The Rivalry


Can you feel it?

One of the biggest rivalries in football looms large. Traditional rivals Essendon and Hawthorn are set to take the biggest stage: Friday night football. The only disappointment is that it won’t be at the MCG.

From my perspective, the Hawthorn/Essendon rivalry is more amusing than serious. Hawthorn supporters view it with a passion, their biggest game of the year, but to me it’s just another 4 points.

Sure, there were some incidents back in the 80’s, but that was almost three decades ago. It is now firmly in the past. Most supporters aren’t even old enough to remember those times.

Essendon’s true rivals are Carlton and Collingwood. Essendon and Carlton share the title of ‘the most successful club’ with 16 premierships a piece, while Collingwood are next in line with 15. The reality is Hawthorn aren’t in the same league.

Hawthorn’s measly premiership tally places them below Melbourne and suggests they won’t be a legitimate challenger to the throne for at least another 50 years. By this time many of us will be dead, or at least mentally checked out, in which case it will be of no consequence.

Not to mention that football in 50 years will be a non-contact sport unrecognisable to today’s football fan, who – if they have any judgement – already believes the game is well past it’s peak. It has devolved into a farce virtually indistinguishable from the disorganised rabble of an under 7’s match, save for the size, strength, speed and – unfortunately, only in some of the cases – the skill of the physical specimens on the field. But I digress.

The skewed relationship functions a little like a sibling rivalry, the Hawks fans being the little brother. They have always been overshadowed, and have never quite recovered from losing consecutive grand finals in ’84 and ’85. The former involving a demoralising 56pt turn-around, and the latter an even more embarrassing 78pt spanking.

From Hawthorn’s position winning is everything and it feels like a huge achievement regardless of the stakes. Even seeing their former oppressor taken down a notch gives them pleasure even without their team participating in the contest.

From the Bombers’ perspective, it’s just another game.

If the Hawks win in a head-to-head contest, it is no more disappointing than any other loss of the season. And if they defeat another opponent, either during the home-and-away season or even in a grand final, there is no ill will. In fact, you’re almost proud of them. Offering a congratulatory, albeit condescending, pat on the back while thinking, “Awww, they grow up so fast!”.

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