Always Hawthorn – by Stacey Mahon

 buddyMy favourite day of the year is almost here. I’ve got my crew organised, my outfit picked out and washed, and a make-up artist ready to go. And of course by “make-up artist” I mean the lovely ladies at The G with the brown and yellow face paint.

I also may be lying about my guernsey and scarf being clean; everyone knows you wouldn’t dare tempt fate by putting them through the washing machine after you’ve come off a big win.

But what is true is that my beloved Hawks fought their way into this weekend’s AFL Grand Final, I scored a ticket… and I’m shitting myself!!

After last year’s heartbreaking loss to the Swans it’s hard to believe that we’re here again (and that I’ve managed to get through the stress of it all). Footy finals is a cruel mistress – brutally emotional, unforgiving, and unpredictable.

After looking at every which way the finals series could go, I’d mapped out a finals journey I was somewhat comfortable with (like I had any control of it). Comfortable is completely the wrong word, but on a scale from stable to insanely anxious, I was sitting at about an 8.

“If we beat Sydney like we did last week and Geelong beat Freo, then we won’t get smashed by the Cats until the Grand Final… but the last time we played Geelong in a Grand Final we beat them, so maybe there’s hope?” I remember thinking the week leading up to the quarter final. Thankfully, after an intense first half, the Hawks were able to defeat the Swans and secure a place in the prelims.

But then of course the unthinkable happened. Freo won. Geelong lost. We would likely be playing them in the preliminary final. Crap crap crap! We’d had a great season, but the unbeatable Cats would probably knock us out, one game before the Granny. We’d come too close – damn you Kennett curse!

Sure, the Cats still had to get through Port, who have proved themselves to be very worthy opponents this year, but in my mind, Geelong have been the strongest, most consistent team in the league for over half a decade now. They’re unstoppable and definitely Hawk-kryptonite.

A Hawthorn/Geelong game is usually as predictable as a rom-com. Boy meets girl, they don’t get along, then they love each other and live happily every after. But with these two teams it’s Hawks get a solid lead, Geelong catch up, Hawks get spooked, and Geelong win by a few points and live happily ever after. Every time.

But last Friday night amongst our terrible kicking and key players being pretty much absent (was Roughie even there?!), something magical happened. A 5 point final margin, in favour of us this time! Squeeeee!

Not gonna lie, I’m nervous as hell about playing Freo on Saturday. They may not have as much finals experience, but as aforementioned, Finals Footy is unpredictable. Favourites lose. Who would have thought Hawthorn would beat the Cats in the 2008 Grand Final? Not me, I was just hoping we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves and get completely thrashed. But we did it. And Freo can too.

But we all have our little “tricks” to help ensure a win, right? Players put their socks on and lace up their boots a certain way, or have a special pair of undies. Supporters are just as bad. An old colleague can’t wear her team’s guernsey while the game’s on because it results in a guaranteed loss. I can’t change my footy tips once they’re locked in because whenever I do, my original tip gets up and I miss out on the tip. Hell, I turned into a Coca-a-Cola fiend last Friday night just because we kicked our 1st and 2nd goals directly after I’d taken a swig! And even though I know these superstitions are completely irrational, you know I will be changing my Hawks tip to a Freo tip sometime before the beginning of the game. And much to my thigh’s disgust, I will be forcing at least one bottle of Coke down my throat during the game. Shameful.

I must say, it hasn’t been easy being a Hawks supporter. When I was little, we lost every week, and now we’re hated. It was totally acceptable to barrack for Hawthorn in 2008 as everyone loves an underdog, but now, in true tall poppy fashion, I’m an “arrogant, bandwagon Hawthorn supporter”.

I’m definitely not a bandwagon supporter. As a kid I went to countless games where we lost every week. The only team we ever stood a chance of winning against was Fitzroy (and we all know what happened to them). I didn’t care though, I loved our boys anyway.

Throughout the 2000’s I was criticised for only liking them because “they have all the hot players”. Yes, this was circa Trent Croad, Jon Hay and Crawf, but at all those late-90s games I went to, that calibre of eye candy just did not exist. Dunstall and Johnny Platton were legends, but not exactly “babe material”. But I still loved them, cheered my heart out at the game, and then waited for them to sign autographs afterwards.

Every club has their fair share of dickhead supporters, but in general, Hawks fans are not arrogant. After years of defeat, more recent times have just given us something to celebrate and get excited about again. You couldn’t call yourself a true supporter if you didn’t get that extra spring in your step when your team’s having a good run.

So come Saturday I will sit there in the Melbourne rain and be loud and proud because they’re my boys. And when the final siren sounds, whether I end up singing or end up crying, they still will be. They always have been. #alwayshawthorn

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