Round 16 – Hawthorn v GWS: Fireworks and Crazy Rollercoaster Rides




Once each year, we play Fixture Lotto, whereby the AFL Fixture decides if and where we will take the kids for an interstate holiday.  Last year, we went to Adelaide, this year, Launceston.  Happily, as the Giants’ game against the Hawks was during the middle weekend of the NSW school holidays, we went for three and a bit days – one and a bit in Hobart and the rest in Launceston.


We discovered that Tasmania is a gorgeous place, filled with all the great views, culture and history that we all know.  We also discovered that wallaby is delicious. But also interesting was the football chatter.  At the Hobart Maritime Museum, the volunteer at the door saw my Giants gear and we started talking about our draw with his team, Geelong. He derided a lot of the new Hawks’ supporters in the North as being on the bandwagon. He also spoke of how a lot in “The North” were opposed to North Melbourne playing games in Hobart, but he quickly dismissed that. It was great to have AFL in The South, he reckoned, and enjoyed going to their games.  We took a trip out to Bellerive Oval, to see where it was. It certainly looks like a pretty modern ground there.


Travelling to The North, we noticed the crazy hills in Launceston, trapping in the morning fog and making a drive from one end of the other more like a rollercoaster ride. I also took a drive in the pre-dawn fog on the day of the game, travelling out to the Kings’ Bridge, taking photos. It was there where, amongst the 15 or so people jogging around the water and into the Gorge that I saw six Giants’ employees. The three senior ones who took a quick look at me in my guernsey and jogged on. The more junior employees – one an ex-player – were a bit surprised to see me and asked me if I was going for a jog as well. No, I replied, I’ve been driving up and down crazy hills for two days.

King’s Bridge



When it was time for the game, it didn’t take long to notice that York Park isn’t quite as modern as Bellerive.  That doesn’t make it any less of a venue – it is still a step up from Manuka Oval. Same goes for the food – short queues, good quality, great prices – again, unlike Manuka.


What surprised me was that we had a full complement to lift the banner – a far cry from the days in 2014 where topup Suns members were needed in the Gold Coast game we went to. It was a first for my son, who doesn’t like football all that much, but was helpful in moving the banner around.  We also made a fair amount of noise in our section behind the goals in the Northern Terrace – though there was the crazy upside world situation a couple of times where I was leading the chant for the Giants, Michael Shillito style.  For someone who doesn’t chant all that much at home games, it was very strange.


The game itself was pretty intense, and we had to grip to the sides of our rollercoaster for the four quarters.  The Giants have not been able to dominate or even have consistency through a whole game for some time.  They threatened to in the first quarter – gaining a lot of possessions and inside 50s, but then Hawthorn came back and started to threaten to run away, only for the Giants to halt the momentum.  It was going to be yet another one of those games.


The Hawks, when they were allowed to be, were a very organised side – their uncontested possession game can be very precise and well drilled.  Today, though, they added contested possession superiority and good clearance work to their repertoire. It was a continually tough ask for the Giants to break away and score with Tom Mitchell and others.


It seemed that this ask was all too much for them in the third quarter, which ranked for me as one of their worst all year.  Turnovers, bad kicks, allowing the Hawks to dominate across all areas – it was painful. Not quite 2013 painful, but getting there. It was fortunate for them that the Hawks were woeful in front of goals, keeping them in the game. The only thing keeping us in the game was the magnificent kicking of Jono Patton.



Yet again we were to be shown some fireworks from the Giants in a fourth quarter comeback, where this time goals from Kelly, Ward, Scully and two from Patton were all helping to roll the momentum back towards the visitors. It was a bit too good to be true for us behind the goals, though. We were expecting a momentum shift, and it came towards the end.  That the Hawks were kicking towards our end meant that we were in the middle of the raucous atmosphere when that inevitable Hawks comeback occurred with Breust and Langford scoring two heart stopping goals. The bounce of the Langford kick summed up the spirit of the game, bouncing over Shaw’s head to bring on the tied score.


The roar in the Northern Terrace was intense at this point, but ramped up more with the frantic last minute, where another Langford kick was propelling the ball towards the goal. It was amongst the cheering and shouting that I heard a siren – finally, the siren! – sound just before the ball got to the desperately flapping hands of the Hawks and was batted through the goals – this action acknowledged by the goal umpire.   The Hawks supporters surrounding us, though, either didn’t hear the siren, or pretended not to, shouting in anger and confusion when the point was not registered. We Giants’ supporters, though, were relieved – another draw! After the calamity that was the third quarter, I was personally happy to walk away with some points.




After the game, I went to a performance of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in the Albert Hall. It was all happening in the city of Launceston that day. The crowd, however, couldn’t have been more different. Almost everyone was grey haired and venerable.  The stalwart who sat next to me – Jacqueline – had spent all her Launceston life doing work in and around the arts community and upon hearing why I was in town, spoke of how it would be marvellous if as much money was spent on the arts as is spent on sport.


As nice as it was to be in this environment of grey, at interval I nipped down to the Commercial Hotel for a quick Boag’s XXX Ale, which turned out to be a great beer.  I could not have designed a more different atmosphere, however, with there being loud argument over whether Tim Membrey deserved a suspension for his elbow in the Saints – Richmond game. Some were saying “nah, that’s nothing. They are all weak these days, that’s just part of the game”. I turned to the bloke next to me and said “that’ll be 3 down to 2”. He nodded, I finished my 10 ounce glass and slipped back to the concert.


Later, walking away from what was a stunning performance of works by Handel – including the Music for the Royal Fireworks – I overheard a fellow patron motion to the loud noises coming from the Commercial and then comment on the extra people in town for the football, saying it would be incongruous if such people were also at the concert.  At this, I turned and said with a smile “that would be me” and I added “and what a lovely day it has turned out to be.”  We then had a chat about how great the concert was.  Sure, the Giants didn’t win and they need to play better if they want to be a genuine chance at winning the flag, but it still was a great day for football and a great time to be visiting Tasmania.


About Mark O'Sullivan

A teacher, musician and GWS Giants Foundation Member


  1. kath presdee says

    One day we went to see “The Hollow Crown” matinee performance at the Theatre Royal (Sir Derek Jacobi, Ian Richardson, Dame Diana Rigg and another knight of the realm whose name I cannot remember) and then headed to Sydney v Geelong at the SCG.

    Brilliant day.

    Whoever says arts and sport can mix has no idea.

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