2017 marks thirty years of the Australian Football League (AFL). In honour of this, I thought I would reminisce on the thirty most memorable moments from this era for the Hawthorn Football Club.
These moments were compiled from a survey of over a dozen Hawks fans. The eventual order was judged on by a panel of five.
Moments 30 to 26 are as follows:
30. An immaculate passage of play against Freo in 2014.
Hawthorn’s greatness has been defined by big statements in big games throughout the AFL era. This moment was a statement within the statement. The lead up to the 2013 grand final rematch was all about Fremantle and how powerful they had been in the first two games of 2014. Also how they were going to show this power and redress their GF loss while announcing their take over as top dog.
An opening blitz from the Hawks evaporated the fantasy.
There was no let up as the ball went deep in their forward line to the hands of Ryan Crowley, who was free in the pocket. A tinge of disappointment was felt amongst the Hawk throng who were baying for Dockers blood and it was apparent they would score.
30 seconds later exultation replaced impending disappointment. The legacy of what was just witnessed was epitomised in the tension built roar. It became even louder and built to a frenzy when the kick went out to Rioli on the bounce on the wing. Cue the Jaws theme music and watch while the ultimate predator stalks and then strikes. He burned off his Freo opponents and then delivered it on a plate to Luke Bruest.
As Bruest sold some candy to sidestep and put the goal through, you just looked around to witness all the Freo players with their heads slumped in the knowledge that, even in moments where they held a seeming ascendency, they were hopelessly out of their depth.
29. Alastair Clarkson instigating a tribute to Phil Walsh.
The untimely death of Adelaide Coach Phil Walsh was a tragedy on many levels. His death devastated the football community, as well as the wider community.
I really thought the whole round should have been abandoned as a tribute to him. When it went ahead, I never felt such lack of care for the result of a game. His death took such precedence that it deemed the result as meaningless.
Alastair Clarkson embodied this sentiment in the huddle at the end that perfectly conveyed the collective grief felt by all. It was a perfect sign of respect. This filled me with immense pride to have Clarkson as the figurehead of the Hawthorn Football Club.
28. Max Bailey getting a Premiership medal in 2013 after 3 knee reconstructions.
After seeing the recent birthday tribute to Max Bailey, I feel a tad guilty for giving this moment such a low rating. The big ruckman was destined to be a very fine player until cruel fate intervened on three separate occasions. I still remember a pre-season game where he rag dolled Ben Rutten in the goal square to mark and kick a goal. It made me think, ‘here is a big defining ruckman that can go forward, pluck a big mark and kick a goal… BINGO!’
Aside from his potential, he had such a natural and endearing nature – one that had star appeal and the words “firm fan favourite” written all over it.
For him to come back to receive that medal was very moving. The medal was given real meaning by the iconic preliminary final against Geelong a week earlier. That was a game he played very well in and Bailey went on to be serviceable in the Grand Final. On receiving his winning medal, the roar from the crowd was fully justified and married with real respect, born out of awe of his never say die attitude and associated persistence. He’d done it, despite many galling moments that would have buried lesser types.
27. Last game at VFL Park.
There was a part of me that was happy to see the back of VFL Park. It meant no more searching for your car for an eternity after matches, firm in your belief that the mythical ‘car park gnomes’ who somehow moved cars around while you were inside the stadium were, in fact, real.
The ground was a citadel of so many great Hawthorn moments, many which are represented in the upcoming memories of this list.
One that stands out for me from the previous VFL era was the Queens’ Birthday match against Collingwood in 1981. Over 92,000 fans were packed into the ground. The walkways were full of people standing, along with steps being used as impromptu seats. The mosquito fleet of Norm Goss, Lethal and Alan Goad dominated forward, leading to us towelling up the Pies in a romp.
The last game at VFL Park was a smashing of the Swans by 85 points. When the final siren sounded to end this game, it felt like a goodbye to an old friend that I had shared a gamut of emotions with. Upon walking out amongst the 70,000 capacity crowd, the sense of loss was shared by all the Hawks’ faithful
26. Tucky’s 400th game, 1990 versus ‘Norf’.
Among the Hawthorn faithful, there are few players more loved than Michael Tuck. He was the shy country boy that always avoided the spotlight but away from it was genuinely welcoming to fans.
When the siren sounded on this game, it ended a tight and tense affair that was sealed late by Dermie running into an open goal after roving a crumb off the pack. Afterward, all the focus fell on Tuck for his 400th game. He characteristically and instinctively ran for the race to avoid the attention. Platts and Langers both shielded his escape and insisting on hoisting him onto teammates shoulders and carrying him off.
All stood in tribute to his accomplishment. It seemed very apt that one of the many of those applauding was the opposition coach, Wayne Schimmelbusch. The Kangas’ great was the same age as Tucky. Schimmelbusch was a central figure from the Kangaroos’ teams of the 70’s that were involved in a heated rivalry with the Hawks. This was during the same era that Tuck was lauded as being the finest ruck rover in the game, as part of the iconic Scott, Tuck, Matthews trio.
In a sense, his greatness as a player is underrated. This greatness lay not just in his heady pomp as a dominant onballer, but also in his versatility. This saw him as a very able centre half forward in the early 80’s and also as a very clever rebounding half back and tagger in his later years. What stood out in his career was that he never played a bad game. He made his mark with longevity and good to excellent performances.
My only disappointment from this game was that he did not unfurl one of his trademark torpedos. It would have been so “box office” to see him bang one through from way out as he had often done throughout his career.