It’s a momentous decision for a Hawthorn man to make, but STEVE PERKIN finds himself forced to demote Lethal Leigh:
I NEVER THOUGHT I’d say this, but I’m dumping Leigh Matthews as captain of Hawthorn’s Team of the Forever. Luke Hodge, come on down. I saw all of Lethal’s career, and while he sits just behind Wayne Carey as the best player I’ve ever seen, I’m not sure how much of a leader he was.
“Do as I do,” always seemed, to me, to be the Matthews’ approach to captaincy. With Hodge, it’s different. He points, he vocalises, he congratulates, he criticises and he teaches.
And it doesn’t stop on the ground, as evidenced by the gentle rebuke he gave teammate Ryan Burton when the youngster ordered a press photographer out of the circle at the singing of the club song after a recent win. “We don’t do that,” he said, looking Burton in the eyes.
This side of Hodge’s game make him the equal of Chris Judd, picks one and three in the 2001 Super Draft. Judd was probably a better player. Hodge was better at making others better players.
As a Hawthorn fan, would I want Judd or Hodge if the time came again? I’d take Hodge every time, just as every Eagles supporter would take Judd.
So, I went to the MCG on Saturday to offer my thanks to Hodgey and to farewell Leigh Matthews as captain of my best team. Not personally thank him. Just clap from 15 rows back.
How prophetic that he kicked the goal to keep us in the contest – willing himself to impact the game, as all great players seem capable of doing.
And as I watched, I wondered how many of the current crop of Hawthorn players might impact the club’s best-ever team. Would Josh Gibson get a spot in defence? Is Isaac Smith a better wingman than Dipper?
Cyril would probably get a forward job, obviously Hodge gets a back-flank, and I look forward to seeing whether Mitchell T can, in years to come, replace Mitchell S as centreman.
I ponder such things a lot because, as my kids keep telling me, I’m a silly, old man. Silly enough to walk away from a devout Melbourne family and, as a five-year-old, adopt Hawthorn because they were on the bottom. Old enough to know I’ll see a 14th flag.
I see Paul Dear a bit and I’m looking forward to watching his next son play in Hawthorn colours under father-son. He’s 15 and he can play. But I thought his oldest son, Harry, could play yet we overlooked him in the Draft. The Crows got him.
And Dermott’s son. He’s playing TAC Cup and his improvement graph has risen greatly in recent seasons. Wouldn’t that be something. Another Brereton at Hawthorn.
But I’m rambling. I just wanted you to know my leadership change. As if you care, ay?.
STEVE PERKIN had a long and distinguished career as a journalist, covering sport and general news and writing daily columns for The Age and the Herald Sun. He was also executive producer of The Footy Show on Channel 9 for three years.