American dream MCG trip sees Hawks home
Sunday, July 05 2015 @ 09:32 pm ACST
Contributed by: Troy Thompson
Stephen and I had only spoken before across the waves of the internet. As guests on Alex Benjamin's USAFL Weekly Report program we chimed in with tips and discussion on the footy of the week gone or the week to come.
It was often hard to get a word in at times with the delays on Skype. There were strong thoughts and opinions from the host Alex a big Crows fan from Nashville, and Lisa a Blues fan with a soft spot for the Swans who could dominate the show and knew a lot about footy. I could chime in to clarify some of the finer points such as which part of Australia Manuka Oval was in.
And then there was Stephen. Stephen always managed to get his point across. There was no doubting he was a staunch Blues man. From Texas. Somewhere near San Antonio. He clearly had a deep knowledge of the game and the broader issues around it.
The show time changed last year and it clashed with sleeping and work. So I dropped out. And then Stephen dropped me a line. He was making the trip to Australia. His dream trip to connect first hand with the game he had fallen in love with following his retirement.
The last game of the season in 1984 was his entrance. The Grand Final and he saw most of the second half on ESPN early one morning. He was mesmerized. He had to see more. He made enquiries, only to find out that it was the last game of the season and he would have to wait until the following year to see more.
When the ’85 season came around he made sure he watched whenever he could. The hours were not friendly but the game demanded his attention, to the point where he would turn up to teach on a Monday bleary eyed.
At some point he decided he needed to take a position. In the short version of the story he chose Carlton, he liked their colours and that they were a club with a long history. Watching footy became quite difficult over the years as different rights holders gave varying amounts of scant coverage to the Australian version of football. Jump forward to 2015 and he can watch all the matches streamed online and couldn’t be happier…except if he could be there in person.
This week when he arrived with his wife Lana in Melbourne his first port of call on Thursday was Princes Park (or Ikon Park as it is now known). Here he saw first-hand the engine room of the club he loved. He watched training, toured the facilities, met the coach and players and was even interviewed.
For his first live at the ground match he would see the reigning Premiers Hawthorn vs the famous Collingwood. I met Stephen and Lana at their hotel and took them by train to Jolimont and we walked down the hill to the ground. When I say walked, Stephen wheeled. He is suffering Parkinson’s Disease so can only stand and walk a few steps. It was an eye opener for me to help wheel Stephen on and off the train and up and down the ramps and then using the lifts at the MCG to get to where we needed to go.
He had come for the full MCG experience. That view of the ground heading in was a magical moment for him that seemed a dream come true. But things would be a little different tonight. The evening of a tragic day that saw the league lose Adelaide Senior Coach Phil Walsh. So no banner run throughs or team songs. The crowd almost tentative. The teams came together. One minutes silence at the MCG - always a powerful moment.
Then it was on. Everyone a little hesitant. The Collingwood fans breaking out their first boo of the umpire just 20 seconds in however. And there it was the footy in the pocket right in front of Steven.
The first goal to Shiels for Hawthorn roving the ruck tap and the crowd were now right into it. The first big Collingwood roar came as De Goey was fed a quick handball out the back and shoots from point blank range.
Hawthorn’s small men were doing all the work around the ground, Mitchell, Puopolo, Rioli and Shiels who hit Breust running back towards goal and went back to goal truly. A fumble by Lewis in the middle and kick off the ground found the pacey Rioli in front racing from the square to mark. He too kicked truly.
Brown pegged one back when Lewis gave him the free kick on the forward flank trying to bullock him out of the contest without contesting the ball. Shoenmakers marks the contested ball on the 50 and kicks a long goal very confidently.
Broomhead brought the deficit back to four points with a great finishing goal on the run. Cloke picked off a high ball in but his kicking woes continue. Stephen’s quarter time assessment was that "Varcoe is on fire and Hawthorn are on the ropes." Indeed the reigning premiers led by just three points
The second quarter starts with the Hawks and Pies trading goals through Williams then Shiels. Hawthorn capped off a three minute skills display in the build up with Rioli marking on his own on the fat side and goalling from the set shot.
Gunston shortly after followed up with a goal after a successful tackle. Hawthorn's spread in defence continually found the Pies wanting as they turned the ball over time and again trying to bring the ball out of defence.
Cloke kicked probably the goal of the night taking the ball on the run, fending off Duryea and kicking the goal from deep in the pocket. Not to be outdone Burgoyne soon after took the mark of the night leaping on the shoulders of Taylor Adams on the back flank.
Adams had some revenge shortly after when he crumbed a loose one to add one for the pies. Rioli steadied the Hawks ship with a goal from a free kick as he was taken over the shoulder while trying to bullock the ball out of the pack.
Swan showed his nouse and strength at the other end, fending off and scooping up the loose ball for the goal and keeping the game close at half time with the margin now 5 points.
Steven summed up the game so far as "Rioli's straight kicking keeping Hawthorn in it." And “Cloke kicks the hard ones and misses the simple ones".
The arm wrestle continues through the third quarter Burgoyne’s courageous mark running back, silky skills hit Cyril 20m out. Rolii goals and then Isaac Smith with his butterfly bandaged face snaps another.
The sea-saw swings the other way as Crisp goals on the run after a quick clearance and look dangerous again after Fasolo’s strong pack mark but his kick hits the post.
The Hawks are working very hard to break the lines of defence and it the fastest of them all in Hill breaking past two defenders and passing to an open Gunston who plays on to snap a goal.
Again Collingwood look dangerous, the big men getting the ball but Cloke’s set shot from 46 misses. Then a great flying pack mark by Fasolo sees him drill a long kick straight through. The Pies are willing themselves into the match but bad kicking is costing them only pinning the margin back one at a time.
Eventually it is Breust who breaks the run of play with Mitchell getting it out front of him, a snaps across the body for a goal.
So it’s a 9 points game now at three quarter. Bad kicking is bad footy.
Collingwood need their big men to stand up they have looked dangerous there and have been able to take contested marks tonight. Hawthorn move the ball well but always look like they could use some kick to kick pack mark practice before and after each training.
Pendles hits White one out he is 20 metres out and kicks straight to make it a three point game.
Varcoe loose on the wing sends a great pass into Swan who marks just inside 50. Off the long run his kick is off hands.
Halfway through the final quarter Swan’s goal gives the Pies a 3 point lead. Blair’s free kick for too high (was it?) results in a goal and the Pies are out to 9 points.
It looks like Hawthorn might stumble, kicking two behinds. But the sub (Suckling) is here to save the day. He drives a long ball into the hot spot and it spills with Rioli taken high, (did he duck it?) he converts from the free kick.
Hawthorn would find the lead again from a brilliant run and pass from Lewis as he found Suckling who loads up a long kick on the run for a goal.
It looked like Collingwood would come again but White from 35 out misses important one and Broomhead’s miss shortly after added to Collingwood fan’s frustration throughout the night.
A mistake from Hill on wing gave the Pies the ball but the Hawks were able to force a turnover. A brilliant gather on the ground by Rioli and a quick fire handball to team mates running forward saw the Hawks kick the winning goal despite Gunston falling over his own feet. Breust with the completion.
Hawthorn home by 10 points in a game that saw Collingwood challenge, but fail to finish well. Stephen described it as “a cracking match” and was impressed with Hawthorn’s composure.
He remarked at the how good it was to be able to see the game unfold on the full field in front of him as opposed to the years of watching it on US TV.
As we discussed the result the teams gathered arm in arm with the coaches in the centre of the ground in a touching gesture to show solidarity and respect remembering the life and contribution of Phil Walsh. Hawthorn’s team song not played and the fans who remained clapped the gesture of the two teams who left the ground solemnly.
Stephen has four more matches to attend before he heads back to the US and will be lucky to see any as good as this one.
COLLINGWOOD 3.5 7.7 9.16 12.19 (91)
HAWTHORN 4.2 8.5 12.7 15.11 (101)
Collingwood: White 2, Swan 2, De Goey, Broomhead, Williams, Cloke, Adams, Crisp, Fasolo, Blair
Hawthorn: Rioli 5, Breust 3, Shiels 2, Gunston 2, Schoenmakers, Smith, Suckling
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Varcoe, Crisp, Cloke, Williams
Hawthorn: Rioli, Lewis, Mitchell, Hill, Shiels, Stratton, Smith
Collingwood: Darcy Moore replaced by Jarryd Blair at three-quarter time
Hawthorn: Matt Spangher replaced by Matt Suckling at three-quarter time
Reports: Travis Varcoe (Collingwood) for forceful front-on contact against Cyril Rioli (Hawthorn) in the final quarter.
Umpires: Rosebury, Jeffery, Mollison
Official crowd: 75,880 at the MCG
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