Earlier this year I was at the footy and was pleased to meet the new girlfriend of one of my mates. She doesn't follow the game but was keen to come along to see what all this AFL buzz was about.
I welcomed her to the world of our brown and gold existence, the Hawthorn Hawks, with a spare scarf I had at home. She grinned and wrapped it around her neck. Then I told her that she wasn't allowed to come along again unless she wears it...with pride. We laughed. She agreed. Ice broken. Another supporter recruited.
For those of you who know me, to say I am a die hard, passionate and at times slightly arrogant Hawthorn supporter, would be a sure bet right?
Ok, ok, I can see you nodding your heads profusely, including my dear husband who on many occasions has called himself the football widow in our family. I think he's right.
I love my Hawks, the game itself and the comradeship with my fellow Hawthorn supporting friends. Let's just not mention my love of the umpires though..
Over the years, and I mean around 25 years, there have been buckets of tears, child like tantrums, broken flags, random hugging of strangers, interstate trips, jumping over the fence after the 100th goal is kicked (thanks Dunstall and Buddy), premierships won, far too much money spent, an overflowing swear jar, copious amounts of pies consumed and countless moments of elation and joy.
And that's just on a Saturday afternoon.
My mate's new girlfriend came along to another game during the year. The Hawks were a few goals down at half time and were not playing well. Our tight-knit group were anxious and frustrated. This was clearly visible to our newest recruit so at the half time break she turned to me and the following conversation occurred:
New scarf wearing recruit: I've only ever been when the Hawks have won.
AP: Ah ha, sighs, squeezes tomato sauce over beef pie.
New scarf wearing recruit: He doesn't handle it well when they're losing does he?
AP: Nup (thinking neither do I, love!). Blows on gravy beefy pie goodness to cool it down.
New scarf wearing recruit: I'm going to have a talk to him about getting some perspective.
AP: Spits gravy beef pie goodness onto the ground. Ohhh ok. Umm, hang on, might want to wait until after the game. In fact maybe tomorrow morning. Yes?
New scarf wearing recruit: Laughs. Oh yes, ha ha. Alright then. Sure.
AP: Frantically trying to figure out how to give her friend the heads up about an impending 'there's more to life than football' lecture from girlfriend. Abandons heads up plan, too hard and besides, she's not my girlfriend and I have a pie to eat. Continues devouring remaining pie.
Fast forward three months and the mighty Hawks have reached that last Saturday in September.
Grand final day 2012 and we were in it!
I was anxious, not overly confident but very hopeful. The lead up to the day was enormous. Nervous butterflies all week, wide awake each morning at 6am too preoccupied and excited to sleep.
The last time Hawthorn lost a Grand Final was in 1987. I was six years old. We won in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 2008.
Therefore, I had never really experienced the pain of losing a flag.
Saturday 29 September 2012. The Sydney Swans defeated Hawthorn by ten points to claim the 2012 Premiership.
I was numb. Heart broken. Disappointed. Lost.
I got out of the MCG as fast as I could. In a sea of brown and gold scarves my wobbling chin and I said goodbye to my football mates and jumped on a train home.
Home to see my little boy. My happy and beautiful bundle of chubby goodness. Oh and dear husband too. From the time they dropped me off at the footy to when I got home was eight hours. The longest I had been apart from the little master since his birth eight months ago.
He grinned his little face off at me and my heart melt. I had missed him. Very much.
In the background, my dear husband could be heard whispering on the phone: 'She's ok, I think. Hasn't said much. No, the world hasn't fallen in..'
He was right. And so was my friend's new girl.
It's only taken a quarter of a century but I, for a moment, managed to 'get some perspective'.
Rather than dwelling on the Grand Final defeat, I gave thanks to having such a fulfilling hobby as part of my life that I can share with my little master. Or should I say, little hawk..
I will teach him to be a good sport, a loyal supporter who stands by his team in good times and bad, and he will learn to persevere and work hard to achieve his goals. He will be kind to the umpires and I will push him over the fence when the next Hawthorn forward kicks 100 goals. In fact, we will leap over the fence together. Some things never change.