Tobe Frank: To Buddy or not to Buddy


To be frank I am an unashamedly parochial, one-eyed, brown and gold loving, Hawks mad footy fan. Have been since I knew what footy was, brainwashed my kids and grandkids the same way my father did me and will be til the day they burn my remains in a box…with brown and gold siding of course…and spread my ashes over the hallowed turf of Glenferrie Oval.

And on this, the eve of their third straight Grand Final appearance, with a chance to jag an elusive back-to-back premiership (25 years since their first and last such effort), my level of nervous excitement has hit heights which may require emergency medical attention.

After last week’s fast finish by Port Power in the Preliminary Final, I needed to pee straight after the game, but I was shaking so much that I had quite some trouble peeing straight! It’s not good for the blood pressure, the heart rate, the vocal chords…nor my hip pocket with the swear jar being the major benefactor of the latter. But a win is a win and there’s only one more win – that’s more important.

And what a game it should be. I think the AFL might just have billed the biggest possible conclusion to the 2014 season. The top two teams are those facing off in the ultimate game of the season. The glamour rockstar Swans versus the ruthlessly relentless Hawks. It’s a sequel to the heart-stopping, see-sawing game that was the 2012 grand final, one that ultimately saw the Swans get up by 10 points.

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This year, there’s one big difference between the line up’s though, possibly THE story of 2014: Buddy Franklin. Having wiped away the tears and the bitter disappointment of the 2012 loss to the Swans, Buddy featured in an epic win against the Cats in 2013, then traded in the battle scarred brown and gold for the glamorous kit of the Swans, along with a $10 million pay cheque!

Now no one begrudges Buddy choosing the money over the club that shot him to stardom (I’d challenge anyone to turn down that kind of money), but I did make my grandson change the name of all his Hawthorn teddy bears from Buddy to Cyril (despite protests from him that “you can’t change someone’s name, Grandpa, just because he changes team…that’s his name!”). The Hawks haven’t missed Buddy this year with Roughead, Gunston and half the rest of the team stepping in to ensure the Hawks were the most prolific scoring team of the season, but I can’t help but think that the Brownlow Medal runner up might just prove to be the difference on Saturday.

Buddy is the biggest of the big game players, capable of inspiring a whole team and dazzling a stadium with his brilliance. He’s has done it time and time again and he thrives off the attention from the crowd and his opponents. Gary Ablett Jr might be better, but I don’t think anyone is as big in the game as Buddy.

But the Hawk, The Mighty Fighting Hawks, the most successful team of the modern era; the only team to have won a premiership in each of the last 6 decades. They are finals experts. The whole club is geared to grinding out victories on the last Saturday in September. And they won’t be consumed by the Buddy factor come game time.

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My favourite number has and always will be 23. It started with Don Scott in 1967, and was fuelled by the original rockstar of the AFL, Dermott Brereton from 1983.

Given that Tim O’Brien (the current No.23) won’t be lining up on Saturday, the only 23 I’ll be going for is that of the winning margin…with the Hawks victorious of course.