ve learned a new phrase too, as some good ‘shepherding’ from Maynard is politely applauded up in the reserve. The resultant boot at goal is no good though. Good on the umpire, though. He acrobatically lobs it 50m over his head – is there a name for this move!?  Things go from bad to worse for Collingwood as a contentious decision brings about another six for the Hawks. The alleged ‘low tackle’ was clearly not deliberate from my lofty angle, and my chums behind me concur with sincere disapproval. The anger is taken out on field, too, with a monstrous collision. I’m unsure of the culprit, though the concept of no player sanctions bemuses me.


Just noticed number four with just the one sock up – clearly only half as good as the beloved Cox.


That’s a serious grab from the Hawthorn number nine – is that ‘specky’? The resultant point gives them a useful lead, extended by another poor handling error inside the 50 from the Pies, which gifts yet another goal.


Hold on. Another score, and this is starting to get ugly. It’s very good one though, with a cross volleyed home at the back post. Is that a thing in? HT 67-40, a chat to the steward suggests it’s all over.


I explore what else the G has to offer, leaving the urinals bemused as to why I must stand in a grate watching the river below. Then again, this is only my first week in Australia, so maybe I need to get used to these idiosyncrasies.


The half-time stats are telling me Tom Mitchell is having a good one*. Who knows, I’m more interested in the beef dog – would recommend.


*I caught the news later praising Mitchell’s record-setting performance of 54 disposals. Fair play to the bloke, that’s a lot of photographs



The second half opens as the first ended, a cry of ball from the Pies end ignored and six more to the Hawks the result.


Out of nowhere, there’s a good’un for the boys in the newspaper, about time really, but maybe too little too late. The game has somewhat simmered, though I’ve noticed a rather odd sign on the screen, outlining a very specific $9,329.60 fine for pitch invasions…wonder how they arrived at that figure…another of the aforementioned idiosyncrasies?


Things start to get a little sloppy, the ball spilling everywhere, like a pigeon managing a pint, but long socks Cox livens things up with a hefty shepherd, his first notably beneficial contribution for the game.


87-49. The seagulls swarm above but have no luck penetrating the wires which stretch across the roof. I was told earlier in the day on a stadium tour that the wires upset the bird’s flight patterns preventing them from landing on the pitch…innovative and effective, unlike Collingwood’s brand of footy.


‘So painful’ is the cry from my mate behind me as the fourth gets underway with the Hawks adopting a Mourinho-style park the bus, nudging it about to each other around the back.


What. Was. That. Is there a worse miss in the history of any sport, ever. Unsure of the culprit, but just when another score would have been welcome for the Pies there’s an atrocious fumble through the posts and that rather sums up their night.


Attendance announced: 58,051. Good, but not quite Carling.


Crumbs, another cry of “ball”, a free kick, and that brings up the ton for the Hawks… unsure how common that is, but it seems apt at one the world’s most famous cricket grounds.


101 plays 67 as the final siren goes, and I’m mightily glad I stay to hear a resounding rendition of ‘we’re a happy team at Hawthorn’…unbelievable.


Breust with 4 goals apparently, good for the bloke.



I leave less perplexed than I arrived, highly satisfied with the evening’s entertainment. Something closer might have been nice but at the end of the day, ‘that’s footy’. Or so they seem to be saying.


The balmy evening descends and this particular Pommy pundit feels the Hawks might be in for a good year as hopeful whispers fill the evening air.

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men's Coach, tortured Tigers fan.


  1. Loved the refs to Quidditch world cup, short corners and volleyed crosses. We all know Australian Football is a hodge-podge of other sports, but legitimately this is the first time I’ve seen those three examples offered.

    Shame you couldn’t have taken him to the opening game; there’s always room for one more on the Tiger train.

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