Round 2 – Hawthorn v Adelaide: And footy won the day

 

Every Australian kid has spent many a Saturday morning kicking the frost off the grass at their local Auskick session, for the most part accompanied by a frozen parent either huddled in a jacket on a wing or chucking tiny rubber balls at a horde of excitable footballers.

 

At Auskick, you were named for the colours on your jumper, or the number printed oh-so-carefully on the back. We were Richo, or Buddy, or Cyril or Gazza as we charged for the pigskin, gathering it and of course slotting a beauty, capped off with an extravagant and ridiculous celebration.

 

I loved Auskick, the scent of mown grass and the sausage sizzle, running the warm-up half-lap, markers-up before and after the session and the specky bag, complete with the poor old dad who had to hold that thing up spent every Saturday only to receive a knee right where you don’t want to get one.

 

My years as an Auskicker were great ones, which culminated in a little league game on Etihad Stadium. Running around in an oversized jersey with socks reaching past my knees, I spent more time practicing celebrations than getting the footy but still managed a snag, followed naturally by a lap of honour. That day was pure magic, running out onto the ground, high-fiving the crowd and heading home with an unbreakable smile on my face.

 

This year, I get to live that dream again.

 

As part of the AFL Auskick Rules Umpiring Squad, I have the opportunity to umpire the very same little league games I played in six years ago.

 

So, last Saturday, I walked into the MCG, decked out in fluro green and grey, as nervous for a game of footy as I’ve ever been as I take a seat on the fence. Out on the turf, Hawthorn are outplaying Adelaide, although they look sluggish and can’t seem to really dominate the Crows.

 

I care nothing about that, and neither do the kids. As we head down the stairs at quarter time, their chatter is bubbly, their smiles mile-wide.

 

I do my umpire’s address in an MCG changeroom, noting rules as calmly as possible and failing miserably to keep a lid on my excitement.

 

Five minutes till the half. 30 animated Auskickers and one terrified umpire make their way up the race, waiting on the cusp of the ‘G’ itself.

 

Squelching mouthguards and the drumming of footy boots. There’s about two minutes left.

 

I can remember this moment years ago from the other side of town at Etihad, wearing a black jumper and shorts, ready to channel my inner Richo and kick a bag.

 

And then the siren goes, the Auskick clip starts on the big screen and we’re out there. Straight to the middle of the ground.

 

I get a good look at the MCG from the centre square. It’s easy to forget the hugeness of the stadium, how awesome it is. Standing in the middle of the oval, sound comes from every square inch of the stands, which even at half-time is enough to shock the system.

 

I can only imagine what a Boxing Day Test or a Grand Final would feel like. The thought alone makes me shiver.

 

And then a bell rings and, instinctively, I blow the whistle.

 

“Who’s your ruckman? You two? OK, good luck guys. Eyes up!”

 

The game is a blur of sound and colour. A young fella wearing Rory Atkins’ number takes off down the wing a few times, a little girl in an Adelaide jersey palms off an opponent and a little fella wearing brown and gold #2 takes a few huge grabs.

 

It’s almost over before it begins. Coming off the ground as the players come on is another experience within itself. The Adelaide boys look hard, focused, a sign of the rest of the game I suppose.

 

Back up to the fence then, to the rest of the big boys footy. I almost forget myself when Paul Puopolo is gifted a free in the third, jumping to my feet before realizing the uniform I’m in.

 

It’s Adelaide who dig deep and win the day, but there’s worrying signs for the Hawks. They look slow and tired from the get-go, and when ex-Tiger Ty Vickey boots his first goal as a Hawthorn player and turns around expecting congratulations, not one Hawk gets to him. Richmond’s Ben Lennon was engulfed the other night after booting his first goal after only spending a little time out of the side, so why can’t a team celebrate the first goal for a new player? It makes very little sense for me, even though the Hawks were down by a few goals at the time.

 

It’s also a surprise to see half the stadium file out of the ground as the Hawks go down by three goals, with fifteen minutes still to play. These are supporters of a three-time Premiership team, with games they’ve lost few and far between.

 

The Adelaide bloke I pass on the way to the loo is pretty happy though.

 

Na na, na na na na, he-ey, goodbye.”

 

Hawthorn lose by four goals and look poor. Footy is the real winner today.

 

ADELAIDE 2.2 5.8 11.14 16.17 (113)
HAWTHORN
 6.2 8.3 11.10 13.11 (89)

 

GOALS
Hawthorn: 
Breust 4, Puopolo 3, Roughead 2, Mitchell, Shiels, Vickery, Rioli
Adelaide: Betts 3, Mackay 3, Walker 2, Lynch, Jacobs, Cameron, Atkins, McGovern, Otten, Sloane, Brown

BEST 
Hawthorn:
 Mitchell, O’Meara, Puopolo, Gunston, Burgoyne
Adelaide: Jacobs, Sloane, Smith, Mackay, Crouch, Betts, Talia

 

VOTES

Mackay (Adel) 1, Jacobs (Adel) 2 , Sloane (Adel) 3.

About Paddy Grindlay

Paddy enjoys a good souvlaki and trying to kick droppies from the wrong pocket.

Comments

  1. Dave Brown says

    Well played Paddy. Love the mental image of you reacting to the worst decision in history until you remember what you’re wearing. The magic’s gone at Hawthorn isn’t it? The same time in the same game last year they were behind by the same amount but the fans stuck around because they believed they would win and they did.

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