Round 6 – GWS v Hawthorn: Why losing should hurt

Hawthorn losing to Western Sydney was like a slap in the face. It hurt, but not really, not in a physical sense; but certainly in a sense of discomfort and disappointment. Now, the day after, the pain has mostly subsided and while the memory is still disagreeable life will go on for me and mine in fairly good order. Granted, this is not the same for all. Some people think that losing really needs to hurt in some kind of deep psychological way; then you’ll be more successful in life because you’ll detest losing and always be a winner; perhaps you might slice better bread? I think the kind of hurt that footy brings is a transient state of affairs; in a while the lousiness ebbs away. You feel it because you’re meant to it means you’re ok. Real and severe emotional hurt is a whole different ball game. It needs to be avoided.

You get over your footy team’s embarrassingly inept displays, the pain is short-lived and you have the next game to look forward to as some kind of salve. Pain comes and goes and hurting is what you do because you love your team and they’ve let you down. This is normal and is as it should be. Which is very different to a lover who betrays, the devastating death of someone close; not to mention when you do something to harm those close to you. Those kinds of things don’t just hurt; they destroy and tear at your very essence of being. To survive you need to feel nothing; numbness is akin to a state of shock, it’s a last chance at survival by your inner core.

Yesterday I was full of hope and expectations re: GWS v Hawthorn. The billy lids and I went through a regular Saturday routine, the Lil’ Fella launched himself into Auskick and his older sister danced like a “Sugar Plum” fairy. We then lunched, went for a bike ride around Princes Park and booted the footy around. Arriving back home in time to take the short walk to the Lomond Hotel, we would watch the game on their tele. It was, as C.J Dennis would’ve termed it, a “dilly silly” day.

Then things started to go wrong; the unexpected was intruding upon our ideal and wouldn’t leave us in peace. The first thing was GWS were playing great footy in the first quarter. Devon Smith kicked two very fine and clever goals and while Hawthorn was fair, it couldn’t dominate for any length of time. If you were a neutral, or even worse, anti-Hawthorn you would’ve thought it a great game to watch; it was a close, fast and a really absorbing contest. GWS could not be quelled. They kept coming and coming again. It was tough to watch.

Sometime during the second quarter, two old acquaintances plonked themselves next to us and began some good-natured stirring. “Hawthorn look a tad old, they’re a bit slow.” Georgia teased.

“You needed the umpires to help you in Tassie!” Ron being dyed in the wool Footscray.

But it was gentle stuff and we drifted off into talk in various guises and we’re soon joined by some more of the “extended community”. By then it was half time, the scores were uncomfortably close and GWS had a sense of self-belief.

Then the next thing; some bastard behind the bar switched channels to another game. Somewhat perplexed I ambled up to the bar and enquired what happened to our game?

“We’ve only got one deck. We need to balance what everyone wants. Some others want to watch this game,” said the barman pointing up to the game now on the tele, Gold Coast v bloody Adelaide. The bar bloke didn’t look me in the eye. He kept busy and kept moving.

“How long?” I wanted to know. “There is a bunch of us watching the Hawthorn game,” I implored, pointing to those in the front bar who were now watching me, rather than the tele.

“It just depends on getting a balance. They want the other game.” The barman gestured towards the back bar but to no one in particular.

I sat down and waited for some “balance” to make its way into the front bar, but it didn’t. So I journeyed back to the bar to make further enquiries. The barman didn’t want to discuss it and he wouldn’t be moved. He continued to mutter about “balance” but he also slid well away from the palpable pissed offedness that was coming from my side of the bar. I strode back to our table and told the billy lids to finish their soft drinks and that they were having omelettes at home rather than “pub grub” for tea. We bid our adieus and headed home to listen to the wireless. I was seething!

Back home, the mighty Mayblooms seemed to have the ball often enough but things weren’t right. Cameron marked and kicked like a seasoned veteran and Hawthorn’s last few shots at goal were a reminder of the 2012 Grand Final. To make it worse the bloody “Grandstand” team were clearly obsequious (thanks for that one Slamming Sam) barrackers of AFL expansionism and I was feeling shittier by the minute. In an attempt to role model something, not sure what, to the Lil’ Fella I left the radio on until the bitter end. All the while my kitchen knife was slashing at assorted vegetables and omelette fillers; more like a Samurai sword than a kitchen utensil. I felt lousy. I was in a state of physical and psychological discomfort.

Or as Ginger Mick would put it,

“I’m crook, me name is Mud; I’ve done me dash;

Me flamin’ spirit’s got the flamin’ ‘ump!

I’m longin’ to let loose on somethin’ rash …”

But then, perhaps continuing to role model to the Lil’ Fella or whatever, I began the process of putting it all in perspective. I let it go. I wasn’t going to begrudge GWS a win. There was no sense fuming any more. The bastard at the Lomond? Well that is another matter!

Losing hurts because it’s like a nick when shaving; it’s undesirable, irritating and can be a bit bloody depressing but it shouldn’t be life-changing. The pain you feel is really disappointment but it means you’re alive and functioning on a normal plane. So losing to the likes of Western Sydney was rotten but I’m alive and kicking. Not so my youngest brother Colin, he died in tragic circumstances two days before Christmas in 2012. His death finished off such an awful terrible year that the term “annus horribilis” must have been invented just to sum up years like that.

It began with my relationship of fifteen years ending and the resulting sale of the family home and division of parental labour. For months I assumed a foetal position in some doss house in Reservoir. Looking back now, 2012 is a complete blur; I remember very little of it except the most awful bits which act like dark signposts. In a sense I was on auto-pilot but the loss to Sydney in the Grand Final stands out because of the hurt it generated and the resulting reveling in “schadenfreude” by a few really rubbed my emotions raw. This memory remains vivid. Yet I got over it, the feelings subsided and I turned my thoughts to trout, the Spring Carnival and cricket. Sport is a great healing balm for other sporting wounds.

Then I lost my license and I began to hate myself. I didn’t twig to it then, but what I was doing was just driving around, as a way of keeping busy, clocking up ks and speeding fines until the inevitable happened. With the death of my brother I was really busted up and withdrew into myself. I remember very little except I managed to go work and I kept on being a dad, although I couldn’t attest to the quality of the parenting.

It was during this wretched year, that a caring friend from Canberra sent me the link to the Footy Almanac. She thought it might take my mind of things and it did a bit. It was through the Almanac that I met John Harms, although I’d heard his voice on the likes of 3RRR before. He’s a fine and amiable fellow and a lover of literary things and as a History and English teacher I like those things too. John invited me to write about Fitzroy but as I told him “I’m no analyst”. That’s because I barrack too much and get hurt too easily to write a decent match report.

Yet here I am writing something, some stuff, which is meant to be about GWS knocking over the ol’ “Mustardpots”, but that event, as distressing as it was, is well and truly over. The hurt was short lived and is now gone. The other matters are still there, but they’re like the dead branch on a tree. A lifeless mass that no longer causes serious pain but a tad cumbersome to have around. A bit like McEvoy, Ceglar and Schoenmakers on Saturday I reckon.


  1. E.regnans says

    G’day Steve,
    That’s very well played.
    I’m in no doubt that it takes a lot to get back up, when things are low.
    And you’ve done it. And now you’ve shared it as well.

    Hats off.

    As for the “I’m no analyst” – you seem to be a story-teller (and that’s a better thing to be).

  2. Neil Anderson says

    That double-edged sword of finding something great like the Almanac to take your mind off other problems by writing about the Hawks. Then the Hawks lose unexpectedly which just adds to your woes.
    Before I finished reading your entire article, it was starting to sound like a litany of first-world problems. I’m glad I read on to realize you really have been through the wringer.
    My first response was going to be the pain you felt when the Hawks lost was like a brief twinge compared to the dull, throbbing ache Bulldog supporters have endured for the last 61 years.
    I’m glad you found the Almanac. It’s not a total panacea but it’s great to be connected with so many like-minded people around the globe. ” I dips me lid.”

  3. Rick Kane says

    Thank you for sharing your pain Mr Hodder, I think the Hawks needed that kick in the bum and hopefully it works. Back, bigger, stronger and …, well, let’s just get past the Dees first. Cheers

  4. Grant Fraser says

    No more Hawks porn for us – now Hawks forlorn

  5. Paul Campbell says

    Terrific, thought provoking piece Steve. Football (/sport) may be at the margins, but there’s confluence with the centre pieces. A cheerful jig or plod into the office Monday, as it was to school. Restorative wins and disruptive losses shrugged off with humour, perspective and because we are chained to them. Cheers.

  6. Grand at many levels. Thanks Steve. We have many experiences in common, including the Almanac community being an important element in reconnecting with the important things in life. You are a quick learner. Took me a decade to work out what you have done in three.
    Good to share. As a friend used to say “everyone’s pretty normal until you get to know them better.”

  7. Steve Hodder says

    muchus gracias for the comments and the goodwill. I appreciate it all.
    Life goes on and Hawthorn are going to have to work hard to just to make the top four; let alone cruise into their fourth straight GF.
    Perhaps no more “Hawk porn” but the season will still be an interesting one and that is “grist” for life’s mill.


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