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Because looks aren't everything
If a man is ugly, he probably needs some other strings in his bow if he wants to get a date. This fact drives some men to be ruthless in business, all in the hope of getting some popularity that doesn’t come naturally. And so it is with Hawthorn!
Hawthorn briefly tried to gain a stronger image by changing its name to Mayflowers. Admittedly, Mayblooms wasn't as effeminate as other flowers under consideration, such as daisies and tulips; however, Mayblooms still lagged a significant way behind more imposing flowers such as snap-dragons. In these early years "success" and "Hawthorn" were a contradiction in terms for only once during the period 1925 to 1956 did the club manage more wins than losses for the year.
In the 1950s, the club finally accepted that if it was going to have success, it was going to have to push the boundaries. It initially did this by changing its moniker from Mayflowers to Hawks. This change could itself be regarded as a psychologically significant development in the club's emergence out of the doldrums. On the field, Hawthorn embraced a dirty style of play that not only pushed the boundaries of legality, but if the umpire wasn’t looking, truly transgressed it. In 1961, it won its first premiership. More successes followed in 1971, 1976, 1978, 1983, 1988-89, and 1991.
Typifying the dirty ethic were Hawthorn’s ruthless players who became their icons. One of these was Dermot Brereton; a tough and dirty player who was about as far removed from a Maybloom as a human can get. Bereton was a man driven by shame in his ugliness. A red head by birth, he dyed his hair blonde in order to be more cool and then later filled it with so much product that not single strand would move in a cyclone.
A red-head by birth, Brereton became very fond of the mirror, hair dye, product and hair straightners over the years.
Lethal Leigh Mathews was another Hawthorn great driven by self loathing. Exhibiting the classic case of small man syndrome, the diminutive Mathews became the first VFL player to be charged with assault for an on-field incident when he king hit another player from behind. In summation of his playing style, Mathews personified Hawthorn when he said,
Another icon was Robert Dipierdomenico, a footballer of imposing size with an equally impressive moustache to boot - very much the type of man fathers have nightmares that their daughter will bring home.
Despite success and icons of the game, membership levels remained relatively low. Consequently, in 1996 the board voted to merge with the Melbourne Demons; seeing the merger as the only hope for the club to remain financially viable. In some ways, the action could be likened to parents being so exasperated by the inability of their son to get a date that they went out to arrange a marriage for him.
Rather than trust the board, fans and ex-players led a rebellion. After taking control of the club, they led a change in marketing direction that has to be seen as one of success stories of Australian sport. First, the new board fought to retain its own identity by refusing to merge. They also fought for the future of Waverly Park; an east Melbourne stadium in the heart of Melbourne suburbia. For the first time in decades, fans saw a club making a stand for something other than profit. They saw a club more interested in integrity rather than selling its soul to the lure of the dollar. It was an irresistible image that won a whole new legion of fans, particularly amongst the mums and dads whom didn't care much about fashion sense, but did care a lot about integrity. Hawthorn went from inevitable extinction to one of the higher memberships in the AFL.
Admittedly, the stand-for-something-other-than-profit was a short-term myth as the club showed it was very interested in profit by investing heavily in poker machines to become the clear AFL leader in gambling revenues. Additionally, the club sold home games to Tasmania – largely because it didn’t have faith in home fans turning up to view interstate teams.
Aside from selling games to beautiful Tasmania, Hawthorn also tried to change its image through a meta-sexual recruitment policy. Some of these players had names such as Chance, Jordan, Xavier, Beau, Buddy, and Trent, which were straight of American soap operas. Other players, such as Roughhead and Lance, were decidedly phallic. To further reinforce the club's fashionably gay credentials, their captain Shane Crawford even posed for gay-style calendars and maintained an ambiguous status in regards to his sexuality.
The Queer-Eye-for-the-Hawks-guy strategy achieved its objectives as a Roy Morgan poll in 2006 found that Hawks supporters were 48 per cent more likely to declare themselves to be homosexual.
With membership on the up, the club set about trying to re-claim some of its former glory on the football field. With the onset of cameras, Hawthorn found it much harder to ruthlessly push the boundaries with king hits as it had in the past so it aimed to get its advantage through sports science and building relationships with umpires.
In regards to sports science, Hawthorn had long been a pioneer. In the 1984 final series, spectators had taken video footage of players sniffing a mysterious substance during breaks in play and passed it on to authorities. Police later obtained a sample of the substance and determined it to be a mix of ammonia and eucalyptus. Hawthorn never clarified whether they were using the mixture to enhance performance, kill brain cells or to simply remind players a particularly nasty smelling urinal being cleaned. Whatever the reasons, it had been effective until it met Essendon in the grand final where the club fell to its knees and was duly put to the sword.
In the late naughties, Hawthorn’s sports science program again raised some eye brows when it started having players return from injury in time periods normally associated with steroid use. In 2012, the club revealed that its secret was the use of pioneering “orthokine therapy” that involved extracting player’s blood, putting it in glass beads in test tubes, then re-injecting it into the player to counter the pain and inflammation caused by a natural chemical known as interleukin. In the USA, the procedure was banned as there were few independent trials of the technique and it was reminiscent of blood doping. Hawthorn’s response was that it was performance enabling rather than performance enhancing.
The procedure, and perhaps others that were a little more convert, were certainly enabling as Hawthorn went on to win premierships in 2013, 2014 and 2015. None were investigated as the AFL seemed to have an understanding with ASADA at the time that it would offer full co-operation as long as only Essendon was charged for sports science violations.
In addition to having seemingly miracle powers to keep players on the field by doing little more than a technology-rich ice bath, Hawthorn developed an amazing ability to gain favourable umpiring decisions at critical moments in the games. Culturally, angry football fans used the hashtag #freekickhawthorn and memes to cast their suspicions that not everything was above board. More suspicions were aroused when rumour circulated of Hawthorn players socialising with umpires. Ironically, in 2015, umpire Dean Margetts tried to turn public perceptions around by saying football clubs should follow Hawthorn’s lead in building stronger relationships with whistleblowers. The call came in response to news that Margett’s and fellow umpire Ben Ryan had spent five days with Hawthorn at their pre-season training camp where the mixed socially with the players over golf, shared meals and sat in on all meetings. Despite the action being akin to criminal defendants socialising with judges and the police, the story was spun to actually portray the Hawks as role models giving umpires the respect they deserve.
With 13 premierships since World War 2, it can be argued that Hawthorn is the most successful club of the modern era; however, there will always be question marks over the relationship with umpires and sports science programs that were integral to that success. Furthermore, for its success, it still has the ugliest uniforms in the AFL.
Roy Morgan research
Hawthorn Hawks supporters are:
2001 when compared to other Australians
2004 when compared to other AFL supporters
2006- When compared to other AFL supporters
Club song hawthorn hawks theme song
Hawthorn began its existence as a junior club and the line "We're a happy team at Hawthorn". Considering how the club's culture evolved, it is fortunate that the song's writers didn't initially use gay, the period's most common word for happy. "Riding the bumps with a grin" could be interpreted two ways,
Essendon - For a long time Hawthorn struggled to build any rivalries. They were too much of a happy family club to build the kind of intimidatory onfield presence that would make them enemies. But in the late 70s, they developed a nasty streak and began stepping on a few toes. By the 80s, they were the toughest, meanest and best team in the league. Everyone wanted to beat them.
In the 1983 grand final, they locked horns with Essendon, another family club from the traditionally protestant area of western Melbourne. It was coached by a young Kevin Sheedy, a dodgy ex-backman who liked his players to show a bit of mongrel. But the Hawks soon put the upstarts in their place, inflicting a then record grand final defeat of 83 points on the young Bombers.
In the 1984 grand final, a three quarter time brawl was the catalyst for Essendon turning the tables. A nine-goal final quarter carried the Bombers to sweet revenge.
In the 1985 grand final, the Bombers kept in mind the power of an all-in- brawl and started one in the opening minutes. Sure enough, it carried them to a huge victory and back to back flags.
For the next decade, clashes between the two always had something extra. Fans of the respective clubs treasured their memories of Dermott Brereton crashing through the Essendon huddle and Bill Duckworth stepping on Brereton's hands.
Unfortunately, in the late 90s Hawthorn rediscovered its family image and as is to be expected, its performances fell away. Essendon fans no longer cared much about beating Hawthorn as it wasn't any kind of accomplishment.
Thankfully, in 2004 the two clubs re-aquainted themselves with their tradition with an all-in-brawl. A total of 25 players were reported with Hawthorn Captain Richie Vandenberg being rubbed out for six weeks.
For the old cogers, it brought a tear to the eye as they reminished about the great brawls of yesteryear. Even journalists who are accustomed to getting on a moral high horse, couldn't help but give credit where credit was due. One writing:
2013 slogan - Always Hawthorn
It can't be said that Hawthorn comes across as cool. The colours are not really combinations to be found on the cat walk and the lack of imagination in coming up with slogans is nothing really cat walk territory either.
Because being fashionable isn’t everything
Why are they thinking of renaming the Hawks the Hawthorn Hens?
Why does Hawthorn pay its players so much money?
Chance Batemen and Jared Roughhead were training. Chance got involved in some circle work, but Roughhead had a sore groin so he watched from the sidelines. The ball went round and round and then suddenly Chance was bumped by Xavier and fell to the ground, landing at Roughhead's feet. "Are you hurt Chance?" cried Roughhead in a high pitched squeal. "Of course I am you bitch!" replied Chance with tears in his eyes. " Three times I went round and you didn't wave once to me!"
How do you know that you have walked into a Hawthorn church service?
Why kind of country has four codes of "football"?