The Final Exam: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Footy Fans

February 2014

On my first day of my final year of school, I pass Mr Gilchrist (James Gilchrist to the rest of you) in the corridor. Although we’ve only been back for a few hours, his eyes are already cast downwards and forehead creased. I probably look the same. We have a chat, just the usual ‘how were the holidays?’ ‘how’s the family?’ ‘ready for year twelve?’. I admit to him that I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the year if Hawthorn try to go back to back. My examinations are only weeks after the grand final; I can’t go through a grand final and study devotedly at the same time. I jest that I almost wish that Hawthorn don’t even make finals this year, just to save me the additional stress. I say this half-heartedly though, I feel as though a 2009 repeat will destroy me even more. He laughs absently and looks at me with the tortured eyes of a Collingwood tragic. I can tell he’s thinking ‘Look at this pretentious girl. Next she’ll be demanding free cola for her journey from class to class. How am I going to make it through another year of dealing with such spoilt youths?’



My greatest fear/dream looks to be coming true. The Hawks are playing mighty well, so too are our old friends Geelong and Sydney. Essendon’s still in lawful limbo. The Demons and Saints are still petty objects of empathy. Things haven’t changed much this season.


Late August

I’m plotting the Hawks’ run to the last Saturday in September. I think we’re looking quite alright- as long as we have no scares against the Cats, and we have a near-full strength side to take into the final rounds of combat, the Hawks might be running hot come the pointy end of the season. Might have to start preparing the family with the ‘life is a long journey, full of back doors’ speech.


Qualifying Final

We’ve beaten Geelong, and quite easily at that. We can do anything. This is ours.



It’s nice having a week off. The boys’ll rest up and I’ll catch up on my studies. It’s all getting awfully close now.


Preliminary Final

My fanatical family from Adelaide come down for the match. They’re the kind of mob who think mullets are still in fashion and Radelaide is the place to be. I turn down an offer to sit in the MCC and Hawthorn members in favour of sitting with them. The last time I saw this side of the family was when Cold Chisel came to Melbourne (I wish I was kidding), so safe to say it’s been a while. They’ve managed to get me a ticket to the game- $160 later I understand why Gill’s making a fuss about meat pies and fixed pricing- and I suspect I’ll be sitting in the middle of a teal army.

I’m partly correct. Turns out the tickets are worth every penny- I’m sitting in the best seat in the house: front row opposite the centre square- and despite being the only Victorian in the row, I have a few Hawks behind me. Not as bad as I’d imagined. However what is far worse is the fact that 30 seconds before the siren, I see my family scrambling for their scarves. No, please don’t, I beg them. This is not your home game, INXS has no place on this neutral turf. Sure enough they stand up and hold their bloody scarves above their heads, waiting for the Port Power war-cry to commence. Please sit down, I implore silently. They look around, perhaps expecting Michael Hutchence to drop out of the sky and have a little sing. Thankfully the siren sounds and they return to their seats, muttering about ‘bloody Victorians’ and ‘us against the world’ and other things that I can’t quite make out.

Hawthorn Hannah

As for the game, my oh my I’ve never felt so close to dying. I shook for fifteen whole minutes after the game. Too bloody close. I think that’s the first time that footy’s made me cry from worry and fear.


Sunday night before Grand Final Week

My favourite week of the year has arrived. You can feel it in the air – everything seems brighter, fresher, happier. The weather is simply magnificent. Shame I have to spend it in exam halls all week. Maybe it might be a good thing, might keep my mind off the game. Because I tell you, I’m a bit worried about Hodgey. He looked a bit sore last week, I saw him grabbing at his hamstring. I know he’ll get through, but premierships are often awarded to the better conditioned side. I hope that we’ll be alright.



The English teachers of Victoria are obviously against the AFL. Scheduling the internal practise English exam at 9am on Friday, I can’t go to the Grand Final parade. Even more annoying than that is my English tutor (bitter Geelong supporter, thinks 2008 was daylight robbery and has taken it out on her students ever since) wants me to come to an extra class on Saturday morning. Neither are major problems, rather slight annoyances. But it has me thinking about the exam questions. Is it worth preparing a response to the prompt ‘Was Buddy right to move to Sydney? Discuss’ for my writing in the context of conflict question? How about having a quick scan of Tom Waterhouse’s website, in hope that some of his ads will be on the language analysis section? And it might be a big call, but I think it might even be worth structuring a response to the topic ‘Is Hisham Matar’s novel In the Country of Men in fact a metaphor for the AFL? Compare and contrast the two settings.’

Okay so maybe not such plausible topics, but a girl can dream…



I wake up at 5.30am, on the dot, after a horrid sleep. I was tossing and turning all night. I dreamt that I was walking down Glenferrie road, before it was built up with Ribs and Burgers and coffee shops and cinemas, but when it was just an 1800’s paddock. It was so serene. I returned home though, to see the houses surrounding mine engulfed in flames. My house was untouched however, and I had left the door unlocked.
Are these signs? Are the Hawks going to be calm, and the Swans ready to burn the house down? Are we letting them into our home too easily and they’re going to take advantage of it?

I’m not feeling good.

The weather is beautiful today. It looks like the sun has risen much before I have, the clouds all purple and air crisp. It looks like it’s going to be a perfect September day.



And perfect it just about was. I spent the day at a friend’s spit roast party, and despite being the only Hawthorn supporter in the group of 30, I was able to rope a few into sporting the yellow and brown scarf. A personal success for the day.

I don’t think anyone imagined the day unfurling like this. If you had told me in 2004 that in ten years time we would be crowned premiers thrice, with two of the wins being back-to-back, I doubt I would have believed you. Tell me that we would soon have one of the highest membership bases in the game, I would have just forced a smile and said ‘maybe one day’. If you had told me that we would be labelled a ‘champion team’, I don’t think I would have known how to react.

But it’s all true. These things have happened. We’re living the dream.

So now I suppose it is time for me to place my trust in the unknown, to instill in myself a culture of hard work and to work with a sense of sheer dedication. The Hawks have set their example; now it is my turn to work for the big prize. 2014’s a big year for us all.



About John Harms

John Harms is a writer, broadcaster, publisher, historian, speaker and teacher. He loves stories.

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