AFL Round 2 – Essendon v Hawthorn: Pipped

On 10 April 1995 my Bombers-loving father passed away, having fought a then relatively unknown disease, hemochromatosis, for ten years before it finally brought him down through cancer. Dad lay in a coma for a week before his final moments. The family gathered every day at Royal Perth Hospital and kept vigil, led by Mum, the very definition of Matriarch. We were consoled as we made our way through the labyrinth of Royal Perth by red and black lines on the floor that directed visitors to the Intensive Care ward. This is where my father lay, barely breathing, assisted by many more gadgets, contraptions and the machine that goes ‘ping’ than a person in recovery could need. He didn’t recover.

Dad loved footy. He was a very handy on-baller in the 50s and early 60s, playing for Drouin, Leongatha and a couple of other West Gippsland sides. I think he had a stint at Garfield. He travelled down to try out with South Melbourne. The story goes that at a Club function, early in the pre-season, one of the club officials made a blatant swipe at Catholics. Dad didn’t return to the club.

He barracked for Essendon but he was never one-eyed about them or any team. Late in his life he had a falling out with the only team he really endorsed strongly, the Catholics. More precisely, the local Catholic Church. I think Dad liked skill, endeavour, team-work and the camaraderie of pitching in and building something together. It was an ethos borne from his childhood on farms, starting in Box Hill and then out into Drouin, where he worked the saw-mills, drove a cement truck. When we moved to Perth he started a roofing business. At its height it employed 50 men. This was Dad’s love, the build.

He nurtured four sons through the burgeoning love and understanding of Australian Rules. One brother was a local star (barracked for Carlton until West Coast came about). I trained with Swan Districts Colts (barracking for the Hawks). Another brother went into racing and still has skin in that game (huge Tigers fan until he switched allegiance to West Coast – I reckon he still has a soft spot for the Tiges). The fourth brother loved footy (barracked for the Saints) but never developed an interest in playing. One of my sisters (Blues through and through) played footy in the 90s, before women’s footy even suggested how big it was going to become. She was a pioneer.

Dad had an eye for detail. He was not necessarily the best teacher so his barked demands for how we held the ball, how we paced our runs, how we kept our vision and most importantly, how to read and anticipate the play. When we came home from training to show Dad what we had been taught by experts he just grinned and shook his head. Years later the penny dropped. These were all the things he had taught us.

“With a warm hand on my shoulder he taught me how to kick and mark
But the dearest truth he taught me was the depth of love that’s in a laugh”.

This weekend marked the twentieth anniversary of my father’s passing. He died too young at 59. I posted a song on Facebook for my brothers and sisters, to honour and remember him. The song was ‘I Walk the Line’ by Johnny Cash. One line in particular exemplifies my Dad. It goes: “For you, I know I’d even try to turn the tide.”

On Sunday the Hawks met the Bombers. I couldn’t get to the game as I was celebrating Greek Easter with my wife’s family. Greek Easter Sunday lunch is a big deal. The greeting, Christos anesti (Christ is risen) is the powerful call of the Greek Orthodox strand of Christianity. Western Christianity celebrates the birth of Christ, The Orthodox celebrate his rebirth. Lunch is a feast with due regard and respect for such an occasion. Spit-roasted lamb, red-dyed boiled eggs are cracked open, symbolising the opening of the tomb and Koulouria (Greek Easter biscuits) are shared. My Dad would have loved to be part of such celebration. Family, community and the maintenance of a spirit built from the blood, sweat and tears of decent people and deep meaning.

I might not have been at the game but I was there in spirit. I had Dad perched on one shoulder and an inner competitive child (which may or may not have been me, all tremulous desire for victory over the father) on the other shoulder. And a game going on in the background of an all afternoon feast.

What I did catch didn’t feel right. The Hawks were out of sorts. The Bombers took what they could from that. I had plenty of people at lunch happy to communicate the scores as the Bombers opened up the lead in the Second. My son Jackson gleefully updating me after each Bombers goal.

Then the Hawks lifted and it was game on. By midway through the Last the mighty Hawks had run over the Bombers and a 16 point lead was established. But the Bombers were not to be out-done. Not today. That red and black line that lead us to our father all those years ago, that line that Johnny Cash and my Dad walked, that line in the sand that dares one team to be more crazy-stupid than the other, the finish line.

The Bombers pipped the Hawks. One team took its chance when Hooker snapped blindly. The other didn’t. Breust held the ball a fraction too long and the final siren’s cruel blare announced the denouement.

My Dad would have berated us if we played as Breust did. Throw it on your foot, take a damn chance, this moment is the only thing you have. And with that the game was over. One team celebrates while the other analyses the hell out of what could have been.

At Dad’s funeral we played another song he loved, that spoke to him directly. The song, ‘One Day at a Time’ is a country tinged gospel reflection on time and mortality. Lines include the following, “Yesterday’s gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord help me today show me the way, one day at a time”. So it is with life as it is with footy. As Bruest or Hooker or the Bombers or the Hawks might reflect today as they celebrate and rue yesterday.

My Dad sleeps the sleep of the just and is missed greatly. He was very much missed on Sunday afternoon, even though he had the last laugh.

 

About Rick Kane

Up in the mornin', out on the job Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do But roll around Heaven all day

Comments

  1. Dave Brown says

    Brilliant, Rick, just brilliant!

  2. Beautiful. It reminded me that footy should only ever sit within a larger, personal context.

    Thanks Rick.

  3. Peter Zitterschlager says

    Beautiful, Rick. Very touching.

  4. Great generosity of spirit. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
    I see you are a Swan Districts man, and therefore not totally beyond redemption.
    Regards.

  5. Well shared, Trucker Slim.
    Hats off.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bewdy Rick

  7. “take a damn chance, this moment is the only thing you have” – I hope I remember that when it counts.
    Pieces like this on the Almanac – memories of fathers and mothers so clear you could imagine being there – have always been my favourites. Best wishes, Rick.

  8. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Rick,
    That was one of the most touching stories I’ve read. Dad and Johnny Cash would be proud. There is indeed love in laughter. We need more of it across the board.
    ‘Xristos Anesti’ to you and the family.

  9. Greetings from Drouin , Rick.
    Things are looking up here. We won the opening round, having won just one game in the previous two seasons. Go you Hawks.
    Now to business; I write a radio serial about the Gippsland town of Bulnbaw , and the footy club , the wonderful drug free Black Ducks, champions of fair play.
    Your Dad’s saying…. the moment is all you have… Would you mind if the coach used it at half time? . If you have reservations I invite you to google 3BBR fm Special Arrangements. See if it’s the sort of serial your dad’s words should be in.
    Cheers, Bill Frew

  10. Loved it Rick. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Danny Russell says

    I’d managed somehow, for reasons I cannot explain, to drift away from The Footy Almanac. This piece just brought me back.

    Thanks Rick.

  12. Fantastic read. I would imagine that the man sleeping the sleep of the just would be mighty proud of your tribute.

  13. Beautifully written Rick, well done

  14. Rick Kane says

    Thank you one and all for your very kind words. The 20th anniversary was just a little bit tougher than others. Writing this piece helped.

    Bill, of course you can use the phrase, and I’ll check out the serial, go the BDs!

  15. Monica Kane says

    You captured my memories here beautifully big brother. Footy might not be ‘my thing’ but the sense and heart of what it meant to Dad, to all of us, is honoured in this piece.

    Thanks buddy…

  16. Glenn Butcher says

    Great piece. My Dad loved One Day at a Time also, the Hawking Brothers version.

  17. superb storytelling, my friend.

  18. Keiran Croker says

    Thanks Rick. Beautifully written and a lovely tribute to your Dad.

  19. What a great story Rick!
    Good stuff mate.

  20. Great stuff Rick. I think it was the Bombers taking their damn chance in the second quarter flying for marks with little thought of what would happen if they didn’t mark it and running their hearts out whenever they could with the ball or ahead of it.

    Reminded me of when North Melbourne blew us open for 15 minutes last year and we could do little abot it. It is nice theatre that the last rolls of the dice determine the game, but the game is bigger than the final moments.

    Footy used to be about one week at a time, but more and more it feels it is becoming a day a time.

  21. Peter Fuller says

    Lovely piece of work, Rick. you’ve done your old man proud. He certainly seems to have lived intensively for his abbreviated time. As the Good Book says “By their fruits shall ye know them.” There seems little doubt that his quality offspring demonstrate the truth of that principle.

  22. R Kane

    So much in this piece.

    Best just to say thanks.

    JTH

  23. Another story that has touched so many.Well done mate and go the dons

  24. Vron Clarke says

    Wow Rick! Your way with words…..your ability to engage the reader in your story is so very powerful…..our Dad would be proud….love you mate, you have bought such special memories to life for me thanks my brother x

  25. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Heartfelt beautiful article thanks Rick

  26. The People's Elbow says

    Wonderful, Rick

  27. Superb RK. Really enjoyed the read. Your father’s generation was different to today’s. They had a practicality that seems to be missing today. The “get on with it” attitude. They showed their love differently too. Not with any less depth, but differently. Thanks.

  28. Paul Campbell says

    Uplifting and inspiring, Rick. Brimming with what really matters and what to appreciate.
    And go the Hawks.

  29. Superb

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