Round 7 – Hawthorn v Melbourne: Hawklings’ MCG Debut a Dee-Light

At the release of the AFL fixture, the family highlighted the Hawthorn-Melbourne game on Saturday afternoon at the `G’ to be the debut live game for our two young boys.

Our driving force was an anticipated lower than average crowd compared to other rivals of the brown and gold to enable the handling of any issues taking a two-year-old and nine-month-old to the sacred home of Australian sport.

Already the boys had something in common with their father about their debut AFL game (VFL for the father) – their favourite player wearing the number 3 won’t be playing due to suspension. I was hopeful they may have the same luck as I did back in 1985 when travelling from Wodonga to the `G’ to watch my beloved Hawks live – the suspended Leigh Matthews was seated four rows behind us and I got his autograph.

Our earlytimed early arrival was meant to coincide with the boys napping in the car and even the additional time circling the `G’ to find an open car park didn’t lead to dreamtime before we get to the `G’. We secured a park just a stab pass from Gate 3 for easy exit if a toddler tantrum erupts.

Still 3 hours until start time though, the family opted to stroll around the precinct with parental hope the roll might encourage sleep. No success. In the end we settle on the concrete wall overlooking the kids’ playzone to enjoy lunch and undertake the quiz in the footy record – a must have souvenir from their first game.

Through an initiative of the AFL Umpires Association, individuals with Down syndrome and their families participate in the Fiona McBurney Match Day Experience. This is where the participant gets to be an assistant with the Umpire Trainers including being on the ground. Fellow Almanacker Dips O’Donnell will no doubt share his experience in detail later in the season.

For my family though, the welcoming that the umpire fraternity gave us and the Round 7 participant was first class. Their enthusiasm and method of embracement stops you questioning their decision making towards your team – alright maybe not stops, but quells the previous levels of frustration.

A jacket hid the brown and gold allegiance, but I did contemplate how I would be able to slip a couple of pineapples in the necessary lockers if the contest gets tight.

Out of the umpire rooms, we joined the participating family and AFLUA chaperone Adrian on Level 2 in the AFL Reserve for the first half. Subtly Adrian was encouraging Melbourne, but after a brief spook for Hawks fans, the match settled into the expected chasm – a skilled slick outfit punishing an error-riddled outfit. From our privileged position, it was awesome to witness in the flesh the full field work done by the brown and gold unit.

If Chris Dawes thought the Hawks were gettable, it is worrying to think what minimal impact he would have if the Hawks were full strength.  Sam Mitchell was sublime – he seems to have an extra second compared to everyone else. The pace of Hill, Hartung and Cyril ensured the Demons were left hot and bothered. Not that our boys will remember much of the first half. Despite the initial jump at the sound of the siren, the Hawklings slept through most of the first half. Car and pram rides equal no sleep; noisy MCG Saturday afternoon crowd – sweet dreams.

They were awake to see Hawthorn royalty sit two rows in front though – four-time premiership defender Chris Langford, or better known to the younger generation as father of premiership player Wil Langford. But they did miss the Jarryd Roughead marking master class – a sublime one-hander exhibiting his basketball background.

By halftime it was good night for numerous Melbourne supporters too. Fellow Hawk member Zorba had exited a birthday party with his first born to enjoy their first game together too. As he arrived at half-time, the exodus of people wearing red and blue was evident.

After a restless half-time, the family opted to settle on Level 1 in the disabled section of M22. The eldest was more engaged in the game being a bit closer, but crowd watching appeared to be his preference. We even missed the Cyril tunnel ball trick. Thank modern technology for highlight access. The youngest now had front row of the pram and a mini-Hawk flag – he was set until poor hand-eye co-ordination led to a self-inflicted whack into the side of the head. A siren of a different kind rang out then.

Eight goals of bliss the eldest and I shared standing at the scoring end. At home watching TV, the eldest will clap Hawk goals (actually he claps all goals). At the ground, the reaction of others was excitement enough. For the final term the eldest & I joined Zorba in the Hawthorn members. Respect to the greencoat who didn’t check tickets, adding evidence to the theory that as long as you act like you can enter somewhere, majority of the time the gatekeepers will accept you’re allowed to be there.

The open air seating provided the eldest with another audio experience of a game of football. And by siren time, together we sang the theme song in victory. Upon leaving the ground, the wife navigated the exiting crowd with ease thanks to a loud talking machine blaring excitable noises from the pole position in the double pram. The youngest let everyone know he was happy with the result of his first game.

We were happy the boys went the distance, with the eldest sharing his joy from the car bonnet as some of the exiting crowd walked past. Smiles all round.

One to remember for Dad – and one the boys won’t be allowed to forget.

About Bradley Thomas

Tried every sport, excelled at none. Enjoyed being a participant though. Among the passions are Hawthorn, thoroughbred racing, border collie Barney and of course, my wife and two sons. Love the joy of cheering a Hawthorn goal, landing a Running Double and deflating a batman's ego with slow swing bowling.


  1. Sweet read Bradley.

    I remember taking my now 15 year old Hawk-mad son to games in about 2005/6, looking for a Sat arvo game against an interstate side so there were limited crowds and easy parking. I remember him spread out on the seats in the MCC asleep in the second half. How times have changed.

    Glad your two kicked off their support with a win. Hope you as a family enjoy many more game day experiences

    Thanks for sharing what the AFL is doing on the quiet and what goes on that we don’t notice, good stuff


  2. Brad, glad you enjoyed the experience.

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