Congratulations Hawthorn, commiserations Fremantle. It was the latter of whom I was rooting for on Saturday afternoon, yet when the final siren sounded on Saturday afternoon there was a certain feeling of emptiness within the neutral supporter that was me.
It wasn’t the Grand Final spectacle everyone had hoped for. When the number one attacking team comes up against the number one defensive team, expectations are high. But with a Fremantle side overawed by the occasion, a Hawthorn side with the knowledge of what it takes; a multitude of mistakes with game-breaking or game-changing moments left us unfulfilled.
But there were stories – two of them in fact – which will stand it out in memory of those lucky enough to witness them. None of them happened in the match.
The first was a beaming Brian Lake striding towards the boundary line before kneeling with arms wide open as his eldest son, Bailee, was ushered over the fence and into an embrace with his father. The stadium, basically left awash with overjoyed Hawthorn supporters wanting to savour the moment, roared.
Yet the magnitude of the initial roar would be outdone just minutes later. As Lake accepted the Norm Smith Medal, there was a vacant pause as the ceremonies readied themselves for the presentation of the premiership medallions. The cameras plonked themselves on the face of a Hawthorn player unable to take the field on Saturday.
White as a ghost and blank as paper, Brendan Whitecross stood motionless, a figure of desolation of someone who felt as if he shouldn’t be there. The roar of the MCG in appreciation of someone who had fought valiantly for the whole of 2013, yet fell at the final hurdle warmed all the hearts of everyone who was there.
Mostly importantly, that included Whitecross. History books won’t write about him, but fan folklore forever will.
A TOAST TO GARY
For the dedicated Lodgebook readers, you may have noticed that this journalist had a week off last week and, in the process, missed his opportunity to pay his respect to the great man, Gary Ablett jnr.
If the Grand Final was to be an anti-climax, the Brownlow Medal was anything but. Too often we have known the winner by round 20, and while ol’ Brucey boy tries his best to hold our attention for the final rounds, we all know where it’s going.
He started as an almost unbackable favourite, yet with Joel Selwood and Dane Swan breathing heavily down his neck with fantastic second halves of the season, it took until that final round where he joined elite company in securing his second Brownlow Medal.
I may be dilly-dallying in hypocrisy, but this is my view. I do not think recognition received from the highest individual honour in the game should necessarily glorify you as the best. Case in point: Shane Woewodin.
But in our little master’s case, I can honestly say, that in all aspects and with what he has been able to achieve at two clubs; Gary Ablett Jnr is, quite simply, the best.
ONTO SOMEONE WHO’S NOT THE BEST
Andrew Demetriou. Well it wouldn’t be a Brownlow Medal count if big Andy didn’t fluff one up. Yet, to make a blue before the count’s even started? Come on, Andy.
Fox Sports presenter, Sarah Jones on the Red Carpet: “Could you give us a little warm-up?”
Demetriou: Geelong. G. Ablett. Three votes!
Jones: That’s all well and good Andy, but Gary actually plays for the Gold Coast Suns.
Demetriou (after a slight pause, in an undertone): Reckon you could edit that out?
What a tumultuous week it’s been for Lance “Buddy” Franklin. An incredible backflip on a clearly livid GWS Giants and a departure from an equally irate Hawthorn Football Club. Franklin pissed off more people in three days than an asthmatic on a mountaineering tour group.
But I would like to forget the past few days and reiterate one of the great orators who picked up Franklin’s demeanour on the Sunday following the Grand Final win.
Greg Baum, take it away: “It became an apparently historic moment, poignant and lingering. Franklin faced each section of the crowd in turn, clapping his hands above his head. But his face conveyed no joy, indeed no emotion at all. Those nearest the stage seemed to sense the subtext. Franklin volunteered nothing on Sunday, and no one pressed him. But his body language was so unambiguous that it was very nearly quotable.”
ON TO ITS FINAL BEEP
Two years ago, almost to the day I was at draft camp and participating in the 20-metre shuttle run, or “Beep Test” as it’s commonly known. On Thursday, Dandenong Stingray’s Billy Hartung smashed the record previously set by Hawthorn’s Brad Hill (16.1) with a new achievement of 16.6.
Well done Billy, but here’s the thing. The beep test is an irrelevant test, simply measuring AFL footballers running slowly for long periods of time. The draft camp testers need to wake up and smell the roses; the game has changed. It is about short, sharp bursts and repeat sprint ability. 18-year-old kids already enter the AFL system behind the eight ball, and to pump up such a test as the benchmark of endurance is farcical.
You already have the 3 km time-trial, you don’t need this other sort of test to glamorize that these kids can run. We already know that, that’s why they are there.
WHAT THEY SAID
Lance Franklin on his move to the Sydney Swans on a 9-year, $10 million deal: “Packing my bags up at Hawthorn and saying goodbye to the boys was something that was very tough and upsetting too.” I remember when I earned $10 million too, I was gutted…
Many of us joining in the chorus when Gary Ablett jnr thanked God at the end of his Brownlow Medal acceptance speech: “Nice of him to acknowledge his old man.”
Dustin Martin during the speculation period of his immediate future, took to Twitter to bag one of our favourite journos: “Caroline Wilson – what a Larry.” If anyone can give me a solid, cultural definition of what Dustin’s talking about, you need where to find me.
A Triple M caller delivered a sensational sledge to Hayden Ballantyne as he ran onto the turf at Simonds Stadium during the Geelong-Fremantle Elimination Final: “Hayden, I’m a nurse at Geelong Hospital. And if you get your desserts today, it’ll be my face you see when you first wake up.”
“It feels no different to last year. (It) hasn’t quite sunk in yet…life goes on.” Brendan Whitecross after he ruptured his ACL, the same one he’d done just 12 months earlier ensuring he missed consecutive Grand Finals.
Adelaide’s Taylor Walker takes to Twitter to vent when Crows teammate Tom Lynch is awarded just two votes after an 10-goal haul: “That just goes to show it is a medal for midfielders. ‘Lynchy’ kicks 10 and only 2 votes? I feel sick.”
Jared Petrenko chimes in and says what everyone’s thinking as the Brownlow Medal continues its continuous montages: “Can we just get on with it?”
But the best Brownlow quote belongs to The Age’s Rohan Connolly: “Huge fashion show on tonight. Apparently, they’re giving away some sort of footy award as well.”
Nic Naitanui: “Yes, I got the text this time.”
Warwick Capper on Buddy’s move to Sydney: “Haven’t seen excitement like this at the Swans since ’87.” Groan…
TEAM OF THE FORTNIGHT
Hawthorn Football Club. What a year for them down at Glenferrie. An AFL and VFL Premiership via the Box Hill Hawks, they are still a powerhouse club yet. We could be revisiting the 1980s here.
Fremantle. Might have been overawed, but were worthy runners-up; even if such a title does little to ease the pain. A brilliant and history-making season, expect them to front up again next year.
Brian Lake. From the outer at the Dogs to the Norm Smith Medallist.
Jonathon Simpkin. Found himself playing in two Grand Finals in the space of six days.
Chad Wingard. Deservedly awarded the Port Adelaide best and fairest award after an outstanding year.
Brendon Goddard. Took home the Crichton Medal as the Essendon best and fairest player. Amid the year the club has had, his acceptance speech is worth watching.
Ken Hinkley. Like his best and fairest winner, was deservedly named the AFL Coaches Association Coach of the Year as voted by his peers. Look for Adam Simpson to do something similar at West Coast in 2014.
St Kilda. In absolute turmoil, but they deserve the criticism – especially if that entry for the Virgin Australia Film Festival is anything to go by.
Sydney Swans. Could be accused of daylight robbery. Have secured the services of Lance Franklin within their salary cap, before securing NSW/ACT youngster, Lloyd Perris (an easy chance for the top 10 in this year’s draft) as a rookie for two years.
Norwood Redlegs. Going for back-to-back SANFL Premierships this weekend against North Adelaide.