2015 AFL Grand Final

West Coast Eagles v Hawthorn
Saturday 3 October 2015, MCG



It’s true that good things come in threes
There’s Nirvana, The Police and the Bee Gees
The Stooges were Larry, Curly and Moe
and on a certain type of sloth, just count the toes
Little pigs, blind mice and billy goats gruff
The three witches that haunted Macbeth and Macduff
The clover or shamrock and the musketeers
And Hip Hip Hooray – the traditional three cheers
The number of gears on a manual car
Participants in a menage a trois
The Bronte sisters could all write books
And Bacon’s triptychs are worth a look
The Third Man by Greene is exceedingly clever
There’s also the Chappells, if you count Trevor
The Supremes and The Andrews’ knew how to sing
There’s also three parts to The Lord of the Rings
The original Star Wars trilogy
And of course, Lewis, Rioli and Lethal Leigh
Three veg are served with a standard roast
The father, the son and the holy ghost
But the holiest trinity I’ve ever seen
Is the Hawks in thirteen, fourteen and fifteen.

Cyril – Lord of The (Big) Dance

At the 20 minute mark of the final quarter in Saturday’s Grand Final, Cyril Rioli took a mark approximately 35 metres from goal on a 35 metre angle. As he went back to line up the shot on goal, and with the game all but won, the Hawks fans behind him began the Cyyyrrrill… Cyyyrrrill… Cyyyrrrill… Cyyyrrrill… chant, bowing down in supplication as they did so.

It seemed a just acknowledgement of his extraordinary match winning performance, but in fact it was much more than that. The Hawks fans intoning his name and gesticulating in reverence may not necessarily have known it, but their expression of devotion had a quite literal biblical antecedent.

The name ‘Cyril’ is derived from the Greek name Κύριλλος (Kyrillos) meaning ‘Lordly’ or , ‘Masterful’. This in turn comes from Greek κυριος (Kyrios) or ‘Lord’ and is used in the Greek Bible to refer to God or Jesus. So you see, it’s all in the name, yet even titles such as ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ don’t quite match the reverence and esteem in which the great number 33 is held by Hawks fans. And 33, you’ll recall, is the age Christ was when he died. Spooky.

(Numerlogical interlude – in each of Hawthorn’s three successive premierships, we’ve kicked 11 behinds, which is 33 in total – so the signs certainly seem to be pointing towards some sort of divine intervention)

Back to the game and Cyril missed the goal, but it no longer mattered by that stage.

The chant erupted again just prior to the presentation of the Norm Smith medal winner for best afield. The voting for this award is ostensibly undertaken by a panel of distinguished experts – former players and media personalities – but just in case they hadn’t got it right, the people were taking the opportunity to have their say. Either that or the results of the secret ballots had been leaked to more than 90,000 people.

As much as we love Sam Mitchell and believe that he would have been a deserving winner after another cracking game, there could have been an awkward moment had his name been read out. There might even have been a ground invasion had Cyril not won it. The crowd intoning the name of the winner before it was revealed was reminiscent of the Brownlow Medal count on the Monday when the AFL online Shop advertised Sam Mitchell Brownlow memorabilia during the course of the count. Except this time the crowd at least got it right.

As Cyril accepted the medal, I thought back to the guy next to me in the queue outside the MCC Members in the morning who was placing bets for the Norm Smith medal on various Eagles players. He explained to his companion that for each of the past three Grand Finals he had bet on Rioli to win, but Cyril had consistently let him down by playing average games, so this year he was overlooking him to bet on the opposition. Really, as he said this he should have known…

Cyril’s game was a microcosm of his career highlights reel, a sort of top 10 of his various talents…slick handballs, speccies, intercepts, chase downs, wrap up tackles, tap ons and twisting and turning out of trouble.

1. The pivot – standing off the pack, he snuck into a goal scoring position so that when Rough threaded a handball to him through a pack, he pivoted, turned and slammed through Hawthorn’s first goal.

2. The invisible man – how else to explain how he found space to mark a beautiful pass from Schoenmakers about 40 metres out. His second goal.

3. The lunge – when Burgoyne shaped to pass the ball in his direction, Cyril was five steps behind Hurn, or possibly McGovern, but by the time the ball arrived Cyril had pushed to the front to take the mark.

4. The feint – having taken his fourth mark inside 50 for the quarter, he walked back calmed everyone down as if shaping to take the shot, then turned and casually passed to Brad Hill, who had snuck into the pocket undetected by everyone except Cyril, and then ran in uncontested to kick the fifth goal of the quarter.

5. The tap on – after a sublime tap to Breust, he backed up by tackling Shepherd to the ground and winning back the ball for Hawthorn.

6. The chase down – having competed for the mark against McGovern and fallen to the ground, Rioli’s audacious chase down of Hutchings after starting 20 metres behind him brought another free kick that started a chain that resulted in another goal to Gunston

7. The intercept and quick give – in one of the most sublime passages of play I’ve ever witnessed, Cyril executed an outrageous intercept of a McGovern handball and then gave his own slick handball to Breust quicker than the human eye could detect. Breust then passed to Puopolo who measured a perfectly weighted kick that Gunston ran onto for another goal.

8. The deadeye – a one step kick from outside 50 that would have floated through had Roughead not marked it on the line

9. The opportunist – a scrimmage in goal square resulted in a free kick to Breust, but before anyone noticed, Cyril had got the ball out to Smith for another goal

10. The speccie – in the final quarter, with the only interest being whether Rioli would win the medal, he soared over a pack on the Member’s wing – right in front of all the Norm Smith judges – to pull down a speccie.


Bound For Glory

Bryan AdamsEver since Angry Anderson sang Bound for Glory from the Batmobile in 1991 – the last time the Hawks and the Eagles contested a Grand Final – it has been a long-standing Grand Final tradition to moan and carp about the pre-match entertainment. It’s as integral to Grand Final week as the Brownlow and the parade. Social media is now making this pastime easier than ever, although the AFL’s insistence on booking international artists, tragic old acts from a bygone era (Chris Isaak, Bryan Adams) and young performers the crusty out-of-touch footy heads have never heard of (Ellie Goulding) is making the whole thing an easy target.

Ryan Adams I like (he has just released a cover version of Taylor Swift’s 1989 – the entire album! Note that 1989 is a famous Hawthorn premiership year). Bryan Adams on the other hand, is not someone to whom I’ve paid much attention, although his opening number, Run To You might have been ringing in Cyril’s ears as he ran down Hutchings in the second quarter.

Likewise, his final song Can’t Stop This Thing We Started ably sums up Hawthorn’s run of premierships.

Most people thought Bryan was okay, it was Ellie who attracted the snipers and haters this year. Partly because she’s a young pop act the football commentators have never heard of (as if they’re in a position to judge such matters), partly because she’s from overseas – some people just want Paul Kelly to sing Leaps and Bounds or Mark Seymour to sing Holy Grail every year – but mainly because in this instance, there was a technical hiccup that made it apparent that either she was lip-syncing or the band were miming. Or both. She should have just said she was doing a DJ set.

At the Virgin Australia post-match party Ellie Goulding warbled through one of her pop hits, Love Me Like You Do, with the refrain ‘What Are You Waiting For?’ to which the emphatic response from the thousands of Hawks fans who had stayed back for more than an hour was … ‘the fucking premiers, that’s who…now get off and bring on the Hawks!’ Hot as she looked in her tight leather pants and blond hair, she was no Mitch or Hodge, to say nothing of Cyril. Open letter to Ellie – next time you’re performing to a parochial sporting crowd whose team has just won the premiership – an easy way to get them on side is to shout ‘Go Hawks!’ It’s easy. I’d been doing it all day.

I understand the cries against importing international acts for the pre-match entertainment, but there are only so many Australian artists who might legitimately suit the occasion. My favourite Aussie Rock God is Nick Cave, but I doubt I’ll ever see him belt out The Mercy Seat or Stagger Lee in front of the Members Pavillion. I’m not sure the line, “I’d crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s ass hole” necessarily captures the grandeur of the occasion and may be hazardous to the 75 year members seated on the Long room’s leather couches.

In the past I’ve seen Peter Allen, Olivia Newton-John, John Farnham, The Seekers, Delta Goodrem, Tina Arena, Daryl Braithwaite, Slim Dusty, Men At Work, Hunters & Collectors, Archie Roach, Yothu Yindi, Powderfinger and yes, Rolf Harris. Even Brian Mannix has performed – there’s not that many more iconic Aussie acts left, not with lead singers who are still alive that is (sorry Triffids, Skyhooks, INXS, Angels) – Cold Chisel did the NRL Grand Final, so that would just be copying, which only leaves AC-DC (probably too expensive), Midnight Oil (who aren’t together), Kylie Minogue (why has she never done it?), Hugh Jackman (well he’s hosted the Tony’s, so he knows how to win over a bitchy audience), and of course Joe Dolce. What about Jeff Duff singing, I’m Your Football, Kick Me? Or perhaps Neil Finn – we’re not beyond pretending New Zealanders are Australians when it suits us.


Premiership Portents

2015 Grand Final - here Come the HawksI had to forgo some of my usual Grand Final customs this year. With the public holiday on the Friday, there were no after work Grand Final Eve drinks. Also my brother wasn’t attending the game, so that meant our traditional Grand Final breakfast at Il Solito Posto had to be cancelled. In another awkward sign, local team Aberfeldie won their premiership, having lost in 2013 and 2014, therefore breaking the pattern of an Abers loss followed by a Hawthorn win.

If these omens boded ill for Hawthorn’s chances, working against this, and for us, was the fact that I had managed to secure a ticket for my wife Angela. The last time she attended a Grand Final was 1991 – the last time Hawthorn defeated the Eagles. Plus the last team to win three in a row was Brisbane in 2003, and just like us, they had lost the Qualifying Final on the road in the first week and fought their way back to face the same team in the Grand Final – where they reversed the result.

In another portent to a Hawthorn win, I queued overnight outside the MCC Members to secure my normal seat on Level 2, Bay 43, seat 20. And just as we had planned 12 months earlier, my Grand Final buddy, Andrew, jumped in beside me in seat 21. Three consecutive years in the same seat next to Andrew – the game was in the bag.

Any lingering nerves about the game were entirely put to rest when I saw in the Saturday Herald-Sun that The Bachelorette, Sam Frost, was tipping the Hawks. After all, there is a girl who knows how to read men. But what was with Buddy’s fiance, Jesinta Campbell picking the Eagles?


First Half – Last Rites

Having already run though Cyril’s highlights, there’s not much more to say about the game. He was more or less it. It was as hot as predicted though, with the temperature well into the high 20s by game time. Hodge won the toss and kicked with the shade to the city end in the first quarter. Thankfully the Hawks were attired in brown and gold stripes rather than the gold lame and silver ice dancing outfit, and we ran out through a fantastic banner that read, “OUR HOUSE, OUR RULES” that hinted to visiting West Coast fans that their parochial cries for deliberate out of bounds and “BAAALLL” wouldn’t be rewarded quite as readily here as in Subiaco.

Having said that, the opening goal of the game to West Coast’s Luke Shuey came from a dubious free kick against Jordan Lewis for a high tackle. From that moment, however, Hawthorn exhibited the sort of intensity, manic pressure and attack on the ball that they did the previous year. They were nearly as ferocious and driven as the members barging through the turnstiles at 8am that morning to get to their preferred seat.

Two acts stood out – Isaac Smith and Shaun Burgoyne both ran back with the flight of the ball to take contested pack marks. As a result, we kicked the next five goals of the first quarter and the first four in the second quarter, making it nine goals in succession. It was a brilliant and dazzling exhibition of goal kicking, or ‘impacting the scoreboard’ as the commentators might have it.

The game was following pretty much the same pattern as the 2014 decider against Sydney, even to the point that a single inspirational act by Luke Hodge in the second quarter came to symbolise Hawthorn’s first half dominance and had most observers nodding with admiration mixed with resignation that a Hawthorn victory was somehow preordained.

In 2014 it was the intercept from the kick-in and goal; this year it was his audacious banana goal. With his back to the goal and trapped on the boundary line, Poo handballed under his opponent’s reach to Hodge. Still hemmed in on the line, Hodge shaped for a banana kick and off one step from the boundary line a good 30 metres from goal and tucked into the pocket, he sent the ball high and on an arc that saw it bend back around itself and float straight through the middle. In fact it never looked like missing. Minutes later, West Coast captain Shannon Hurn had a set shot from about 30m directly in front. He missed. Portents anyone?

From there the Hawks slammed on a few quick goals: two to Gunston courtesy of a mark and handball from Cyril (who else?) and another after a tap on from Breust, followed by Isaac Smith kicking a raking left footer from outside 50m that cleared the pack and ran through. Not yet 13 minutes into the second quarter and the Hawks were 43 points ahead. Deja-vous.

Half time: Hawthorn 9 3 57 v WC 3 8 26

Second half – Three-peat

By half-time the lead had been cut back to 31 points and the Hawks looked like they were wilting a little in the heat. I thought we’d rejuvenate during the break and come out and put the game to bed early, but instead it was the Eagles who looked more energetic. Jack Darling marked and goaled and all of a sudden the lead was back to four goals. Even so, I sensed we were just waiting on one more Eagles mistake before we righted things and got back on top. Instead, we got several Eagles mistakes.

Running into goal, Luke Shuey managed to pinpoint a pass to Hawthorn’s Taylor Duryea, somehow missing all three Eagles players in the vicinity. Then Jack Darling had his ‘dropped the World Cup’ moment – spilling an easy chest mark close to goal and fumbling the ball to allow Hawthorn’s Ben Stratton to clear it. Less than a minute later, Ryan Schoenmakers was slamming the ball on his boot to put through a goal for the Hawks and take the lead back out to five goals.

Having righted the course of the game, and with the temperature climbing over 30, the Hawks took the extremely sensible and sun-smart measure of keeping the ball in the shade near our goals. As with the first two quarters, Hawthorn kicked a series of goals in quick succession to take the heat out of the contest, even as it was rising on the field.

Gunston took an uncontested chest mark in front of the pack from a Frawley bomb to kick truly. Two minutes later he was sprinting towards goal to take another mark from the Poo’s measured kick after Cyril’s intercept and quick give to Breust. For the second time in Grand Finals, Gunston had kicked four. If that excited us – and it did – then we reached fully blown arousal when Isaac Smith channelled Will Langford 2014 to send a low, grubbing ball goalwards from the Langford pocket.

When Mitchell fed out a handball to newly activated sub, Matt Suckling, who naturally slammed it on his killer left foot for a goal, the Hawks had a 50 point lead. It was as if Suckling had been brought on for just that one moment.

To lose from here would have been beyond even Richmond’s powers of ineptitude. By the time Rioli kicked truly from beyond 50m two minutes into the final quarter, it was impossible – not that it was a goal; The Rough marked it on the line so that he could get on the score sheet. Cyril also fed out the ball to Smith so he could kick our 16th goal. We should have kicked more, but a series of missed shots highlighted the level of exhaustion in 30+ heat. The Poo was so heat addled he eschewed a set shot from 35 m to pass to Stratton further out and on a worse angle. Stratton duly kept his perfect goal kicking record intact by missing to the left.

The last remaining highlight was when Brian Lake dived to smother Josh Hill’s dribbled shot at goal from 10m out. It was their Shaw-Riewoldt moment – even Hill had to smile; well it was either that or retire on the spot. When Brian displays greater athleticism than you, it’s time to admit defeat. Lake’s dive was as perfectly timed as his move from the Bulldogs to the Hawks where he has now played in three premierships.

It is generally accepted that the team with the best defence wins premierships, and Hawthorn’s on this day was magnificent. In addition to Brian Lake, James Frawley, recruited from Melbourne at the end of 2014, was outstanding after a patchy first final. Earlier in the year against Sydney he’d kept Franklin goal-less and he repeated that from against Taylor Walker in the semi final, Pavlich in the Preliminary final, and Josh Kennedy in the Grand Final. Kennedy came into the match as the leading goal kicker in the AFL with 80 goals for the season, but so ineffectual was he against Frawley that the crowd was giving him bronx cheers when he touched the ball in the final quarter. He still didn’t kick a goal.

Also in defence, Josh Gibson, Ben Stratton and Taylor Duryea were superb. It was another extraordinary team effort.

The next day at the Glenferrie Hotel in Hawthorn, the song rang out with boisterous exuberance at regular intervals. I was with Chan-Tha, Pete and Grant, but I ran into my Grand Final buddy, Andrew, as well as several friends from other Hawthorn eras. Margaret and Patrick from the 80s, Greg and Pauline from the 70s. Over 40 years of supporting Hawthorn, and the afternoon was like the happy ending of one of those films where all the characters turn up in the same spot at the end.

Grant commented that every year Hodgey gets up to speak and he congratulates the opposition and uses the throwaway line that he’s sure they’ll be back bigger and better next year. But the reality is that none of them come back. Fremantle hasn’t got back. Sydney didn’t get back. What makes anyone think the Eagles will get back? In fact the only team that keeps coming back is Hawthorn! And now that the three-peat has been achieved, the word for next season is ‘Four-thorn.’


Final scores: Hawthorn 16 11 107 d West Coast Eagles 8 13 61


Goals: Gunston 4, Smith 3, Rioli 2, Hodge 1, Birchall 1, Hill 1, McEvoy 1, Roughead 1, Schoenmakers 1, Suckling 1

Best: Rioli, Mitchell, Smith, Hodge, Frawley, Lake, Gunston, Gibson, Schoenmakers, Burgoyne…oh fuck it we may as well mention all of them, Roughead, Lewis, Birchall, Duryea, Shiels, Stratton, Breust, Hale, Puopolo, Hill, Suckling, McEvoy,

What we learned: After four premierships, including three in a row, Alastair Clarkson is probably the greatest coach in Hawthorn’s history – and that includes John Kennedy and Allan Jeans. And yet in neither of those years has he won coach of the year. Not once. It’s a bit like Keith Richards being overlooked as best guitarist in the Rolling Stones. You have to wonder what the criteria must be. Perhaps once he solves climate change and defeats ISIS, he’ll make the shortlist. Come on Clarko – play your role.

What we already knew: Grand Final week was rocked by revelations from former Eagle, Daniel Chick, that during West Coast’s premiership year of 2006, a number of players were abusing prescription drugs and that a culture of indiscriminate drug use pervaded the club. I thought this was reasonably common knowledge among football fans, so what’s new? Well, as it happens, Essendon has just appointed John Worsfold as coach – a pharmacist by training and the man who oversaw the Eagles during the period in question – you can see what appealed to the Essendon camp.


Three-peat books

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