Round 18 – Hawthorn v Richmond: Saluting a Legend

Saluting a Legend

 

Sam Mitchell epitomises the Hawthorn tradition of doing it ‘The Hard Way’, just as Harry Gordon had encapsulated the Hawks’ spirit in their 1990 history book. He was overlooked in the 2000 draft despite having won the Eastern Ranges B&F twice. At the time it was considered important to be an athlete first and then a footballer as all clubs were trying to find clones for man of the moment, Carlton’s Anthony Koutoufides.

 

Sam made his way down to Box Hill where he managed to get onto the training squad and eventually onto their final list although his issued guernsey No.58 suggested that he was expected to be in their Reserves primarily. By season’s end he was to be amongst Box Hill’s best in their upset Grand Final win over Werribee. Hawthorn took a punt on the little blonde possession accumulator and called out his name at pick 36 in the 2001 Draft.

 

In 2002 he spent time between Hawthorn and Box Hill, winning the Liston Trophy with 31 votes from just 11 games (10 x BOG and one 3rd). 2003 he won the NAB Rising Star Award. In 2004 he was issued Peter Crimmins’ No.5 guernsey and ‘the extractor’ kept accumulating accolades like possessions. He went on to captain the 2008 flag side and play in 4 premierships, win 4 B&F awards, 3 x All Australian, twice runner up in the Brownlow. His ability to get out of tight situations and to be able to use both sides of his body is almost unique and probably the best since Bob Skilton, maybe even better.

 

Today we had the chance to honour a champion as Sam played his 300th game for the brown and gold.

 

The day had a bit of tradition added to it when Box Hill and Richmond played the curtain raiser at Punt Road Oval. Box Hill had actually sold their home game, the first time I have heard of this happening at VFL level. The scene was a glorious winter’s day with the Punt Road Oval bathed in sunshine but had an icy wind whistling through the bare branches of the elms lining Brunton Avenue. This was probably one of those occasions when the weather presenter says it was 10 degrees but felt like snow could fall. Box Hill got out to a 5 goal lead before capitulating in the final quarter as the Tigers kicked 8 goals to 2 to win by 16 points.

 

It was then time to wind my way a few hundred metres through Yarra Park to see the main event at the ‘G. Richmond are an enigmatic beast that haven’t seriously threatened to add silverware to their trophy cabinet since the days when comb-overs and safari suits were legitimate fashion statements, but they are able to excite their fans with individual stand out performances. Hawthorn had not beaten Richmond twice in a season since 1992 when Jason Dunstall managed to bag 29 goals in two encounters with the Tigers that year. Would the Hawks again succumb to a Richmond ambush?

 

Going past the souvenir stall a comment was overheard that they had nearly sold out of scarves and beanies. With a cloud cover coming in it was seriously getting cold and many appeared to have done their weather forecast by looking out the window rather than reading the report. If the AFL had thought of putting club logos on thermal underwear they would probably have sold out too. Certainly all the Sam Mitchell commemorative 300-game badges had sold out.

 

The game starts and Hawthorn control the match early but can’t get a score on the board with uncharacteristic misses from Breust, Gunston and Mitchell. It took a strong grab and conversion from Whitecross to post the Hawks’ first major. Whitecross is a popular player who has had extreme bad luck with knee injuries in September robbing him of having played a part in the three-peat. If the 2014 premiership was about Spangher and 2015 about Schoenmakers then if Hawthorn were fortunate enough to salute again I would love to see Whitecross get a deserved medal.

 

For the rest of the first quarter and most of the second it is a woefully scrappy display by both sides. Maybe it looked better on TV but the live version was cringeworthy with unforced errors. One of the few players doing well was Bradley Hill who seemed to be playing like a free spirit as both Clarkson and Ross Lyon had indicated a verbal deal has just about been struck to trade Hill to Freo at seasons end. The fans around me were hoping that some good performances from Hill might warrant a first round draft selection which could be on-traded in a package for Tom Mitchell or Jaeger O’Meara – or both from some optimistic supporters who seemed to have been afflicted with hypothermia by this stage.

 

The half time entertainment consisted of some dancing oranges in the crowd as a supermarket campaign to consume some of the citrus fruit was about as exciting as the football that was played in the first half. Fans were then invited to wave their scarves to the tune of Pat Benatar’s ‘All Fired Up’ but the cameras had trouble locating anyone participating with the spectators frozen, bored or too busy checking their phones for something more interesting than what was in front of them.

 

By three quarter time Hawthorn had somehow established a handy lead with some flashes of brilliance from Rioli, strong marking from Ceglar, McEvoy and Gibson but primarily because Sam Mitchell is an absolute master and was continually winning the hard ball – a stat that the club are not noted for generally – and dispatching with laser like precision to a teammate in space. Richmond were still within striking distance because Dustin Martin was doing the same for them. Mitchell and Martin were illuminating a very gloomy looking MCG with dark clouds having rolled in and the light towers having been turned on in a crisp Melbourne evening.

 

The final quarter was similar to the earlier match at Punt Road where one side got control and ran away with it. Fortunately it was Hawthorn and they piled on 9.3 (not far off the club record for a final quarter against Richmond) to add some semblance of respect to a scoreboard that had read 7.15 at three-quarter time. It wasn’t an intense game or one for the ages but with the Crows and Bulldogs both losing allowed the Hawks to move 2 games clear on top of the ladder in a season where any one of the top 8 clubs has a legitimate chance in one of the most even seasons on record.

 

Ultimately it was time to salute Sam on his magnificent milestone as he was chaired off by Lewis and Hodge and then to make our way home again and thaw out.

Comments

  1. It looked just as bad on TV. I watched most of it at x 6 at Foxtel to lessen the pain. Richmond were bad. And insipid. Hawthorn not much better, until they were.

    couplle of head duckers in the yellow and brown. coupla dozen idiots in yellow and black. infectious, any good in a “development season” being undone the last few weeks.

    But, yes, Mitchell best afield with Rioli on a big day for him. Can’t say I admire his “persona” but boy he can play!

  2. Rick Kane says:

    Hi aussie80s

    Unfortunately I didn’t get to the game. Between kids football and finding a jacket for one of my daughters I was indisposed. I did catch the first and last quaters and that was the game.

    Great write up and summary of the mighty Mitch. Loved how Hodge and Lewis carried him from the ground and how his kids were included in the circle to sing the club song. And loved his game. Rack up another 3 votes to come second or third in the Brownlow again.

    Cheers

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