They’re a happy team at Hawthorn, after the Hawks won their 11th premiership yesterday.
For the purple haze, many of whom travelled across the Nullabor, by plane, train, automobile or purple bus, the bitter pain of Grand Final defeat is now yours – and not just for the next 12 months, but forever. FOREVER.
But before you start feeling too sorry for yourselves, after your (chuckle) 19 years without premiership success, let me enlighten you on what true pain feels like.
This week I turn 34 and I am a St Kilda supporter. In the first decade of my life, my beloved Saints spent six of those ten years on the bottom of the ladder, 1979, ’83 – ‘86 and ’88. In the other four we finished either second last or third last, with 1987 the only aberration, when we finished 10th and Plugger shared the Brownlow. This was a time before priority picks, before the salary cap and before equalisation. This was the time of Moorabbin’s ‘animal enclosure’ and as a child growing up in there, my memories of 80’s footy is of my pants smelling like stale beer, visiting the can man for a few dollars pocket money, muddy players change rooms and standing – yes, standing – to watch the football. This was a time when the VFL/AFL was crying out for a merger and ours was one of the clubs in their sights. I remember one night on Channel 9 seeing a proposed ‘St Kilda Bulldogs’ line up, with Tony Lockett at full forward and Doug Hawkins on a wing. It was as scared as I have ever seen my parents. It was not until 1991, at the age of 12, that I first saw my team in the finals, after a 20 year drought. If you think your children have had a hard time growing up barracking for Fremantle, try that for a childhood.
In 1997, at the age of 18, I saw the Saints in only their fifth ever Grand Final. After finishing on top of the ladder in the home and away season, that nobody-bloody-Footscray-hack-discard-bastard Shane Ellen kicked five goals and along with Darren Jarman and Andrew McLeod, denied us our second premiership. Now, I know you guys have just played in, and lost, your first GF after 19 years of existence, but try 5 in 101 years, then you can talk about ‘long and suffering.’
It took the Saints another 12 years to make a grand final, when in 2009 we came up against a Geelong team hell bent on revenge. Despite leading at ¾ time we somehow managed to lose, a feat not achieved since the mid 80’s. Throughout the 2009 season I was living in a village in Arusha, Tanzania. Each week, I went to the local school at around 7am (Tanzania has a 7hr time difference) and listened to the games on the internet. Prior to the preliminary final against another truly ‘long suffering’ team, the Western Bulldogs (aka Footscray), I had booked my ticket to come home for the Grand Final. During a nervous final few minutes, the ever unreliable Tanzanian internet began to drop out and with my ears pressed against the computer speakers, I barely made out something that sounded like, ‘Riewoldt… St. Kilda… Riewoldt… Grand Final…’ – we had made it! Thus began my long journey back to Australia, my own personal Hajj. From Arusha I caught a bus to Dar es Salaam (12 hours), then a flight to Melbourne via Dubai (total flight time 18hrs, layover 8hrs) and once in Melbourne it was another hour from the airport to home. On the Friday before the Grand Final I arrived at the MCC members reserve sans ticket, (having missed out on the ballot) so I joined the queue at 12pm, 20hrs before the gates were to open. After an estimated 60hrs of travelling or waiting, the gates opened at 8am and I was third in line. History records that the result did not go our way in 2009, or the following year, despite two attempts. Nevertheless, I would do it all again. So you took a 4hr plane trip from Perth or a 3 day cruise across the Nullabor? Hmph.
This year the St Kilda Football Club celebrated its 140th anniversary. Next year, you, Fremantle, will celebrate your 20th. In ‘long suffering’ terms, your Grand Final loss yesterday is like the first chest hair on a teenage boy, compared to us. We have one flag to show for our 140 years of existence, achieved back in 1966. It took us 69 years of VFL competition to achieve that and we only got there by 1 measly point. It meant so much to so many people and still does. Our captain Darrel Baldock recounted in a recent documentary, that he had fans approaching him after the game saying that they could now die peacefully, that they had only been staying alive until St Kilda had won a premiership. If you want to know what long and suffering is all about, that’s it right there.
Coincidentally, in 1913, 100 years ago, the Saints played in their first ever GF. If you, Fremantle, happen to be the inheritors of a unlucky 100 year curse, then you won’t make the Grand Final again until 2065! If you can wait another 42 years before making the Grand Final then you will definitely be members of the long and suffering club. Until then, please refrain from describing yourselves as ‘long and suffering’ supporters.
As for the victors, Hawthorn, they are now the most successful club in the modern era, eleven flags since 1961 is more than any other team. The big question now for Hawks fans is, will he stay or will he go? The common belief is that Buddy is off to GWS and the two most prominent arguments is that he will go because he has a) done all he can at Hawthorn and b) has the (monetary) offer of a lifetime from GWS.
Ok, so Buddy has won two premierships with the Hawks. Obviously, as a Saints supporter, I cannot relate to that. What I do know though, is that a premiership is oh so precious. I cannot fathom why any player who has just won one (and has the chance to win another next year) would leave for that team for another, especially one which has finished last. With one win. Over Melbourne. I can guarantee Brian Lake is not going anywhere. Our own Nick dal Santo is said to have one foot out the door. If Nick does leave it will be because he desperately wants to taste what Lance has apparently had enough of – premiership success. Please, pleeeaaase, let me into that world, I want to know how it feels when one is tired of winning premierships, when two premierships is ‘enough’ – what I wouldn’t give for that feeling! This brings us to point two and what appears to the key motivator for Buddy’s impending move – the almighty dollar.
Here, I cannot believe that football commentators say, with a straight face, that the offer is too great to resist. They talk of Franklin being able to ‘set himself up for life.’ At the moment Franklin, 26, is on around $800,000 a season, on top of that he has sponsorships and advertising deals coming out his proverbial. People are lining up to be associated with this man. This is not someone who is struggling financially. What other 26 year old in Australia can claim to be in a comparable financial situation?
The Hawks’ current offer to Franklin is $4.5 million over four years – now excuse me, but if you cannot ‘set yourself up for life’ with $4.5 million dollars, on top of what you have already made, then Jesus H Christ, you never fucking will. Unless Buddy has a raging cocaine habit, gambling addiction or haemorrhages money in some other way, how the fuck is $4.5 million and prospect of back to back premierships not setting you up for life? How does ‘Lance Franklin, triple (or even four time) premiership player and Hawthorn legend’ not guarantee you a future after football or an angle for marketing? Somehow I don’t think Lance is going to be lining up at Centrelink looking for work after he retires.
Commentators, supporters and footy fans should be calling this for what it is – pure and simple – GREED! Anything else is just apologising for a man who apparently desires money more than premierships.
Then again, he might stay and if he does I’ll have egg on my face.