Andrew Johnston

April 19, 2018


They define why we watch sport.

I’ve been watching football a long time now and been lucky enough to see some pretty emotional moments in our game.

As my editor did on Monday I’m going to — in no particular order — list some moments in football that have stood out for me.

Because yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Nicky Winmar lifting his jumper in defiance of racial taunting. The picture of his proud action has become one of the greatest football images of all time.

Nicky didn’t just change football that day, in many ways he became a catalyst for cultural change.

We aren’t there yet, we have a long way to go, but Nicky started that.

And we are in his debt for it.

The first thing I think about is the day Phil Walsh died.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a sadder day as a fan.

I was woken by a phone call from my dad to turn my TV on.

I stared at the screen for a good hour not believing what I was seeing.

I think we all did.

It was unbeliveably sad, a family torn apart by drugs, but a story that became so much bigger than one family.

Hawthorn played Collingwood that night in one of the strangest games of football I’ve seen.

Hawthorn won, but you didn’t really feel like barracking.

That said, it was a cracker of a game, and we needed it that night as a football community.

The spontaneous call by Clarkson and Buckley after that match to have both sides stand arm-in-arm in silence for a minute was genuinely beautiful.

When every club repeated that show of respect that weekend, we felt unity as a football family.

It brought me back to a time more than 10 years beforehand.

In round one of the 2005 season, Melbourne and Essendon ran out onto the ground together to You’ll Never Walk Alone in memory of Melbourne player Troy Broadbridge, who had died in the Boxing Day tsunami that summer.

When Melbourne walked off the ground arm-in-arm after that game, you felt uplifted by the spirit of the football club.

It’s funny how in its darkest moments, footy can bring us joy.

One of my favourite moments of joy came from my arch nemesis in football, Essendon.

After a week of strife following his comments about umpires, James Hird was under extreme pressure.

When he booted the last goal against West Coast — the match winner — Hirdy hugged a fan.

It’s a moment I love, seeing a player just release his emotion and share it with someone he’d never met.

You can say what you want about James Hird in the past decade but on the field there were few finer footballers than him.

That’s how I choose to remember him — a great player who loved his football.

I was eight when the Bali bombings happened.

I don’t remember much.

My knowledge is limited to what I have read in books.

But I remember Jason McCartney.

I remember images of him wrapped in compression bandages from head to toe while training on his road back to the AFL.

He only wanted one game, he wanted to prove he could.

The roar as he ran out onto the field against Richmond was so loud I swear our TV shook.

We remember the jumper bearing the numbers ‘‘88/202’’ for the 88 Australians among the 202 victims.

He played a pretty good game in what was his final match — he did what he wanted to do.

But I have to end with a Hawthorn moment.

And nothing is better to me than round one, 2017.

Jarryd Roughead returned to the field having beaten stage four melanoma.

When it was announced that Roughy’s cancer was back, no one knew how to react.

Once, stage four cancer was a death sentence.

And with the way it was talked about in the media, it seemed like our Roughy was in serious trouble.

But he was in with a shot.

Neale Daniher once said: ‘‘What was hopeless for Jim Stynes is now hopeful for Roughy.’’

I damn near cried when they announced Rough was cancer free in December 2016.

And I have never been a more proud Hawthorn person than when he ran out onto the MCG as our captain.

We lost, but no one cared.

Rough was back.

It’s an emotional game, football.

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