August 1977, Melbourne, Australia
Mr President Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very sensitive of the honour that the Hawthorn Football Club have done to me this evening, and I thank very sincerely the committee and all those who are associated with arranging it and I thank very sincerely all of you people who have come and have done me the honour of coming here.
David can string words together perhaps better than I can. He is pretty good at this, and it’s probably he had an in for being coach. But I’ve always said this and can repeat it without any false modesty – Hawthorn has done more for me, than I have ever been able to do for Hawthorn.
You personally, as people, who have played for the team and barracked for the team and have been associated with the club may not look at it that way, but we know ourselves best of all and I know how much in the first few years of playing football for Hawthorn, a League club, gave me some sort of confidence that I felt I lacked. I never quite overcame it, but Hawthorn gave me a great start in that respect.
Hawthorn, too, gave me the chance to play League football, to be part of football and football for me has always meant two things. It’s meant the opportunity to play the game and to be judged according to your performance an d nothing else. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Protestant or Catholic. It doesn’t make any difference – you are judged by your performance and nothing else.
As I go on a little bit in life I wish it was the same everywhere else – I don’t know whether it is quite as straight as football. The score goes up on the board after every week and that’s the judgement that’s made. That is the way it is and I think that’s a great thing. It’s an attraction for me, it’s always attracted me to football and Hawthorn gave me the opportunity to be part of this.
But Hawthorn did more than that for me. Hawthorn gave me the chance to meet some wonderful people and over the years it’s been my privilege and pleasure to work with them. To meet the first president of our club, Dave Prentice, who has passed on since, to meet two people such as Dr Ferguson and Phil Ryan.
Sandy Ferguson was president of the club when I first came here. I think he was everything rolled into one then -- president, MO, and everything Dr – and he set a tone in the administration or the club. He set the goal before us players, and though we weren’t winning, the ideas were there, the dedication and selflessness was epitomised in the President who seemed to be there all the time, willing to give his time and energy and his medical acumen to the progress of the Hawthorn Football Club. And he still is this way. And Sandy has been associated with the club certainly for longer than I have, and I had the opportunity of meeting him, and becoming, I hope, his friend, certainly his friend, through playing for Hawthorn.
And Phil – who became president after Dr retired. Phil Ryan, I don’t know whether people really understand Phil. There has been a lot of talk about Kennedy and all of this but they say really that the best leaders in life are those fellows who, and those people, whether they are men or women, who are able to lead people in such a way that when the target is achieved, when the victory is won and the goals have been scored, the people will turn around and say, ‘Gee how did we do it”, and they look and say “yes, he was in charge”. They are not even conscious that they are being led in many way, and these are the best types of leaders and, in this way, I think Phil is outstanding – in this kind of way – as President of our club.
Phil heads a committee, a rugged lot of fellows. We have got all kinds of people on our committee. We’ve only got twelve now – we used to have twenty two and the meetings were quite electric when we had twenty two around the table. But Phil’s tolerance and broad acceptance of the part that everybody can play in the administration of the club just has to be seen to be believed, and so I believe that in Dr Ferguson and Phil Ryan, we’ve had the continuity of administration that has put us where we are today. And I don’t really want to individualise but I felt that I had to say that Hawthorn has given me the opportunity to meet these two men and to be influenced by them, and to copy, imitate – which is the sincerest form of flattery – some of their methods.
I am honoured to have here so many people this evening whom I know, and as always at hawthorn I always feel very remiss that there are so many people who I meet, and when I was coaching and when I was playing I scarcely had the time to say ‘gooday how are you’ or pass the time of day.
Always seem to be going somewhere, either coming from losing, or we won, or something like that, and you’re on your way, but to all of those people, I say, thank you very much. I said it at a previous occasion like this, and I won’t be Madam Melba I can assure you of that, but on a previous occasion like this, I said I would be happy to return and be assistant boot studder to Ted Laws, and Ted has been associated with the club for as long as I have, and once again it’s people like Ted Laws and Athol Taylor who was there for some time too. All of these people I’ve met and made friends with and I treasure the friendships I’ve made.
To hear Kevin (Curran), Graeme (Arthur) and Roy (Simmonds), people with whom I had the honour of playing, speak this evening has indeed also been an honour for me. ‘Dobbin’ we used to call him, he used to sing a song called ‘Jog Along Mr Dobbin’. I’ve always marvelled at people who could sing one note off key right through you know. You can imagine people who get out of tune, that’s understandable, but they are real geniuses that can drop a half key and go right through. – well Kevin could do that whether he was full or whether he was sober, he could still do that. You might think Kennedy trained hard, but nothing beside McCaskill. Kevin was associated the night when we ran round and round the ground. Bob, dear old Bob, he was a tremendous fellow but he had had a couple of whiskies this evening, and he was in good form and the rain was coming down, and the team was were going round and round the Hawthorn Ground until we almost got giddy. And it was punctuated by short sprints every now and then, and do a lap that way, and a little Fox Terrier joined in. It was Kevin that was with us that night, leading the bunch, and we ran round and round and the Foxie died – and there he was, lying on his back with his four legs poking up to the sky. Kevin said, ‘look the little dog’s dead’. McCaskill said, ‘get another dog – run on!’ Great feeling to play with him.
I have never forgotten the story that Graeme told me about Kevin. Greame played his first game for Sandhurst when he was about – well it started when he was sixteen, then he was fifteen, then fourteen, I think he must have been twelve when he played his first game for Sandhurst. He was only on the ground, Kevin had left Hawthorn by this stage and gone to captain and coach Sandhurst and when Mort (Graeme) came down to Hawthorn, he was talking about Curran, and said ‘when I played in thefirst game, I was knocked over in the first minute, someone whacked me behind the play, and down I went.’ He said, ‘I was looking around, I was a bit glassy eyed but then this big form came up and said, “don’t worry Mort. We’ll get that one back quick and lively”. And sure enough, about five minutes later, one of the opposition was getting carted off over the other side – Curran had ... great feeling to have a leader like that with you and not against you.
And I can remember at Footscray when Roy Simmonds and I were at the end of the cricket pitch, with Jack Collins in between us, and we were engaging in a bit of repartee. We were as long way behind in the game. There was a bit of mud slinging going on. Kevin got the ball at the other end of the pitch and took off. He was a fearsome sight when he was full steam ahead, and Jack looked up and he said to Simmo, ‘look out!’ He jumped one way, and Simmo went the other way, because he was no respecter of guernseys, Kevin, when he was in full flight, didn’t matter whether you had his guernsey on or the other one, he’d take you just the same. But it was great to play with him, and great to have him on your side, and, as I say, to see him here tonight is a great honour for me.
And Jack Hale. I thank you Jack for coming here, and for your comments. My father used to go to football when I was so small I could hardly remember it you know. The only thing I could ever recall my father saying, he used to follow Essendon , he’d come home some times and there were two things he used to say. ‘You could kick me from here to Bourke Street if I ever go to another final” because they used to jostle him and so on, and another thing was he used to come home and say, ‘That Hale’s mad!’ – and little did I know, later on I was to meet that fellow Hale, and the description was an accurate one – but in the right way.
Jack had many – he won’t mind me saying it – he had many wonderful attributes as a coach, not the least of which was tremendous psychiatric ability. Roy has referred to it, and I even thought after Jack left off sending players down there for psychiatric treatment, because if anybody had any problems injury-wise, Jack could guarantee to fix them. He had a way with him when it came to fixing injuries. David talks about single mindedness. Well Jack had single mindedness to the enth degree. There were no injuries for Jack, none, just none. Unless you had an obvious break, when the arm was broken you weren’t injured. And he’dalways point to his head and say, ‘it’s up there, it’s up there.’ And we had a memorable ten minutes before the game, these electric things were happening always, when Jack was coach. Mort (Graeme Arthur) had a bad shoulder and we were in the little room there before wetook the field against Fitzroy, and Mort said, ‘my shoulder’s pretty crook’. And I was brought in to act as an intermediary between Jack and Graeme.
Jack said, ‘Nothing wrong with your shoulder, nothing wrong with it, nothing wrong with it – it’s all up here’.
What are you talking about?’ said Mort. ‘My shoulder’s sore’
‘Nothing wrong with it, it’s all up here’ he said.
One thing led to another and things got pretty heated, but in all events,. Graeme went out and he played. He was best man on the ground.
‘There ‘are’ – said Hale ‘Nothing wrong with your shoulder’
And you see, after this comes over you for two or three years, it gets you in the finish, and there aren’t any such things as injuries.
The other aspect of Jack was the disappointed look on his face when he’d be talking to the team, and he’d see any player who had a bandage on him. These things used to worry Jack. I’ve seen him visible affected by a bandage. He’d be speaking to the players before the game and suddenly someone who had a piece of plaster on his leg, or a knee bandage, or even a slight bit of tape around his leg, and you’d see his eyes, they look at it, and you could see him distracted. I’d say, ‘for god sake take the thing off and let him get on with what he’s saying’ because it really used to worry him. Nobody was allowed to wear bandages or anything like that. But it had its affect. It had its affect and it made all of us who played with Jack, and for Jack, and for Hawthorn, much better for having been with him.
Graeme – I’m very grateful for your being here, and I think it’s a great thing to have played football with you. I suppose time goes on and the younger players now – Graeme Arthur is just a name. The newspaper coined a phrase when Graeme came down, or they used a word. The word was unobtrusive. Unobtrusive they said. We used to reckon he was so unobtrusive sometimes that you didn’t notice him at all, he just seemed to be not in the game at all. Some days he was more unobtrusive than others, but he was a great Hawthorn player, and it was great to have played with him, and to be privileged to coach the team when he was captain. And I don’t want to go through and enumerate people and start to single people out because I could do this for such a long time, but I say that I am very grateful also to see so many players with whom I was associated with in 1961 and 1976, and in between those years this evening. In a funny sort of way, I suppose I like to think that I’m friends with all the players.
Morton Brown is here, and I think if I can say I’m your friend Morton, I’m everybody’s friend.
In respect of that remark, I suppose of all players, between Morton and me there was an invisible le bond. I don’t know what it was made of -- if it was mutual distrust, or mutual antipathy. In all eventsI probably roasted Mortonmore than any player that I’ve ever known, and yet I can still see Morton Brown taking the mark that won us the [blank on page] ... a most gifted footballer.
I would say too, to the people ar4oudn the club, the administrators, Secretary Ivan. I think perhaps today’s Secretaries really don’t know how easy they have it. Sometimes they might think life’s hard, but in Hale’s day as coach at Hawthorn, you know anything could happen. This is a true story. I have vivid recollections of being in the Secretary’s office one night when he had to two young boys he was trying to sign up to play with the team. Our Secretary at the time was Bill Newton, a very fine chap – didn’t have much of a sense of humour, and you certainly needed a sense of humour, because he was talking to these two lads, and he had me there as Captain of the team, to sort of add the right wordsat the right time. And the Secretary’s office at that stage is where the two doors are where Jan is now, in between the two doors there. Standing there in the middle of signing up these players, the door burst open and O’Mahoney and Arthur came through one door, absolutely nothing on, straight out the other door, and flat out slammed the door behind them. Bill was absolutely flabbergasted. He said, ‘well what’s going on there?’ He got back on the trail, undaunted, , with the two recruits, and just sort of got the thing running again, when the door came open again and Simmo came through, dressed exactly the same, but carrying his sausage on a plate. Bill was still undaunted, though he was by this time getting disgusted, and I think it would strain anybody’s sense of humour, but he just moved into action again. Then, a third time the door opened and in came the coach, Jack Hale, absolutely starkers with a bucket full of water, running out the other door after them. He’s chasing them too –
Well at that time I sympathised with Bill. What can you expect when you have got the bloke in charge of them, and that’s what he’s doing? So things have toned down a lot since then, and there’s less of that – more decorum, and a little more dignity associated with the place, but nevertheless they were happy days.
I thank to Lou (Richards) and Peter for their attendance here tonight, and what they have done, and their excellent comparing g of the show, and I should say perhaps – I can recall my fourth game of the year when we played Collingwood, and Lou was captain, and we were playing at Hawthorn, and we were getting beaten. It’s always impressed me, this. Lou mightn’t remember this, I don’t suppose he would, but he was captain. He was roving for the Collingwood side, and there’s as pretty big ruckman named Neville Waller. Lou and Neil Mann will remember him, and Neville must have got something wrong with him. He was down on the ground, lying there, and Lou ran up sand said, ‘get up!’ – so it’s not only Kennedy who says get up – Lou said, ‘get UP!’ And Neville went ‘oooooh’, he was winded I think, and Lou said, I thought it was a bit tough, but Lou said, ‘well if you can’t’ get up, get off!’ and out they came the Collingwood trainers and took him off. And it struck me that Neville was such a big fellow, and Lou was rover, he was shorter. He was captain, and I thought it was an example of the tremendous control he had over them, and it impressed me, and I thought if ever we get knocked down, we’ll get up too. So all of you who have been blaming me for saying ‘get up!’, well blame Lou. He’s the one who started me on the bad road.
The present coach David Parkin, he obviously has a masochistic streak in him, because Dave had concussion eight times when he was playing. Anybody who’s silly enough to run into his opponent eight times and get concussion when he’s playing, well he’s got the first qualification for beinga coach.
And I saw the game this year against Footscray. At the bounce of the ball Scotty got one and was in agony. Scotty was doubled up in pain and down he went, rolling on the ground. A terrible act, and the umpire blew the whistle to give him a free kick, and Scotty, too bad he couldn’t take it, so he struggled manfully and got hold of the ball, and you know, in the best tradition, handpassed it to Rodney Eade, to get himself off the hook. And what did Eade do? I’m sure with Parkin’s instructions in mind, he kicked the ball straight back and hit Scotty in the head with it – deliberate.
Any coach who would instruct his players to that is absolutely heartless. But in all events, it had the right effect because Scotty forgot about his agony and he thought about his head, and he sprang up and went back and kicked a goal, so there you are.
Alf (Brown), I must thank you for writing the very complimentary things you did. I appreciate that because you usually say what you mean. Those of you who know football probably don’t know Alf Brown so well, and a lot of people don’t like Alf’s criticism. I don’t mind Alf’s cricticism. I never have because he never jumped on the bandwagon blaming us because we didn’t play it according to the exact Marino rules you know. He has always been quite factual, but he also has his way of getting information, and I always recall when I was first made coach, he rang me and said, ‘if you can just help me with a little bit of knowledge about the team, you know, who’s going to be where, it will help me write the article a bit,’ so we kept up this practice and I found out in the first week his technique was to choose any player, he’d say ‘Sted Hay’ for instance:
‘Sted’s no good is he?’
And straight away I’d jump in and say, ‘course he’s a good player, he can run and kick’ and he’d have the pencil out and he’d be writing all these things down, andI found that he’d do that. So I learned after that to shut up and say nothing when he said, ‘Ian Law wasn’t a good player’, ‘I’d say ‘No he’s out of form Alf, he’s not playing too well.’ So it doesn’t pay to come back. Never let them get you in. But I thank you Alf for your presence and for your good wishes and I do thank too the people who have come from opposing clubs here, because I suppose at Hawthorn we have tried to adopt the policy of not expecting any quarter, not asking any, and not giving any either, and we hope we have gained the respect of opponents.
Finally I’d like to not finish at all on a note of reminiscence but just to pause for a moment and think, ‘have I not said anything I should have said?’. Well if I have I can only just say again that my thanks go out to you all, and my sincere feeling is that Hawthorn has given me far more than I can ever give back to Hawthorn. Now I don’t want to finish on a note of reminiscence at all, though you might be tempted to do so when you see fellows like Kevin Heath here. Remember Heathy, that morning? Heathy and I used to run of a morning 5.30 AM outside Heath’s house. We went p4retty well until one morning I got there and I was whistling – I’ve always envied people who could whistle, S-S-S-T-T, like that. I was whistling in the dark, no sign of him, so eventually the door creaked open and the voice said, ‘is that you John?
I said, ‘yes,’
The voice replies, ‘It’s [Kevin’s father ] Joe here. I’ll get him out.’
So the door shut as I waited around for a while, but still not sign of him.
Ten minutes later, it’s still pitch dark but the cars are going past now, when the door opened again.
‘That you Kev?’ I said.
‘No Joe, John. He won’t be long.’
The door shut and again another ten minutes goes and finally the door opens and out he comes and he’s coughing and spluttering and we run up Bourke Road over Cotham Road and up to my place. But he had a bit of Johnny Peck in him – he always managed to put in a bit of a sprint at the end, and then he turned and back he used to go, and I’d trot off. But I hope you are still having that run, Kev. It makes a difference. It makes a difference.
Now one more before I finish. Thank you Noel for your good wishes. I can still see Noel McMahon in about 1952, it might have been the game Alan Nash mentioned, could scent victory you know, we didn’t win many in those days. We thought, here’s a chance to win the match. Jack McLeod had gone round the bend, as he usually did when he smelt victory – he was ready to knock anybody down who got in his way. The umpire was a bit panicky, and Denis Cordner and I had a bit of a practical difference of opinion at the previous knockout, and Denis was just out of the action, and the ball was bounced up again and Noel was on the other side of the ring, and I can still see Noel wagging his finger, saying, ‘you’ll do me Kennedy’ and by this time I was round the bend too, and I was saying ‘right Noel, you’re good enough for me’. I don’t know how it came off. It was probably a pretty big collision, but I suppose neither of usis any the worse for it.
But what I want to say is that the best victories we’ve had at Hawthorn are the victories which we’ve had when we’ve had to come from behind. I don’t mean behind on the day – but when everything was running against us.
As Dave (Parkin) said, he mentioned he philosophy of Karl Marx, the underdog I suppose, I thrive on that a bit, but when all of us were down, and with respect to the Melbourne Football Club which I admire greatly, and I’ve always had tremendous respect, our best victory that I can recall in this sense was in 1961, not in the Grand Final, but in the Semi Final, when we were in the right frame of mind, when every Hawthorn player who went onto the field knew what was ahead of him. When every Hawthorn player knew there was a chance.
We had to beat Melbourne because Melbourne stood between us and the premiership. We had a little bit of luck too, which made it even better, because its crook to lose when you have bad luck, you know. I know how Melbourne must have felt, but football is a ruthless game, but things went our way that day – a few things happened too that made a little bit of spice to it, a little bit of spice to the game. But that had happened to us plenty of time over the years – we’d copped it for year after year.
So that day , as I said, when Morton kicked a goal, I think most Hawthorn supporters knew that we had the game and we had the premiership when we beat Melbourne that day, and that’s the sort of victory that stands out in my mind. Now to contrast that with our performance in 1975, when that was what was missing. My fault, I’ve said it all the time. Our team, our team was not in the right frame of mind. We were not prepared to pay the price that’s required when you are going to win a premiership. Because everybody want to win a premiership, and it’s a big game, and it’s a big price that’s got to be paid, and there is no question in 1975 we just didn’t have it.
I had slipped a little bit, just enough to make a difference, and this is nothing to take away from the tremendous effort of North and Ron and the boys, this is not to take away from that at all, but it took that – to get into all of our heads, that we weren’t going to let that happen again in 1976, and it didn’t happen again. And though we didn’t play at our top, we had the right approach.
Dave, you’ll forgive me for saying this, because this is more important than whose testimonial it is – this is more important. This year we have seen, I believe, I can say this without any humility at all, tremendous improvements in the team. We’ve got a daring team who are prepared to do things that perhaps we weren’t prepared to do before with a more conservative approach. And don’t let us mistake our attitude when the final series come. All of us here and this important for the team, this is important for the present team because football after all is a game for the present, very much a game for the present. All of us here from 1961, from before that time, 1971, all those years, the players who are here tonight are Hawthorn players and the administrators are all together for Hawthorn’s sake. As Phil said, ‘it’s a great club, a wonderful club that it’s worth doing something for, absolutely worth doing something for. Now when we get into the final, into the finals this year, when we get onto that ground make sure, make sure, make absolutely sure,, that the eighteen we have got there, and Dave, and everybody is in the right frame of mind. If we are doing that, then I think we’ll get there, and it will be two in a row, and Dave will have his first premiership, and that’s what I want.
Thank you ladies and gentleman.
Thank you for this tremendous night, this tremendous life, at Hawthorn.