VFLW – Geelong Cats v Box Hill Hawks: Kardinia Park Conundrum

The Hawks enter the arena


There is a great disturbance in the force.


I have been on the inside since I was a kid. On the inside looking out at all the others who had decided not to wear the hoops (poor misguided souls). This jumper is so magnificently different to the masses; not just another sash or dowdy stripes or tri-colour concoction. On my jumper the design runs horizontally, representing the sea and the sky, which in turn represents vision and inspiration and grandeur. This jumper leaps away from the norm and the unimaginative and the bland. It is beauty.


And my children understand this. They all wear the jumper. They grasp its meaning. Their connection to it forms part of their persona. They don’t simply support the Cats, they belong to the Cats, like a spoke belongs to a wheel.


Perhaps I am marginally overstating things.


I am standing on the glorious terraces of Kardinia Park. The autumnal glow of the sun gently warms my back. I feel like an imposter. This is my football home but today I am here to follow another. Note I did not say barrack for or support, but to follow. And the other wears a striped guernsey. It is the colour of Orc blood, of grime and yellowing decay. It is Hawthorn.


Will the footy Gods punish me for this crime I now commit; the crime being that, for once in my life, I am not calling the Cats home with every fibre of my being? I have one of my own who will be striving to defeat the hooped ones. And, there is no denying it, I will be yelling her encouragement. I will be willing her on to help conquer the Cats. Is this how a traitor feels when he plots the downfall of his country? I am drunk with uncertainty. I know the pull of family, the connection to a child, will far out-weigh loyalty to a football club. This is just logical. It will always be so. But logic doesn’t help. Conflict, inner turmoil, persists.


My daughter Clare is pulling on the guernsey of the Box Hill Football Club, the Box Hill Hawks, as they launch into their inaugural VFLW season with a brand new team. At the jumper presentation evening a few nights earlier, I noted a banner across the wall that said “Welcome to the Box Hill Hawks. Welcome to the family”. But I felt strangely ostracised. They knew I was not one of theirs. They could see it in my eyes. I was like a cuckoo bird, laying down my footy loyalties in the nest of another species. And a party pie I ate burned the top of my mouth. Yes, they knew alright.


But here I stand, just around from the Gary Ablett terrace, arms folded against the coolness, waiting; waiting for the game to begin, waiting to be turned upside down. Other parents here to watch their daughters play are huddled in a Hawk group. We huddle with them. Have the seeds of a new family been sown?

Football is a tough game. The Hawks endeavour cannot be questioned but the Cats skill shines against a greying sky. I write a few numbers down of the players catching my eye; 14, 4, 15, 7. They are fit and well drilled. The Cats get a few cheap goals over the back of the Hawks’ defence. They look sharp. Confidence brings confidence.


Clare gets swung off the flank and into the midfield. Towards the end of the quarter the ball is running along the Moorabool Street wing, Clare is charging at it from one direction and Elise Coventry for Geelong from the other. We can see what’s coming. The players can too.


“This is not local footy anymore” the Hawks coach has been telling the girls all week, “this is real footy.”


It’s very real. So real that a parent can hardly watch. The girls crunch together with the same force as opposing moral convictions. We can hear the brutal slapping together of shoulders and jaws and arms and legs. The parents’ group lets out a collective “oooohh”. Both girls hit the deck. Clare is testing the workings of her jaw bone, whilst Coventry looks in real strife, clutching her collar bone. They are both helped up, shaken and stirred. Both play on. Tough game this one.


Am I warming to this Box Hill guernsey? I’m fighting their battles with them, getting to know their names, riding the bumps. Tamara Luke is holding the defence together. She has enormous presence. Melissa Kuys is prominent, and Sarah Yule, a towering ex-netballer, has slotted in beautifully to this new game with the weird shaped ball. But they cannot contain the Cats’ spread and run. The gap widens as the contest grows old. The Hawks are not helped by the murder of umpires which is obviously officiating a different game to the one I’m watching. In the last quarter, as if from the mists of the past, number 5 for Geelong kicks a superb left foot goal from the boundary line.


As the Cats superiority reveals itself I find myself more and more invested in the struggles of the Hawks. From adversity, it is said, may come solidarity. Perhaps it is so. The Hawks will not win, cannot win, but I’m emotionally devoted to the cause. The defensive pressure that Geelong is applying is impressive. I write more numbers down; 5, 40, 31, 3. It has become overwhelming. The Hawk players are in the trenches of senior footy and the attacks from the opponent are relentless.


The final siren rings out. The girls from Corio Bay are jubilant. This is a big deal for them. Their home crowd swarms onto the oval as the players from Box Hill make the long trudge off. It starts to rain. The pale blue sky turns grey, the waters of Corio Bay chop up angrily. The traitor departs.



Geelong 3.0,  5.2,  7.3,  9.4.58

Hawks    0.1, 0.1,  0.2,   0.2.2



Geelong:  Mithen, Blakeway, Janssen, Woollett, Ivey, Teague, Mangan.

Hawks:   Luke, Yule, Kuys, Perera.

About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. Tony Robb says

    I know the feeling Dips having coached my daughter for seven years playing for the Belco magpies. At least you didn’t have to sing the Hawthorn song

  2. She’s got some ticker, your Clare. Great to see her making her way in footy.

  3. Peter_B says

    Nice one Dips. I sat in the stands on Saturday arvo barracking for Swan Districts (Collingwood jumper – yuk) with my nephew playing his first league game of the season. They got thumped by Subiaco.
    Tranny in the ear listening to the Eagles and Port. Adjourned to the bar at 3/4 time to watch the Eagles get home. Very disconcerting hearing the umpire’s whistle from the ground while watching the TV game. “You gotta be joking ump…… ok wrong game”.
    Time makes a traitor of all of us. Go Clare (and Brandon).

  4. “Perhaps I am marginally overstating things”.
    You applied that handbrake just at the right time, old mate!!

    For me, the most confronting aspect of the recent AFLW comp was how hard the players went at it.
    Best wishes to Clare and her teammates.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Brilliant Dips. Great tale. Of all the colours a Cats fan could end up in it had to be those of the Hawks!

    Well done Clare. Huge effort to make it to this level.

Leave a Comment