I went to the 1989 AFL grand final when Hawthorne played Geelong. It was probably the most exciting sporting event I've ever attended.
There were a hundred thousand or so other punters there watching with me and each of the three games played that afternoon (remember the days when an afternoon at the footy consisted of watching three games?) were decided by one kick. It was tremendous.
Gary Ablett, then more commonly referred to as "God", kicked nine goals, but Hawthorne managed to hang on and win by six points.
Ablett was awarded the Norm Smith Medal anyway, one of only four times ever that the medal has gone to a member of the losing side.
This weekend we see Ablett Jr, "The Son of God", who inherited much of the father's powers, take the field, also for Geelong of course, against Richmond in a grand final played in Brisbane, of all places. Ablett, who has won two premierships and a Brownlow, is retiring, ending a playing career spanning 19 years.
The situation is somewhat mirrored in the NRL where it seems likely that Cameron Smith will also retire, having also played an incredible 19 years. Smith hasn't come out and directly announced his retirement, but all the indicators are there.
With all the conjecture on Smith's hanging up of the boots has come, amongst the commentariat, some fairly liberal sprinklings of this 'GOAT' acronym they're all using these days - "Greatest of all Time." And fair enough, I suppose; he is truly, unarguably, a "great". But "greatest"?
We all know the real level of seriousness we give these "greatest" sportspeople lists: they mostly just provide us with subject matter for good-natured disagreement at the pub. So, with this in mind, I would like to pose a couple of questions on this anointment of Cameron Smith.
What, exactly, are they saying Smith is the greatest of all time at? With him being a forward who has never had to win a scrum I reckon calling him the greatest hooker ever does a disservice to a lost art; a fairly brutal lost art, but an art never-the-less. (Maitland's Peter Edmonds isn't being accused of being the greatest anything but I guarantee you Cameron Smith wouldn't have wanted to pack down against him...)
I'd be completely happy for Smith to be recognised as the "greatest dummy-half of all time". No argument.
I'd be completely happy for Smith to be recognised as the 'greatest dummy-half of all time'. No argument.
But that's not how these things work. Dummy-half is a function, not a position, and they need to allocate you a position in order to be comparing apples with apples.
Is Cameron Smith simply the greatest player of all time? That's a serious list to be at the top of. Churchill, Gasnier, Provan, Beetson, Fulton etc ...
Which brings me to my final question: If you look at the great, great St George side - the one that won 11 premierships in a row - what position would Cameron Smith play in that team? Who are you going to kick out?
Anyway, here's to a wonderful player; a perfect player in the modern era who has been a joy to watch. I'm tipping the Storm to beat the Panthers.
GOAT hard tag to earn
On the subject, the only safe "greatest", I reckon is Bradman. Going on the numbers, nobody's even close, or, for that matter, looks to be getting anywhere even near his batting average.
Margaret Court, of similar reported social disposition to Bradman, is narrowly hanging on to her "greatest" status with Serena Williams, only one major away from equalling Court.
Safer is Jack Nicklaus. The closest to Nicklaus, with 18 majors, is Tiger Woods who has 15. Walter Hagen has won 11, but, given he died in 1969 he will not be challenging.
Small trails Small
Which brings us to the main event, the real concern, the apex of Australian sport this weekend - the final round of the Maitland Golf Club Championship. Bowen Small, who set a course record of 65 in the opening round, blew out a little last weekend and is now, at five over, trailing his brother, Clayton, by two shots.
The course is playing hard. I called in on Sunday to see how everybody was going and heard, mostly, dark mutterings and sinister suggestions as to what may be going on in the private life of the greenkeeper in order to explain such diabolical, sadistic, pin placements.
The Bowen brothers are trailed, narrowly, by Joshua Knott (6 over) and Mitchell McPhee (7 over).
The foursome will play together, hitting off on Saturday at 12.48. A plus marker, three playing off scratch, only four shots between them...? The Maitland Club Championship at stake...?
I'm going to go watch. You should too: spectators are welcome.