Mum’s nudging 96, but hasn’t lost her zest for football. Over the summer months the first thing she asks is: ”Any recruits?”. In winter she pores over the paper for news of the Rovers and any sign of bias against them.
She’s been a Rover since 1947, when Dad took over the coaching job and has seen a fair portion of the 1336 games they’ve played since then. She’s reneged on going to away games in the last couple of years, but listens avidly to the radio descriptions if the Hawks are involved and complains how the commentators don’t seem to give the Rovers a ‘fair go’.
Nowadays she watches in style, from the comfort of a car, on the bank, near the scoreboard, but for decades her spot was on the fence, half-way between the clubrooms and the Barr-end goals.
Her pedigree is pretty handy, too. Four of her uncles played League footy. Included in these was one who coached South Melbourne, two who represented Victoria and one who won the VFL goal-kicking. Eight uncles, in total, played in the O & M.
What must have impressed her was Dad’s effort in riding his bike out to the family home at Peechelba after games of footy, in their courting days. When they married she knew she’d be consigned to a life of sport.
She bred six boys who were blessed with varying dollops of football ability. All wore the Brown and Gold at some stage, but unanimously agreed they wished they’d inherited more of the famous Hiskins genes.
Mum often recalls the harrowing night she had in Dad’s second year of coaching. My cot was placed near their bedroom door, just where he had hung his coat on the door knob. During this Friday evening I found what looked like a ‘Smartie’ in one of the pockets.
It was a pill that he’d intended to give one of his ‘more careful’ players, who needed some ‘Dutch Courage’. After yabbering and jumping around for the rest of the night, I finally got to sleep, but Dad was exhausted and good for nothing the next day. Neither, probably, was the bloke who missed out on the ‘Smartie’.
As we grew up and became more expressive, Mum sometimes had to act as a referee at the kitchen table, as we challenged some of Dad’s decisions as a selector. We would subject him to more examination than Bob Rose and his cohorts had an hour or so earlier. At least he had the good sense to stand down as a selector when we started playing.
Mum’s seen all the stars come and go. She liked Clarkey, Newthy, Akky and Bugs; loved Rosey and Neville and thought the world of Boydy. Then there were the Hotty’s (Condon and O’Donoghe), Farmer and Eddie, Laurie, Robbie, Pas, Karl and the Wilson boys.
And she likes the way Gatto’s going at the moment. “He’s doing as well as Karl did”.
Really, she’s loved them all. And when her two grandsons began in the mid-nineties she was in her element. The fridge at home sports action photos of them at various stages of their careers.
One of her old mates is Marje Booth, whose journey at the Rovers also goes back to 1947, when she and husband Fred arrived here from Lake Carjellico. Freddie was the star player in Dad’s sides; won two best and fairests and helped win the 1948 O & K premiership.
Marje is 90 and has been a sterling worker for the Club. She was President of the Ladies committee for several years. Her three boys were also Hawks – Col with the Reserves, Graeme (Manny) as a premiership player and star defender in the seniors and Mark, who compiled 319 games with the Club. Over the years she probably had to shut out some of the criticism levelled by opposition supporters towards her youngest son and his aggressive style of play.
Marje’s eyesight is none-too-good these days but she still goes to the footy and enjoys the camaraderie. She sits upstairs and although she can’t capture much vision of her grandsons Darcy and Mitch she thrives on the atmosphere of the game.
She usually sits with other staunch old Hawks – Pat Prendergast, Phyl Stone and Monica Sturgess who are all ultra-passionate. If anyone wants to know what winning a game of football means to people, sit with them for a while and you’ll find out.
On Sunday night I called in at home to wish Mum all the best for Mother’s Day. She’s had some ups and downs lately, but when I walked in the door she had a look on her face that signalled that all was well with her world.
“How’d you enjoy it ?”. “Gooood….”, she said. She couldn’t give a damn about the commentators saying what a scrappy game it was. “It’s always good to beat the Magpies”.