Today the 2011 AFL season starts in Australia, and for the first time in my life, I will not be there to watch. It's going to be very different, not immersing myself in hours of footy talk and analysis with my Melbourne friends and clients. Well, life's a lesson isn't it, and I will take it upon myself to learn to participate in new ways - maybe watching in a sports bar here and there (hmmm, we'll see), seeking out some comrades with a satellite dish in LA, and no doubt a fair bit of internet usage.
Last night, my friend watched the Lakers win their triple-overtime match by a very tight 2 points from very cushy floor seats. She was telling me today about the electric atmosphere and the jubilation felt amongst the fans, and how LA fans, strangers, "high-fived" each other and hugged. I relayed similar stories of close footy matches, and the addiction of the shared passion these wins bring amongst a club's supporters. Of course I spoke about that goal in week one of the 2007 finals - Buddy's boomer in the last moments to put Hawthorn up by 3 points against Adelaide. I still personally feel that win was, as a supporter, better than the 2008 grand final win (well, good friends will know why that is.) I was lucky enough to be sitting in that pocket where he marked and goaled, and remember being so nervous I felt like I was going to vomit!!! When that ball sailed through the big sticks.....the Hawthorn crowd.....I get goosebumps thinking about it still, and a tightening of my throat and a little water in my eye.
Still, 2008 was fabulous too....although half of that "army" is gone now. Memories....round 22 against Carlton, especially the 100th goal....lining up for finals tickets at that newsagency in Mackie Rd....watching them absolutely smash everyone in the finals....a sunny, gorgeous grand final day, the smell of sausages on the portable bbqs in the MCG carpark (and Pam stealing one after the game)....the weird signs I was getting that things were going to go our way....including the lady bug that landed in Johno's guernsey before the game.....the words on the banner, and how unified Hawthorn looked during the national anthem, unlike Geelong who looked like they couldn't care less....Mooney's point- blank miss 5 metres out on half time ("we've got them rattled!").....getting all of those texts from friends - "DEWEEEEEY!".....Crawford's ecstatic jubilation....singing the song at Fed Square, over and over, with our new "family".....and the tears of pride when I got to watch the replay days later.
As we know, the last couple of seasons haven't been what us Hawks have been hoping for. It's nice to pull out a photo of that grand final banner with the "Endurance, Mateship, Courage, Sacrifice". Let's have a bit more of that again this year, and I'll be pleased....and a little less wonk in Roughhead's kicking!
To everyone, Hawk supporter or not, have a good season 2011, play safe, and let's all smash Gold Coast. And please, avoid 17-year-old girls if you know what's good for you.