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Sunday Age

Tears for one of the best

Author: Ashley Browne
Date: 30/08/1998
Words: 680
          Publication: The Sunday Age
Section: Sport
Page: 4
BY HIS own estimation, Jason Dunstall was no more than 25 per cent fit for his farewell appearance at Waverley Park yesterday.

It mattered not a fig. The fact that Dunstall could not make it out of the goal square without stopping to catch his breath yesterday enabled him to sit back and enjoy the events of the day, just like the other 40,000 people at the game.

It started with the succession of Hawthorn greats who passed through the rooms before the game. Russell Greene, Dermott Brereton, Michael Tuck, John Kennedy junior, Darrin Pritchard, Peter Schwab, John Hendrie and Michael Moncrieff were among those who stopped in. George Stone, Dunstall's close mate and now an assistant to Rodney Eade at Sydney, flew down for the match.

And it wasn't just Hawthorn people who stopped by. Stephen Kernahan, at Waverley to help coach Carlton's reserves, stuck his head in. So too did Bob Skilton and, appropriately, Peter McKenna, himself a famous goalkicker and later known for "never writing Hawthorn off".

"These people went out of their way to come down here and congratulate me," Dunstall said later. "It was very special."

Not as special as Allan Jeans' pre-match speech. It is a Hawthorn tradition that Jeans, mastermind of Hawthorn's great teams of the 1980s, returns to speak at the final match of those who served him so well. "It was supposed to be a few words and it turned into a few hundred," said Dunstall. "It was shades of old as he started yelling and screaming, but it got the goosebumps up. And then the video came on and the tears started to come up. I was gone by the time I got out there."

So too was the rest of the side. Ken Judge said the Hawks had managed a hectic and at times intrusive week at the club pretty well. But when the video highlights of Dunstall's career were played in the coach's room before the match, it wasn't just the full-forward who found it all a bit hard to take. Most of the Hawks were fighting back a few tears.

Said Judge: "Some of the blokes were visibly upset before the game, which was pretty tough because some of them have looked up to him all their lives and then they have the good fortune of playing in his last game."

The Hawks struggled to 11 goals at three-quarter time, with about the only highlight being the first goal of the game, off the boot of Dunstall. It wasn't the classic long lead and chest mark, or the lightning burst characteristic of so many of his 1254 goals. Instead, it was a desperate lunge with his right foot during a goal-square scrimmage at the two-minute mark of the first term that brought the crowd to its feet.

And make no mistake, the 39,735 were there to see Dunstall. It was an exceptional crowd and the sea of brown and gold was large and loud.

Dunstall's goal aside, there was little to cheer about until the final term. But the wait proved worthwhile as Hawthorn turned on a dazzling finale, with Dunstall booting the first goal of the term.

Of course, in typical Dunstall fashion, he actually wanted no part of the final quarter. Having started the match at 25 per cent fitness, it only deteriorated from there and at three-quarter time he offered to take himself off for the good of the team.

Predictably, Judge pooh-pooed that suggestion. "He was the ultimate team man to the end. It's been the hallmark of his career."

And Hawthorn's hallmark has been as the family club. However, champions like Gary Ayres, Brereton and Tuck and coaches such as Alan Joyce left the club on less than ideal terms, which has been the cause of some concern. But Dunstall being chaired off the ground in front of 40,000 fans, and toasted repeatedly in a delirious dressing room afterwards, suggests that the club has finally got its farewells right.

At Hawthorn last night, it was OK to cry.

GOODBYE JASON DUNSTALL

Games: 269

Goals: 1254

Coleman Medal: 1988, 1989, 1992

Best and fairest: 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993

Brownlow Medal: 2nd: 1988, 1992,

3rd: 1989

All Australian: 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994

Premierships: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991

Captain: 1995-1997

 
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