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Best on Ground – Great Writers on The Greatest Game

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER – HAWTHORN

1. Matchmaking

It was like racing for the taps on an overflowing bath.

‘Ay yay yay yay yay,’ I bellowed, at a volume that surprised my wife, Tamsin, and scared our daughter, Polly. Tam thought my behaviour ridiculous, completely inappropriate from the father of a two-year-old. I thought I showed considerable restraint, given the urgency of the situation. I mean, I didn’t tackle them to the ground, did I? I just yelled a little. And jumped between them. And okay, perhaps my hands ended up over my daughter’s ears. But what was I supposed to do? The taps were running. Somebody had to turn off the taps.

What Tam had been saying – patiently, and with the best of intentions – was this: ‘Now Polly, there are a lot of footy teams you can barrack for. There are Lions and Tigers, and Cats and Dogs and Kangaroos …’ I’m not sure she got as far as ‘Kangaroos’. From half a room away, I began the shouting and hollering. Oh my God! She’s telling her about the high-end mammals! Never tell a two-year-old about the high-end mammals!

‘What? Why shouldn’t she get to choose?’ Tam asked, bewildered, after my bellowing subsided.

‘Because she doesn’t get to choose!’ I exclaimed. ‘Because on a level playing field, she’ll never choose Hawthorn. I mean what two-year-old girl in her right mind is going to choose yellow and brown and a second-rate bird of prey that never gets a mention on Play School?’

‘She might choose Hawthorn,’ Tam said. ‘If you’d let me finish, I was going to tell her that Grandpa played for the Hawks.’

I was suddenly filled with a tidal wave of regrets. Why hadn’t I insisted on the yellow and brown doona cover with the tasteful insignia? Why hadn’t I invested in the ‘I’m Small But I Know My Footy’ romper suit? The marketing people down at the club had tried to smuggle some traces of navy blue into the designs, and had I supported them? No . I’d guessed that Tamsin wouldn’t like yellow, brown and traces of navy blue any more than she liked yellow and brown straight up.

‘Which teams did you mention?’ I asked, moving into damage control.

‘I’m not sure. Lions and Tigers. Cats and Dogs perhaps.’

‘Jesus, Tam. Couldn’t you have thrown in a low-rent Crow? Or a Docker? Why couldn’t you have made it a simple choice between swooping hawks and heavily unionised singlet-wearing stevedores?’

She told me that I was being ridiculous. That choosing a football team was just that – a choice.

‘You don’t get to choose,’ I said.

‘You’re being silly. It’s just a game. Next thing you’ll be telling her what party she can vote for.’

I bit my tongue. I didn’t have a political intervention scheduled until Polly was twelve. Nor is footy ‘just a game’. This was Hawthorn Tam was talking about – my first true love – and although I may have moved on in the sense that I no longer passed time on road trips recalling A–Zs of Hawthorn players by given name and surname (A is for Alle de Wolde, B is for Bernie Jones, C is for Colin Robertson … where was Xavier Ellis when I needed him in the mid-eighties?), I still cared enough to limit my daughter’s choice of football team to a field of one.

‘Polly, you barrack for the Hawks, don’t you? Like Daddy? And Grandpa? And Granny? And Aunty Sam? And Aunty Pippa? And Uncle Ned? Hawks are fantastic big birds. Really fast. If you say you barrack for the Hawks, Daddy will go and get you a Hawks footy.’

‘I barrack for Hawks,’ Polly parroted. ‘Like Daddy.’

I stared at the floor, unsure whether I felt shame or relief. Either way, it was mission accomplished.

‘Pathetic,’ Tam muttered under her breath.

‘You don’t get to choose,’ I repeated softly.

2. The Courtship

My father got to choose.

In 1965 Ray Wilson became the first person in the history of the University Blacks Football Club to captain back-to-back B- and A-grade Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) premierships. He played well enough to attract interest from five VFL clubs, and fibbed about his permanent place of residence well enough to ensure that he was zoned to none of them.

Jack Burns, then secretary of Collingwood, tried to simplify the decision. ‘Well, there are only three clubs worth thinking about, son – Collingwood, Melbourne and Essendon. Which one is it going to be?’

The young Ray had spent his childhood barracking for North Melbourne in the Collingwood heartland of Preston. It had hardened him against any notion of ‘born to rule’ or the assumption of superiority. Dad has rejoiced in keeping a premiership count for Jack Burns’ ‘three clubs’ since that day. None in the first nineteen years. Five in forty-five years. It warms his heart that Collingwood can boast a fifth of those.

The battle for his signature (and a yet to be contemplated son’s future childhood obsession) came down to a race between three legendary football administrators. Alan Schwab pleaded the case for the ladder-topping Saints, Graeme Richmond did the sweet-talking for the brink-of-an-era Tigers and Ron Cook did the wooing for a bottom-of-the-table Hawthorn. It was like being seduced by three great Casanovas. Most memorably, Graeme Richmond took my awestruck father inside the boundary fence at Footscray  and sat him on the bench. ‘You see that kid out there? Half-forward could be your spot. We’re not sure about that kid there.’ The lightly framed eighteen-year-old he was pointing at had just returned from a serious hip injury. His name was Kevin Bartlett. Had Dad gone to Punt Road and sweated over that spot, he might have debuted in 1984 at the age of thirty-nine.

Ron Cook and Hawthorn eventually won the day. Cook was a famously persistent recruiter. One morning in 1966, Cook, then secretary of the club, was at his holiday house at Rosebud and rang a young Peter Hudson in Tasmania to talk about playing for the club. Hudson told him that he would not play at Hawthorn in 1967. Cook was walking up Hudson’s drive in New Norfolk a few hours later, dressed in a suit, having negotiated Rosebud to Blackburn,  (to get the suit) to Tullamarine to Launceston to New Norfolk in about the time it had taken his future champion to rustle up some lunch.

For a smaller fish like Ray Wilson, the great attraction of Hawthorn was the quality of the people he met and the enhanced prospect of a game in a struggling side. The Coulter Law prohibited sign-on fees, but it was more honoured in the breach by all twelve clubs. Hawthorn’s wasn’t the highest offer – a £1000and the keys to a secondhand Morris Oxford – but for a student with eight pounds in the bank, it was enough. In 1966, a house in Greensborough could be purchased for £3000.

After Ron Cook called to make the offer, Dad went to breakfast at Newman College, where he was living while at Melbourne Uni. The college then had a custom which prohibited conversation at breakfast, and so communication was restricted to monosyllabic table requests. He sat silently, simultaneously digesting cheap sausages and the news that was exploding within. He had a chance to play league football. And he was 125 times richer than he had been when he got out of bed that morning.

3. The Honeymoon

There’s a photograph of my sister and I wearing Dad’s jumpers, huge old woollen things that gathered around our ankles like wedding gowns, the yellow and brown vertical stripes wrapping around in the old style, front and back. Dad’s number 10 winks at the camera from its reflective white plastic backing. My older sister, aged four, is modelling the one Dad wore to premiership glory against St Kilda in 1971 in front of 118 192 people. It’s nice Dad has a photographic record of it, because the other kid in the photo is going to leave it in a Prahran Football Club change room twenty-one years later.

Dad’s career was over by the time I was born. He retired in September 1972 after 117 games, and I arrived in November that same year. My obsession with Hawthorn and dreams of playing for the club predate my earliest memories. It was never a choice. It was just a fact of life – like eating and brushing my teeth and breathing. I still have a hand-stitched yellow and brown teddy bear with the number 10 on its back. In a folio of primary school artwork, I uncovered a piece in which we were asked to illustrate twenty different words – ‘run’, ‘shop’, ‘dog’, ‘paint’, that sort of thing. Sixteen of my twenty illustrations are stick figures wearing yellow and brown jumpers in front of goalposts.

And then there’s the stuff I do remember. My favourite picture book was an underrated classic called ‘Carn the Hawks’, which I eventually stole from the Deepdene Primary School library because Mrs Whiteside said I couldn’t renew it any more. When Leigh Matthews booted goal of the year against North Melbourne at the SCG, I painstakingly retraced his path, following the mapped figure of eights as laid out in the Footy Record the following week. I’d take screamers on the furniture in the lounge room, singing along with not just ‘Up There Cazaly’, but Mike Brady’s lesser-known hits as well.

You’ll be Hungry

You’ll be Knights

You’ll be The Hulk

And you’ll be Blight!

You’ll be flying with the stars and in the wars.

Quickly I learned that switching the order of ‘Blight’ and ‘Knights’ meant that the natural syncopation of the verse would give Peter Knights the bigger fly, and so that is how it came to be.

At some point, Dad renewed his official connection to Hawthorn as coach of the Crimmins Squad, an under-17s development project that spawned such greats as Dermott Brereton, Gary Ayres and Chris Langford. Every Sunday morning we would venture to Glenferrie, where legendary trainer Bob Yeoman would welcome me at the door with a dim sim and a sausage. ‘Hey kid, get a couple of these into ya!’ he’d growl, wearing the widest of grins and a once-white singlet that was a museum piece to sausage and bourbon stains. ‘You gotta feed yourself up, kid, so you can become a player like your old man!’

‘Pleasant Sunday Mornings’ they were called by the club, but for an awestruck under-10, they were more than pleasant. I’d sit in the property room with Andy Angwin and watch as he cleaned all my favourite players’ boots. Occasionally Andy would hand me the brush, and I could happily boast at school the next week that the shine on Dipper’s boots was all my work. Over several years, some players came to know me. I was ‘Willo’s kid’ or ‘Snowy’ or ‘Son’. And so I began living the wild, nine-year-old equivalent of the stuff depicted in Entourage. Russell Greene patting me on the head was big news. Don Scott teaching me how to hit the speedball was the stuff of dreams. Peter Knights gifting me a Puma T-shirt was a show-and-tell certainty. I befriended Knights’ son, Ben, even though he was five years younger than me, on the off-chance that he’d invite me to his party.

They were heady times. When Dad took me to home games at Princes Park, we didn’t just land prime seats in the Robert Heatley stand, we’d actually visit the rooms. It spoiled me. Before the game or at half-time, we’d mill around the door in a ruck of fans, and then the doorman would spot Dad and we’d be ushered inside, like the people I would one day so despise in nightclub queues. I got to see how different players prepared. Lethal Leigh – quiet and determined. The Big Dipper – hyperactive and vocal. My favourite part of any pre-match was when the boys bumped into each other, their oiled-up shoulders slapping into contact, the rough-housing eventually transforming into running on the spot or piston-armed renditions of ‘1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10!’ ‘C’mon boys!’ Dipper would be yelling. ‘C’mon boys!’ I would be mouthing too.

I wasn’t just spoiled by access. I was spoiled by results. I touched the premiership cup in 1983, 1986 and 1988. In each of the in-between years, the Hawks still made the grand final. It was also a period of development in my own footy career. I was invited to play in the under-15s schoolboys carnival, then in the Crimmins Squad at Hawthorn. Dad stepped down as coach, and I stepped up as captain. I was playing well enough for the dream to become hope, which in turn was becoming belief. I lived, breathed and slept football, and I mean the last bit literally. Until I was sixteen, I slept with a sherrin at the foot of my doona.

In 1989, I was splashed with the holy water when recruiter Frank Davis invited me down to the Hawthorn under-19s. During my first fortnight at the club, Dermott Brereton found me in the corner of the gym and held his hand out.

‘Dermott Brereton,’ he said, somewhat superfluously.

‘Tony Wilson,’ I squeaked back.

‘You have any troubles, mate, come talk to me.’ He then went back to arm curling twice what I could bench press. It was, to that point, the greatest moment of my life. Don Vito Corleone had just offered me his hand.

4. The Consummation

My love affair with Hawthorn peaked in 1989. I played ten games in the under-19s under Russell Greene. At the end of the season, the coach complimented me on my marking and courage, and told me that I had to work on my speed and awareness. That seemed fair enough. With poor eyesight and general vagueness, ‘lack of awareness’ was actually putting it kindly. It reached a critical point during a game at Arden Street, when I trudged off the muddy field and into the change rooms. It was only when I looked up and saw Denis Pagan and his Kangaroos that I realised I’d chosen the wrong race.

The other thing about 1989 was that it was 1989, arguably the greatest Hawthorn game of all. Ten years later, when I was looking for something to replace a football dream that had finally expired, I decided to attempt writing. The first topic I chose was the highest high in a decade of barracking highs. It was published in The Age on grand final day 1999, the tenth anniversary of the game.

THE DAY DAD HAD GENERAL CONCERNS ABOUT MAGINNESS ON ABLETT

I was just screaming nonsense, something about Yeates being a mongrel and him having done it all of his career. Now he’d just done it to Dermott, a man who, on reflection, had definitely been doing it for all Yeates’s career and then some. But that wasn’t the point. Didn’t Yeates understand the natural order of things? Dermott’s ribcage decided what it ran into, not the other way around. The game was only forty seconds old and tears of rage were welling in my eyes.

‘You see what they did to Derm?’ I screamed in Dad’s general direction.

But he wasn’t listening, just gritting his teeth and grinding out the words, ‘Get up, get up,’ over and over again. He locked Brereton in a brutal stare, and seemed to be trying to lift him with his eyes.

‘C’mon Dermie,’ I murmured to myself, but I didn’t want to distract Dad because he looked like he might be making a difference. C’mon Dad.

Dermott rose and spewed and pushed away intelligent people looking after his own best interests. It was sensational. If ever there was an advertisement for violence as entertainment, this was it. Brereton puffed his chest out, jogged down to the forward pocket and was sick again. In years to come, someone would slow this down, add a heartbeat and sell it for $29.95.

Three minutes later, Brereton back-pedalled into Stephen Hocking, raised his arms and took the mark that stamped him as the big occasion player of the decade. The grab itself wasn’t that difficult, a regulation overhead for any of the thirty-six players on the field. What made the moment immortal was that the Hawthorn number 23 was still one of those players. A few deep breaths later, he kicked the goal, and I silently committed myself to entrusting Brereton with all matters relating to my future happiness.

Dad was anything but silent in his celebration, launching into what to this day remains the most repetitive piece of sustained barracking I have ever experienced at the football. ‘You champion, you champion,’ was about the gist of it, although in fairness he did throw in a few ‘you champion, Dermott’s for variation. It must have gone on for more than a minute before finally a fat Geelong supporter in a Billy Brownless duffel coat told him to ‘sit the fuck down’. ‘It’s not like he’s fucking Ablett or anything,’ he added.

My father took his seat without even looking around, not attempting to defend Dermott against this outrage. At the time I thought it was because he was afraid to fight. After all, Dad had told me for as long as I could remember that he was afraid to fight. But it’s also possible he had obtained a moment’s insight into what was to come, particularly insofar as ‘fucking Ablett’ was concerned.

It was easy to spot Gary Ablett that day, because he was the one running three times faster than everyone else. By the twelve-minute mark of the second quarter, he had his third goal. A few seconds later, his fourth, conjuring somehow to ascend a pack, pluck the ball from the throw-in and snap high over his left shoulder. Goal to Ablett, assist to boundary umpire Sporton. Supporters from both sides stood side by side – an applause born out of love, respect and just because it seemed the right thing to do.

Despite Ablett’s form, Hawthorn went into half-time 37 points up. The Brereton goal had inspired the team, and we were dominating all over the ground.

‘Dad, d’you reckon we’ve got this?’

Dad murmured something about grand finals, the unpredictable nature of footy and his general concerns about Maginness on Ablett. But his eyes radiated confidence, and I figured he was just choosing his words carefully to try to patch things up with the bloke in the Billy Brownless duffel coat.

In the third quarter, Chris Langford moved onto Ablett and I was quietly relieved. My first choice for the job would probably have been a caped Christopher Reeve, but as Reeve was unavailable, it was encouraging that Langford at least had a similarly shaped jaw. The move seemed to be paying off until six minutes into the quarter when Ablett stood on Kennedy’s head and marked the ball next to his calf. Set shot from twenty metres. Goal. Lead back to 30 points. Difficult football to counter.

Three minutes later, a Bairstow free kick resulted in another goal to Geelong, followed by a couple of bad misses by Scott and Brownless. All of a sudden, the margin was 23 points. The Cats had come to life.

It was now that DiPierdomenico chose to touch up Gary Hocking’s face with his forearm, a decision I must confess to wholeheartedly endorsing at the time. After all, Hocking had been belting Hawthorn players off the ball all day, most notably when he knocked John Platten out at the end of the first quarter, and anyone who’s seen a Dirty Harry movie knows what has to happen next. It did, and Dipper was reported by three umpires. When you think of the Big Dipper today, all smiles and hugs and spaghetti sauce dripping from his celebrity moustache, it’s easy to forget the tremendous capacity for violence he demonstrated throughout his football career.

Dipper’s whack rocked Geelong, and Hawthorn raced away again care of two lucky snapped goals from Anderson and Curran. Not lucky because we didn’t deserve to kick them – to my eyes, our players always deserved to kick goals. Just lucky in the sense that they didn’t mean to kick them.

We went to three-quarter time 36 points up. Geelong needed a miracle to win.

It would take a fairly ungracious fan to blame Hawthorn’s final quarter fade-out squarely on injury, which is why I’m also blaming the umpires. For the last thirty minutes of the 1989 season, umpires Carey and Sheehan put their whistles away, allowing for the most spectacular, exhilarating quarter of football I have ever seen, but simultaneously failing to pay some three dozen or so obvious free kicks in front of goal that would have made it a certainty for the Hawks.

That doesn’t mean injury escapes a mention. Platten was off concussed, apparently concerned about when the Bourke Street parade was going to get underway; Ayres, benched with a torn hamstring; Tuck, split webbing in his hand; Brereton, internal bleeding; Pritchard and Kennedy, leg-sore but battling on; Dipper, broken ribs and a punctured lung, but still a rampaging bull when he should have been a deflating balloon. Hawthorn was down to thirteen men, and when you consider Ablett was worth about six, Geelong was up to twenty-three.

The Cats kicked a few at the start of the quarter, but I kept comforting myself that the lead was just too big. The first pangs of worry struck at about the fifteen-minute mark, when Langford jumped to take a solid defensive mark . It wasn’t really the mark that disturbed me so much as the sight of Ablett being out-marked, eight feet in the air and horizontal, his legs wrapped around Greg Madigan’s head.

‘He really is a credit to himself and bald people like him,’ a young, thin-haired supporter said to his wife, applauding the latest round of Ablett heroics. And then, with debate still raging between the two as to whether the great man was indeed balding (the wife holding the soon to be outdated opinion that he just had a high hairline), Ablett dropped a one-handed mark, gathered, and wheeled onto his left to boot his eighth goal. The stands exploded. Suddenly the difference was just 17 points.

Over the next few minutes, Geelong and Hawthorn traded goals, but you got the feeling the exchange rate wasn’t favouring the Hawks. Goal to the Cats through Hamilton, margin 11 points. Goal to us through Anderson, ‘You champion, you champion.’ My father just barracking from memory. Then, the answer from Ablett, his ninth – a grand final record. Then a bad miss from Bruns. Then a miss from Curran that would have sealed it for us. The old Southern Stand was shaking at foundations that had just a few months left to survive. And then, with 30.33 showing on the clock, Scott found Cameron forty metres out, directly in front, and I just felt like dying.

If David Cameron hadn’t had to take one of the most important kicks in grand final history, I think I probably still would have remembered him for his haircut. It was hilarious, blond and boofy with little flaps that came down over the ears. Had he been eleven he may have carved out a career as an Osmond, but unfortunately for David, he was twenty-five and playing on a half-forward flank for Geelong.

It was an enormous credit to Cameron that he kicked the goal. People said in the aftermath that he took too long over the kick, but the fact was that if he missed, his team was sunk. I fell back into my seat as my younger brother released two huge fistfuls of ripped-up newspaper into the atmosphere.

‘Ned.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Geelong kicked that one. You’re meant to be sad.’

Ned mumbled something about already having ripped the paper up, and being worried that Hawthorn might not kick another one. I sort of understood, and deep down, I wouldn’t have minded throwing something myself.

The umpire bounced the sherrin in the centre, and exhausted bodies descended from all corners of the ground. Ball-up. Brilliant. Ned was chucking paper to celebrate ball-ups now. Thirty-two minutes on the clock and the ball bounced again. Bews collects, Curran tackles, Dipper tackles, Condon tackles. Forty-five thousand Hawthorn supporters closing their eyes and tackling too.

The hugging didn’t stop for a while – Tucky and Dipper on the ground, Ned and Dad in the stands, me and some fifty-something bloke with a moustache.

We’re a happy team at Hawthorn

We’re the mighty fighting Hawks

Hugging now gave way to jumping up and down on the benches.

One for all and all for one, the way we play at Hawthorn

We are the mighty fighting Hawks.

We so were the mighty fighting Hawks. Back-to-back flags, seven consecutive grand-finals, the brown and gold elevated to heights that such a colour combination should never have climbed. I asked Dad whether this was the greatest team of all time, ever, and was served up a long-winded anecdote that I didn’t really hear out, something about Leigh Matthews’ finals series in 1978 and Al Martello’s deceptive pace. It was only when I repeated the question to Ned, aged one in 1978, that I received the good, solid ‘yes’ I was looking for.

5. The Divorce

I fell out of love with Hawthorn sometime between becoming a listed player on 6 November 1991 and a delisted player 219 days later, on 12 June 1992. I’d like to say it was mutual and that we remained friends, but in the sausage factory of professional sport, it’s never mutual. I walked out of the double doors of Glenferrie Oval and into the glare of a June morning, vowing to chairman of selectors Brian Coleman that he would ‘regret the decision for the rest of his life’. I haven’t seen him for twenty years. I’m guessing he’s okay.

Coleman did the delisting because senior coach Alan Joyce must not have regarded it as one of his jobs. Joyce had already made most of those 219 days a living nightmare. He called me into his office at the start of preseason and told me ‘if you get stress fractures in your shins again, we’re getting rid of you’. He then prescribed me a ‘modified program’ that was not so modified that I was exempted from eleven-kilometre-long Kew boulevards on hot footpaths. He was no medical visionary. One conversation immediately before one of those runs on a thirty-four-degree afternoon particularly sums up the sparkling relationship I enjoyed with the man.

TW: Um, Joycey, I was wondering about next Tuesday. I’ve got an exam …

AJ: The name’s Alan. Let’s get that right for starters.

TW: Um, next Tuesday, there’s this exam …

AJ: (glaring into middle distance) What’s that on the top of your head?

TW: A cap.

AJ: Well, take it off.

TW: It’s just …

AJ: I said, take it off. Only one person gets to wear caps out there, and that’s James Morrissey. He’s got a skin condition. You don’t wear a cap in a game. You don’t wear a cap at training.

After just eight reserves games, and for the third consecutive year, I was diagnosed with stress fractures in my shins. I could no longer play, so it was really just a question of hanging around in the gym until I was taken out to the slaughterhouse to be shot. At some point, I was asked to tutor Shane Crawford in maths. For a while, we were making such progress, particularly with anything that would help him with his horseracing interests, that I thought I might survive. But it was not to be. My legacy at the club is a ‘sit and reach’ record in training that will never be broken: plus seventeen. I met Dermott Brereton again in 2009 and he seemed genuinely impressed. ‘Plus seventeen! They’re great hammys you’ve got there, Willo!’

6. The Reconciliation

For a short period, I hoped Hawthorn would go badly; then, I was indifferent, and then, around the turn of the millennium, I started almost barracking again. I attended the 2001 preliminary final and experienced surprise when I found myself yelling at umpire Goldspink, accusing him of having a vendetta against us. Until that moment, I hadn’t been aware that there was an ‘us’. Shame descended. I’d maintained a grudge for nearly a decade, just because the club had preferred others over me. As one fellow Hawk now takes much joy in pointing out, the real tragedy is that the club listed me in the first place, preferring T. Wilson to another under-19 player in the same draft by the name of J. Leppitsch.

I bought a membership in 2002 and kept it up, initially to maintain my run of scarves (‘member nine years’) and then because the old feelings started to return. The day I truly felt the love again, I was at the MCG, perched behind the goals at the city end. A young Buddy Franklin was matched up against Bombers full-back Dustin Fletcher. Ten year earlier, I’d unsuccessfully attempted to get redrafted by completing a preseason at Essendon. The embodiment of why I would never make it – and as such, my mental salvation – appeared in the person of Dustin Fletcher. He was taller than me, had longer arms, was better coordinated, had superior judgement and was faster. Indeed, he wasn’t just faster than me, but faster over five metres than every player at Essendon. I remember shelving the league footy dream, figuring that if I played for a hundred hours on Dustin Fletcher, it would mainly be up to Dustin Fletcher to decide whether I ever got a kick.

That day at the MCG, Franklin kicked 9.2. They weren’t all on Fletcher, but a good number of them were. In the return duel the next year, Buddy managed 9.5. It was a vaudeville show, the sort of unconventional brilliance that has supporters from both sides dropping their jaws and laughing. Watching Buddy became addictive. The glorious year of 2008 may be remembered by the pundits as the triumph of ‘Clarko’s Cluster’, but I remember it for Franklin’s 201 shots at goal. Buddy didn’t just win us that flag, he thawed the last of my bitterness. And in watching him, I learned to love the others – Hodgey, Mitchell, Sewell, Roughy, Junior Boy. We are, once again, a happy team at Hawthorn. And if Buddy can just manage another 201 shots at goal, we’ll win it again this year.