2011 has already flown by too quickly. It feels like mere days ago that we were all shouting "Happy New Year!" (Or indeed "Happy New Beer!" as the case may be). Now we're already in late January, and footy season is just around the corner.
Remember even a decade or two back when people complained that March was far too early for the footy season to start? Well, this year it kicks off on February 11th. But somehow I suspect, in light of Australia's abysmal performance in the Ashes, few will be complaining come February.
A point people who may be reading this interstate or overseas need to realise is that in Melbourne, footy is a religion. In Melbourne, most people don't care about what your religion is, or whether you voted for Brumby or Baillieu. But, almost inevitably, they will ask you (upon meeting you for the first time) "What footy club do you barrack for?" and "Who do you think will win the Premiership this year?"
For me, the answer to the first question has always been "Hawthorn!" Some of my fondest memories growing up were sitting in the wind-swept stands at Waverley Park, even through the lean years when Ken Judge was our coach. I was at the "merger meeting" in 1996 when Ross Oakley tried to force Hawthorn to merge with Melbourne. (If you look very closely at a photo of the crowd for that meeting at Camberwell Town Hall, I'm the grade 6 kid standing in one of the isles a few rows back from the stage.) And during High School I joined the Hawthorn Supporters Group (they didn't call themselves a "Cheer Squad") and helped carry the banner out at both Football Park (now known as AAMI Stadium) and the SCG.
As for the second question, my answer (at this point) is the same: "Hawthorn!" Sure, I might be slightly biased in my answer. But I honestly think, assuming we don't have any major problems with injuries and suspensions, that the Hawks can deliver the goods in 2011 if they play at their best throughout the season. And there's a number of reasons why I think this is the case.
The Hawks have a streak to keep up. We've won at least one Premiership in five consecutive decades. Phrased differently, in every decade starting 1960, we've won a Premiership. In fact, we've won 10 Premierships since entering the VFL / AFL in 1925 and, to save you some maths, that means that on average Hawthorn has won more than one Premiership every decade since we've been in the VFL / AFL (although to be fair, our seven consecutive Grand Final appearances in the '80s skew that number a little). Now that a new decade (the 2010's) is well and truly upon us, it's time to make that six consecutive decades of Premierships. And what better year to do it than 2011.
Certainly, the Hawks have the list to deliver the goods. Just look at some of the names. Franklin. Hodge. Roughead. Mitchell. Sewell. Bateman. Rioli. At their "unsociable" best, they're easily among the best players in the league.
In fact, we have shown that we have a list that can match it with the best in the league. Consider that in round 22 last year, Hawthorn beat the eventual Premiers, Collingwood, 15.8.98 to 13.17.95. It demonstrated that, when playing well, the Hawks have a list to knock off any team in the league, including the highly overrated Pies. As for St Kilda, they've had multiple chances to deliver a Premiership and have failed to deliver the goods time and time again. I need not mention the horrid off-season they've had. If they meet the Hawks on a good day, they're toast.
In 2007, Hawthorn's President Jeff Kennett unveiled the five-two-fifty plan. The club's goal over the five years beginning 2007 was to build the membership base to win two Premierships and build the membership up to 50,000. Thanks in part to the leadership of Jeff, the Hawks have managed to meet one of those goals (50,000 members) and get half way to achieving the other goal (winning a Premiership in 2008).
And at the start of 2011, it's clear that five-two-fifty is still a very achievable goal. Carn the Hawks!
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